Cultural norms and stereotypes that hinder women in the workplace mutate along with advances in the fields of technology. On this International Women’s Day, we reflect on how women navigate gender-based bias in the fast-paced and competitive realm of technology.
Technology is too male-dominated for women but what does that mean today?
In the 21st century, male-dominated is a mindset, not numbers. A firm with plenty of female employees can still be male-dominated because chauvinism does not dissipate simply as a result of more women in the workplace. The biggest indicator of the sort of discrimination women face today is witnessed in communication. A woman who is bold in her ideas and strong in her convictions can be often seen as ‘bossy’ and ‘overpowering,’ whereas a man with the same approach is deemed ‘assertive’ and ‘confident.’ Even if a woman’s idea is adopted, she may not be given the responsibility to carry it out. However, with many emerging women-led tech firms such as Biobot Analytics and Bloomer Tech (both of which have been recognized by Forbes to be pushing the frontiers of innovation) and healthier work environments, women are making space for more women in the field. The same assertiveness that labels a woman as not a team player is what paves the way to a flourishing firm. As more women succeed, the notion that a gender perpetuates different outcomes with the same approach is diminishing.
The work-life balance for family-oriented women in the tech field is difficult to manage but are they mutually exclusive anymore?
The traits that traditionally separate housework and office work are not perceived as mutually exclusive. The tech world is no longer supposedly made up of antisocial men in t-shirts; ambitious mothers and sisters can activate those traditional roles in the workplace as adaptable mentors and this inclusiveness positively impacts the synergy of a tech firm. Being a good parent, spouse or homemaker also makes for a good leader and a proactive employee. Studies carried out by Deloitte show that gender-inclusive tech firms increase their revenue by 41% each year, as a result of diverse ideas in the different target areas of a company’s development. Furthermore, the notion of what it means to have a good work-life balance has changed in recent times, especially after the pandemic. Over the past year, women progressed in tech firms working from home or on flexible hours. There has also been an increase in productivity as women find working from home just as rewarding and inclusive as the normalized 9-5 job. Interestingly, a Google survey revealed that female-led tech companies like the Anita Borg Institute achieve a 35% higher return on investments and 12% more annual revenue than male-led firms. Now, women with families and those who don’t want to pick one or the other have a lot more flexibility to immerse themselves in their technology while still being present in their home and contributing to increasing levels of success. “The best of both worlds” is changing from being an impossible expectation to a manageable reality.
Sometimes it doesn’t always require a societal sacrifice
In the stages of young women even considering a career in tech, survivorship bias––giving more importance and honor to hardships alone––often stops women from envisioning smooth journeys to being founders or building large-scale businesses. Women often hear stories of daunting gambles paying off and huge risks being taken where a woman has braved all odds for this success, rather than meticulous planning and applied skill. In today’s reality, much like for an entrepreneur, the ambitious engineer knows how to “acquire customers, find a niche, and delegate to make it big”, As convenient as it sounds, women no longer need to separate the success in tech from the success in a more conventional field; and there are more stories we hear now of women employing strong work ethic, planning and intellect that paves success- not just a big, dangerous risk that somehow worked out through rigorous battle or barrier-breaking. Medha Parlikar, the co-founder and CEO of venture-backed blockchain technology company CasperLabs is one of those leaders who strongly advocates that your acquired skills as an engineer and entrepreneur alone can be employed at the very beginning to build your career in tech.
The paradox of breaking stereotypes and ignoring them: women’s emotions are not a permanent hindrance to competency
A woman well-versed and familiar with the pre-existing bias in the workplace that women are ‘too emotional’ will be prepared to fight these biases. Be it in the form of overcompensation in rigidness so as to maintain authority or loosening their personal boundaries and being humble to be more affable among their peers, it is unfair that women feel the need to chameleonize their character to be an asset. The approach that women in tech with leadership roles are taking now is to acknowledge that their intelligence and expertise itself is a valid and whole factor to be an asset. In a challenging workplace for a woman, it is impossible to change everyone’s perceived notion of who they believe you should be. Thus, visualizing the existing barrier as transparent can liberate an ambitious woman; working for your dreams exclusively as they are then simultaneously working to change the normalized idea of them. Furthermore, as highlighted earlier, the very emotions or personal character that women are chastised for can be of great value to the intersectional requirements of a successful firm.
Technology is no longer saturated in logic and math - it consists of a lot more that’s not just learned information
Although the roots of any technological advancement come from the same, a career in this field demands a variety of diverse skills that not only catalyze but fortify advancement. Communication and delegation, end-user friendliness or problem solving, work ethic, brainstorming, and mentoring are just a few facets of skills required to push a tech firm up the ladder. Efficiency and competency go beyond technical knowledge and, quite frankly, see no gender. Thus, female engineers can thrive in a career of manifold thought and involvement. Fortunately, the (virtual) world is so intersectional now that anyone in tech can flourish – not only as an engineer – but as a leader, team-player, analyst, and problem solver
Just because all women are women, doesn’t mean they experience and perpetuate the same norms altogether
Even though today more women are encouraged to work, many people still continue to believe that women are more suited for customer service jobs, or those that entail more traditional roles of answering to someone else. For a long time now, women’s values and expectations have not been singular (more so, exclusive to homemaking) and even if they are to some extent, that is not representative of what all women strive for. As technology has advanced over time, so has the upbringing of girls. We see ourselves in positions of leadership, power, and influence in a lot more vigor than before, and it’s crucial for these goals to be encouraged. Skill sets, efficiency, and competitiveness are what tech firms need to thrive, and these are assets that do not vary with gender. It is important for people with leadership positions especially, to focus on what someone can bring to the table rather than who it is that’s bringing it. With active effort in acknowledging that maybe not all women are customized to passive roles as they used to be, and embracing this can transform the dynamics of any industry.
A woman’s career can often lack the generosity of ease and opportunity that is available to their male counterparts, and this pattern hasn’t really diminished but rather evolved. Acknowledging and navigating these changes is vital to reflect, learn from and grow past the chains that clasp themselves on the advancing dreams of women in technology.
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