It’s a universally acknowledged and, neither hidden nor denied, fact that women are vastly under-represented in the Tech industry. The figures from every continent and within every segment speak for themselves.
It could be argued that the industry itself can’t be held solely to account and that the issue begins much earlier as females studying STEM subjects are vastly outnumbered both in the school classroom as at university.
Nevertheless, while there is much talk of new initiatives and fresh ways of encouraging females into these subjects and the sector as a whole, having returned to the IT industry after a seven-year break in Banking, another highly male-dominated industry, I see little change. Yes, perhaps there are a few more female Tech innovators and even the odd new CEO here and there, but these are still very much women in the minority.
So why is it that women stay away from the Tech sector, is it a choice or do they feel discouraged by the huge gender imbalance? And for those who do follow this career path, how does it feel to be outnumbered, what does the sector have to offer, and what are the challenges and the keys to success?
To mark International Women’s Day, we decided to delve a little deeper into these questions and ask some of the women at EmpathyBroker for their thoughts, as well as the tips and advice they would give to other women looking to enter the sector.
Why chose a career in Tech?
I personally fell into the IT industry more by chance than design. Having studied languages at university and looking for a career in marketing I was drawn to Tech by the huge possibilities and excitement the sector offered.
Yes, being surrounded by so many men was a little intimidating at first but there’s a certain buzz and enthusiasm that’s very unique to the Tech sector. It makes you feel that you really can conquer and change the world, and I don’t think you experience that anywhere else in quite the same way.
There’s also a real sense of unity, that you’re building something together, and I’ve always found that helps overcome a lot of the challenges that may appear on the surface from the gender disproportion.
However, being a marketing professional within the sector is perhaps very different to the experiences of women who choose more technical roles. Ana Gonzalez, one of our Customer Success Engineers who studied Software Computer Science at university, wanted to study computer science as, “I’ve always liked to play around with computers and all kinds of devices, and also, because the technology sector is in continuous growth and evolution.”
María Álvarez, who studied Mechanical Engineering and works at EmpathyBroker as a Support and Project Account Manager was always drawn to a more technical career. “My father had a lot to do with the decision. When you grow up in a very scientific environment in the end it affects you unintentionally and, over time, I realised that in school classes I had a much better time in science lessons than in other subjects.
“Years later, I’ve realised that both my career and personal hobbies are related to science which has defined my way of thinking a lot and my personality. I always feel very attracted to everything that is technical. It’s like playing with the mind. I’m always passionate about all mental challenges.”
How does it feel to be working in an Industry that is so male-dominated?
For me personally, after the initial adjustment period, as a colleague once said, it seems like there might be more women in the army than in the office, you adapt and acclimatise. In fact, one of the things I love most about the sector is the smart people you get to work with.
People in Tech are usually really motivated and are always keen to think of new and different ideas. They’re people who ask questions and aren’t constrained by the way something has been done before. Whether they’re male or female doesn’t really matter, everyone is feeding off everyone else’s energy and enthusiasm. And, in my experience, you don’t always find that in other sectors, not to name any in particular of course!
María has also found this to be the case: “Working in a male-dominated industry doesn’t affect me at all, I’ve worked for a long time in technical and industrial “male” environments, and I’m used to it. I love being surrounded by people in general that enrich me, be they men or women, both in my professional and personal life.”
And, encouragingly, Ana too, “my experience working in the sector so far has been very rewarding. I’ve always met colleagues who have treated me equally and have demanded the same from me as from any man.”
Are there female role models in the sector to inspire others?
While there have been some incredible women who’ve certainly broken-down boundaries and changed history, Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Roselind Franklin who made huge, and widely unrecognised at the time, contributions to our understanding of DNA and of course Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, to name but a few, I think if we really want gender equality then we should equally look towards male role models as female ones.
After all, men do as much, if not more sometimes, to break down these stereotypes and work towards a more gender equal sector. I certainly experienced that first hand within Banking where a lot of the lead advocates for gender equality were male. Our CEO himself placed a great importance on understanding the barriers and constraints on why more women weren’t progressing up to the senior roles in order to find ways to help support them overcome these.
María agrees, “If I had to name a female role model I would say Hypatia of Alexandria as the first recognised female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer. But the truth is, I don’t have a role model of either a woman or a man at a technical or scientific level.”
However, Ana makes a good point. “I think that the lack of female references in the sector is one of the factors that means many girls don’t dare to or don’t feel validated to study technological careers. For example, it’s not unusual to attend an event or conference and find that there are no female speakers. Or, if there are, then they’re often dealing with topics such as “women in technology.” I think we need to give more visibility for their professional work and not so much for the fact of them being a woman in an industry of men.”
Essentially, inspiration can, and should, come in various formats and from multiple sources. As Paula Natal, one of our UX designers points out, “any grandmother who’s sent a WhatsApp to their grandchild is inspirational!” And she’s right. Anyone who embraces change should inspire us and spur us on to do greater things.
What advice would you give to other women looking towards a career in Tech?
“I would encourage girls not to take into account stereotypes or established social patterns that say technical careers are for men,” says Ana. “My advice would be to find out what it really means to study a career such as a Computer Scientist, the career opportunities that are available and who the professionals are who are dedicated to doing them.”
María agrees and also doesn’t think that gender should be an obstacle, “my advice would be the same that I give to myself every day: limits are defined by yourself. Continue with what you feel passionate about, especially in a male-dominated industry. I honestly believe that no matter what bumps you find on the road, passion is always a guarantee of success.”
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. You can achieve anything you want to if you really put your mind to it. You are your only obstacle. So, come on ladies let’s tear down the Tech gender boundaries!