People ask me all the time if being a woman in tech is hard because we’re underrepresented in the field. I suppose you could think of it that way — but why would you want to focus exclusively on what it is difficult?
The Power of a Positive Mental Shift
Where does support start? It starts with you.
One of the most important things you can do in your career as a woman in tech is to support yourself, support others and find people to support you. You truly have to believe — deep down — in yourself and that you can reach your goals. Then you need to believe in others and that they can accomplish their goals and it won’t negatively affect you. Finally, you need to find your own cheerleaders to encourage and believe in you.
How can you accomplish all of this? I’ll show you some tactical ways to support, be supported and find support.
Being Your Own Cheerleader
One of the best things you can do for yourself in your career is be your own biggest fan. You don’t go about this by constantly talking about your accomplishments or waving your results in front of everyone’s faces, but you do need to believe in yourself and from then you can find others who believe in you too.
I am a big believer in personal development. Pursue anything that helps you grow and overcome imposter syndrome. These can be books, podcasts, Ted Talks, therapy — the sky’s the limit. I know ... it sounds “out there,” and yes, I felt the same way at first. But trust me: It will change your life.
What are you afraid of? Maybe you’re afraid of failure, or perhaps you’re even afraid of success. One of my favorite books is called Fear Is My Homeboy: How to Slay Doubt, Boss Up and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Judi Holler. In it, she explains that you “succeed or learn, but you don’t fail.” You have to completely eradicate that failure mentality because we are always learning, and if you are learning then you can cheer yourself on.
I recommend a minimum of 10 minutes of personal development a day, in any form. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming; you don’t have to commit to reading or listening to a whole book. Just take baby steps. Instead of spending that 10 mins scrolling, spend it on personal development. Listen while you work, cook dinner, exercise — any of the above.
One thing is for sure: If you don’t believe in yourself, others won’t either. Knowing what you are capable of starts from within. From there, you can share it with the world.
Women Supporting Women
To put it bluntly, women supporting women is a weird topic. One would think this is a given, because we need to all support each other. But that isn’t always the case.
People are often taught that there is only a certain amount of room at the top, and getting to that top spot is a competition. I simply don’t agree. I believe that we rise by lifting others, not putting them down. I believe that there is room at the top for everyone.
That’s because the top for you is not the same top as someone else. You have different strengths, skill sets and goals — and we can all help each other get there. If we all begin to support each other, share our best practices and cheer each other on, it will benefit everyone.
I hosted an event for women in Tech and I posted about it on LinkedIn. A stranger reached out to me on the platform, and she said she saw my post and was inspired and wanted to talk about it. Although I figured she wanted to sell me something, it turned out she just loved the positive energy of this message. To my surprise, the conversation was the catalyst for a passion project to help other women in the business.
In just a few months, we published our first guide, The Unwritten Rules for Women in Tech. The entire guide grew out of one woman supporting another woman — just because. How cool is that? Recently, we published Tips From the Top, which is a compilation of tips from some of the most successful women and men in the business. They were willing to share their best business tips and tips for creating an inclusive culture. That is the kind of environment I want to foster: one where women openly share and support each other.
Finding Your Allies
What about allies? Can we create an inclusive culture without the support of people who aren’t in our demographic? The short answer is, “No way.”
Just like with any group, we need allies. We need people outside of our immediate group who support us and want to help us grow in our careers and lives. We can start to grow and foster these relationships by sharing where we need help. It really can be as simple as sharing what we feel like is holding us back and asking for their support. Often, people outside of a group don’t realize what they can do to support — so you may have to go outside your comfort zone and show them.
Here’s an example of a time when someone was willing to do that for me: Not too long ago, I was participating in a panel on microaggressions, and one of the panelists identified with they/them pronouns, and they asked if we could all include our pronouns. My pronouns are she/her, and the thought of sharing that had admittedly never crossed my mind. But in that moment, thanks to their willingness to show me the way, I realized that I could be an ally with this simple share. It took the courage of someone speaking up to share what they needed for me to understand.
Not knowing how to be an ally does not mean you are doing anything wrong, it simply means that you need some direction on how to be one. Lean in and learn — and be proactive about it, because the burden is on you to understand.
Sure, being a woman is tech is hard — but a lot of things in life are hard. Instead of focusing on the downsides, think about how you can turn it into an advantage. I pay attention to what I can bring to the table and what sets me apart.
You are unique, you bring unique ideas, and you have so much to offer. Focus on what you have to offer, on lifting others up and bringing them along for the ride.
What if we looked at our differences as superpowers instead of disadvantages? In doing so, we can — and will — change the world.