Today I am pleased to launch a new section on my blog: Sisterhood Saturdays, dedicated to passing the mic, amplifying the voices of others and giving badass women a platform to share their stories and expertise.
I believe in community over competition. In a world where it’s all who you know, its high time that the sisterhood starts coming together, lifting one another up and proving to us all that there is room enough for us all at the top!
To help me launch this, I’m pleased to have Switchboard PR guest write today’s first Sisterhood Saturdays article. Switchboard is a one-stop shop for public relations, solving problems, telling stories and connecting with people. Their clients are cutting edge in a wide range of industries and like myself, Switchboard is focused on maximizing the impact of companies and individuals who are focused on social good, both locally and globally. Plus, they’re a badass, all – woman team and I know you’re really going to be inspired by what they have to say.
Sexism Disrupted: 5 practical tips for promoting female excellence in the male-dominated technology sector
Brought to you by the team at Switchboard PR
Given that female leaders within the technology sector have become increasingly visible within the past half-decade – we’re looking at you Sheryl Sandberg and Ruth Porat – it would be easy to conclude that women have already cracked the digital (glass) ceiling and that those of us who are still talking women-in-tech are flogging a dead horse. As Toronto-based tech reporter Nicole Bogart notes, however, while “[women] still represent the majority of university graduates in Canada … they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences (STEM) fields.” According to Bogart, the percentage of women within mainstream technology businesses peters out around 30 per cent.
At Switchboard PR, we’re by no means a female-only business; we’re an equal-opportunity employer. We are, on the other hand, a female-led business, providing PR direction within Vancouver’s exploding technology sector.
Here are our top five tips for promoting female excellence in the male-dominated field of technology:
- Don’t hesitate to take on a career mentor of the opposite sex. While we’re inspired by female pioneers within the STEM field, we can’t assume that simply because a woman has succeeded in your field of study or work, she has the exact skillset you’re hoping to glean from. Get a pen and paper and write down precisely where you’d like to be in five years. Find the person currently occupying that role, whether they’re a woman or a man, and ask them to take you on as a career mentoree.
- Question the need for gender-segregated team-building events within your place of work. Like most other sectors, it’s impossible to guarantee that meaningful networking take place between the hours of 9 and 5. Casual get-togethers outside business hours can and do lead to a leg-up in the workplace, so it’s in our best interest to question events like “boys’ poker night” or “ladies spa-day.” Not only do these kind of activities reinforce stereotypes about what men and women like to do for fun, they also lead to lost opportunities. Suggest gender-neutral team-building activities, like a team hike or a foodie-tour, instead.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for things that are big, bold and assertive. Many women have been conditioned to believe that being respectful means being in-obtrusive and, unfortunately, this is reinforced in the workplace. According to the folks at Fortune, a linguistic assessment of employee reviews found that women were far more likely to be called “bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive” when they led (the author is a female in technology herself), when compared to their male peers. The answer is not to “pipe down” but to recommend a data-driven approach to reviews. Make sure your reviews are documented in a way that can be measured and analysed by the HR department.
- Saying “I don’t know” is not a point of failure. We work with a wide range of tech-based clients and we can’t be familiar with every software or strategy they’re using. Tech clients come to us because we’re problem-solvers and quick learners, not because we’re human databases. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Men do it all the time.
- If you’re being passed up for growth-opportunities, don’t let it slide. As noted in the Los Angeles Times, “as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.” If you notice that you’re being passed-up, address it in the moment with concrete examples: “I noticed that in situation A, B and C, the opportunity I expressed interest in was given to employee (or business) X. If he has a qualification that I lack, can you point it out so that I can build this into my professional development goals?” All but the most obtuse will get it, which will make it awkward to bypass you next time.
We hope that these tips are helpful. We’re looking forward to a time when “women in technology” isn’t a topic for consideration – because it won’t be an outlier.
If your business could use the support of a PR expert, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. If you’re a fellow traveller on the roads of technology or impact (or both – even better!), let’s grab a beer.
E-mail our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.