Women in Tech: Gender Bias and Tips To Beat the Odds

Whichever road a woman in tech chooses, the data points to the inevitability that she is going to encounter some type of gender bias.

Woman Working And Programming
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Women enter technology-related fields from different angles. Many look for positions in which they can contribute to and grow with an existing company, and some, like me, jump headfirst into the startup fray. Whichever road a woman in tech chooses, the data points to the inevitability that she is going to encounter some type of gender bias.

Understanding the Obstacles

Half of women in STEM jobs report experiencing discrimination at work. That climbs to 74% if narrowed to just women who work in computer jobs. Much of this can be attributed to a lack of representation, especially in male-dominated computer science disciplines.

Females entering computer science make up just 25% of professionals in the field, with women computer programmers earning, on average, $0.96 for every dollar a male programmer makes. Half of women who enter a tech field leave it by the age of 35.

Women who go the startup route can also expect to encounter pushback, particularly from VC funders, who I believe tend to see women-owned companies through a lens of higher risk and lower return. That's probably at least one of the reasons behind the dismal fact that in 2021, female founders secured only 2% of venture capital in the U.S. — the smallest share since 2016. Women who paired with a man did somewhat better, capturing 15.6% of the VC money doled out last year.

Something has to give if women pursuing tech have any chance of beating these odds.

Letting Go to Beat the Odds

It's clear why many women, once excited by all that a tech career has to offer, become discouraged enough to leave the field. While women are certainly not to blame for the often blatant discrimination they experience when vying for tech jobs and promotions, it's been my experience that a woman pursuing a career in tech has a better chance of success if she's willing to let go of three self-limiting beliefs.

1. "To get to the next level, I have to show that I'm already at the next level."

As women, we tend to overprepare, over-research, and overcompensate. We want to bring our best selves to whatever we do, and we think that means we have to know everything before we can pursue anything. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, will apply for a job or a promotion when they feel they've met a mere 60% of the requirements.

Women need to take a lesson from the "book of bro" and stop thinking that they need to meet 100% of the criteria to raise their hands. If women wait until they reach a point of perfection to apply for that coveted job, ask for that promotion or decide to start that business, they're never going to get to that next rung on the ladder.

2. "To prove my value, I must find a job in Big Tech."

Some women look to a position in Big Tech as the sine qua non of being taken seriously in their field. As a successful serial tech entrepreneur whose current company is 37% women, I can tell you that the startup ecosystem offers more opportunities than many women realize.

Consider the facts. When it comes to GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft), only one in every four tech roles goes to a woman. Startups—with less conformance to an established network—may provide more opportunities.

Look at the hiring company's board and its website. Are women represented in meaningful positions? Do the backgrounds of the directors and those on the executive team seem to align with ideals like pay equity and skills-based promotion? If so, that's a pretty good sign that this is a place that will give qualified women a fair shake.

3. "I can and must have it all."

Along with looking a certain way and maintaining social and family connections, women are expected to excel at being attentive partners while making parenting a priority. Add in the expectations of bosses, colleagues, direct reports, and the pressures women put on themselves to succeed, it becomes clear that, at some point, something has to give.

The truth is, women will always have to choose between competing priorities. If a woman's goal is to be a founder or reach the higher echelons of her career, she might need to forego a social life for a while or wait a little longer to start a family. Society's unrealistic expectations place impossible burdens on women, setting us up to feel like failures if we don't have it all, all at once. This belief is a fallacy and buying into it does not serve women well.

Go Forth With No Regrets

One thing I've always believed is that life should be lived with no regrets. If you want it, go for it. Women have a lot to offer the tech industry. If getting a seat at the table means you'll have to push a little harder, be a little bolder and realign your priorities at least for the short term, it will be worth it.

One of the biggest rewards for all your hard work and sacrifice will come when you get to the point of being able to offer the next generation of women in tech a more evenly paved road to success. I can tell you from personal experience, there's nothing quite like it.

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