It’s no secret that the tech industry still struggles with female representation. A few troubling statistics from 2022 further confirm this fact. To start, only 15% of engineering jobs are held by women, making it the STEM field where women are underrepresented the most. Women also hold fewer than 20% of leadership positions in the tech industry. And in the last few years, women in tech were almost twice as likely as men in the same industry to leave their jobs, be laid off, or furloughed during the pandemic (source: Zippia).
So we decided to highlight all the amazing women in tech we have working here at the Smart Eye group, including iMotions and Affectiva. We posed three questions to our team, and compiled the responses into a special podcast episode. We asked them to talk about their role, background and career journey, what it means to be a woman in tech to them, and in response to this year’s International Women’s Day theme of “Break the Bias,” what is one recommendation they have to raise awareness against bias, or what people can do to take action for gender equality. Based on their responses, we compiled this list of tips that both men and women can follow to encourage gender diversity in the tech industry.
Regardless of your gender, look around: do you see a lot of people at your company that look exactly like you? If you do, that’s a problem. Don’t be afraid to call companies out on gender disparity. Make sure that you go out of your way to get a diverse pipeline of candidates, push yourself out of your comfort zone to hire candidates that might not look like you, have your same experience, come from the same places or have the same background that you do.
A really robust workplace thrives on the diversity of its employees and the different perspectives that all types of people bring to the table. Reframing this as embracing the possibilities of being very deliberate about who you surround yourself with is a great way to break the bias.
First be aware of the fact that we all have hidden biases based on how we were raised, where we grew up, our cultures, our communities, even if we might think of ourselves as liberal and open-minded people. Once we acknowledge this bias, that enables us to catch ourselves unintentionally exemplifying the behavior that might be biased.
So after you look around, look at your own behavior. Ask yourself what you do when you hear a joke that makes one of your colleagues uncomfortable, do you speak up? Are you familiar with your company’s discrimination policies? Have you participated in workplace activities to promote tech opportunities to young women, or women who are underrepresented in tech? Regardless of your position in the company or level of seniority, your feelings are valid, your opinion matters, and your voice needs to be heard and taken into consideration.
The 90s phrase of “breaking the glass ceiling,” implies huge, dramatic change that can seem unattainable. But everyone can do something small, and these small actions can be the start of real change.
Helping more marginalized voices break into tech through mentorship is a great way to break the bias. This can focus on both men and women. Be intentional and purposeful, and uplift those around you whenever you see the opportunity to help create a more equitable society.
If you are in a higher position of leadership within a company, do what you can to help women advance their careers by creating and seeking out opportunities that enhance their visibility and give them career growth. For example, let them present their work to the entire company or senior leadership, and help them grow into higher management positions. Help them get seats on advisory boards and introduce them to valuable mentors and sponsors.
Do what you can to look out for the women around you. We’re all going to reach a point in our career where we might have co-workers or people reporting to us who might not be as experienced or as seasoned as you are. So if you have a more senior role in an organization, remember your own experiences and see if you can help the women around you overcome the challenges that they will inevitably encounter.
Support them by inviting them to the table where it matters, coach and advise them, and be there for them for questions they might have, or complicated situations that they may need assistance with.
Despite the progress we have made, we are often one of very few women in the room. Pay inequity plays a large role in this and we will hopefully make more progress towards rectifying it, but in the meantime this is a problem that is on all of us to fix.
We need to broaden the definition of what it means to be a woman in technology; there’s no right way to do it, there’s no one way to do it, and there are so many different ways that you can get here. To be a woman in tech does not mean you have to be a coder, a doctor, have your PhD or an MBA to be an entrepreneur. All you need is passion, dedication to what you want to do, and to have a good idea to follow through on.
Do not allow others to tell you what you can or cannot do. Women can do whatever we want. If you like computer science, do it! If you believe you have what it takes to do the job, what you’ve got to offer can get the job done even better than anyone expects you to. If we can all look around, speak up, help others and have their back, we can all pave the way for future generations of women in technology.
From Gothenburg (Sweden), to Cairo (Egypt), Boston (USA) and everywhere in between, the stories of these women and answers to our questions was truly inspiring. It was really interesting to see the similarities in challenges across geographies and functions. I’m proud to work alongside them.
Additionally, we are also always on the lookout for amazing talent to help grow our team, so if you are a woman in tech and are interested in joining us, definitely check out our career page, also at Affectiva and iMotions — and maybe we’ll see you soon.