While men continue to hold top positions in the tech industry, there are women who have worked hard to rise to the top, pushing innovative technology and leading successful enterprises. They often not just take over a current company, but also co-found or create a new concept.
Forecasts from Deloitte Global suggest that large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% female representation overall in their workforce in 2022. While this is a step in the right direction, even with a decent proportion of women in the industry, the majority of people in leadership positions are male.
As Lara Vafiadis, Regional Sales Manager at Deep Instinct comments, “When reading about some of the largest technology companies, Microsoft, Google, VMware, IBM, we know these are all led by great leaders – but not women. The idea that technology is a male industry starts at a young age, and there are still stigmas around young girls showing interest in science and technology when at school. This needs to change and maybe seeing a strong female leader at one of these companies could be the push it needs.”
Although the industry has a long way to go when it comes to female representation at the top level and being a woman in tech doesn’t come without its challenges, there are a number of women who have fought their way to significant roles in the technology industry.
Take Leah Kelly, NAR Delivery Manager at EfficientIP, for example. Leah started her career as an Executive Assistant for a VP of Information Systems at a large bank who oversaw a team of 45 which included Programmers, Analysts, Project Managers and QA Engineers. Out of the team that Leah oversaw, there were two female programmers which according to Leah “piqued my curiosity to the point that I became a sponge and wanted to learn as much as possible, so I asked lots of questions and the women were excited, and willing, to teach me. It was both intellectually challenging and eye-opening to learn that technology was critical to core banking applications. I knew then that I wanted to be part of the IS team. As a result, I went to night school full-time for 18 months to focus on programming. Upon completion, I was one of five hired into an internship program at the bank and proud to be female number three.”
Lisa Grady, Product Manager at Radiant Logic, started her career as a solutions architect at Radiant Logic and over her 22-year career has progressed to Product Manager. “I was one of very few women to have joined Radiant Logic at its infancy, but now we have a great team which includes a number of women who are enabling the company to grow and develop as the leader in the identity management space.”
Racha Abdallah, Customer Solutions Architect at EfficientIP, overcame a client’s surprise at a woman carrying out a full deployment for them – “It was a surprise more than discrimination. The first time I did a full deployment for a big project in the area, the customer was really stunned; I was the first woman who was doing onsite professional services. I felt he was a little scared, but when he saw my professionalism and the dedication, he gave me full support and we became good friends.”
Despite many of the challenges women face when looking to get into the tech industry, it’s clear that many have made it and are reaping the benefits and success.
For other women looking to enter a career in cybersecurity, Rapid7’s SVP, Vulnerability Risk Management Practice Leader, Cynthia Stanton, says, “The advice I would give to a woman looking to start a career in cybersecurity or technology is that at the end of the day, if you’re in the right company, you’re going to be evaluated on what you bring to the table and how you approach problems. Technology is important, but there’s always a human element to it. I often think, if you have the capacity to think both technically and with empathy, you can really address the need for your customer.
Rather than looking to fit a certain mould, I would urge you to put yourself in a position where you have the opportunity to always learn and gain new experiences. Lean into the parts of your experience or personality that might make you different or allow you to approach a situation with a different perspective. I fully acknowledge that flexibility isn’t always possible, but I’d advise you not to try to engineer your entire life; rather, run to opportunities when opportunities present themselves, and trust that things will work out.”