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How to encourage more women to enter the tech industry

Group of diverse women in tech

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Kathryn Sizemore, senior solutions architect at MariaDB, takes a look at where all the women in tech are and what can be done to encourage more women into the industry.

Kathryn is a Senior Solutions Architect for MariaDB

Kathryn is a Senior Solutions Architect for MariaDB. She worked as a Database Administrator for over a decade focused on cloud solutions, automation and scalability with specialization in Database migrations. She has a passion for seeing clients successfully implement production systems with the latest advances in database scalability and analytics technologies.

“WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?”

Over the last 10 years in the tech industry, I’ve found myself as the only woman in the room or overwhelmingly outnumbered by my male colleagues on a daily basis. Why are there not more women at the conference table?

It all starts with young girls. What we’re told we’re supposed to be and who to look up to. Introducing, encouraging, and celebrating girls in STEM early is the most effective and easier way to change the statistics. It’s never too late to start in tech, even with the skill sets you already have, but the impetus to change has to be much greater.

Change starts with engaging with girls at a young age. Drawing on my own experiences, I had a strong affinity for computer technology and had an interest and aptitude in technology from an early age. The few STEM toys or activities I was exposed to are prominent in my memories because they were both fascinating and rare. Engaging girls young with STEM focused games, toys, and programs is critical to capturing the budding women coders and scientists.

Currently, little girls are inundated with signs and encouragement to be obedient caregivers; from the skill sets that are praised and supported, to the toys we are given and games we are taught. All day to day female role models are caregivers such as teachers, mothers, nurses, etc. These roles all center around caregiving. It’s no surprise that women predominantly start careers in education and healthcare.

As early as middle school, I felt guided to teach or have a role in the church. I majored in history and religion in college, while spending all my free time in the Computer Science lab with the all-male Computer Science majors. Yet, I didn’t take a single STEM course during my four years. I followed the path that my whole childhood groomed me for. As a young adult, I needed a stronger catalyst to change my course.

After college, I worked in a warehouse packaging boxes and a manager saw my potential. That small distribution company invested in me, giving me the opportunity and training in their IT department. I was introduced to a very talented web designer and database expert who would become my biggest advocate, teacher and mentor. This was the motivation and spark I needed to pursue my true interests in tech.

If you have someone who can spark the fire within you to pursue your interests, they can help guide and encourage you on your desired path. I owe a lot of my career to the mentors I’ve had and their guidance and encouragement. Mentors have such a huge influence on young women and help guide early thoughts around your career path.

Let’s be honest; if you have a bad teacher in math, you’ll probably hate math! As women (and male allies) in tech we can be those influencers, role models and mentors to other women and girls. Share our stories and enthusiasm for technology. Highlight your female colleagues and lift up their success. And most importantly, identify potential and encourage other women to make the leap to tech.

The tech industry battles a misconception of what the typical employee looks like. We highlight programming skill sets, but there are so many more roles and important skill sets that are vital to the success of every tech company. Technical writer, customer success manager, business analyst,

project manager, database administration – the list goes on and on. Strong coding or technical skills aren’t mandatory for starting a tech career.

In fact, the hardest skills to learn are arguably the soft, personal communication and social skills. There’s time to learn more technical skills with dedication and determination over time. The few unicorns that combine these skills are highly sought after. Having a true interest in learning and a hunger for problem-solving will definitely help you thrive.

Within the tech industry, companies can bridge the gender gap by looking for aptitude from their non-technical staff. I was a warehouse worker given the growth opportunity to explore a role in the IT department. I know secretaries who were sponsored by their company to take computer science courses and now are programmers for that company. In the workforce, making a leap to a new career is riskier and more challenging. But companies that foster that employee growth and help train and encourage technical training can have a huge impact on women entering the tech industry.

Furthermore, we, as women, need to ask for what we want or need in order to progress in our careers. I’ve found myself and other women around me hesitant in asking. There is no reason for this, nor is it to wait for someone to tell you what to do next. Find a mentor. Inquire about a scholarship for a coding class. Ask for that promotion. Drive your career success. Take that leap. Speak up and let your voice be heard. You have to be proactive to thrive in the tech industry, and with that will come self-belief, self-confidence – and ultimately a more rounded and enjoyable career journey.

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