Some of you may, or may not, have read my previous post, which commented on the state of diversity in tech and how worrying this is for the industry. Further to this, I wanted to continue looking deeper into this issue, to see if I could identify some of the biggest problems, in order to then know how I could potentially help solve them.
On my journey to do this, I have signed up to multiple Women in Tech slack groups, and all the numerous MeetUp groups, in the hope that I’d meet some people who would be willing to help, and I’m pleased to say that this process is bearing fruit!
Earlier this week, I met Natasha – a DevSecOps/Cloud Security Engineer who was just as eager to get involved in this as I am!
We touched on multiple different subjects, however one thing that really caught my interest was when I asked the question “what is the biggest challenge of being a woman in tech?”.
In her response, she referred to the challenge as more similar to a burden. The fact that you start your role, and you feel excluded – or you notice the difficulties, and you make it your mission from then on to change the industry for the better, trying to make it better for the next woman to join – which I’m sure every woman in a male-dominated industry can sympathise with.
Not only did Natasha’s response intrigue me, but it made me realise that this upcoming pipeline of women in tech stand a chance at loving their careers – as a result of the time and effort that this group of women in tech are putting in. It’s an amazing thing to realise that women now are truly making an impact for women in the future. These are the trailblazers.
However, this didn’t quite answer my question as to what is the biggest thing Natasha felt she was currently trying to change. When pressing her on this, we got into the discussion of being a woman in London, and how sometimes you’ll find, subconsciously, you hold your keys as you walk home from the tube station at night; or you hesitate to RSVP to events that finish past a certain time; or you avoid the ‘dodgy’ areas you’re always warned about. Tash suggests that these same subconscious actions apply when you’re a woman in tech too.
As Natasha put it:
“You want to build your network, and attend MeetUps, but sometimes they don’t finish until 9-10pm, and you might have to walk through somewhere like Whitechapel on your way home – so you never attend. Or you want to start using your LinkedIn more frequently, but you’ve heard the horror stories about how the platform has previously been used in an inappropriate way, so you steer clear and use the other platforms available. Or you see a fantastic job opportunity that you want to apply for, but you’ve heard horror stories about the company and that might put you off.”
Another factor we had discussed, included whether Tash felt it was more difficult for a woman to progress in the Tech world, and her response to this was even more interesting.
“Something that’s taken me years to figure out, is that many companies job adverts, have their desired skills set to impossibly high standards. These companies are looking for a ‘unicorn’, and these don’t exist. I don’t feel women are any less able to progress to these jobs than men, but I feel that women are less likely to apply to these ‘unicorn’ jobs, as we judge ourselves against tougher standards I feel than men. So by us not applying, and men actively applying, this is one thing that’s hindering female advancement in tech, and should be addressed.”
Natasha’s responses made me realise that the problems that Women In Tech face go much deeper than not being given the opportunity to enter the sector or to thrive in it; the issue is something that is already affecting society and that women in the tech industry simply have to consider these other factors when making any decision.
It wasn’t until Natasha highlighted these that I realised how far reaching the gender disparity in tech was; before speaking with her I presumed our discussion would focus more on how hard she found it to get given the opportunity to work in the sector. However, with this concern flagged, I now know I can take these factors into consideration when arranging some of our own MeetUps, and when my colleagues contact female DevOps professionals.
This conversation with Natasha was only a dip in the water when it comes to women in tech and the gender gap, but it was certainly illuminating for me to have the conversation with her. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic as I continue educating myself on the issues women face in this industry!