It’s not easy to talk about such a topic, Women in Tech, when you are a man. For fear of saying the wrong thing or of being behind the times. But hey, I was given a green light, so I took the chance. I asked on the social media networks for videos of inspiring women and I received very good advice. Thanks to all of you, I will share some of them in this article.
And then I sorted through my ideas and opinions, both popular and not, for the sake of honesty towards the topic. Here’s what I came up with. I don’t pretend to know, nor to bring guaranteed solutions, I only share what I have experienced, what I live and what I imagine. I hope that on this International Women’s Rights Day you will read this text with as much curiosity as I had when I was preparing to write it.
Women in “just about everything”.
First of all, we say women in tech, but we could also say women in sports, in industry, in media, in politics, in science, and even in art. Women in just about everything, knowing that you are a woman in a world culturally controlled by men. I’m talking about tech because today I work in tech. But I’ve experienced the same frustrations in television, advertising, theater, consulting, conferences, etc.
This observation is not new, sometimes official figures are stuck to it, varying according to the sources, but globally it is said that women represent less than 20% of the employees in tech (37% at Pentalog, we are on the right track!).
Ok, that’s too little, so what do we do?
The solutions are known. Even that lazy ChatGPT can give them to you in less than twelve seconds. Let me show you:
“There are several factors that can help get more women into high tech:
Encouraging STEM Education: Encouraging more women to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields can provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue high-tech careers. Schools and universities can play a role in promoting STEM education for women.
Promoting Role Models: Highlighting successful women in tech as role models can help inspire young girls and women to pursue similar career paths. Women in high-tech positions should be visible, sharing their experiences and offering mentorship opportunities.
Creating Inclusive Workplaces: High-tech companies can create inclusive work environments that embrace diversity and promote gender equality. Policies such as flexible work schedules, parental leave, and equal pay can help attract and retain female talent.
Addressing Unconscious Bias: Addressing unconscious biases in the workplace can help break down barriers that prevent women from succeeding in high-tech roles. Companies can offer unconscious bias training to all employees to help identify and overcome any biases they may hold.
Providing Access to Networks: High-tech companies can provide women with access to networking opportunities, industry events, and conferences to help build their professional networks and increase their visibility within the industry.”
That’s good, little Chat, you’ve summarized all the sites and articles that have been working on the subject for years. You don’t know what you’re saying, but at least it’s neat and in substance you’re right on all points. But what ChatGPT can’t think of is that there are nuances between the lines that need to be said.
I will share 7 thoughts: the debate is open.
A debt of confidence that is starting to fade, but it takes time. I was a speaker for a long time, and you can’t imagine how many times the organizers of the events I attended asked me if I knew any female speakers. They couldn’t find any, or if they did, it was always the same ones: I couldn’t believe it! Some women, when contacted, did not hesitate to refer us to men, claiming that they were not good speakers or that they were not legitimate. So of course, maybe the organizers hadn’t looked hard enough- no doubt. But maybe too many women suffer from an illegitimacy complex so overwhelming that they are paralyzed from fear of speaking up.
I do not criticize! I am just observing. However, I see that this has been changing a little in the last few years, thanks to a new generation of women and I’m happy about that; social networks probably contribute to this. Speaking out is becoming simpler and more common, young women do not hesitate to say things and this can only facilitate the rise of all women in the future. To speak up in order to exist in the noisy world of men, it is a necessary passage from now on for all women. Companies must absolutely support their female employees: expression workshops, improvisation workshops, training in public speaking, storytelling, leadership coaching: there are tons of tools that should not be considered as gadgets offered to this or that woman, but as strategic policies, not only for the individual development of women in the organization, but for the global success of all.
Women are very tough on each other. I know, I’m generalizing, but I’ve experienced and observed this so many times. The places are expensive, the fight is mathematically tighter; but competition and ambition are non-gendered human qualities, and there is no reason for a woman to be kinder towards another woman just because she is a woman.
Nevertheless, we all know the effectiveness of teamwork. Men have understood this and progress in groups, belong to professional clubs, sports clubs, associations. Professional connections are created in these communities of circumstance, and without them, the path is possible, but it is longer and harder. Women are joining more and more these clubs and associations that are created every day and demonstrate their efficiency. This solidarity involves everyone, and the success of one becomes a driving force for the others. We need to go from jealousy to inspiration, from envy to mutual aid – it’s a thousand times more efficient. See for example at Pentalog Simona Sandru, who created the NGO “Global Women in Tech” or Stefanita Ciutac, who founded “Tech Women Moldova”.
Men can help. But not all men do. A colleague told me that trust is something that is played out within oneself but can also be facilitated by the Other. But the Other (men, in this case) is not always willing to make room. This is true but let us note that men are not inclined to give way to each other either. This human competition seems to be the basis of our relationships, whatever our gender. So, you must take your place. This means you have to say what you want, know how to say no, work harder than the others, celebrate the victories, let people know who you are; man or woman, it doesn’t matter.
Women have had enough of microaggressions and glass ceilings. It’s normal, and we men passively (too much, no doubt) observe their struggle and wait to see if anything changes. Sometimes we offer a helping hand, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we give advice, and sometimes it’s better if we shut up. Sometimes they want to hear us, sometimes they don’t. It’s not easy to be seen as both the executioner and the supporter, but it’s our responsibility to do better. Some men play the game, and others don’t, it’s human nature. We should probably not expect too much from men and at the same time identify male allies among them, they exist!
A demand for perfection that ends up slowing down. “The best is the enemy of the good” is a proverb that probably has its equivalent in all languages. Again, I take the risk of generalizing, but I have given warning in the beginning of this article: I am only speaking from what I have observed. The women I know spend an inordinate amount of time wanting to do well, to do better, to do very well. Whereas for men, who are a little less subtle, they go for it even if something is not perfect. A kind of agility that is both lazy and impatient, as if men are moving forward based on Minimum Viable Products, while women are projecting themselves towards a fully operational and successful finished product. Waiting for an idea to be perfectly realized is certainly commendable, but very complicated in a complex and uncertain world that leaves little time for anything and ignores absolute purity. Being a Miss “Almost” Perfect should work just as well!
The failure that knocks everything to the ground, it’s way too much. Again, I’m not the only one who says this (check out this TED video by Jane Sojka that talks about it). I believe that men are used to failing much earlier in life than women, and therefore they relativize more easily, because they are familiar with defeat. Because of the tough games, the silly power struggles, the competitive spirit that comes earlier in the schoolyard, we quickly understand that we are going to lose a lot, that this is the rule of the game and that we have no choice. I’ve seen so many women get discouraged in the face of defeat, not because they weren’t talented or brave, but just because they took personally what was, for men, a losing battle. As much as I think men should learn from women to sharpen their resilience, women should learn from men to put things in perspective and get back on the horse quickly. My two cents.
It all starts with the parents – and right now – with the toys for girls. For our generation it’s already too late, so we must act. It’s going to be a choice between the Princesses or Bob the Builder, or maybe a mix of the two. Debby Sterling’s testimony on the subject is fascinating! If you don’t want to see the whole video (and that’s too bad she’s very inspiring), at least go watch from minute 9′. She explains how, while studying engineering, she experienced difficulties in terms of modeling in space, and this was probably due to the differences between the girls’ and boys’ toys. That’s how she decided to successfully launch her construction toy business for girls. For the future of Women in Tech, there is an urgent need to give girls toys that are not only tiaras and magic wands, but also mechanical toys, Legos and tinkering tools.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): women are entering the ring! This year’s McKinsey annual “Women in the Workplace” study heralds a fundamental trend of women managers resigning from companies that don’t meet their expectations. “Young women care deeply about the opportunity to advance (more than two-thirds of women under 30 want to be senior leaders). Young women are also more likely than current women leaders to say they’re increasingly prioritizing flexibility and company commitment to well-being and DEI. Companies that don’t take action may struggle to recruit and retain the next generation of women leaders.” A legitimate wind of demand is blowing through the world of work that seems to show a new global posture of women in their relations to men, to power and to the possibility of advancing their careers in a fair, healthy and equitable framework. And that’s pretty good news.
Some final thoughts…
Men have been growing up with engineering and construction, modeling, math, etc., for centuries. The field is traditional, just like the military or commerce. They’re not better than women, they’re just more used to it. But it’s not a biological inevitability, it’s a long process that is mutating. In a moving and memorable final scene in the movie Will Hunting, Robbie Williams tells Matt Damon a thousand times “it’s not your fault” until he hears the message and lets his guard down, then finally takes off to pursue his dream. We need to do the same with young girls and sink into their minds the message: “It’s not all set in stone!“. The norm is not based on scientific realities but on a long cultural history. It is culture that forges habits, so we need to change the culture, to remind and establish once and for all that it can change, that technology is no more a male activity than caregiving or teaching are female activities.
The time has come to erase this debt of confidence.