Q: My daughter is pursuing a career as a programmer and hopes to work for a company such as Google. I’m proud of her talent and aspirations. However, I have some concerns about the technical industry’s record regarding women. First, they’re under-represented and then women seem to leave the industry after only working an average of 10 years. What advice would you give her?
A: You are correct, women are terribly under-represented in the tech field making up less than 20% of employees, and the big firms (like Google, Apple and Twitter) are trying hard to correct that through special recruiting efforts.
Paradoxically, the tech field also has many advantages for women:
- It has one of the smallest pay gender gaps, with women making about 96% of their male counterparts vs 70% in the general workforce.
- Unlike most female-dominated fields (teaching), the pay is high.
- It offers great flexibility regarding hours and work location.
So going into it with eyes wide open, my advice to your daughter is pretty much the same as for women in any male-dominated field:
Find the right company. When interviewing, check for company culture and values. Are women part of the interview process? Do they have important roles in the company?
Familiarize yourself with the research that found the ways men and women process information and interpret events differently. For instance:
- Women tend to over think the effect of their actions and words, whereas most men “just do it”.
- Women also tend to internalize responsibility/blame when things go wrong, whereas men tend to externalize failure.
- Men also tend to take more credit than women, so you should refine the art of the humble brag. All these factors are within your control.
Don’t overlook the little things. Speak up in a confident voice, don’t finish your sentences with a question mark? (No up-talking!). At meetings sit at the table, not against the wall, and don’t volunteer to take notes, or go get food.
Lastly, be an ace at what you do. Competence and mastery are essential.
Godspeed, we need more women in technology.
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