Women in Canada represent the majority of university graduates, yet they only account for 39 percent of those convocating with a STEM degree. This number drops further when you look at how many are currently employed in high tech occupations, with women representing 18 per cent of employees on average.
Technology is often a catalyst for transformation. As a female in the industry and an HR professional, I see the need for females to become a catalyst for change to elevate their careers and propel the entire tech industry.
OpenText spoke with a number of its female employees and customers to share key learnings and advice for fellow women looking to succeed in the tech sector.
Here’s what they said:
1. Be a Connector
The ability to build relationships is an important skill for all professionals looking to achieve a successful career. However, beyond just office pleasantries and maintaining amicable work relationships, women who work in technology should not only embrace, but enhance their skills to connect individuals in their network and develop new partnerships.
“Women seeking a career in any technology-related field should focus on connecting with people to build genuine relationships,” says Kim Scharf, Vice President of IT Enterprise Services, DDR Corp. “This will foster the development of common goals towards re-engineering business process through innovative technology solutions.”
Think beyond your own personal relationships and always consider how your connections can benefit those around you and contribute to the success of your team.
2. Stop Limiting Yourself
There is an outdated notion that women are not as suited for the technology industry as men are and oftentimes these misconceptions become barriers to success. It’s important to avoid this pitfall.
As Megan Cappelleri, Manager Information Management, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) states, “I believe that you need to have the ability to look within yourself to identify and be proud of the skill sets you possess as a woman. Women are typically collaborative, flexible and fabulous at multi-tasking. In the era of digital disruption and social media, these skill sets are mandatory.”
You can bring more than just the ordinary to your workplace each day. Remember that you were hired because you set yourself above the pack. You provided a unique perspective and your motivation was unmatched.
As my colleague Joan Beardsley-Grossman, Vice President of Professional Services, OpenText says, “There is no one who can drive yourself harder than yourself. Don’t expect others to motivate you to your own success. That has to come from within.”
Don’t be afraid to leap. “My advice for cultivating an appreciation for technology is to accept uncertainty, never miss an opportunity to try something unfamiliar, learn to love metadata, and don’t be afraid of the command line, “ Jane Glicksman, Digital Services Manager, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
3. Find a Mentor—and Be One
As a minority in this industry, women have a unique opportunity to support and mentor each other—as well as other minority groups within their organization. Low retention of women in technology is a problem. We can solve this by not only encouraging young women to pursue careers in technology, but also assist them to advance in those careers every step of the way, be it through a widespread work-life balance policy, a mentorship program or flexible benefits.
“Find yourself a mentor and a good network. Remember that the sisterhood extends beyond your friendship circle, and that other women in the technology industry are welcoming and inclusive. Use their experience to help you navigate your way,” says Cappelleri.
Tara Mulrooney, Chief Technology Officer, Alberta Energy Regulator adds, “Look for mentors whom you admire to help you develop and as you grow, make sure that you mentor others.”
4.Explore to Stay Engaged
We live in a fast-paced world, but the technology industry buzzes and evolves at a higher frequency than most. One key for success is to embrace this sometimes chaotic environment and the continuous innovation that comes with it. Pay attention and constantly evaluate opportunities.
“One of my favorite quotes is by Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder,'” says Kasey Holman, Vice President, Global Communications, OpenText. “These words ring so true.”
“Opportunities are plentiful in high tech, so don’t be afraid to embrace and explore lateral opportunities before climbing up the ladder,” she adds. “This approach will help you to gain new perspectives, experience new challenges and will make you a more well-rounded person.”
5. Let Your Passions Drive You
The 18 percent of women who are in technology are there because they love it. As Sonia Diaz-Sotomayor, Senior Consultant IS/IT, Legal and Regulatory, BCE says, your wealth of knowledge is a way to distinguish yourself. “If you love the work you do and you do it passionately, going the extra mile and staying on top of the latest technologies will come naturally to you. This will set you apart in this industry.”
“My advice to any woman who is considering a career in technology is—you are more suited to that line of work than you think. I’ve realized that the key component for IT success is good communication and a passion for learning,” says Donna Bible, Senior Digital Asset Manager, Rosetta Stone.