When it comes to women in technology, the challenges are well documented. Pay gaps, male-dominated work environments, embedded biases and outdated stereotypes are just some of the key barriers impacting female participation. Alarmingly, just 17% of technology roles in Australia are occupied by women, and 50% of these women will end up changing careers. In an industry plagued by intensifying skill shortages, these statistics are a significant issue.
The reality is that technology remains a male dominated sector, and systemic issues have and continue to detract highly capable female professionals from entering and remaining in the industry.
However, on the other hand, we are seeing more and more women break through the supposed technology glass ceiling to go on and have long and successful tech careers. These women prove that it’s not only possible to navigate aforementioned challenges, but it’s also possible to overcome them and thrive. We asked our IT recruiters to share their top tips to help women in technology achieve these goals.
Firstly, identify what industries and technologies you are most interested in, and then focus on these sub-categories. Like anything in life, if you have purpose and passion in what you do then you’re more likely to be successful. From developer to tester, cyber-security to infrastructure, know your area front to back, back to front and sideways. The more focused you are, the greater depth of knowledge you can build, giving you confidence to operate within a particular specialism. Employers typically want specialists, so know a few things in depth rather than many things superficially.
Once you have focus, it’s important to keep your skills up to date. Technology is always evolving. Companies are constantly adopting new technologies that require new talent with new skillsets to manage them. This means a prodigious technology degree in 2015, or 10-years’ experience with fax machines, isn’t enough to secure the best current and future opportunities. In fact, many future tech roles will require skills that don’t yet exist, meaning experience is less relevant. Consequently, If you wish to remain employable long-term, constant self-learning is essential. Enrol in online courses, attend webinars, read the news, learn from your colleagues and try to stay ahead of the game. Candidates, male or female, who can demonstrate this willingness to upskill themselves to keep pace with technological change, are highly sought out by employers across all IT disciplines.
In technology recruitment, It’s not ‘what you know’ it’s ‘who you know’, with 70% of technology jobs not publicly advertised (i.e., on Seek, LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.). This means if you want access to the best jobs, you need to be visible to the right people. How? By networking. Attend industry meetups, optimise your LinkedIn profile, join associations and groups. Identify valuable contacts in your focus area that you can later activate and leverage to receive referrals for the best job opportunities. In technology, word of mouth and reputation is critical, particularly in very niche segments like cyber-security and data science where everyone knows everyone.
Remember that in the current technology jobs market, bargaining power, in most cases, lies with the candidate (i.e., you). Top technology talent is in short supply, meaning employers who retain affinity biases and maternal stereotypes are only denting their available talent pool further. Ultimately, most employers want talent who possess the right skills to help them solve business problems and drive organisational success. The best way to communicate your ability to do this, is by telling an influential story. We recommend a top-down approach. Highlight your impacts and accomplishments to validate your skills and experiences. Be open about your career breaks (e.g., maternity leave) and detail your re-entry into the workforce. If you can demonstrate your ability to solve problems and be successful in a particular role, good employers will want you irrespective of gender.
Just because tech candidates are in short supply, doesn’t mean you can be complacent. This is especially true for women in technology, after all if you don’t ask, then you certainly won’t get. The best advice is to be proactive in all that you do. Promote your skills and experience, seek out network connections and ask about referral opportunities. Connect with other women and support them in their career journeys. Speak up to male counterparts and make yourself heard at any opportunity. Once you’ve established your own successful pathway, consider educating and empowering the next generation of female technology talent to follow in your footsteps.
Yes, challenges for women still exist in technology, and the employment gap between men and women remains prevalent. However, by focusing, learning, networking, storytelling and being proactive, it is possible to navigate these challenges to break in, stay in and thrive in Australia’s technology sector.
At Ignite, we are passionate about diversity, equality and inclusivity in the Australia workforce, and we can assist any women looking to advance their career in technology.