Women in Tech: Breaking Barriers and Building Careers

Careerist
9 min readMar 26, 2024

The tech industry, once a predominantly male domain, is gradually witnessing a paradigm shift with more women breaking barriers and making significant contributions. Despite the progress, women still face challenges in this sector. However, by spotlighting successful initiatives and providing actionable career advice, we can inspire more women to pursue and thrive in tech careers.

Overcoming Stereotypes and Gender Bias: A Closer Look

The battle against stereotypes and gender bias in the tech industry is not just about changing perceptions; it’s about dismantling systemic barriers that have historically excluded women from equal participation and recognition. The tech industry’s progress towards gender equality has been slow but steady, thanks to the efforts of trailblazing women and allies committed to change. Here, we explore further the historical context, highlight more women who have made significant impacts, and discuss initiatives aimed at combating these biases.

Historical Context and Its Legacy

The tech industry’s gender bias roots can be traced back to the mid-20th century when computing was considered women’s work, akin to clerical tasks. However, as the field gained prestige and profitability, societal narratives shifted, and computing became male-dominated. This shift was further reinforced by stereotypes that men are more suited to STEM fields due to innate abilities or preferences, a baseless notion that persists in various forms today.

Trailblazers in Technology

Ada Lovelace’s contribution as the first computer programmer is well-documented, but she is just one of many women who have made indelible marks on the tech industry. Grace Hopper, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, laying the groundwork for modern software development. Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights, showcased the crucial role of women in space exploration and technology.

In the contemporary scene, women like Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, are working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. Similarly, Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls CODE, aims to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming.

Diversity Initiatives and Their Impact: Detailed Insights

​Tech companies globally are increasingly understanding the critical importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives in fostering innovation, creativity, and a more equitable work environment. Initiatives specifically designed to support women in technology are making strides in breaking down barriers and enabling a more inclusive industry landscape. Here, we delve deeper into the efforts of notable companies like Google, Salesforce, and IBM, exploring how their initiatives have made significant impacts.

Google’s Women Techmakers

Google’s Women Techmakers program stands out as a beacon for aspiring and established female tech professionals. Launched to honor International Women’s Day, this initiative is committed to providing visibility, community, and resources for women in technology. Through global events, such as the International Women’s Day Summit, and a range of community meetups, Women Techmakers offers opportunities for networking, mentorship, and skill development. The program’s scholarships for women in tech also underscore Google’s commitment to diversifying the tech pipeline by supporting women’s technical education.

Salesforce’s Women’s Network

Salesforce, known for its cloud-based software solutions, has equally made notable efforts through its Women’s Network, the largest Equality Group at Salesforce. With the core values of equality, growth, innovation, and leadership, the Women’s Network focuses on empowering women across the company. It organizes various programs, including mentorship initiatives, professional development workshops, and speaker series, all designed to bolster women’s careers in tech. Salesforce’s annual representation data, part of its Equality report, transparently tracks progress towards gender equality within the company, reflecting its commitment to making tangible changes.

IBM’s Women in Technology Network

IBM’s Women in Technology Network is another exemplary initiative that underscores the company’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. This global community is dedicated to promoting diversity across IBM and the broader tech industry. It provides a platform for networking, mentorship, and career development tailored to women’s needs in tech roles. IBM also supports women in tech through its diversity recruitment efforts and partnerships with organizations such as Girls Who Code, aiming to close the gender gap in technology from the classroom to the boardroom.

Impact and Progress

The impact of these initiatives is multifaceted, ranging from increasing female representation in technical roles to fostering a culture of inclusion and support. By providing mentorship opportunities, these programs help women navigate the tech industry’s challenges, build confidence, and advance in their careers. Professional development resources and workshops offered by these initiatives equip women with the skills necessary to thrive in tech roles, from technical competencies to leadership skills.

Furthermore, these initiatives contribute to creating a more equitable work environment by highlighting and celebrating women’s achievements in technology, thereby inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders. The visibility of female role models in tech is crucial in challenging stereotypes and encouraging more women to pursue careers in this field.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives by companies like Google, Salesforce, and IBM play a crucial role in breaking down barriers for women in tech. Through their comprehensive support networks, mentorship opportunities, and career development resources, these programs not only empower women within these companies but also set a precedent for the broader tech industry. As more companies recognize the value of diversity and invest in similar initiatives, the tech industry moves closer to an inclusive future where women’s contributions are recognized, celebrated, and integral to technological innovation and progress.

Career Advice for Aspiring Female Tech Professionals

Are you a woman aiming to make your mark in the tech world? Here’s your ultimate roadmap, loaded with actionable advice on learning, networking, mentorship, portfolio building, and advocating for yourself — because thriving in tech is about much more than just coding skills.

Education and Continuous Learning

Do:

  • Embrace a diverse range of learning opportunities. This includes formal education like degrees and diplomas, as well as bootcamps and online courses that are more flexible.
  • Focus on ever-evolving tech fields such as software development, data analysis, cybersecurity, and AI. Each offers unique entry points and ample room for growth.
  • Take advantage of free online resources and platforms like Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy to supplement your learning.

Do Not:

  • Limit yourself to traditional education paths if they don’t align with your career goals or life situation. The tech industry values skill and practical experience highly.
  • Overlook the importance of soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These are as critical as technical knowledge.

Networking

Do:

  • Actively participate in professional networks, both online and offline. Attend industry conferences, workshops, and tech meetups to connect with like-minded individuals.
  • Use social media platforms, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, to follow industry leaders, join relevant groups, and engage in tech-related discussions.
  • Volunteer for tech community events or organizations. This can be a great way to meet potential mentors and peers while contributing to the community.

Do Not:

  • Underestimate the power of networking. Many job opportunities in tech come from connections made through networking.
  • Hesitate to reach out to someone whose work you admire. Most people are flattered by genuine interest and willing to offer advice.

Mentorship

Do:

  • Seek mentors who not only have the career achievements you aspire to but also share your values and have experience navigating challenges as a woman in tech.
  • Consider both formal mentorship programs and informal relationships. Sometimes, a casual coffee meeting can lead to valuable insights and guidance.
  • Be clear about what you hope to gain from mentorship and be proactive in maintaining the relationship.

Do Not:

  • Assume mentorship is a one-way street.
  • Think about how you can offer value to your mentor, perhaps by assisting with research, sharing your unique perspective, or offering help in their projects.

Develop a Portfolio

Do:

  • Curate a portfolio that showcases a wide range of projects, highlighting your technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and creativity.
  • Include personal projects or contributions to open-source projects to demonstrate your initiative and passion for tech.
  • Regularly update your portfolio as you acquire new skills or complete significant projects.

Do Not:

  • Neglect the presentation of your portfolio. A well-designed website or platform can make a significant difference in how your work is perceived.

Advocate for Yourself

Do:

  • Learn negotiation skills to ensure you receive fair compensation and opportunities. Resources and workshops are available to help women develop these skills.
  • Be vocal about your achievements and career aspirations. Don’t assume your work will speak for itself; ensure decision-makers are aware of your contributions.
  • Seek opportunities for leadership and challenging projects. Expressing interest in these areas can lead to more visibility and career advancement.

Do Not:

  • Downplay your achievements or hesitate to discuss your career goals with supervisors and mentors. Advocating for yourself is key to professional growth.
  • Accept less than you deserve due to imposter syndrome or fear of negotiation. Research industry standards for roles and compensation to inform your discussions.

This comprehensive approach combines skill development, strategic networking, mentorship, self-promotion, and a strong portfolio as pivotal steps for aspiring female tech professionals to navigate and thrive in the tech industry.

Still doubting that you can be a woman in tech? See our success stories

  • Natalia Atif’s Journey: Starting in tech over a decade ago, Natalia witnessed firsthand the underrepresentation of women. Her progress as a QA instructor underlines the importance of perseverance and the evolving opportunities for women in various tech domains. Natalia’s experience encapsulates the challenges and rewards of a career in tech for women. Read more about her inspiring journey here.
  • Lana Levinsohn’s Transition: Lana Levinsohn’s story from a real estate background to thriving in the tech world underscores that it’s never too late to pivot into tech. Her determination and the support she found in tech communities highlight the potential for career transformation, regardless of your starting point. Discover Lana’s full story here.
  • Kateryna Varshavska’s Leap: From photographer to Manual QA, Kateryna’s shift is a testament to the diverse paths into the tech industry. Her story illustrates how passion, coupled with the right training and community support, can open doors to rewarding tech careers. Learn more about Kateryna’s transition here.
  • Andrea’s Journey to Sales Engineering: Andrea’s path to becoming a Sales Engineer reflects the power of empowerment and targeted training. Her story showcases the unique contributions women can make in tech, especially in roles that blend technical expertise with client engagement. Read about Andrea’s empowering journey here.
  • Petri’s Shift from Insurance Agent to QA Tester: Petri’s transition highlights that a career in tech is accessible from any starting point. His narrative sheds light on the importance of adaptability and the willingness to learn. Explore Petri’s success story here.
  • Quiana’s Success Story: Quiana’s journey into tech underscores the industry’s growing inclusivity and the vast opportunities awaiting those ready to seize them. Her story is a powerful reminder of tech’s transformative potential. Delve into Quiana’s story here.

These stories of transformation and success emphasize that with the right resources, community support, and determination, women can achieve great heights in the tech industry.

Conclusion

Despite the progress made, women in tech still face several challenges, including the gender pay gap, underrepresentation in leadership positions, and workplace cultures that may not always be inclusive. However, these challenges also present opportunities for change. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of diversity in driving innovation and are implementing policies to support women in tech.

The future of the tech industry is one that embraces diversity and inclusion at its core. As more companies recognize the benefits of diverse teams, efforts to support women in tech will continue to evolve. By fostering an environment where women can thrive, the tech industry can unlock new perspectives, ideas, and innovations that drive progress.

Breaking barriers in the tech industry is a journey that requires persistence, resilience, and support. Women in tech are not only navigating their paths but also paving the way for future generations. Through continuous learning, networking, mentorship, and advocacy, aspiring female tech professionals can build rewarding careers while contributing to a more inclusive and innovative tech landscape.​

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Related Articles

Interview: Natalia Atif

Women in Tech: Lana Levinsohn

From Photographer to Manual QA: Success Story of Kateryna Varshavska

Empowering the Future: Andreas’ Journey to Becoming a Sales Engineer

From Insurance Agent to Manual QA Tester: Success Story of Petri

Success Story: Quiana

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