In the tech industry, women, sadly, are still significantly underrepresented. Technical innovation is playing a critical role in almost every industry and there are a significant number of tech positions that need to be filled. With more women entering tech, we have a unique opportunity to have women fill those roles. Women can bring unique ideas to the table, and what’s more important, they can lead diverse teams which can boost performance.
It still floors me when I read that women make nearly 20% less than men, and that they won’t reach pay equity with men until 2059. It shows an astonishingly slow pace of progress and highlights that we need to focus on equity just as much as we do equality. This desperately needs accelerating, and further proves that there is still so much work to be done. The sad reality right now is that, as a woman, it takes longer to gain credibility. We have to work harder at it, but the rewards are incredible.
International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate how far we have come together, but it is also a reminder that we need to continue to support and encourage all the young girls and women out there. So, we’ve asked our powerful women-in-tech customers and partners to help us do just that: Inspire the next generation of tech women. The women of United Airlines, Technologent, Sirius Computer Solutions, and Portland, Maine’s IT department have shared insight on a few consequential questions:
Advice: What’s one piece of advice that you’ve received and would pass onto other women looking to enter a career in tech?
“When I entered my career in IT, women held less than 20% off all the jobs in the tech industry. I was told by one of my male mentors, ‘You don’t have to be one of the boys.’ I would modernize that advice to say, ‘Stay authentic and true to yourself.’ Your femininity and strength are your greatest assets.” –Heather Somerville Gonzalez, VP of Global Communications and Strategic Alliances, Technologent
“Listen, ask why and take initiative!” –Deborah L. Bannworth, SVP, Sirius Computer Solutions
“It can be hard working as a woman in tech depending on the organization you work for but there are plenty of workplaces where women can and do thrive. Don’t give up on the industry but do give up on an un-supporting workplace.” –Hanna Pickering, Director of IT for the City of Portland, Maine
“‘Do what you feel passionate about and take chances’ is the best advice I have gotten. Also my favorite quote is:
F – FIRST
A – ATTEMPT
I – IN
L – LEARNING.
This always reminds me that it is ok to FAIL and to push on! Many women get discouraged at the first sign of failure and stop trying to achieve what could be possible in IT.” –Barb Fortis, IOE Delivery Partner Service Manager, United Airlines
Mentors in the workplace: How important is this and how can we encourage more women to take on this role?
Mentors in the workplace can be extremely helpful if they help their colleagues see and develop areas of growth. I coach colleagues to:
Here’s some perspective from my female peers in IT on their mentoring perspective:
“Incredibly important. Unfortunately, I never had a mentor in my early years, but the biggest lesson I learned on my own was just how important it is to work with people you respect and trust–and how much you can learn from anyone. I would encourage women to remember what it’s like starting out, and how difficult it was to ask for help/guidance and allow those thoughts to drive you to mentor others.” –Deborah L. Bannworth, SVP, Sirius Computer Solutions
“Mentors are incredibly important in the workplace. Mentors encourage, challenge, guide, advise and provide perspective on a plethora of topics. If organizations did a better job setting up formal mentoring programs that included training on how to be a good mentor, more women would participate. My mentors, who happened to all be male, came to be through my persistence, not through a formal program. The same with my mentees. They are/were women looking for someone they could trust and who could provide them sound advice on their career paths.” –Heather Somerville Gonzalez, VP of Global Communications and Strategic Alliances, Technologent
“Being coached can be a key element for your career advancement. A good coach can act as a mirror that shows you your weaknesses and strengths and how to work on them. When you get a female coach you get the bonus of learning from their past experience on how they, as women, have navigated on their career advancement. You also learn to appreciate how things have or have NOT changed for women, and learn how you can become an element of change by coaching peers.” — Mariandrea Graterón, Senior Manager Disaster Recovery, United Airlines
Change: What do you think needs to change in the technology field to create less of a gender gap?
“Do not wait to be called upon; speak up if you have something valuable to say.” –Deborah L. Bannworth, SVP, Sirius Computer Solutions
“I think we need to start encouraging girls in elementary school to explore their interest in STEM. I volunteer for Girls Who Code. The 5th grade girls that come to the virtual classes live in the margins. I am hopeful that encouraging them to have fun coding and celebrating their little successes each week will pave a path for them to want to further explore courses or careers in STEM that may have otherwise seemed daunting.” –Heather Somerville Gonzalez, VP of Global Communications and Strategic Alliances, Technologent
“It has to start at the school level by teaching girls in elementary that tech is also a normal mom job. I remember when my daughter was only 10, she told me that I was not a normal mom because I did not have a “normal mom job” because I wasn’t a volunteer on PTA or a teacher. Maybe she was right, I am not normal, but besides that it was clear to me that we need to teach our girls at home and at school that tech jobs are also normal, they pay better than teaching or ‘normal mom jobs,’ and can be fun if you love what you do.” — Mariandrea Graterón, Senior Manager Disaster Recovery, United Airlines
“Good question – in my opinion most (not all) IT commercials are showing a majority of only men onscreen. If you look online for IT education most of the advertisements are either men or men’s hands on the keyboard. Women are very emotional creatures and for IT to attract more women, then we need to advertise more women that are in IT without them being VP’s or super successful. Advertise average women in IT that the public can relate to and then maybe IT will get more interest.” –Barb Fortis, IOE delivery partner service manager, United Airlines
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge, the premise being ‘a challenged world is an alert world.’ We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. What does this theme mean to you?
“Challenge is sometimes viewed as a negative or difficult to accomplish. I view challenges as an opportunity to better oneself; our experiences, and to expose those things we can improve upon for ourselves to possible help and/or mentor others.” –Deborah L. Bannworth, SVP, Sirius Computer Solutions
“It is catchy and defiant, and not at all my personal style. Setting up for conflict is setting up for wasted energy and ultimately exhaustion. Instead, I’ve grown my own IT career like a patient predator. This required me to prepare for the moment, watch for the moment, turn away from narrow opportunities and strike with intention at those that are challenging and fulfilling. #PrepareToLeap. Apologies to the folks who probably worked very hard on this!” –Hanna Pickering, director of IT for the City of Portland, Maine
“#ChooseToChallenge is a call out for women and men to come together and bring attention to the biases (deliberate or unconscious) that we experience in the workforce. There is power in numbers. And in numbers, there is confidence to speak out for ourselves and for others. #ChooseToChallenge empowers women’s possibilities.” –Heather Somerville Gonzalez, VP of global communications and strategic alliances, Technologent
“I would start the challenge at the education level to prepare girls to the challenge and show them this can be fun, tech is not just for geeks…or show them that geeks can be fun too.”— Mariandrea Graterón, senior manager disaster recovery, United Airlines
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to bring these problems to light, but it cannot be a one day issue. It requires continuous work and cultivation. That begins with a willingness to step out of our comfort zones. I was particularly inspired by the wisdom of our very own Chief People Officer, Sofia Kauffman:
“To those women who want to enter the tech industry: be yourself unapologetically. There is a perception among women that they need to prove themselves. Don’t do that. Be who you are because it inspires trust in those around you. You bring something to the table that no one else does. Learn from others, listen to their experiences and heed their advice – but never stop being your true authentic self. It got you this far and it will take you wherever you want to go.
“Never let someone diminish your hard work and success. It can eat away at people and cause many to doubt themselves. Ignore the outside voices and keep doing your thing. There are always going to be naysayers and detractors. Find the people that build you up and if none exist, build yourself up.”
“You’re worth it.”