Welcome to the fourth feature in the IWD Spotlight series, where women in the science and tech industry share their journey and advice for others walking the same path.
What are some of the challenges you’ve personally encountered or seen women face in the tech industry?
I have been fortunate enough to not have personal experience with extremely overt gender discrimination. However, there are situations throughout my career that seemed innocuous at the time, but upon reflection, have given me pause. For example, I have received comments from job applicants like “it’s quite impressive that a woman can make it as a leader in this industry” – I know that is meant as a compliment, but it clearly shows that in some parts of the world, it’s so common to have more male leaders in the industry.
That being said, one of the reasons I decided to change careers was also the shocking comment from a senior manager when I was looking for a promotion – “senior positions are for men with grey hair and you are a young girl.” I am glad I took the plunge and have now landed at a better place.
What can society do to ensure gender equity in a male-dominated industry?
It is important that tangible measures are taken to address pre-existing biases and inequity that may not be obvious.
One of the ways is to bridge the economic divide to ensure equity. For example, fintech and financial services organizations work with Provenir to look at ways to address the gender gap in financial inclusion, by supporting women entrepreneurs in areas where they were previously unable to obtain loans. The rise of fintech companies and their use of technology (including innovations like artificial intelligence and machine learning) can be a catalyst for change and level the playing field for women and other under-served populations.
What advice would you give to your younger self when starting out?
Women can be generally more empathetic to people and their environment, which makes us strong collaborators and leaders who are more oriented to strive for the success and well-being of all. On the other hand, this trait can put a lot of pressure on someone when that “group success” isn’t met. I would advise my younger self or any other young women to “feel better about yourself.” Everyone makes mistakes; the most important thing is to learn from them and move on. It’s also important to always be aware of your own value and time.
Lastly, it’s critical to find a support system. Working with a female mentor to get a second opinion can broaden your perspectives on things. Don’t wait to be approached; women leaders are very understanding and many are more than willing to help if you take the initiative.
What kind of workplace/industry changes do you hope to see in the next five years or so?
Flexible working arrangements for men and women – this will naturally encourage an equal sharing of childcare between working parents.
In my current role at Provenir, we see more female representation within the leadership team compared to the industry at large. This level of representation sends a clear message that gender equity is a core belief – and that opportunities are equal no matter the team or role.