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March 08, 2019

What we learned from hosting our own Women in Tech panel

LS
Lois Shearing 5 minute read

It’s no secret that the tech industry still has some obstacles to overcome when it comes to women in tech.

From fewer women pursuing STEM careers, to the drop-out rate for women in tech roles being almost double that of men’s, it’s an issue that seriously needs addressing.

That’s why we decided to open up a discussion and explore how Adaptavist can improve. We held our own internal Women In Tech panel to allow our staff to discuss some of the issues they experience in the workplace and to learn from each other. Four women, across a range of roles at Adaptavist, held a panel discussion before opening the floor to questions. This session turned out to be one of the most popular of the entire conference, and the room was over-capacity.

 

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Our panelists; Dom Summers, Dee Howard, Brenda Burrell, Nisha Hajamohideen

To mark International Women’s Day, here are some of the key things we learned from that experience:

Biased language can drive away talent

A company culture that feels unwelcoming for women and gender minorities can extend beyond the walls of the office, and can put talented employees off working there altogether. The speakers at our session noted that they feel put off when they don’t come across a single women during the hiring process, and pointed out how surprisingly common was for them

But even gendered language in job listings can stop women coming forward. “You see certain words and you say, ‘that’s not me’ or, ‘they’ve probably got a real frat-boy culture,” says Brenda Burrell, an Adaptavist Managing Consultant who sat on the panel, “at this point in my career, I’ve had enough experience to know if I don’t want to work somewhere just because of the language they’ve used in the job listing.”

Even words that seem gendered - like ‘rockstar’ or ‘ninja - can be a red flag that a company’s culture isn’t welcoming to women; as studies have shown.

Language is important

On the subject of language, the type of sociolect used within the company can have a big impact on how female-friendly the workplace is deemed, and ultimately, retaining female talent. It may seem like smallfry, but using words like ‘guys’, ‘lads’, and ‘best man for the job’ can contribute to a culture where women’s efforts and talents are overlooked. Afterall, language helps shape our reality, and being mindful of how we speak can make a big difference.

Women in technical roles still face stereotypes

The perception that women are less technically minded than men is still rife, even within highly technical teams. Because of this, all the women on our panel said they felt like they had to work harder than their male counterparts to prove themselves.

“I often find when I’m on our booth at events, people will walk past me to one of the guys because they think I’m not technical. Then they’ll be redirected back to me when it turns out I’m the one they need to talk to,” says Dee Howard, product manager for Test Management for Jira Cloud.

As mothers, Nisha Hajamohideen, a business consultant, and Brenda say they are still expected to prove their dedication and skill, despite having been in the industry for decades.

 

Mentor programmes can empower women in the workplace

So how do women carve out a career in the tech industry?

All the women on our panel made it clear that having mentors and a strong network of female colleagues made a huge difference.

“In every job there is some kind of a mentor or a friend who keeps you going, who realises your potential, who constantly motivates and guides you. That helps with your career progression and that keeps you going. A bit of recognition for the work that you do, that is what motivates and keeps you going,” says Nisha, who herself has gone on to run afternoons introducing young women to the tech industry.

“Having mentors in whatever capacity is really helpful because then I can get the sense of, I’m supported, I’m valued, I’m contributing,” adds Brenda, who says women are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome that men and may need more affirmation from managers and mentors because of it.

We can all be the change we seek to foster

Sexism in the workplace has a negative impact on everyone, and because of that, it is all of our responsibility to tackle it.

This can start in the home, Brenda suggests, with men becoming more willing to help support the extra labour women do in the home - known as the second shift - to leave women with more energy and time for their careers.

Addressing workplace culture by being cognizant of the language we all use, the amount of time and space that is given to the ideas and voices of women and gender minorities, and what kind of social activities are being organised.

“It’s about lifting each other up and listening to each other’s ideas and not discounting women. It’s important to examine our own implicit bias around how women might approach something or something. Because there’s enough space for everybody.” Says Dom, senior content marketing manager at Adaptavist.

How can tech companies create workplace gender equality? Tweet us your ideas at @Adaptavist

Want to know more about Adaptavists culture and career progression?