Starting in 2018 with founder Ayumi Moore Aoki’s mission to promote girls’ and women’s empowerment around the world, WIT has become the world’s leading organisation for Inclusion, Diversity & Equity in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).
It’s more than an organisation, though. It’s a Call to Action in line with item 5.b of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, aligning with their target for gender equality: To “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”. Women in Tech are now present on 6 continents, have 200k members, and collaborate with different chapters in each country to make people aware of the issues women face in our industry.
What’s holding us back?
Attending the event, I recognised that what we were really talking about was not just helping each other out to find our place in a rather man-led world, but the issues like imposter syndrome that affect women more than men. I wanted to understand how many women are facing this issue and apply it to my experience when working with clients in my professional life at LzLabs.
Don’t give up.
During the amazing event, I heard from women who work in totally different spaces in STEAM. What was enlightening for me to see was their confidence in everything they do, even though sometimes on their path they were insecure. Despite this, they have found a way to continuously grow and trust in their abilities. They’re tenacious.
Don’t try to do it on your own.
As amazing, powerful, and inspirational as these women were on stage, there was another common thread going through their stories – they didn’t do it on their own. Women have multiple roles – as caregivers, breadwinners, employees, supporters and so much more – but we have something else, too: The ability to see other women as collaborators, not as threats. And we find allies in men who understand the opportunity and support the cause.
And that’s what I see at my workplace, too.
When I first joined LzLabs, I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy. It’s a very technical company and I kind of stumbled into it and had to learn along the way. I’m not a developer and not super technical. But even though women are in the minority here (we’re working on fixing that!), I never felt discriminated against. Doors are wide open for anyone who is willing to educate themselves and learn about the space we’re working in.
At LzLabs, we’re always looking for different ways to make a complicated problem solvable in a better way.
Solve problems differently and with empathy.
I believe that women stand out with their communication skills – especially in complex projects like the ones with our customers at LzLabs. We empathise, we really try to understand everyone and their different viewpoints. We are able to see the bigger picture and create a common vision. This helps us, especially when processes are complex (which is often the case in tech, as we all know) and we have to find the right approach to various stakeholders without diving too deep into the tech.
But, most importantly, women in STEAM are persistent! We must be, to overcome the barriers we face.
We still have a long way to go.
The Women in Tech movement is growing. Together, we are helping each other to get the word out and do active female empowerment. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, when it comes to the goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, it will take 140 years at the current rate to achieve equal representation in leadership in the workplace and 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws.
A 2022 report on Women in the Workplace by McKinsey & Company revealed that 32% of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room at work. Women leaders are 2x as likely as men leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior. 37% of women leaders have had a co-worker get credit for their idea, compared to 27% of men leaders. And of even greater concern, 43% of women leaders are burned out, compared to only 31% of men at their level.
The tech industry isn’t yet an enabler of diversity, but it can be one, for everyone’s benefit. There’s still, of course, work to do.
3 things organisations should do to change the role of women in tech.
Where to begin? Consider these three things:
- Enable: Share with younger women and girls the opportunities that the industry offers, why it is compelling, and why YOU chose it. Offer internships for young talent and create an on-the-job educational path for the skills that you need.
- Be open to life plans: If women choose to be mothers, they depend on flexibility and support from the company they’re working for. That’s a necessary entry point to encourage women to follow a career in the tech space.
- Share your female tech role models: Encourage and empower women in leadership at your company to spend time sharing their stories. When women and girls see people succeeding, they know it is possible.
Read this article by my colleague Valerie Kerri on how to improve prospects for Women in Tech to learn more.
If you want to change the future, start with your organisation
I believe that we, women in technology, have the power to show other women that the industry is a viable career opportunity. But we also have a responsibility to keep driving that change and pushing ahead – in leadership and in empathy – and prove that to women of our current generation as well as future ones.
Although they are doing an excellent job, we mustn’t leave it to organisations like Women in Tech to fly this flag. Let’s join forces to get more women into STEAM jobs. I want to echo and amplify the message from the event: Never give up – always try again. Believe in yourself!