Making the switch to a career in the technology industry was the best choice I’ve ever made in my professional life. Its genuine environment of meritocracy empowers me to refine my own abilities, exposes me to innovative insights, and surrounds me with the optimism of aspiring individuals.
Although I’ve noticed the lack of women and minorities in the industry, as a woman who’s now loving being in tech, my positive experience is compelling me to take a stance in promoting STEM careers amongst those groups who are currently underrepresented in the industry. This is my own story of action...
So why are things the way they are?
When I set out on this project, I decided it was critical that I understood the factors that have historically excluded minorities in tech. Even more crucial, was how I was going to find and suggest solutions to those barriers.
What did I learn? It starts with us as individuals.
So I decided to do something to make change happen. I decided to walk in my own mantra, that’s called the Triple-P principle: Promote. Participate. Persist.
Why I’m doing this
First, a bit about me – I’m a newbie to tech. Far from the clicks and ticks of a computer, my career started in law enforcement, as a park ranger for a beautiful beach city in California. (That of course was after receiving a Bachelors of Journalism – the perfect mix, right!)
After years in the public sector, I decided to make a career change. When a friend shared their hugely successful and less stressed experience in tech, I ripped off the Sam Brownes and steel toes, and leaped into the abyss of SaaS sales.
And what a swim it’s been! The change has been so good. Because of that, I want to share my experience and shout to the masses, “Jump into tech – it's awesome!”. That drive is particularly important to me, because as a black woman, I have to get the attention of not only women as a whole, but more importantly the underrepresented minority women that I rarely see in tech.
The sad lack, instead of more
After noticing that lack of representation, my investigative senses kicked in and I did some research. The results shocked me. Of the 25% of women in tech, Asian women make up just 5% of that number, while Black and Hispanic women account for a mere 3% and 1%, respectively. Those figures are despite the fact that the growth of STEM jobs has outpaced the overall employment growth in the USA.
How can that be? Those statistics motivated me to walk and work, with a new motivation. I decided to be part of the solution to get more women involved in tech and tech leadership.
So let's break this down...
Armed with this new insight, I’ve decided to yell through the bullhorn and make women aware of the great benefits of working in tech, a la my first P – Promote. A STEM career places you in the cockpit of innovation and creativity with great minds. With skyrocketing growth and opportunities, the income and benefits frequently outweigh other industries. However, what I’ve found to be the primary values are the constant change and equanimous culture. They’ve been what’s made it an incredible, fun, and exciting career field.
Sadly, a recent Google Diversity Report showed that in the past year the needle has barely budged for women and people of color in tech. Contributing factors range from a lack of STEM career opportunity advertising aimed towards those groups and a lack of encouragement from parents, through to the unawareness of the general public about the high demand for tech jobs.
My personal ‘Promote’ plan of action to overcome this issue is to:
- Actively promote awareness of the vast opportunities available, and therefore bring more women to tech.
- Be active in both tech and non-tech groups to sound the alarm.
- Advocate in those school systems that lack STEM education, to provide resources and internships.
- Frequently discuss the opportunities and benefits with friends and family – explaining how great of an experience I’m having in my career.
- Join groups such as Wonder Women in Tech, Code 2040, and BIT (Blacks in Tech).
As a black woman who’s already in tech, I’ve already had to be involved in all things tech, which leads me to the next P – Participate. Representation is crucial for other women and girls to see role models, to whom they can relate and aspire to emulate. It’s also important that there’s clear visibility and a celebration of female advancement within the STEM industry – because that demonstrates that success isn’t confined to just men in the tech industry.
Therefore, I’m involving myself within my own company and outside the industry. Sometimes that means chatting with other women and minorities, but also with others who are not like me. In being open to that, we gain a deeper understanding of each other and gain greater power in our numbers. Volunteering my time and reaching out to others is an effective way to get to know people in the industry and for them to know me.
Participation means standing as a symbol of what and who a woman in tech is like today. A well-respected way of doing that is through mentoring. According to a paper by the International Journal of STEM Education, mentoring is thought to be one approach to engage and retain more students in STEM. It also explains that mentoring relationships may be particularly helpful to improve diversity in STEM among underrepresented groups. So… let’s get to it!
Interwoven across all these things, is the final P – Persist. This one has a long-tail effect, because the women that are currently high stepping and singing to the tunes of success in the tech industry, must continue to stay passionate about their careers. For me, persistence is also staying passionate about helping other women be successful, content, and impactful in their STEM careers.
Some 56% of women leave tech jobs mid-career – double the turnover rate for men. But research has also shown that female role models are key in encouraging other women to excel in areas where there may be a gender gap or they’re underrepresented. So may I take a moment to shout, “Ladies, we REALLY REALLY need you!” With that high percentage of women exiting tech, we have to persist in supporting each other, just as we persist in our own individual careers. That means we need to keep pushing for more solutions and facilitating discussion platforms that find new ways to change the industry.
For me, persistence means being a mentor and advocate for not only those women who are currently in tech, but also those who are new to tech or just curious about this phenomenal career.
What’s my next move?
Promote, Participate and Persist are what I’m doing about the lack of women in STEM careers, and more specifically, underrepresented minority women. I’ve decided to be a part of the change. Why? Because the impact is much faster, deeper and greater for the whole industry.
By having more women in tech, it increases their salaries, advances the diversity of science and technology, and produces better outcomes in business – all different ways of thinking that are producing many different solutions!
So let’s do this because ladies… “Tech needs you, it really really NEEDS YOU.”