Being a woman in IT doesn’t necessarily mean you have technical skills. You don’t have to be a developer, write code, build intranets or know expert technical detail. I believe it means you work in the IT industry and spend days surrounded by technical people, supporting, leading and being part of a team in this broad industry.
Being a woman in IT doesn’t mean you are obsessed with tech. You don’t have to be a nerd and be deeply interested in Power Automate or BI. Or how to deliver a weekend cutover. You can love this industry because you work with organisations to make processes more efficient, solve workplace problems or even because you get to show people how things could improve with new ways of working.
Being a woman in IT means you are in a male dominated industry. There are times when you are they only woman in the meeting, on a call or at an event. You have to be ok with this if you wish to have a long-term career. You must navigate an industry where, as a female, there is no path carved for you to simply follow. At times you may break new ground by stepping up, leading unchartered waters and taking risks.
Being in a male dominated industry can be lonely. There may be a lack of sisterhood. You could be the only woman in a department or team, or even one of few women in a tech company. For some this is an easy fit, others have spent decades pushing against the grain and at times wishing they had more allies to lean on in tough times. Spending your career in a male dominated industry can result in discrimination, lack of opportunity, reduced confidence or trust. Many women have been expected to make the coffee even when there are men their equal who would never be asked or take on admin tasks simply because it was always expected to be this way.
The challenges for women in IT are not isolated to this industry but come with the territory dominated by men. When I reflect on tougher times, particularly early in my career I realised it isn’t the technology industry to blame, but this male culture and treatment of women that we are all aware of. If I consider some moments of poor treatment and disrespect or double standards, most the men who have treated me badly or made me uncomfortable have been business leaders in the IT industry not the technical colleagues. So, I must make it clear I am in no way pointing a finger at the IT industry.
Imagine for a moment what it can be like to be a woman in IT. To spend years having people assume you know less, or don’t deserve the same responsibilities or salary. You work twice as hard as some of your male peers, only to earn less money and at times feel invisible. Or to be treated as the emotional, fragile, less capable being who somehow ended up in their area. A male enters a room neutral. If they slip up their respect can reduce. A woman can feel like she enters the same room in a negative position to begin with. Having to work to earn respect from the outset. She will have to push hard to get a voice, or to be acknowledged. She must learn how to exist in the system, when to fight and when to stay silent.
It is not all doom and gloom for a woman in IT. The right job, or right organisation can allow a woman to flourish. A supportive team and strong company values can mean fairness, support, and opportunity.
The IT industry offers such a range of roles for any gender. A woman can build a solid career as an Information manager, Change Manager, Project Manager. Women are creating Bots and flows. A woman can be a coder or network engineer, or a business lead or product manager.
Not all workplaces carry challenges. I’ve spent over a decade in IT and while a few roles left specifically due to the treatment of women, some organisations are leading the industry in being an ideal workplace for a woman.
I go to a workplace that is interesting. I have a role that I am passionate about. I am amongst peers with whom there is mutual respect, trust and with many of them also friendship.
I am thankful for all the woman who have become allies along the way, the ones who don’t let you shift into bitter resentment because of workplace tension. The ones that when you have been beaten down have constructive conversations over a quick coffee or even a glass of wine.
I have seen tremendous growth and advancement in the experience for women in this industry. I am proud of the women I see daily posting in Twitter, blogging, presenting at conferences or in key project roles. These women work hard paving the way for the next generation, being their authentic and capable selves.
I love that in the technology industry we can be curious. We can explore the vast array of applications, platforms and find so many opportunities. This industry stretches and amazes you, and there is always enhancements and new directions. It offers a place for anyone to step into and find their place. Let’s all work to build truly inclusive workplaces where we can walk through this field side by side driving change and innovation together.