Opinion

On Women’s Equality Day, Five Women in Tech Leaders Share Their Insights

This Sunday, Aug. 26, is Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1878, granting women the right to vote. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Since then, women have made great strides in breaking into the ranks of a variety of professions and elected offices.

But how far have they come in technology? Well, far. But by no means far enough. The technology industry still presents many barriers for professional women who want to become programmers, CEOs, CIOs, data scientists and analysts. And the pay differences remains throughout the industry.

About 74 percent of young girls express interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and computer science. However, they earn only 28 percent of computer science degrees and hold only 25 percent of computing jobs.  More than 55 percent of the workforce is made up of women, yet only 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women.

To get a perspective on the issue, five female tech professionals offer advice to other women in the field about what they’ve learned and the special challenges facing them.

Seize the Day!

By Jessica Marie, WhiteHat Cybersecurity Analyst

Equality issues still exist in the tech industry. Sometimes there is the assumption that you won’t be technical enough (an awfully subjective viewpoint). People have actually said this to my face, without any explanation. This might be surprising, but I’ve experienced most of this in startups, which are usually thought to be more open-minded.

It’s actually been the larger, more established companies that have been more open, and taken a deep interest in my (unconventional) background. I know countless people who work in the tech industry, and all my male friends, even those without technical degrees or backgrounds, have never been told they weren’t technical or didn’t have what it takes to work in a technology company. This is noteworthy.

However, there is so much out there, and it is hugely rewarding. In Silicon Valley, there are literally thousands of tech companies that all do unique and interesting things.

Do some soul searching and follow what charms you. What really lights you up? Guaranteed you will be successful at what you find exciting and fun. So, to hell with assumptions and conventional thinking. Stay open-minded and take the initiative, even if it’s scary. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and find out what really moves you. There is always a way.

Ignore The Stereotypes

By Jeannie Warner, WhiteHat Security Manager

Although this is the first generation to demand and work for dramatic change in gender parity, we need to look at equality on a global scale. Not all parts of the world are as accepting as the U.S.

When I had a recruiter looking for an engineering role in India, I asked for the female applications first, and then asked that they take the names off of the applications before submitting to management on the first round. This is because the agency I was working for was hesitant to introduce a woman as a candidate for a technical position.

It’s a common belief that it takes three generations to have a lasting change in any type of society. With that in mind, and mindful of the advances of the 1970s, although we are living in a more accepting and progressive culture in 2018, we still have a long way to go and one more generation to challenge.

One of the most damaging stereotypes to overcome is the mindset that men are good at certain jobs and women are good at others. Thankfully, this generation is finally challenging that. To women who are looking to get into the tech world, I would say ignore those stereotypes. Find what you’re passionate about and work hard to achieve it.

Clearing the Gender Hurdle

By Joanna Hu, Exabeam Senior Data Scientist

My love for technology and tech-related subjects like math and physics began in elementary school. In part, that’s why joining the technology sector as a data scientist became a natural evolution of my career after graduate school. As a driving force in our society, technology presents innumerable opportunities to change the world and how we live in it.

Unfortunately, there remains a disparity in opportunities for women to lead that change, vs. their male counterparts. In fact, a 2011 report by McKinsey & Company stated that ‘men are promoted on potential, while women on performance.’ That observation has held true in my personal career experiences.

And so, I feel strongly that women in tech must be free to assert our ideas and express our opinions. We must insist that our voices are heard, and that we take on roles that will shape the changes to our world. The best way to do that is to recognize women as being capable. And provide equal opportunities for leadership in technology. If the industry can clear this gender hurdle, it would open so many possibilities for women to fulfill their potential.

Headed In The Right Direction

By Yumi Nishiyama, Exabeam Director of Global Services

As I’ve been in the tech industry for many years now, I’ve seen the gender gap begin to close in small – but meaningful – ways. There are conscious efforts being made to create communities of women, for the advancement of women. They encourage them to get into tech early on in their lives and then foster professional development as they go on.

There is, of course, still room for improvement. One way to change the field is by embracing diversity. I have very successful female friends who are senior tech execs at their companies, but they have had to sacrifice many other parts of their lives to get where they are today. As we progress, though, companies are starting to embrace policies that provide women in particular with benefits that allow a better balance with ‘life,’ and don’t make having a family and having a career mutually exclusive.

While the playing field may not be exactly even yet, we’re headed in the right direction. It’s no longer necessary to wear a suit or act a certain way to be deemed successful. The resulting diversity in the workplace makes all involved so much richer. In short, the more we can encourage each other to embrace and enable success in one another, the better off we all are.

Make a Difference Through Mentoring

By Quinn Marco, US Signal Director of Data Center Strategies

Mentorship is a powerful, necessary tool for women both personally and professionally. As a woman with more than 25 years of experience in corporate business, I have faced many hurdles that I have overcome with the right mentor and peer guidance.

Throughout my career, I have had several female mentors, who have been there to help navigate difficult workplace situations with, helping me see each challenge as an opportunity for growth and encouraging me to reach my potential.

The most important assets we have is our brand. Every reaction and response can either positively or negatively affect our personal brand.

Today, I strive to be a mentor for other women, in the same way that I was aided. At US Signal, I am given the bandwidth and the opportunity to partner with organizations like inFORUM, and their industry groups such as TechnologyNEXT, in addition to the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT).

At these events, women executives come and speak, providing advice to women in business and share their personal journey. It’s important for women to tell their story to others, and develop their strengths, by asking themselves: “What is your brand? What does it say about who you are?”

It is an unfortunate truth that women who are strong-willed are often seen as aggressive, and when men act the same, they are admired. To overcome this and help close the gender gap in business, women must come together to help each other, overcome obstacles and empower each other to succeed.