Yes She Can! Paving the way for more women in tech

Whether you are in a tech company or you are personally involved in a mission to attract & retain more women in the tech industry — here you will find practical tips on what you can start doing today to make a difference.

Our co-managing director Lisa was recently invited to speak with Anna Stando from Advance and Severina Pascu, Deputy CEO of Sunrise UPC, about her path into software engineering and the work as a volunteer for Girls in Tech Switzerland — and to give insights into how we can all work on paving the way for more women in tech.

The panel discussion was recorded and can be re-watched here. This article will give you a summary of the topics discussed in the panel plus some extra insights. So let’s get practical…

What companies can do

Send a signal

Many tech companies are seeing grassroots activities regarding diversity & gender equity that are trying to inspire change from the bottom up. There’s nothing more supportive of such activities than sending a signal from management and committing to the change from top-down as well. Defining a strategy, clear goals, and a structure to operate in is a mandatory step towards more women in your organization. Mindsets typically only shift if approached from both sides.

Create career opportunities

Your best chance to attract more women is to simply empower and promote these amazing women that are already in your organization into leadership positions. Having female leaders has a catalyzing effect as other women in the organization or those interested to join will see career opportunities for themselves and will confidently grow and improve — and they will likely stay in your organization as they feel valued. WIN-WIN.

More diversity will benefit everybody in your organization in the long run. So, make sure to include everybody in the discussions for change— not just women.

Look beyond women

Diversity is not a women’s issue only, it needs to concern all of us. More diversity will benefit everybody in your organization in the long run. So, make sure to include everybody in the discussions for change— not just women. Some changes are actually needed for other members of your organization, e.g. gender equity will only become possible if men won’t be declined or shamed anymore to work part-time or take parental leave. Men also need allies in this transition.

If you want to learn about more best practices for companies, you can read up about what else worked for companies in Switzerland in the Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report 2021.

What women can do

Know your strengths

Whether your background is in tech or not, your skills might be relevant for jobs in the tech industry. The industry is in high demand for non-technical skills such as communication, organizing, writing, and people management. Knowing your strengths and what you bring to the table — technical & non-technical — is the foundation you will need in order to find your place in tech. And tech needs you just as you are!

Knowing your strengths and what you bring to the table is the foundation you will need in order to find your place in tech.

Be bold

The system is broken and still needs a lot of fixing, and this will take some time. Whether it’s the recruitment process, job descriptions, performance reviews — your path might not always be smooth. Being bold and speaking up if you spot issues is extremely valuable. While there are still issues to fix, you should be bold and just apply for that job where you fulfill only part of the requirements. And you should also speak up if you see women being underrepresented in a speaker’s lineup. In most cases, the reasons are not bad intentions — only bad habits, and someone might actually be grateful for you pointing it out.

Make yourself visible

As a woman in tech, you might have gone through a lot to get to where you are today. Likely, you are pretty badass and you have a lot to share and great potential to inspire others. Paying it forward & making way for more women to follow in your footsteps (or create their own paths) can be as simple as speaking about your experiences — inside your company or publicly.

If you’d like to share your career path in tech and your lessons learned along the way with our community of female tech professionals, reach out to [email protected]. We’d love to make you visible!

What any individual can do

Pay attention to language

How we speak to and about others has a great impact on how they see themselves and their abilities. Discouraging and misleading language can destroy someone’s ambitions already at a very young age. Young girls that are interested in technology often get told by their surroundings that they will have to prove themselves when continuing on this path and that it won’t be easy, requiring them to be extremely certain and stubborn about their aspirations. Being mindful about the use of framing (and biases!) as well as using encouraging and empowering language no matter the gender is something we all have to practice every day in order to reverse some longstanding patterns. Awareness is the first step.

Stay open & curious

Empathy is one of the most important skills of our century. Putting yourself in someone else’s position and trying to understand how they are perceiving a situation from their perspective can be an eye-opening experience. Non-judgmental curiosity about each other’s experiences is what is needed to get everybody on board. If you know women working in tech, ask them about their experiences and actively listen to their answers. And make sure to provide your perspective as well — without judging, in order for both sides to learn from it. More often than not, superficial misunderstandings can be eliminated by staying open and asking questions.

Sadly, women often lack both mentors and sponsors in their careers which makes them progress and improve at a slower pace.

Become a sponsor

Do you know a woman in tech that you admire? Maybe even someone you’re working with? Speak about her achievements and potentials(!) when she’s not in the room and bring her up for more senior roles, stretch assignments, and other opportunities for growth. Sadly, women often lack both mentors and sponsors in their careers which makes them progress and improve at a slower pace. You can make a difference by becoming a sponsor for an aspiring female tech leader, today!

There is a huge amount of mentoring programs available also online that you can join as a mentor. If you want to focus on women in tech in Switzerland, I recommend having a look at the Mentor Matching of TechFace.

What you can do —right now

Educate yourself

We need more people who know and understand the underlying issues of why there aren’t more women in the tech industry. By reading this article up to this point, you have hopefully already learned something. and we wish that you continue on this journey and educate yourself even further. The following terms are essential to know about when paving the way for more women in tech:

Unconscious or implicit biases = a subconscious preference that may have an effect on your opinion based on facts or experiences from your past. Learn more

Microaggressions = a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group. Learn more

Inclusive language = a language that aims to avoid offense and fulfill the ideals of egalitarianism by avoiding expressions that express or imply ideas that are sexist, racist, or otherwise biased, prejudiced, or denigrating to any particular group of people. Learn more

Of course, there is much more to learn if you want to dive deeper into the topic. A great book that can serve as a starting point and provides a range of practical tools for design changes is the well-known What Works. Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet.

And one of the best articles we’ve seen recently about diversity specifically in engineering with a long list of practical tips can be found here: Hiring (and Retaining) a Diverse Engineering Team, stories from six engineering leaders who succeeded in building, and growing diverse teams, by Gergely Orosz.

Women are still underrepresented in the technology industry despite decades of progress toward workplace equality. However, we must guarantee that the IT industry offers a welcoming and inclusive environment. We strongly suggest reading Jennifer Gregory’s report on empowering women in technology.

Let’s all work together on paving the way for more women — and more diversity — in the tech industry #strongertogether ❤

Author: Lisa Stähli

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