It’s tough to be a woman in the male-dominated tech world.
As a female front-end developer for over a decade, I often hear feedback from women who are told they aren’t able to do the job as well as men. That they’re too emotional, and incapable of understanding the more technical concepts — the code or the technology.
This narrative is completely false. But it’s one that women themselves take on as a self-fulfilling prophecy: because they’re treated so poorly, they think they must be less worthy.
It breaks my heart when extremely smart, talented women say they don’t feel heard or respected by men in their industry.
Unfortunately, the stats reinforce this gender inequality. In 2017, female founders of all-women teams received just 2% of all venture capital dollars. And most firms don’t even report intersectionality data, such as how many women of color they employ. Less than 4% of female-led tech startups are run by black women. Lack of diversity in the workplace is a complex problem that can’t be solved overnight.
But as a woman, you can take steps today to empower yourself in your career.
Developing a sense of self-awareness, determination, and total conviction in your worth is the only way you’ll earn your rightful seat at the table.
Here’s how to get there faster by asserting yourself as a woman in tech:
You have to be “extra.”
Traits that most people view as “extra” or “supplementary” in men — charisma, good looks, interpersonal skills — are expected of women, especially in leadership roles.
It’s not exactly fair, but it’s the reality.
I know because I’ve lived it. I have been very blessed for most of my 15+ year career in tech — and although I was one of the only female front-end developers at my first job, I was always treated with respect. I used my people skills to work my way up, eventually leading my department. I then built my own startup, bypassing the senior management positions in large tech firms, where discrimination against women is often the strongest.
But after my near-death tragedy, I lost my business and was out of the workforce for eight years.
When I re-entered the tech world, working in blockchain instead of programming, I noticed that everything was a little different. I was interacting with an entirely new demographic, people from varied backgrounds and experiences, so I had to bring my interpersonal skills and charisma to the team.
As a woman, you have to be able to communicate effectively with everyone, whether it’s a member of your company or someone’s random uncle who’s investing in blockchain. That often means performing a balancing act between proudly displaying your knowledge and not stepping on people’s toes. I could speak with the exact same tone of voice as a man, for example, but a select few would label me as combative, argumentative, or arrogant rather than assertive and confident. And it’s just because I’m a woman.
But don’t downplay what makes you shine. Find the balance and stay true to yourself.
Learn the technical side—it’s the easiest part.
Many of my female colleagues tell me they find the technical components of their work intimidating in a way their male counterparts don’t seem to.
But it’s not as overwhelming as you think to learn the technical stuff, the latest jargon, the latest technologies — and you need to.
Most of 2018 I spent working for a blockchain startup in supply chain logistics. Before I joined this team, I spent almost half a year researching blockchain. I never let my lack of knowledge stop me from seeing where I could bring value to this new space. I fearlessly asked questions about what I didn’t know and worked hard to research, network, and fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Soon after, I became the Director of Communications.
While I have since moved on to support and advise on other opportunities, I am certainly grateful for the knowledge and insights acquired.
If you don’t understand how something works, ask questions and do research to acquire that knowledge so you can be part of the discussion. If you’re a part of a team that values your worth, they should be more than willing to support you.
Remember that you deserve to be here.
Many men appear to have complete confidence in themselves, no matter their background or experience. And you need that same conviction in the value you bring.
The truth is simple: you are worthy of participating.
In my experience, women contribute a unique skill set that may differ from their male counterparts — from the brainstorming process to strategizing about a company’s long-term growth and sustainability. There are thousands of women who are very knowledgeable about crypto and blockchain, but they don’t feel welcome in the homogenous male-dominated world of tech startups. So they’re underground starting their own companies.
But the tech industry, and the world, needs vocal women to contribute, innovate, and fight for change.
Contributing and knowing your worth requires self-awareness of your skill set, your strengths, and your weaknesses. In tech, realizing your value is a game changer — because if one company won’t let you sit at their table, you can always find another who will appreciate your worth.