The tech industry is still by and large a men’s club. This, of course, has everything to do with how society portrays the field. From Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs, we’ve come to glamorize the image of the Silicon Valley prince.
In line with this, women in tech aren’t alone in this struggle. CNN notes that construction and transportation jobs are still predominantly filled by males, with females accounting for only 5% of truck drivers in the country. Additionally, Special Counsel emphasizes that the number of women in law diminishes the higher up the ranks you go, despite having equal numbers of men and women enrolled in law programs. This is why some firms have leaned on women-centric training programs to help develop and retain the very best talent.
As aforementioned, diversity efforts are being made across the board but women can’t do it alone.
Visibility and representation
As far as training and development goes, mentorship still remains the most successful way of ensuring that women feel welcome in predominantly male industries. A senior woman in tech not only has the necessary understanding of how the field works, but also has experience dealing with the interpersonal politics that comes with the field.
Mentorship can also shed light on the vital role that women have played in shaping the tech industry. In fact, The New York Times argues that the tech industry would be nowhere without women. Actually, writing code was relegated to women’s work in the 1940s, with females at the forefront of creating the latest software.
Understanding these roots can help budding tech professionals fight against the phenomenon of symbolic annihilation, whereby a lack of representation leads a marginal group to feel as though they are unworthy. In our post on 11 Black Women Making History on Tech Boards, we discussed how the male tech leader isn’t the only narrative available in the industry.
The importance of close relationships
Mentorship can take various forms depending on the personal relationship between the mentor and the mentee. It’s best to have a close one-on-one relationship if possible, as this allows both parties to get to know each other on a deeper level (versus if one mentor was handling a group of people).
Close mentor relationships are vital as a lot of your discussions will probably be dealing with what it feels like to be a woman in tech. This means you’ll be delving into personal territory, potentially discussing things like discrimination and harassment. While these topics won’t come up immediately, having the mentor establish herself as a source of support early on is absolutely vital.
Communication lines should therefore always be kept open, even if both parties can’t meet in person. Email and phone correspondences bypass any issues with distance, which can be especially tricky if your mentee or mentor doesn’t work in the same company or area as you do. The key is to constantly keep the other party updated, whether it is regarding work projects or personal breakthroughs.
The future of women in tech
It will most likely take years before the image of the Silicon Valley prince is done away with, even with all the strides towards inclusivity and gender equality in tech. That being said, women in tech play a vital role in nurturing others and showing techies in the younger generation that women do belong in tech. And one day, “women in tech” will hopefully no longer have to be in a category of its own.