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Empowering tomorrow’s female leaders: Lessons for the industry & advice for women in tech

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

As a rare female leader in the engineering space, Jamie Thompson, VP of Engineering at Brivo, explores what the industry should do to drive change, and advice for women looking to progress into senior leadership roles in their organisations.

Despite progress in recent years, there remains several critical and entrenched issues that fail to support women aspiring to be the next industry leaders in technology.

Jamie Thompson

Take the persistent gender pay gap for engineers as a key example. Estimates range that the pay gap for women software engineers is anywhere from 5 to 31%. Throughout my career in the technology space, I’ve found that I need to advocate especially hard for women when it comes to equal pay.

At the same time, the struggle for adequate representation continues to keep me awake at night. Women in the technology and security industries are often underrepresented, particularly in senior leadership roles. This disparity is not solely a numbers issue; it can perpetuate a cycle where aspiring women engineers struggle to find role models and mentors. This absence can make it difficult to envision a career path that leads to executive roles, further hindering gender diversity at the top.

This makes recruiting and retaining women engineers a significant challenge. Despite efforts to increase gender diversity, many women either avoid or leave the profession mid-career due to various factors including workplace culture, lack of advancement opportunities, or work-life balance issues. The technology industry is notorious for its demanding pace and sometimes blurred lines between work and personal time. It’s an “always-on” culture. This has only been exacerbated post-Covid, where nearly all teams are working remotely.

For many women, this balance is complicated by societal expectations and responsibilities outside of work. I do not have my own family, and there are days where I simply can’t imagine handling my day job and motherhood. There are changes the industry should embrace in order to better support all women—both those with children and without.

Changes from industry

Many organizations recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and have implemented DEI policies and programs aimed at supporting women in the workplace. However, there’s a need for more concerted efforts across the board. Some ideas worth considering include:

  • Mentorship Programs: These programs can provide women with the guidance, support, and advocacy needed to navigate their careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.
  • Inclusive Culture: It’s crucial to cultivate a workplace environment where everyone feels valued and included. This includes addressing unconscious bias, promoting flexible work arrangements, and providing platforms for women to voice their ideas and concerns.
  • Education and Participation from an Early Age: Initiatives that expose young girls to technology and engineering can demystify these fields and spark long-term interest. I was fortunate enough to attend a college preparatory school that emphasized STEM, and I attribute much of my success to the education I received at a young age.
women in tech

Advice for Aspiring Women Leaders

In industries where women are underrepresented, leadership requires a blend of resilience, authenticity, emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking. For women looking to progress into senior leadership positions within their organizations, I suggest:

  • Embrace your authenticity and unique perspective: Recognize that your perspective adds diversity of thought to your team and projects. Your unique viewpoint can drive innovation and creative problem-solving, so don’t hesitate to share your insights and ideas.
  • Build your own support network: Cultivate your own support network of colleagues, mentors, friends, family, and other relationships that you can reliably depend on for guidance and knowledge. Seek out mentors who can provide quality feedback and support—ideally, another woman in your field of expertise.
  • Seek out challenges: Don’t shy away from challenging projects or roles that stretch your capabilities. These experiences often provide key opportunities to demonstrate leadership potential.
  • Navigate bias gracefully: Be prepared to encounter and navigate gender biases. Equip yourself with strategies to address these biases constructively, whether through direct conversations or by proving stereotypes wrong through your competence and leadership.
  • Be confident: Believe in your abilities, make decisions with conviction, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. Confidence can often inspire trust and can be contagious among your team.
  • Promote work-life balance: Lead by example by prioritizing your well-being and promoting policies that allow for flexibility and balance. This not only benefits you but also sets a precedent for your team.
  • Advocate for yourself: Make your achievements and ambitions known. Articulate your contributions and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself when opportunities for advancement arise.

There’s already proof that a more diverse leadership team leads to greater business success. For women aspiring to join that team, confidence, self-advocation, and networking are all important. However, if you’re operating in an organization and wider industry that still doesn’t have your back, it’s going to be an uphill struggle. It’s down to organizations to ensure equitable opportunities are available for women aspiring to be tomorrow’s technology leaders.

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