The best way to understand the challenges women leaders in tech face? Ask the ones already in position.
There’s no denying the power of diverse teams, particularly in the tech industry. But the reality is not enough women are making it to senior leadership positions. Lack of role models, support and confidence are just some of the reasons cited for the depleted number of women leaders but there’s a passion to change that. We dig into the topic and find out what some of the women leading the way have to say.
The power of diversity
The wealth of research citing the benefits of diverse teams is growing all the time. Diverse teams perform better, are more productive, more creative and ultimately more profitable. It’s no surprise that the tech industry is recognising that they need to start getting serious about diversity.
That’s led to many large tech companies including VT, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone have publicly committed to improving their gender diversity with many setting defined goals and timeframes to monitor progress.
But talking the talk isn’t enough. For real progress to be made there needs to be more action to empower women to take on the top jobs in tech firms. The total of women in big tech roles actually decreased by 2.1% between 2020 and 2022. With the number of women holding CEO or senior leadership positions at just 10.9%. What’s clear is, more needs to be done to truly harness the power of diversity.
Women leading the way
The issue of gender diversity in tech is an industry wide problem, but for women seeing other women in the roles they covet and forging a path is essential. Kiki Oniwinde, Founder & CEO of the BYP Network said “Being a woman in tech means breaking barriers so that those who come after me won’t have to struggle the same way.”
Research has found there isn’t an ambition gap - in one survey roughly 62% of women and 67% of men were trying for promotion. The gap comes in the confidence and success of achieving the promotion.
With women holding so few leadership roles within the industry. It’s even more important that part of a woman’s learning and development within a tech firm includes some form of mentorship to help them navigate the challenges they face and overcome them.
In the Woman in Tech study more than 50% of respondents stated seeing women role models in senior roles helped their career satisfaction. It’s demonstrating what’s possible, and then helping others to get there that’s key to achieving some level of gender equality. Ashley Rose, CEO and Founder of Living Security, said “Set an example by building pathways for women. Also, mentor others when you can and be that encouragement for others who are behind you.”
The goal is that gender doesn’t come into question, and that’s something Cristina Ivanciuc, Lifecycle Manager at Global App Testing is pushing for “I’ve had the great opportunity to be supported, guided and helped by wonderful people, regardless of their gender and at some point, I stopped seeing myself as a “women in tech”, but a “leader in tech.
Breaking down barriers
Ultimately for the tech industry to enjoy the benefits that come with a diverse team more needs to be done to break down barriers, support women and nurture gender diversity within the field. For those looking at how to do just that there are some fundamentals to look at:
For women their most influential promotions tend to come early in their careers, pushing them into management roles and encouraging them to take chances. But for men, those most important promotions came as late as their third or fourth opportunities. This discrepancy shows that tech firms need to be encouraging women and empowering them to put themselves forward for promotions right at the start of their careers.
When looking at what technical skills are needed for promotion there’s a difference of opinion. More women than men think advanced technical skills are the most important factor in receiving a promotion.
This highlights two issues - firstly, women’s confidence in their own skills and talking about them. Secondly, whether there’s a discrepancy between wanting proof of women’s technical skills vs mens in the hiring process. Assessing your own hiring practices to ensure this isn’t the case and then providing opportunities to upskill or refresh technical skills will help give women the skills they feel they need for promotion.
Confidence and self-belief
As Susan Stone, CEO of Ubiquitous Energy, said “Nurture your strengths instead of apologising for your weaknesses.”
Women believing that they’re good enough, putting themselves forward for promotion and seeking out exciting opportunities is key to creating successful women leaders in tech. This area can sometimes be overlooked as an individual’s problem. But mentorship schemes and access to leadership courses can help give women confidence in their own abilities.
Setting gender aside, leading the way but helping those behind you and working on your self-belief are just some of the great pieces of advice existing women leaders in tech would pass on. The challenge is for tech firms to take those tips and put them into practice to help entice more women into tech and then to retain and nurture them into great tech leaders, irrespective of their gender.
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