How women can break barriers when working in tech

Today is International Women’s Day and while I’m heading to a conference in Italy to share my experience being a woman in tech, I want to share my thoughts with you.
‘Cause we shouldn’t talk about barriers women in tech face just today. But all the year long.

Which are the barriers women in tech face?

Everyone has, at this point, read about Susan Fowler and her bad experience working as a woman tech engineer at Uber. Even if this might be just a drop in the ocean, it’s very important in order to raise awareness. Maybe it will take a lot of time for things to change, but at least the misconduct of one of the top tech companies in the world is known.
Other engineers have also followed her example, like AJ Vandermeyden working at Tesla, forcing famous CEOs to admit that something strange is going on if women with the same skills and experience of men are not treated at the same level.

IWD Hackathon - barriers women in tech

The IWD hacktahon I attended a couple of years ago (and we won!)

A recent research by Business Insider says that more than 70% of 941 startups surveyed did not have a single female board member, up from 66% of the year before.
Scores of recent studies have linked companies with increased gender diversity to increased ROI. If you care about revenue and profitability, you should be focused on getting a more gender diverse team.

“There are 500,000 open tech jobs in the US today, and that number is expected to double in the next five years. It’s pure math. It’s very difficult to see how we can meet the technology workforce needs if we’re literally leaving more than half of the available talent pool sitting on the bench.”

So, which are the barriers women in tech face?
Why aren’t there many women willing to start and pursue a career in tech?

I think there are multiple problems: fear of working in a men-only environment, an aggressive company culture and a salary which is typically just 80 percent of men.
From a salary point of view, there’s the law(*) which help. But there’s not much we can do when we talk about culture, self-confidence and skills.
We can learn, we can study, we can be the best in the team. But we need to be more confident and been able to be leaders (even incompetent men have fewer career incompetent compared to women).

(From April 2017, in the UK, companies with more than 250 employees are forced to publish the difference in average pay between men and women workers.)

What should do we do to gain more self-confidence?

How women can break barriers when working in tech - image woman-who-code-barriers-women-in-tech-300x200 on https://www.alessiacamera.comWomen should be more aware of what to do, now and tomorrow. We need to know we’re great, we’re skilled, and that we can do amazing things. Even if we’re doing things differently from men. Certain barriers women in tech face are easier to reduce than other. We need to start from the inner part of ourselves.
Jade Daubney
is an amazing, inspiring woman in tech I met at First Code Girls conference, in November last year. And she’s the one telling how we can beat those barriers.

1) Hi Jade, tell us a bit about you and why you’re passionate about women equality.

I am a Northerner living in London.  I work for ThoughtWorks and spend most of my time heading up our graduate programme in the UK, trying my best to inspire our younger female generation to be fearless and brave and to, generally, have fun. Cheesy, I know, but true! Why am I passionate? I just am. I don’t know the answer to why, but I always remember the time I learnt about the suffragettes and their struggle for equality made me incredibly angry and frustrated as a child, which has driven me to be the person I am today. I was 17 when my younger sister was born and she is my motivation and inspiration to do everything and anything I can for gender parity. I am a feminist on a mission!

CFG conference 2016 Jade Thoughtworks2) Today is International Women day, the day of the year where everyone is empathic towards women. But we need to talk about it even in the others 364 days, why it’s a very difficult topic to drive awareness to, even if we have stats saying that women are paid less than men in 90% sectors. Why in your opinion?

I don’t find this an issue on a daily basis as I get to discuss women’s equality 365 days of the year at work.  To answer your question, I think some of this is down to women in leadership roles.
It is not surprising to hear that many leadership roles within businesses are filled by males and I believe it’s an education piece.  Women bring a different perspective and the most diverse teams are the most successful teams.

3) You recently said, “women not supporting other women have a special place in hell”. And I totally agree with it. But why do you think sometimes it happens? And what’s your advice to face those situations?

Women who do not support other women really frustrate me and it has taken me a long time to learn to empathise and understand why this is. I still don’t fully understand but I know the industry is different now.
Times have changed, women are feeling empowered and are literally changing the world. Not so long ago, women were fighting to be heard in the workplace and pushing hard for their position – the recently released film Hidden Figures is a perfect example of this. I can imagine it was ‘dog eat dog’ and transitioning into an environment where every woman’s voice is valued and every woman can be a success is probably difficult to do.
My advice in those situations?  Don’t compete but definitely do not ignore it.
Speak with this person and ask how you can collaborate, share knowledge and learn from them. Usually, you both want the same outcome, so make that clear and be supportive.

4) “Sorry” it’s a kind of a “bad word” to say in a professional environment. Especially when you say it too many times without proper reasons. I promised myself to stop saying it. Why is it that bad? And how can we replace it?

‘Sorry’ is appropriate if you are genuinely sorry for doing something that you shouldn’t have done.
But saying ‘sorry’ for no reason could be considered as apologising for having an opinion. I still do this and I am still learning. I see women doing it every day and I think the only way to replace it is with practice.
If you find yourself saying it in a professional environment, then stop and start your sentence again.  Do not ever apologise for having an opinion because your opinion matters.

5) Your 3 tips for women to get more self-confident. 

  • Ask yourself: ‘What would you do if you were not scared?‘  Fear can be good, use it as a motivator.  If it does not frighten you a little bit, then you are not dreaming big enough.
  • You can achieve anything.  Anything! All the best things happen outside of your comfort zone, so try and surround yourself with people who inspire you and get yourself a mentor that can help you achieve your goals outside that comfortable place.
  • Find your best you…and own it. Whether you are the quiet person, the serious person, the introvert, the extrovert, the creative one, the dynamic one, the process-driven one…we need them all! Nothing would work if we were all the same, so find who you are and push that forward.

6) Tell us who are your role models. 

Emmeline Pankhurst and Iris Apfel.  Emmeline for her bravery, and Iris because she is not afraid to be different – and I hope I am half as cool as her when I turn 90!iris apfel barriers women in techemmeline pankhurst suffragette


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