Few would deny that women in tech face unique challenges. The reasons are manifold, whether societal, structural, or personal. But whatever the cause, the impact is clear: only 5% of leadership positions in the sector are held by women, while only 3% of women say a career in technology would be their first choice.
Change is needed, and it must come right from the top. But there’s much that we as individuals can do to break the mould and boost our own careers, too.
To find out more, we spoke to Paloma Garcia, Senior Manager in Solution Consulting, at ServiceNow, and Rachel Awbery, GTM Programmes and Excellence Director UK at ServiceNow, to hear more about the problems they’ve faced as women in tech – and their tips on how to best them.
1. BACK YOURSELF
Perhaps the greatest problem affecting women in the workplace is limited self-belief
According to Paloma Garcia, “When I started my professional career, I would never have the courage to ask for a pay rise. I was afraid of getting a negative response that would knock my confidence.”
This fear of rejection holds many other women back, too. But it’s not just rejection that gets in the way: it’s also how women feel they might be perceived when asking for things like pay rises or promotions.
Research shows that women who initiate negotiations do come across as pushy, unlikeable, and undesirable team members. But unfortunately, if you don’t ask, you don’t get – and that means many women miss out on the compensation they richly deserve.
Fixing this requires employers to give workers the confidence they need to speak up and have difficult conversations, as well as address unconscious biases that lead to unfair judgment around those who speak out.
As for employees, you need to believe in your worth – and surround yourself with others who recognise that worth, too.
Paloma notes, “In recent years I’ve joined a number of women networks, which have given me the confidence and self-belief to ask for a pay rise and promotion on a regular basis, like many men do.”
So remember: you have just as much right to ask as anyone else. And, last but not least, don’t let a ‘no’ this time hold you back from asking again later.
2. BE AUTHENTIC
Another barrier many women face is being afraid to be your authentic self.
“My career started in IT, and for many years I was one of the only females in the room,” says Paloma.
“When I got my first serious job, every time I had important meetings I would put my hair up, dress like many other of my female colleagues and try to shield my ‘authentic self’ as much as possible.”
“I didn’t want to look different and preferred to fit in. I refrained myself from asking too many questions, and, as a non-native, chose not to embrace my cultural differences.”
The problem is that trying to be something or someone you aren’t, is unlikely to boost your career chances.
The same goes for work styles.
Rachel Awbery notes, “It’s taken a long time to be confident enough in myself and my ability to be able to use my personality and personal attributes openly in the workplace. I have been coached a number of times that I needed to be harder or tougher”
These kinds of received truths lead many employees to feel they need to act a certain way to get ahead. The truth is, it’s far better to be yourself.
“It’s all about doing what feels right for you, whether that’s how you dress, or something else. Putting yourself in the right frame of mind and being your authentic self allows you to walk into any room with credibility – and that makes a world of difference to how you come across.”
“I’m now confident in being strong in my own style – which is far more effective for me than trying to take on an alpha approach that doesn’t reflect who I am.”
3. FIND YOUR NETWORK
Rachel is clear about her final tip.
“Identifying the right support network is critical. I’ve had amazing mentors – both male and female – as well as support from family and colleagues that have really helped me.”
Getting the most out of your support network, however, means allowing yourself to be open and honest about the issues you’re facing.
Rachel explains. “You need to be honest about where you do feel vulnerability – both to yourself and others. It may feel odd, but being true to yourself and others not only helps form meaningful workplace relationships, but this kind of self-reflection is essential to long-term career success and growth, no matter what field you work in.”
To find out more about other problems women in tech face in the workplace – and how we can solve them together – join our Women in Action webinar on Thursday 9th September. Sign up here.