Building A Career In Tech. Breaking The Glass Ceiling: How Women In Tech Succeed In A Male Dominated Industry
We live in unprecedented times. Not only are industries globally facing unique challenges including lockdown restrictions and their ramifications and a flux economy but rising demand for some industries means that there are even greater growing pains to come.
The tech industry is a prime example of this; aside from the added pressures of impending recession, there is a huge growth in demand which requires significant investment and forward planning to ensure that Tech Jobs can be filled, both now and in the future. For professional women, the complications run deeper; the last half-century has seen some undeniable forward motion in terms of equality, but the pandemic forced many women to choose between career and caring for their family, with disproportionate numbers of women quitting their jobs compared to men.
Challenges in career progression remain. Where, 50 years ago, there was a hard stop limiting how far a woman’s career can progress, now there is a glass ceiling that, thanks to the effort of hardworking, brilliant women, moves up a little bit every year. The glass ceiling makes the possibilities even more tantalizing because not only do women know where they want to go, they can see it. There is no secret hammer to smash that ceiling with, but there are some things that you can do to make a few cracks.
Find a mentor – and become one
One of the saddest elements of the woman’s race to breach the glass ceiling is that many industries require women to compete against each other, as if there is only one space for women on any board. Finding a mentor can help you to get around the isolation of navigating the path by yourself and being a mentor can add to the strength of women in tech. Far from it being necessary for women to compete against each other, if women work together to help others to bang on that glass ceiling, it will move – or break- much more quickly. Aside from the fact that there is strength in numbers, a mentor will give you the confidence boost and insights that you need to follow a strong career path.
Invest in your biggest asset: you
You are your biggest selling point so it is important that your skills are kept relevant and up to date, especially if you are looking for leadership roles in tech. Keep on top of the constant changes in the tech world with relevant courses, programs and accreditations. Not sure where to start? Ask your mentor what they found helpful, and what they look for in future talent.
Network, network, network
In a nep culture it is not always about what you know: who you know makes a big difference, too. Make sure you attend networking events, be part of industry forums and round tables, connect with people – and their feeds- on professional social media platforms. Your aim is to make your name so familiar that when companies are looking for new talent, you are an obvious choice. As well as industry-specific networking, it can help to attend connections and events for ambitious women so that you can meet and support like minded professionals.
Don’t undersell yourself
It is an incredible fact that brilliant, talented, intelligent women turn into shadows of themselves when it comes to selling themselves. Somehow, what appears as confident in men can seem bolshy or arrogant in women. And if you don’t appear to believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you? Practice putting yourself forward and acknowledging your best assets. It may feel clunky and arrogant but it is more likely that you are coming across as confident and capable. If in doubt, you can always ask a trusted colleague for feedback after such an interaction.
Don’t wait for success and the right organization to come to you
Much as we hate to generalize, it is often the case that women are more reluctant to put their head over the parapet, but instead keep the faith that if they work hard and get results, someone will notice, right? Well, no, wrong. For every person (of any sex or gender) who works hard and keeps their head down, there is usually one willing to shout loudest and take the credit. If you want the credit, the promotion or the opportunity to prove yourself, you need to shout a little about it because that recognition isn’t likely to fall into your lap without a bit of encouragement. Talk to others, make your ambitions clear, and speak to your manager and see what you need to do to reach the next level in your career. Be seen, be recognized, and be unashamed.
Speak to the right people
A lot of finding the right tech job is about finding the right organization for you. The dream job is about more than the day to day activities and benefit package; it’s about ethos and personalities. These can be hard to gauge when you are job hunting, which is why it can help to speak to people in the industry, particularly people (women) who are already achieving senior positions within organizations that you might be interested in. Another way to get good oversight of the landscape and the opportunities that may arise for you now as well as in the future is to consult a tech recruitment agency. With vast knowledge of the industry in general and specific organizations, a tech recruiter can help to match you to companies that are the right fit for you and have the most to offer professionally as well as financially.
Although things are tough for ambitious women in the tech industry, they are getting better. As long as there are women striving for more and refusing to accept the limitations imposed by society in general, or specific boards, women in 2023 and beyond have the unique opportunity to capitalize on the tech talent gap and make huge leaps in the race for equality.