Women in technology are under-represented but happily there is an increasingly constructive discussion about the issue. This gives women a great opportunity to claim the respect and recognition that their work deserves, and for women considering a career in the technology sector to feel empowered to pursue the career paths of their choice.
Leading the Nano Institute over the past few years, and having discussed more than my share of gender barriers, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
“The stubble? I realized that I didn’t have to ‘compete with men on their own terms’, be ‘as good as any man’, or ‘prove myself in the world of man’. I didn’t have to do those things because I am not a man and I have no desire, or need, to be one. ”- Jane McCormick, McCormick Advisory Group
1. Be Driven by Your Passion (and Make Mistakes!)
Passion is one of those odds that drives an entrepreneur and needs to flow out of every pore. This passion is an infectious enthusiasm that ultimately feeds the energy and drive of each teammate while also being a glue that holds the company together and gets it through the toughest of times.
We at the Nano Institute have been a team of 12 over the last 3 years and have faced more challenges than most. The passion for Nano’s immense global potential with the core principle of an equal and equitable global economy, has kept us going through some of the darkest times.
Work for something or someone you really believe in: the passion that picks you up when you fail. There is another tit-bit; failing is an absolute necessity (and sometimes the most important part!). Whether it’s a missed opportunity that led to something bigger down the line or a slip that was an important lesson or milestone, failure plays a hugely important role in our ongoing learning; the biggest obstacle in any learning process is the fear of making mistakes!
You can look at someone and think he has everything, but hearing them say they failed is an incredible leveler, showing vulnerability, and connecting with what makes us most vulnerable is what n make us human – I don’t think that is said. plenty in the technology sector.
Time to get out of your megaphone! Crucial in advancing women in technology is equalization of voices. Whether it’s interrupting, mansplaining or getting others to praise your ideas, for those of us in a minority – we all know how common this can be.
Research shows that when women are in the minority, they learn to see their gender as a barrier to success. The glass ceiling hypothesis states that not only is it more difficult for women than men to be promoted at levels of authority hierarchies in workplaces, but also that the barriers that women face in relation to men become more acute for them to move up the leadership ladder. As a result, they consciously and subconsciously avoid sex labels and discussions for fear of damaging their reputation, being told you are overcompensating or ‘playing the victim’.
I can personally attest to that by deciding to enter the blockchain sector with the moniker of my childhood in George, – Georgia is my full name. After attending a boarding school for boys aged 7-13 (I was the first girl), George came to me naturally. However, it was until January 2018 when I first entered the blockchain sector that I consciously decided to use this as a hiding mechanism, in hopes of giving myself the same anonymity enjoyed by the vast majority of occupiers’ r the digital space; in fact, I was ashamed of being praised and not being ‘one of the boys’. Thankfully, I can say that the sector has evolved since I first joined. I no longer get the daily phone calls asking to ‘talk to my boss George’ when a female voice answers the phone, for me to definitely correct them with “Here it is”. However, ‘Women in Tech’ is a work in progress.
I have learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and lean into the latter. You may be the only woman in the room but the tide is changing. To bring about change, we need to help more women grow and have the courage to stick to the path of their choice even though they outnumber the advocates themselves. We need to be bold, speak up and get involved in technology. The results have no sex.
3. Encouraging the Next Generation
We need to reshape the conversation around what it means to be a woman in technology. It can range from robotics to gaming to digital marketing. It is important that young women know that they can have successful and effective careers in technology without committing to a life of programming (of course that is an option for any woman it appeals to). There are so many other ways you can contribute to cutting edge technology even in these software-driven times.
To break away from prejudice, you must ensure that you are defined by your quality of work and your results, not by your gender. Using qualities and areas of strength such as relationship building, empathy, time management and effective communication can be just as powerful as what are technically known as the ‘hard skills’ of specific technical knowledge. For those trying to get into space, figure out how to position your skills in a way that is relevant to your role and not underqualified: your confidence and positivity is contagious.
According to a survey, 48% of women said that the reason they are under-represented in technology is the lack of mentors; 42% said that the lack of female role models in the field impedes their equal representation in the workplace. Women miss out on many high quality mentoring experiences – especially those that open doors for leadership, growth and promotion. If you are a leader in your workplace, mentor and promote women by offering guidance and teaching. Make it your mission to encourage and empower them. Commit to providing equal access to mentoring opportunities, providing actionable advice, helping women network and make key contacts, and advocating on their behalf in the workplace as I hope to do.
Written by George Coxon, COO at the Nano Institute