I recently read an article in the Guardian which discussed ways to get more women involved in the technology sector. This is a timely issue. In 2010, women accounted for just 25% of the technology workforce (down from 27% in 2001). The article points out the number of girls studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in school is also decreasing, which means the number of women in technology will likely continue to fall.
This is a topic I've written about before, and it's one I think is very important. Being a woman who works in technology is difficult, but very rewarding. The Guardian article mentioned that only 30% of women believe technology jobs allow for creativity and engagement with other people. There is more diversity in the field than people realise, and many jobs do allow for creativity. This is recognised in some Eastern European cultures - in the Baltic States, for example, women represent more than half the technology workforce.
Where I work, in France, there is still some prejudice and bias against women working in technology. The work environment can be very sexist. So how can women combat this?
First, you need to prove that you can understand technology. Technology is very intellectual and mathematical, and many men think women cannot keep up. There is a belief that women are more into shopping than business and technology.
Second, you need to prove that you are strong. You cannot back down. When I bring something new to my colleagues, I tend to fight just a bit. I like to show that even though I am a woman, I am still competent. I know what I know, and I can handle the situation.
Third, it is important to recognise that it is possible to have a successful technology career while still maintaining a good home life. There is a tendency for men to think that women are less efficient and probably have less time to dedicate to the job. You must separate your private life from your business life. If you don't, it's like bandwidth - everything gets mixed up.
Working in technology often means working long hours. This means there are certain things I cannot do on my own, so I outsource them. I now have someone who helps me around the house with cleaning and those sorts of things. I do my shopping online. By taking these tasks off my plate, I am able to fully concentrate on other details and create a balance between work and home.
Working in technology is challenging, but very rewarding. Women should support each other in the industry and stand together against prejudices. Especially in small companies and start-ups, you see fewer women. We should mentor each other and be role models. Openly talking about the challenges we face means we can combat them together.
The good news is that this bias against women is happening less and less - particularly in larger companies. Big companies see that having women on their management team usually creates more money - as much as a 34% higher return on investment, according to the Guardian article. Diversifying a management team means more conversation, more creativity, and more insight into your customers. With 40% of technology being purchased by women, it is important to keep women involved at all levels.
The technology industry can be stressful, but ultimately it is unique and exciting. Getting women involved in the industry starts at school. Girls should be encouraged to study STEM subjects and be advised that the technology sector is a viable one for them to move into. It is a great place to be.
This article initially appeared on Computer Weekly here.
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