Women Can Succeed in the Tech Industry — It Comes Down to Proactively Seeking Growth

Study from a recent survey shows that only 10% of women in tech actively pursue career growth — is this why only 5% of tech leaders are women?

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Very few women in the tech industry proactively pursue career growth. Instead, they do good work and wait to be recognized and awarded promotions and raises. I conducted a survey asking men and women who worked in senior positions in the tech industry about whether they actively sought raises/promotions in their careers. 50% of men said they did, whereas only 10% of women said they had done so. Could this be the reason why only 5% of tech leaders are women?

Why Does this Problem Exist?

As a girl who has dreams of an ambitious tech career, I was surprised to see this disparity between men and women regarding seeking career growth. Previously when I interviewed six women tech leaders, I found out that career growth happens only when you make intentional choices and actively pursue your goals. These six women leaders took risks in their careers to go after their goals, which is why they got to the top. But the majority of today’s tech women don’t seem to and those who do are outnumbered by the number of men who are driven to grow their careers.

When I saw in my survey that most women would rather wait for opportunities, it reminded me of some childhood fairytales. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White just sleep waiting for their Prince Charming to save the day, and Cinderella happens to be lucky when her Fairy Godmother arrives. None of them pursued their happily ever after. Throughout a girl’s childhood, traditional culture has encouraged girls to get what they want by being quiet, humble, and obedient; but boys are told to work for what they want.

How Women Can Battle this Issue

Rama Akkiraju, an IBM Fellow and CTO of AI Operations, was listed as one of the Top 20 Women in AI by Forbes. She shared insight as to how women apply to jobs compared to men. She says:

“Most women think that they have to meet all the requirements before they feel qualified enough to even apply/ask for a job. Men, however, project great confidence, and passion for the job and ask for it by citing their past successes, which often convinces the interviewers into giving the candidate a chance, even if the interviewee doesn’t meet all the criteria…Women self-deselect themselves from advancing in their jobs even before applying.” — Rama Akkiraju

Because of the fear of a “no”, women won’t even try to seek the opportunities they desire and deserve. Statistics from LinkedIn show that “women tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and end up applying to 20% fewer jobs than men.” This is because women are “16% less likely to apply to a job after viewing it than a man”. This pattern is what often holds women back from leadership roles in tech companies.

Avanti Ketkar, Vice President of Engineering at Inflection says that women should step out of their comfort zones to ask for what they want.

“If you don’t try, you will neither fail nor succeed. The fear of failure is what often keeps both men and women from achieving their full potential in their careers”. — Avanti Ketkar

Even though women do not feel prepared or comfortable asking for a raise or promotion, they should get out of the comfort zone and ask. Research from LinkedIn states that “in order to apply for a job women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.” Even though it feels risky, women need to still find the strength to ask for opportunities they want.

Why This Is a Serious Problem

74% of computing-related jobs are held by men and 50% of them are pro-actively pursuing growth. Only 26% of tech jobs are held by women and out of this only 10% are actively pursuing growth. Clearly, the result of this is only 5% of all tech leaders being women. The competition in this industry is stiff, to say the least. If more women want to get to the top, they should intentionally pursue their goals, not wait for someone to hand it to them.

Women in tech need to prioritize their career growth despite the risk of getting turned down. Competing in an industry dominated by men requires women to actively seek out growth, whether it is asking for a promotion or taking on higher responsibility. Often childhood can influence girls not to pursue their goals but to wait for someone to give it to them by being humble and obedient. If women want to grow their careers, they should not deselect themselves from getting opportunities, and they should take more risks to ask for what they want. Most importantly, no matter who you are, success should be sought out intentionally.

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