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Despite the incredible opportunities that technology offers, only 31% of the tech workforce in the UK are women, with the majority of them still earning less than their male counterparts. As women create a more balanced working environment, with typically higher levels of emotional intelligence, a critical skill for managing today’s hybrid workforce, these numbers are disappointingly low. Therefore, encouraging more women into technology careers to close the gender gap is now more important than ever.
But it’s no longer enough to just raise awareness, we need to take tangible steps to increase the number of women in technology positions and nurture them throughout their careers. One way to do this is by ensuring women have access to mentors.
I’ve worked in the technology industry for over 20 years, holding positions in channel management, system integration, end-user sales and more. When I began my career, the industry was noticeably male-dominated and at times it felt like an uphill battle to get where I wanted to be. I needed to be more than good at my job. I needed to be extra-resilient, not afraid of sharing my opinion and holding my own in a male environment. To achieve this, I worked with a series of strong mentors who empowered me to take risks and make the right decisions. As a result, I believe that mentoring is critical for helping more women choose and progress in technology careers. This why I actively participate in Veeam’s ‘Mentor Lab’, a programme that encourages employees to continue to train and develop at work as a mentor, mentee or both.
Gives you the confidence to take risks
Women who advance in their careers know how to constantly pivot and adapt, which involves facing their fears and taking risks. So, a mentor’s role should be to give their mentees the confidence to take risks without feeling like they’re failing or making a mistake. By providing sound advice, support and sharing similar experiences, an experienced mentor can empower you with confidence to make the right decisions, whatever stage of your career you’re at.
I‘ve worked with several mentors who’ve helped me make important career decisions. For example, in 2018, after seeing the IT market shift to the cloud, I decided to transition from vendor sales to working with cloud providers to build my knowledge and experience in this market. But, without previous experience in the cloud space, this transition felt like a big risk. My mentor at the time supported me through this change and helped me feel confident in my abilities. So much so that I managed to rise up the ranks to become a cloud tech leader.
Helps you overcome imposter syndrome
A common theme for women in tech is suffering from imposter syndrome; the belief that you aren’t as capable as others think and fear you’ll be exposed as a fraud. As a result, women feel like they need to work harder and be better to achieve the same goals. They do this by guiding you through your career rather than giving you all the answers and telling you what to do, helping you believe in yourself and your abilities. This will empower you to find your own way and give you the confidence to make the right decisions.
Enables you to learn how to mentor other women
Mentoring not only helps you with your own career progression, but it also enables you to learn how to mentor other women and provide them with the confidence to make decisions and ask for help and advice when needed.
While the biggest skill as a mentor is listening, sharing experiences of how you’ve overcome problems and held your own in a male-dominated environment will help equip your mentee with the skills to manage similar situations.
I’ve had a mentee for the last two years and believe that a mentor/mentee relationship should begin with a solid understanding of what the mentee wants to achieve and where they want their career to go. What keeps them motivated? What interests do they have outside of work that may be valuable to help them stand out? Also, allow them to drive the session so they can get the most out of this relationship.
An investment in the future
I believe investing in mentoring is investing in the future of women in technology. By empowering them to take more risks and make bolder decisions, more and more women will choose careers in technology and progress to leadership roles.
Furthermore, as diversity is a fundamental tenet of a successful business and women play a critical role in creating a balanced and productive working environment, we need to do everything we can to support mentoring, encourage more women into tech and reduce the gender gap – very much the thinking behind Veeam’s ‘Women in Green’ program.