Being An Effective Female Leader in Tech Means NOT Doing These 3 Things

Female leaders in tech have to play by different rules. The hard truth is that women are still in the minority at all levels of tech careers. While Fortune 500 companies appointed a record number of women to board seats in 2017, there are still only 5% of women in CEO roles at companies in the S & P 500.

What does it take to be a good leader, particularly as a female in the technology industry? While many leadership qualities remain consistent across most sectors, there are a few fundamental concepts that need to be called out specifically for women in tech leadership.

When I asked female leaders in tech for their thoughts on the rules women need to play by, all of the responses fell into just a few categories.

Here are the top three things female leaders in tech should not do:

They Should Not Be Afraid To Speak Up

“Stop being afraid to speak up. Not raising your hand publicly to ask the tough questions is doing a disservice to us all,” shared Renée McKaskle, the CIO of Hitachi Vantara, when I asked her what the women in tech leadership need to stop doing. She feels that being a female leader is an advantage, because women bring impactful qualities to the workplace, like investing in themselves professionally and being knowledge seekers. “When women are not afraid to ask questions, others benefit from learning the answers, and everyone walks away more powerful.”

Director of Project Management at BitOlympus, Shannon Adair, reminds us to keep speaking up even after getting shot down, especially when you’re in a mid-level management role. “Don’t stop asserting yourself due to criticism or reprimands from above. Learn from the feedback but continue putting yourself in a leadership role whenever possible. Your upper management will respect you more for overstepping than shrinking back.”

Finally, Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy and Information Security Officer at AvePoint shares a major “don’t” for women in tech leadership: “More often than not, women tend to hang back in workplace discussions until they are fully confident in their answers.” She finishes with a word of advice: “Instead, be bold, take risks and rely on facts versus opinions as much as possible.”

They Should Not Downplay Their Abilities

Gayana Sarkisova, the Founder of LIVEIN, says “As women in the tech game, we often find ourselves surrounded by successful men who boast about what they’ve achieved. We shouldn’t be afraid to speak up about our success, ever.”

Women are more likely than men to second-guess and downplay their capabilities when faced with both challenges and opportunities. The President and CEO of Electrosoft, Dr. Sarbari Gupta, says “A female leader in tech needs to overcome doubts about her ability to handle a challenging situation or take advantage of an opportunity so that she can move forward with focus and confidence.”

Stephanie Wiggins is the Founder of DJANGO, and she reminds us not to sell ourselves short. “When admiring others’ strengths, we women often question our own. Remind yourself that you’re the only person like you in the world — no one can copy your unique skill set, personality, and passion. Embrace your strengths, address your weaknesses, and become the leader that no one else in the world can replicate.”

They Should Not Tear Other Women Down

Women tend to struggle with sharing success with other women. The future of tech will benefit from — and depends on — women working together to achieve more. It’s time we stop verbally tearing down other influential women and our female peers climbing the ladder. Lisa Q. Fetterman, Founder and CEO of Nomiku sees other women and encourages us all to lift each other up, saying simply: “She is a woman in the arena, have her back.”

“Successful women in tech should not toss aside the ladder they used to climb up,” adds Lucy Schalkwijk, Founder and Chair of Career Women’s Network — Kigali. Jessica Califano, the Head of Marketing & Communications at Temboo, agrees. “Creating a strong support network of women in the company offers more growth opportunities for everyone.”

As an expert in strengths-based leadership and corporate women’s empowerment, Holly Dowling asserts “We can unite and celebrate each other’s strengths and create much bigger waves of impact together than apart. You may never know someone’s story, but if you are willing to stop making assumptions and get to know them, you can change a life!”

In short, not only is there business value in having diverse leadership, women in leadership need to stop playing by rules that are different than the rules men play by.

Photos by rawpixel on Unsplash and Christina Morillo from Pexels.


Are you a woman in tech? Did you find this article helpful? Please let me know! You can always send me an email at hi@maigenthomas.com. I read every email personally and reply to each one. You can find me on twitter @maigen, too
My work is focused on helping women in all areas of technology reach their next level of success in life and work. I would love if you checked out my recent book: “Empowered Women in Tech: Finding First Year Success” on Amazon!
I am also currently working on another book featuring the stories of women in tech, and would love to hear about your experience.