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Despite a growing representation in the tech sector, women still fall far behind their male counterparts, with women currently holding only 26.7% of tech-related jobs. For the majority of women, a career in tech is often not even considered a possibility. Only 3% of women would call a career in tech their top choice due to reasons such as a lack of encouragement from schools or an absence of female role models in the industry.
As it stands, there is no set conventional pathway for women to enter the tech landscape. My tech career began 23 years ago and since then, I have also been involved in entrepreneur and business areas, which have aided me in my pursual of leading a life in tech. Shifting into business and entrepreneurship roles was not something that was originally planned, however, those experiences which made me step outside of my comfort zone helped me tremendously. Working in these different areas has allowed me to unlock a variety of new skills. The challenges in the tech sector for women are well-defined and must be addressed wherever possible. However, these challenges help offer a different insight, a way to create real change from within. Facing these challenges head-on culminated in my latest role, joining Monnier Paris, a luxury fashion eCommerce as their CEO.
Where do the problems STEM from?
Until recently, there has been a somewhat slow but steady growth of the female population in tech, however, last year saw a 2.1% decrease in women in big tech. This drop begs the question of what more can be done for women currently in tech and those looking to break into the field. The disparity between men and women entering the tech industry begins in the early stage of education. Men are encouraged significantly more than women to go down the route of degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The issue is making women from a young age aware of the awesome reality of working in tech, and the excitement it brings. Educating and training them to join is also important. However, it then leads to the next ongoing issue: retaining female staff.
Women who enter tech are more likely to leave within the first year as opposed to those not in STEM-related jobs. This reluctance to stay is linked to issues surrounding the ongoing pay gap, burnout, gendered biases and a lack of work-life balance. All these things together are ultimately driving women out of tech. It affects women leaders in tech as well across the board, 43% of women in these positions suffer from burnout in comparison with only 31% of male leaders. For men, working in an environment where the positions are mostly filled by other men alleviates a number of pressures and criticisms as their performance is not under a constant microscope as it is for the population of women working in tech. These pressures affect the morale of women in the workforce leaving them ultimately to end up searching for different work in sectors that offer stronger diversity, work-life balance and flexibility.
Unlike other sectors, which offer a straight career path, being unconventional in tech can in some ways be the best way forward for women. It opens up the floor to gain an array of skills from different fields and bring them back into the tech sphere from a different angle. Like any career, the majority of skills are learned through guidance and repetition, but there are some things that may come a bit harder than others such as building confidence. Nowhere is this more obvious than one of the biggest symptoms women feel in a male-dominated workplace - imposter syndrome. With 90% of CEOs in the top 10 largest tech firms being men, it is difficult to be comfortable when you make up such a small part of the minority, no less when you have few people in leadership who can relate to your struggles.
There are fewer opportunities and pathways for women to scale up and gain the same responsibilities as a man in tech. Taking the less conventional career route will make you stand out more. When I was a developer, I was surrounded by mostly male colleagues, and of course, it felt more natural when I made the switch to sales, where I quickly grew and developed skills in a more supportive environment. Moving to a different field allowed me to take time to grow, rather than being fearful of always having to play catch up. It massively equipped me to come back into the tech landscape with more confidence and in return, more respect.
A glass-half-full approach
To counterargue the difficulties women face in the tech landscape, these challenges can also be treated as opportunities. Throughout my career, I have felt the weight of these judgements and the need to prove myself and my capabilities- which in some ways being under the microscope can allow you to do more easily as your efforts stand out clearly. In the third trimester of my pregnancy, I was working for Streamcore Systems (acquired by Computer Associates 4 years later) when an opportunity arose to work with the French army in a partnership; which later came down to myself and one other candidate. Going to meet them face to face was sure to show my confidence and I leveraged the fact that I was heavily pregnant at the time to demonstrate my drive and passion, and I truly believe ultimately it helped in landing me the deal. This is only one of the many challenges women face in the workplace but if you can push through that and leverage those challenges, you can set yourself apart and instil trust in your ability to lead.
Taking on the role at Monnier was new and daunting. I found myself utilising the skills I gained not just in my experience with technology, but all the changes in my career path as well. My time in the business and sales space made me realise how intertwined all of these aspects of businesses are. Grabbing the strongest aspects from all of my experience, I combined them to take Monnier into the next era of eCommerce. While my tech career in particular may have posed challenges, its undeniable impact on my own knowledge has empowered me to navigate this increasingly digital world.
Confidence and comfortability
The challenges that women face when learning or entering the tech sector are well documented. We need more education, more women in senior positions and support from those around us. These tweaks will change the very DNA of the tech sector for its own success by empowering the next generation of workers. For women already in the world of tech, we must show tenacity by being comfortable standing in a room filled mostly with men, leveraging our unique journeys against their straight and narrow ones.