Women's Day 2021
A Roadmap to Success: Six ways to help women succeed in tech
While equality is gradually arriving on the scene, here are a few things we can do right now
Things are clearly getting better, but much more needs to be done. The success of women in tech, I believe, involves two factors – encouraging girls to not limit themselves, and an improved social structure that helps them to get there.
The push to strive for excellence, especially for girls is something that often happens in the early years, whether at home or at school where a mentor or teacher takes an interest. I was fortunate enough to get that push. My mother had a full-time career and constantly exhorted me to go out for one as well, so I was raised in an environment where striving for success was a matter of course. Not all girls are that fortunate though. Altering social structures is even more complicated than encouraging girls to succeed; the best solution for that is for companies, local and national governments, and other entities to provide assistance and resources for creating equal opportunities and activate balanced parenthood.
In the end, though success really depends on the actions we take. Here are six ways to help women succeed in tech:
- Set a clear target: It sounds almost trite, but self-motivation really is one of the most important ingredients in success. When you set a clear target, anything is doable – and the first step in doing that is deciding that you want to succeed. Once that decision has been made, you can develop a roadmap for that success; what do I want to accomplish, and what specific steps do I need to take in order to get there?
- Lead, don't be led: take ownership on your career. In the tech world, as well as in many other areas, leadership and success go together. Being a “leader” in this context doesn't necessarily mean gathering a group of admirers who will hang onto your every word; it does mean setting your own course and goals, and not being swayed by those who would discourage you, deny the validity of your ideas, or denigrate your skills. Confidence in your path leads to leadership; when others see that you are confident about what you are doing, they will naturally follow your lead.
- Keep learning: Staying relevant and at the top of your profession is key to success. Learning begins from our earliest days and continues throughout our lives – and it isn't limited to school or formal educational frameworks.
- Build your own brand in and outside of the organization: investing in your own PR – making sure others in the organization know just how much you contribute to its success.
- Be part of the ecosystem: in many organizations, it's not just skills and efficiency that determine your value, but your ability to build relationships. Understanding this is key for women – who, given their home demands, are unlikely to ever reach the levels of efficiency of their less-burdened male counterparts. With knowledge of your profession, confidence in your path, and skills you have developed, you can take your place at the table as part of the organization's team.
- Build a supportive environment: Finally, women need to look out for themselves as well, building an ecosystem that they can turn to for support. A big project at work can negatively impact home duties. A support structure where people – parents, spouses, and significant others, relatives, friends, and neighbors - who can assist when needed can help relieve the pressure. It also helps to outsource what you can, leveraging services, such as childcare, cleaning, grocery delivery - to free up time. This was the model I followed to my success. I was a developer and decided I wanted to become a team leader – so I had to decide what I wanted, and what I needed to do to get there. Then I set my mind on becoming a product manager; I was interested in the business side of things, not just tech, so that was a position I sought out, fusing the two. I asked myself what is the role of a product manager, what skills are needed, what do I need to do to acquire those skills/achieve that position. I went through the same process in order to achieve a management position.
One last thing that needs mentioning is – education. Many of Israel's top tech figures are graduates of elite IDF units, but to get into those units you need strong physics, math, and cyber skills acquired in high school – and unfortunately, there are a limited number of female high school students taking these courses. Ambitious girls are realizing this, and in recent years there has been an uptick of females in these courses – hence a larger number in IDF units and subsequently in top tech positions. Israel in general has a higher number of women in such positions because more have been graduating from these IDF units. Therefore, acquiring a baseline education in math and sciences needs to be a priority for girls (or boys, for that matter) who seek tech success. However, even if you haven’t been in an elite unit, by setting a target you can still become a leader in the tech industry and in cybersecurity.
Inbar Ries is the VP of Product Management at cybersecurity company CYE