4 leadership strategies to help women advance in the tech industry

The tech industry, despite being a leader in the world of work, is lagging behind on gender parity, with women still being underrepresented and underpaid compared to their male counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stalled women’s advancement, as millions have left the workforce since the start of 2020, whether due to layoffs or taking on responsibilities such as family and caregiving. As the place of women in technology has become more ambiguous, many have considered changing careers or leaving the workforce entirely.

Today, women make up about 47% of the US workforce, but they hold less than a third of leadership positions in technology, a low level of representation that predates the pandemic. Although it is not yet clear how the past two years will affect women in US companies – and more specifically in the tech industry – moving forward, it is clear that the crisis is far from over. While there are no quick fixes, there are steps women can take to expand the list of women leaders in technology.

To understand this, I reached out to Kristi White, President and CEO of Absolute Software, about her experience climbing the technology ladder to get to the C-suite. She shares valuable advice on how women can regain lost ground and narrow the gender gap that has plagued the industry for years.

1. Recognizing the inequalities imposed by the hybrid economy

Companies are increasingly incorporating flexible working arrangements, and women are embracing this freedom. A FlexJobs survey found that 68% of women would prefer remote work after the pandemic, and 80% rated it as the best job. “Historically, women have had to choose between applying for jobs or looking after their families — and this has increased during the pandemic,” White said.

Women are discovering the benefits of telecommuting, but Wyatt cautions, “Being amenable to flexible schedules only scratches the surface of what is needed to make this business a success.” If not implemented correctly, it can exacerbate inequality. Personal staff may get greater insight from management, which may lead to more sponsorship opportunities. Leaders must be cognizant of enriching the company’s culture for all. “This means actively adjusting workplace cultures to ensure that women, and remote workers in general, do not face negative consequences in terms of wages, upward mobility, or job security,” White said.

2. Sharpening the saw for professional advancement

The technology landscape is changing rapidly, with new innovations, technologies and concepts constantly being introduced. But in an ever-changing sector, how can women break through the noise? White co-starred in becoming a Hybrid Action Ninja. “Be inclusive and connect with colleagues and team members wherever they are,” and most importantly, “create” — don’t “wait” — for opportunities.

Professional development, in particular, lacks female professionals in technology. According to the Skills Soft survey, 32% of women in tech cited the lack of development opportunities as a major challenge in pursuing their career. “In today’s remote world, online learning and certifications are a great way for women to improve skills, reskill and accelerate career change to enter higher-level, higher-paying jobs,” Wyatt said.

3. Closing the confidence gap

In a male-dominated industry like technology, women are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome. “Gender biases and stereotypes in the tech world are real, so it is important to be confident in your unique skills, experience, and perspective,” Wyatt said. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, women often underestimate their ability and performance, and are more likely to disqualify themselves from positions if they do not meet the full standards. To break this cycle, White suggests, “Women focus on the ability to learn as a strength.”

4. Pursuing the benefits of mentorship

A professional network is critical for technology professionals and the next generation of innovators to follow. Through mentorship, women gain tangible opportunities, social connection, and visibility. However, “mentoring is not a monthly lunch or formal contract,” says White. “It’s having an inspiring person close to you, who is willing to invest and work with you.”

The benefits of diverse driving are well established, but the tech world has yet to fully embrace them. The gender gap persists, and women are still underrepresented at all levels in the company. To drive lasting change, companies need to renew their pledge to advance gender equality. As White preaches, “We all rise by lifting others up.” Committed action will benefit all stakeholders in the industry from companies and their employees to the customers they serve.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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