Women in the work force have come a long way. But, as a woman in tech, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go. According to statistics highlighted by Inc., 59 per cent of women make up the total work force, but just 30 per cent of the work force across major tech companies. Additionally, more than 40 per cent of women in tech eventually end up leaving the field entirely, compared with just 17 per cent of men.
Real change starts with visibility. Girls need to “see it to believe it” to know that they, too, could have a place here. And despite the hills we need to climb, the natural advantages we bring to the industry as women are why I’m confident that the future of women in technology is strong. Here’s why.
We’re not the underdogs
I’m used to being the only woman in the room, constantly trying to make my voice heard and to be taken seriously. Throughout my career, I have often found myself as the only or one of a few women on various tech teams. Yet, we’re not the underdogs we’ve been portrayed to be. In fact, according to Bloomberg, women are the world’s most powerful consumers, driving 70 per cent to 80 per cent of all consumer purchasing. That’s just one reason why I believe it’s important to bring a female perspective to every room. Women don’t have to be domineering or authoritative to be heard and seen. Instead, we need to approach with confidence, knowing that we deserve our seat at the table.
We are enough
Unfortunately, in my experience, male peers are more likely to be taken at face value without having to justify their ability. Benchmarking and metrics have been a fixture of my career as a woman and a business owner to demonstrate my value. While this can be inconvenient at times, the skeptics have taught me that I’m enough and that the proof is in my work.
We multitask as a sign of strength, not weakness
I recently joined the board of directors for an organization. One of the first questions I was asked by a fellow board member was, “Do you really have time for this?" – alluding to my other commitments and responsibilities as a mother and a business owner.
Women in leadership are rarely celebrated in situations such as this, and often not given the benefit of the doubt. What people overlook is that our ability to wear many hats is what makes us more capable. We are managers, moms, wives, sisters, daughters, entrepreneurs and community builders. We’ve developed strong time management skills; our ability to balance and thrive in the midst of these things is an asset.
We are resilient
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a thick skin. I take setbacks and failures personally, and learning from them is a continuing process.
My first foray into tech ended in failure. I quit my first job at a large technology company to relocate to Canada with my husband in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. Owing to the unfortunate timing and being a new immigrant to Canada, I found myself having to restart my career. This was a humbling setback, but it led me to pursue entrepreneurship and ultimately discover my passion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but rising every time we fall.”
We pay it forward
I started my own business to give myself the opportunity and flexibility when I couldn’t find what I needed to move forward. Outstanding female mentors helped me find my way then, and I count it a privilege now to pay it forward to other women – to show them they are capable.
The future is bright for women in technology. We are stronger than we’ve ever been and we have more women than at any other time in history to admire in positions of strength and power. I have hope for the future of women in tech, not just because of what the statistics say, but because of the women who’ve paved the way before me, the women I work alongside now and the women who’ll come after me.
Erica Hakonson is the principal and founder of Maven Collective Marketing, a Squamish, B.C.-based digital marketing agency.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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