Future Career Skills for Women in Tech

Shikha Rastogi


Are you an aspiring & optimistic Woman in Tech who is looking forward to climb up the ladder? If you are reading this because you want to dive into a technology career, that’s great and I am so excited for you to make a difference. To start your journey first thing you would be required to do is strengthen self belief and a support system, and erase everything anybody has ever told you about how difficult it is to pursue a career in technology since biases and stereotypes deep rooted in women psyche and society are still biggest impediments in the career growth.

When most people think of computer programmers, they visualise a sneaker-clad Steve Jobs or a bespectacled Bill Gates. It’s a male-centric image that has permeated more in our mental models. But although, we often revere men as the pioneers of computer science, the history of programmers actually began long ago with six women. Take the first computer, for example. Six women programmed the first electronic computer — the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) — during WWII but weren’t given credit for their work. They were even identified in photos as “refrigerator ladies,” models used to make products appear more alluring. Their groundbreaking work went unrecognized and unlauded for years until in the 1980s, a young computer science major named Kathy Kleiman, frustrated over the small number of women in her class started looking into role of women in science. She came across the photos of the ENIAC project, which featured uncaptioned photos of the ENIAC programmers and tech industry came to know about their contribution.

As per McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The future of women at work: Transitions in the age of automation, finds that between 40 million to 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations by 2030 often into higher-skilled roles. If women make these transitions, they could be on the path to more productive, better-paid work. If they cannot, they could face a growing wage gap or be left further behind when progress toward gender parity in work is already slow. To weather this disruption, women need to be skilled, mobile, and tech-savvy, but women face pervasive barriers on each, and will need targeted support to move forward in the world of work. Over the years, people begun to recognise and support the following core issues and challenges for women in tech through various Diversity & Inclusion programs and online initiatives:

  1. Not being taken seriously for high skilled roles due to gender perception
  2. Equal pay & benefits for equal kind of work
  3. Self doubt is the biggest hurdle combined with intrinsic virtue of female politeness of standing back and allowing others to take credit.
  4. Paucity of female role models
  5. Low visibility of work and lack of skill development in the societal ecosystem for women to assert authority and reject the groundless postulation about their role and ability at workplace.

While the list of challenges is exhaustive but core issue is always centred around “how can a woman in tech find the courage they need to succeed and excel in a career where perception of their own skills is often most important”. There are two case studies which clearly demonstrate the need for imbibing two critical skills Visibility and Networking with right mentors at an early stage of career:

Confidence and courage are muscles that need to be flexed in order to grow, sharing an idea in a meeting might be scary the first time, but each time you speak up you will grow your confidence. For enhanced visibility to others Women in tech need to train themselves to use more direct language. Instead of using passive language like “what do you think about doing it like this?” women should instead use active language like “I suggest we should do it like this.”

There are countless times when women at workplaces find themselves in the situation of taking blame unnecessarily or not stepping up and saying something to avoid confrontation at all costs. It takes a long time through conventional method of learning through experiences and general growing up to realise that this never ends well. Presence of mentors in your network/company is helpful in taking action at the right time and assist in building relationships with the right people. What makes someone a good mentor for you? The best mentor would be someone whose career you admire and are looking to mirror that you share a common connection with. “The best mentors are often people that you establish a relationship and find a connection within or outside organisation. And then it develops — and it takes on its own natural progression. For example, if you are looking to be a director of software engineering one day, find someone in this type of role through networking or company events.

  1. A famous study by HP came to the startling conclusion that women were not applying for a promotion unless they met 100% of the requirements while men will happily apply if they only meet 60% of the requirements.
  2. In a study of GitHub users code written by women was accepted 78.6% of the time — 4% more than code written by men. This trend, however, only worked when the programmer’s gender was kept secret. So women were better coders when their gender was left unknown.

Success as women in tech is less about gender and more about education, self-confidence and hard work. My advice to young women is to be your own best promoter, speak up and communicate the opportunities you want and to seek out a mentor that understands your goals, appreciates your talents and is willing to help you succeed. This combined with a good attitude and tenacity has been the right formula for many successful women in the industry.