Gender equality remains a major issue in the corporate world. When we look all around the world it looks like women are underrepresented in senior leadership like CEO, CMO, and top position in companies. Women in colour are even less represented. We can also see there is a pay gap, on average, of about 20 percent less.
But is IT perceived as a predominantly male realm? In some countries and in some societies it is still true. But, I was lucky that I’ve been in a diverse environment at work and in my personal life. I believe that it all depends on your point of view; we can always change the situation outside of our sphere by taking actions. Nowadays I see more and more females in this field, at least among my peers.
What is it like to be a woman in the IT industry?
In my experience in tech, sometimes I was the only woman in my team. I will depict some of my challenges and my experiences. Maybe you also experienced or observed something similar in your workplace?
This is pretty interesting. Before I started working, I didn’t really knew that much about what I would have to wear, mostly because there were other female team members. I was more nervous that people would judge my skills and my capabilities based on my physical appearance. This was daily struggle; I didn’t want to wear typical tech bro outfit or a t-shirt and jeans. I also didn’t want to come off being too girly by wearing dresses which makes me more like an alien. I also didn’t want to wear business attire because that would make them think that I was not an engineer. It usually takes me a few months to feel confident in my technical skills before I diversify my wardrobe!
The other thing that I hear a lot, statistically, that in tech companies women are more likely to be in roles like marketing, business or design instead of being a system engineer or a senior back-end engineer. These are assumptions that not only male co-workers will make, it is something that is ingrained into our minds by society. Women will be better at humanities or art or writing while men will be better in maths and science.
Especially as an introvert, lunch time was a very scary thing to me. They always talked about things like the newest video games, sports, etc.. All topics that I really had nothing to contribute to. I was an awkward duck at lunchtime. It was like they never talked to a girl before or like I never talked to a boy before. If you were that lonely lunch time person, like me, speak up like you have no idea what you guys are talking about.
Another thing that might be annoying and unfortunate are some patterns in many industries including tech. It happened to me often where I created a Pull Request and I got very critical comments. Similar changes made by a male colleague were reviewed less strong and perceived without problems. This caused my imposter syndrome kicking me that I wasn’t as good as my colleagues.
Tips for women who want to build their career in IT:
Don’t listen to people who are going to scare you with all the stories about sexism in IT. On the contrary IT is one of those areas where everyone has equal opportunities and your success in the profession only depends on how much you put into your development and realisation.
Never stop learning and trying new stuff. Frameworks, methodologies, even new teams, companies. Try to find an environment that will encourage your development and provide you with a friendly atmosphere. The best environment is also supportive and challenging for you to grow personally and professionally.
Don’t forget your work-life balance, make sure your life is not only about your work but also that you spend enough time doing things you love.
Fight your fears
First Fear that you may notice is fear of being visible and noticeable.
Our society prescribes women to be shy, not to speak loudly, to care about other feelings more than care about our own. Remember that you won’t make anyone suffer by letting them know that you exist. You have your achievements, it is extremely important to allow yourself to grow.
Second fear that you may overcome is the fear of technical demands
I believe that if you want to write code, to become a developer. You should never let anyone make you doubt the fact that you can do it.
Third fear is highlighting your achievements. I think you should never be afraid of saying that something is made by you. That a great result was achieved because you have worked so hard. It’s not just working hard but probably because you also thought really hard about solving a really complex problem.
Women in IT are…
The women I worked with are different and that’s awesome. They say that girls cope with routine tasks better, but I think that’s because they try harder. Because they still think that men get preference at any promotion decisions. I want all girls and women in IT to believe that we are all worth it. We are great at maths, algorithms, software architecture and design, testing and management.
Who am I?
Hello, I am Maryam. I am a woman in tech. Against all odds, I pursued a computer science degree and started a career as a developer. Currently I am a software engineer who is very happy with everything that comes with it.
If you are a woman who is considering a career in IT and you want to know more about it, please ping me and I’ll help you with anything you want to know about what it means.