Why are there so few women in tech? One female founder shares her thoughts.
Fact: gender diversity in leadership drives higher profitability, makes companies perform better, and is critical for innovation. A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report found that as much as $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 if we advance women’s equality.
In the tech industry, agility and and readiness to adopt new practices to drive growth and innovation is supposed to be the norm. So it’s ironic that tech is so male-dominated and generally unfriendly to women.
Women in Tech and their challenges:
Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that the women in tech are still struggling with:
1. It can get lonely in the workplace, and we actually feel it
When it comes to getting workplace allies and peer support, the odds aren’t in our favour. Out of every 10 employees in tech companies, even in the likes of Google and Facebook, only 3 are women. And when it comes to tech startups owned by women? Just 17%.
Male leaders tend to mentor other men, and it’s difficult to identify female role models and mentors. When women feel unsupported, they are more likely to drop out of the workforce. This further aggravates the situation.
2. Sexism and sexual harassment really does exist
As a tech entrepreneur and a woman, I’ve experienced first-hand the sexism and harassment women face day in, day out. It’s discouraging when you are invited to speak at a conference—which is already terrifying in itself—only to be directly told that you are the “diversity piece”. This completely undermines our achievements and capabilities.
3. We are assessed on performance, while men on their potential
Ever feel like you have to work harder than your male colleagues to prove yourself? Professional women often feel like they have to give more evidence of their capabilities and work twice as hard, to be viewed as competent as the men.
It doesn’t help as well that women’s successes are often attributed to luck and the men’s to skill. Women also talk about getting overlooked when sharing an idea, but if a man were to bring it up, it’s suddenly brilliant.
4. We are either “too feminine” or “too masculine”
Women are often referred to as “pushy” or “bossy” when they are aggressive. On the other hand, men are often praised for being assertive when behaving the same way.
Women in tech constantly struggle between looking “too feminine” (which makes it hard for us to be taken seriously) or “too masculine” (which makes us seem unlikeable). We all know that in today’s society, we need to be both liked and respected in order to progress in our careers, and women have to continually walk this tightrope.
5. We’re not all aware that we are holding ourselves back!
Women often also contribute to the problem of gender inequality by holding ourselves back with self-imposed barriers.
Research shows that men apply for a job or a promotion when they just meet 60% of the qualifications. Women on the other hand apply only when they meet 100% of them. This is largely due to the fear of failure or facing rejection. Women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63% of the time because only 30% bother to negotiate their compensation package.
At it’s current pace, it will take 250 years to have an equal number of male and female Fortune 500 CEOs. This is why we aim to provide a platform for women leaders to give back and to encourage other women to say “yes” to doing more at LeanIn.Org, which was founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower women.
We’re now having more conversations about biases and stereotypes. And women are fast building communities to share support, tools, and advice on how to deal with these problems. With heightened awareness of gender inequality in tech, there’s never been a better time to close this gender leadership gap.
Did you agree with the points made in Joelle’s Women in tech article? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.
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