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How to create a safe space for women in tech to thrive

Waist up shot of multi-ethnic colleagues celebrating their team member, safe space for women in tech concept

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Becca Cooke, Head of Product, Tradebyte, examines the current state of tech industry as a viable career path for women, reframing the barriers for entry and the role that mentorship, representation and role models have in fostering a supportive and welcoming environment for women to thrive in.

Today, the tech industry is a pillar of innovation, promising fascinating career opportunities that combine creativity, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Yet, this high-potential sector has been struggling with diversity, particularly when it comes to gender, for quite some time.

Despite a growing commitment from companies to bridge the tech gender gap, women make up only 26% of the total IT workforce. While this represents progress from the 19% statistic recorded in 2019, the speed of striking balance is slow and needs an urgent boost from all tech organisations.

Something that stands out to me is that 40% of women cite lack of mentorship as one of the biggest tech industry challenges, along with the lack of female role models for 48%. For this reason, organisations must create safe spaces within tech for women to flourish, thrive and, at times, falter – without fear of repercussion or judgment.

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Navigating the challenges of women in tech

First footsteps into the tech world can be intimidating for many, particularly if making the leap from a non-technical background. The technically intricate jargon often deters potential entrants, especially women, from integrating into the tech ecosystem and can be akin to learning and operating in another language.

Interacting as a novice in this new world raises the inevitable spectre of imposter syndrome, challenging self-confidence and exposing vulnerability. In an industry where they are already in the minority, women subsequently feel pressured to demonstrate and defend their authority, when what would actually help is the opposite – a willingness to expose these perceived weaknesses.

So, how do we tread this line? The answer sometimes lies in the courage to ask ‘stupid questions’ in order to demystify complicated jargon and bridge the gap between understanding and executing tasks. However, it’s important for organisations to create an environment that encourages these questions; to create safe spaces where women can express vulnerability, thrive in colleague camaraderie, and confide in trusted allies to battle self-doubt and learn the new language of the landscape they’re operating in.

The power of female storytelling and camaraderie

Having the seasoned counsel of mentors with similar journeys can significantly empower women in this regard. The absence of female leadership on the other hand can lead to a lack of relatability and foster a mentorship gap, hindering the progression of women in tech roles. It is, therefore, more critical than ever to continue the storytelling of women already breaking barriers and leading the way. Leveraging these narratives to empower more women to join creates a snowball effect. The prospect of interacting with other women, sharing successes and challenges, relatability and peer motivation propels women to hone their skills unscathed by the daunting tech jargon.

To foster more significant participation of women in tech, they must be prepared to venture into unfamiliar areas. Women however are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t fit the criteria 100%. Therefore, we must also help to build courage in women to push themselves into areas they might not be familiar with. For this to happen there must be an open acceptance and encouragement of complementary and transferable skills – something women are particularly good at.

A key challenge amidst the prevalent job market’s competitive nature is the innovation of strategies that allow skills to be recognised in addition to qualifications. Women have a wealth of transferable skills that can enhance tech workplaces; it’s about giving them the platform to demonstrate these attributes, fostering an environment that values and nurtures them, and supporting them on their unique career journeys.

Empowering women in tech for greater productivity

The tech industry is laden with potential for women. The belief and vision to shape a tech world where women thrive means much more than just ‘encouraging women in tech’. It’s about reframing and overcoming the barriers by enhancing representation and fortifying influence through role models and mentorship. It is about crafting tech’s future with everyone’s contribution recognised, where opportunities are equally presented for everyone to flourish.

Having women in technical positions leads to the creation of the most productive teams. A diverse workforce results in assorted perspectives, innovative ideas, and more robust problem-solving approaches, which are essential for tech businesses catering to diverse consumers.

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