The tech field is a notoriously testosterone driven environment. People are aggressive, to the point, and everything is changing constantly. It is the type of environment where you have to have confidence to survive. Women are still few and far between the top ranks of most tech companies. In fact, according to the annual Study of California Women Business Leaders, fewer than one in twenty-eight of the highest paid tech executives is a woman. Women have the intelligence and the creative thinking that tech needs. However, women have to learn how to adapt to this environment. This doesn’t mean acting like a man. Balance is important and mirroring aggression with support, diversity, and collaborative spirit can be just what a young tech startup needs.
However, there are many things a woman can do to stand out and succeed in the tech field (and to stand out in business in general). The vast majority of men do not want to alienate women. It happens completely subconsciously, so if you can learn to assert your place, you will tend to find a warm reception at the other end.
It is easy for women to come across in the wrong way while working in the tech field. Try to limit gossip and emotional reactions when interacting about work issues and be as structured and analytical as possible. Organize your thoughts and think about the big picture. Be earnest and willing to learn. Pay close attention to your co-workers and mirror the way they phrase their ideas and communicate with one another.
Women are notoriously bad at saying no. It is okay to tell someone that doing X is not part of your job description. Men tend to treat women in a certain way out of habit, they ask you to get coffee or run this errand because of a completely subconscious thought process. Don’t be insulted; just simply state in a matter of fact way that this is something that is outside of your role. This also includes when you are too busy to take on a task. Women tend to be afraid to say no and therefore take too much onto their plate. Find balance and speak up when you are overloaded or need help. Men don’t tend to be afraid of this, so if you want things to be equal then you have to stand up for yourself as well.
If you are not receiving the types of projects you want or being utilized to your best ability, say something. In general, men are better about carving out their rightful place while women tend to fall into where they are placed. Stand up for yourself. If you know your strengths are in a certain area, talk to your supervisor and ask for those types of projects. Request regular meetings with superiors to talk about your career path and training and explain how you can best add value to the company.
When you work in a male dominated environment, men tend to joke around and make sarcastic comments in a way that can be offensive to many women. The worst action you can take is to ignore the comment or to go around the person and get them into trouble. Remember, most men behave this way subconsciously and they don’t mean to offend you. Don’t alienate yourself by acting removed, offended, or defeated. Be assertive, find a clever comeback and address the behavior in the moment in a calm, clear and friendly way, setting emotion aside.
Women tend to put an incredible amount of thought into their ideas and when they present them, they are perfect. However, in the tech space everything is changing constantly. The problem with this is that in the time it takes for you to gather your thoughts, men have already run through five ideas, discussed them with the group, and engaged in trial and error. You will miss the process and the engagement with your co-workers if you are afraid to throw out an idea. Don’t be afraid to jump in, present your ideas as they come and don’t be afraid to be wrong – it happens and it is part of the process. Tech companies are notorious for having a culture that encourages everyone to voice their ideas and be creative. You need to participate in this vital cultural element to succeed, be heard, and be valued.
Women tend to put up unintentional blocks and develop automatic behavior in response to societal standards. Yes, these exist and the majority of people follow them, but people also have no problem breaking these societal norms because most people realize we live in a modern society and they just don’t make sense. There is nothing wrong with grabbing coffee for a male co-worker, but then don’t be afraid to ask for him to return the favor.
In general, women tend to have no problem standing up to their partners, but they can’t do the same with their co-workers or bosses. Take some time to think about how you communicate with each differently. Respect is important, but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your relationship is often an excellent model to learn from.
Women tend to have a negative view of what it means to have power. We think about power in the sense of dominating and women have a problem with this, as they probably should. What would you rather have? Power that was given or power that was earned? Women need to think of power as being earned, the power to enact action due to their accomplishment, education, and value. Women lead the all the time, and there is nothing wrong with accepting “power to do” and using it to their best advantage.
The male dominated tech field can be intimidating to women. However, most of the time men don’t mean to alienate women or discourage their idea sharing. Learn to stand up for yourself and jump right in and you have the ability to thrive in this exciting space.
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