Jun 13, 2023 Where Are All the Women in Tech? 5 Ways the Industry Can Balance the Scale
By Janine Savarese, CEO
As more companies measure the success and health of their workplace environment based on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) indicators, there remains a blatant gender gap in the technology sector. Despite the strides made in the championing of equality in tech, significant work needs to be done in creating more opportunities and inclusivity. I recently had the opportunity to address these issues with a dynamic group of female innovators: Amanda Pietrocola, CEO of Momentum Technology; Jenna Gaudio, COO of Vydia; and Jasmine Ward, VP of TechUnited:NJ, who shared their career journeys and how they overcame obstacles along the way.
Although we’ve seen progress when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs aimed at girls and women, the tech sector continues to lack diversity when it comes to female representation. As it stands, just over a quarter (26.7%) of women currently hold tech-related jobs and more than half of women in tech leave the industry by the mid-point of their career, which is more than double the rate of men. Furthermore, women-founded startups raised a mere 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022.
So where, exactly, does change begin?
Is it during the hiring process, or does it start sooner? How can we help more women not only climb the ladder, and navigate bias but also create more opportunities while taking control of our career trajectories? The short answer: it takes all of us – women and men – to engender change and gain ground to make tech a more level playing field. Below are five ways we can start taking action.
1. The Opportunity to Close the Gender Gap Begins at the Hiring Process
There is a very strong case to be made for diversifying the way in which companies…are leveraging data, or even the way we’re going out to the market to pull in a more diverse candidate pool,” says Ward. The opportunities to close the gender gap start with removing bias from the hiring process—not just in terms of interviews and company culture, but even unconsciously gendered language in job descriptions and biases in the technology used to sort through applications or source candidates.
We must diversify the ways in which companies build their resources. For instance, even if AI-based hiring tools look at the right themes, it may only be geared to new college graduates and blind to equity—and nontraditional, past employment experiences. We have a responsibility to work directly with people to build up our talent sources.
There is a big opportunity, not only for technology to play a role in the language resources and expansion of diversity that can help close the gender gap—but for all of us to play a role, by ensuring we’re accurately getting out there and creating genuine connections with people from different walks of life and work experiences.
2. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome – It’s Not Just a Female Thing
Communities of women—and communities of women and men—are growing more accessible, democratized, widespread and purposeful in achieving our shared aims. On many levels, women question themselves once they have a seat at the table. Simple mindset changes can play a role in combatting imposter syndrome. Telling yourself you can’t do something is a form of self-sabotage—the fear of failure eclipsing the urge to try. By being kind to yourself, stoking inner confidence and focusing on the support you do have as a professional woman, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible, says Gaudio. If nothing else, it can be life-changing to pause before a meeting, push anxiety to the sides, and remind yourself: I am here for a reason.
Above all, it’s important to remember that every expert once started as a beginner. You can ask experts questions instead of putting them on a pedestal; you can admit that you don’t know the answer to a question and use it to drive your curiosity and motivation and be your authentic self.
3. An Entrepreneurial Mindset Will Accelerate Career Growth
Career growth is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of looking too far into the future—or comparing yourself to your mentors and peers—treat whatever you’re doing in the moment as the most important goal. A commitment to excellence will get you noticed. Work hard, grow your external networks and internal fortitude, and get smarter not just your position, but your wider industry and your clients’ industries.
It’s also okay to be the smallest fish in the pond—that’s one of the best ways to challenge yourself. There is deep power in being underestimated. Rather than becoming the loudest voice in the room, focus instead on walking the walk and embracing the upper hand gained from knowing others’ expectations.
You should also embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. Treat your position as if it were your own company, and your responsibility to see it succeed.
4. It’s Not Too Late to Switch Your Career Trajectory in Your 30’s – Or Later
The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t doing exactly what they imagined doing when they were children—or as a college graduate, or even in the beginning stages of their professional career. There is no rule that says you need to grow narrowly in the path set by your first role.
Careers change like the economy changes—and, like the economy, can’t be perfectly predicted. If you want to change the trajectory of your career (or even your entire career!) in your thirties or beyond, the power is in your hands. First, start by doing your homework; figuring out what you want to do, what you want to gain from it, and what skills you either bring to the table or need to sharpen. The most important skill, across the board, is adaptability.
From there, show up where you want to be—that is, where the people you want to connect with and become a peer of are. Reach out to your existing network, as well. You never know what wisdom can come from unlikely sources, or even likely sources that you’ve overlooked. And, above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
5. Men and Women Have Equal Roles in Making Tech a More Inclusive Industry
Men and women have equally important roles to play in making the technology industry more inclusive. Even in organizations where men and women’s voices are treated with equal weight and given equal platforms, the different perspectives of each aren’t often-enough examined. We should be discussing, embracing, and learning from our differences—not sweeping the uncomfortable truths under the rug and trying to promote the idea that our lived experiences ever have been, ever could be, or even should be the same. Pietrocola perfectly summarizes: “When you go to the symphony, you’re not expecting to just hear 50 of one instrument. It’s so much better when you’ve got different instruments—and their uniqueness, and the beauty of their differences coming together and doing something amazing.”
As women, we also need to look inward in shifting our mindset from competition to collaboration. Gaudio pointed out that sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, due to our competitive nature and the historically limited number of women leaders at the top that has us believing there are limited seats at the table. Because there is this competition to get to the top, sometimes we are unintentionally pushing down other people instead of rallying arm-in-arm and doing it together.
Janine Savarese is the founder and CEO of NextTech Communications, a women-led marketing and communications firm based in Holmdel, New Jersey at Bell Works, with offices in New York, Houston and Austin.