There’s a photo of me at age 10: a nerdy kid with glasses, completely engrossed in one of those old-school gray Game Boys with the size and heft of a brick (it was the 90s).
Growing up, I preferred video games and Legos to Barbies and dress-up. I never played house, which is probably why I am defiantly undomestic to this day. Thankfully, I had no concept of technology or video games as a “boy thing,” so it’s completely unsurprising that I pivoted into technology sales as an adult.
Right now, there’s a floodlight shining on women in the workplace, with topics ranging from gender dynamics in meetings to balancing professional and personal lives and career advancement. Everyone is chiming in with their perspectives: lean in, play big, have it all, stay home with your kids, hire a nanny and focus on your career, etc.
But I don’t want to talk about any of that.
In this blog, I’m going to share five reasons why there has never been a better time to be a woman in tech and how you can apply these to reach your full potential:
1. Mentorship Dynamics Are Changing
There is a chapter on mentorship in “Lean In,” where Sheryl Sandberg calls out a bias: two men at a bar don’t get a second glance, but a senior man and junior woman at that same bar have the potential to start some unwelcome rumors. As a welcome result of this callout, that dynamic has shifted over the last few years and needs to keep heading in that direction if we are to have an equal workforce at all levels.
I’ve personally benefitted from being both mentor and mentee to my male and female colleagues, and I have also been vocal about asking my husband and male colleagues to make sure that they’re mentoring the women around them, especially on more technical teams. If promotions happen at the bar and on the golf course, then my favorite drink is a martini or French 75, and I once took a golf lesson in 2006—so we’re all set. Jokes aside, it’s critical that we seek out mentors/mentees of both genders and aim for balance whenever possible.
2. Companies Are Balancing Their Headcount and Leadership Teams, Creating a Trickle-Down Effect
Our CEO at Marketo has made it a point to balance our board, including the appointment of Cammie Dunaway, former CMO of Yahoo, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she joined our board last year. Since then, I’ve noticed the hiring of multiple senior women in our organization. This makes me optimistic for my future at Marketo as a leader, because I have a balanced perspective to help me grow and commitment from my organization to make change a reality.
Even more reassuring is that the tech industry is starting to address diversity, while organizations such as Project Include and a database called Boardlist are establishing themselves as accountability partners to diversify tech at all levels.
3. Women at Work Are Banding Together and Men Are Championing the Cause
At Marketo, a couple of my enterprising colleagues recently created the cheekily named Femme-keto, a place for women in sales to mentor and support one another. We make it a point to plan fun events and also hosted a career-focused panel earlier this year with some of our more senior women.
Femme-keto event with our San Mateo team in Half Moon Bay
Femme-keto dinner at a wine bar in Atlanta
Femme-keto has resulted in a couple of welcome cultural shifts. First, it has brought the women on our team closer together in a day-to-day capacity. We bounce ideas off each other, send funny Snaps, sit together and play music in shared workspaces, or go on mid-day Target runs. In a fast-paced, hardworking environment, it’s critical to keep stress levels low and optimize for happiness so we can all perform at our best. Second, the men on our team have been overwhelmingly supportive–from the top down. Many of them have asked to join Femme-keto (all are welcome!), and our senior leadership has actively offered to participate in our events.
4. Family Is Openly Being Prioritized and Paid Family Leave Is Headed in the Right Direction
If you work in tech, you’re already fortunate in many ways. Most recently, your good fortune increased, as many tech giants are now leading the industry on parental leave. Executives in Silicon Valley are speaking up on the importance of family and work/life balance, which changes the conversation on the ground. Netflix, Etsy, and Facebook are leading the charge with improved parental leave policies for their US employees. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson are leading by example, taking extended paternity leave and openly encouraging their employees to do the same.
Parental leave still needs improvement at the federal level, which is a topic for another time and place. However, as my husband and I think about having children in the next few years, it’s reassuring to see progress in this area that supports and reinforces both our ability to have a family and contribute in the workplace.
5. Most Importantly, the Conversation Is Active
My number one rule in life is simple: don’t make it weird. I am so happy to see this sentiment expressed in the business world at large. There are countless books, articles, and blog posts on women in tech, with ample precedent set for me to feel comfortable speaking up about a possibly polarizing topic. However, don’t confuse my optimism with complacency. In most of my client meetings, I am usually still the only woman in the room. It is my personal mission to balance the number, starting directly around me and encouraging my fellow women in tech towards their personal and professional goals. You can similarly influence change in your network by actively participating in the conversation.
For example, I recently helped a family friend get her first job as a junior web developer. Her introductory email to me was poised, intelligent, spoke volumes of her work ethic…and wasn’t quite tapped into the power she held in her hand, even as a recent college graduate. Her question to me was simple: would companies even be open to taking a look at a recent college grad with no work experience? Should she look at internships? I wrote her back a simple message, “There is a huge push to get more women in the door in STEM, so take that leverage and be confident in both your attitude and aptitude. No internships for you!” Several weeks later, she wrote me to share that she landed her first job, and I must confess I was teary-eyed with pride as I read her email. As Glenda the Good Witch says, “You always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”
There’s never been a better time for working women in the technology industry. Whether you’re in upper management looking to increase your team’s diversity, a seasoned professional who thinks there’s a glass ceiling, or just starting your career, apply these tips and look for new ways to empower yourself and the women around you.
What is your perspective on how things are changing for women in tech? Which tips will you put into action in your workplace? Share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear them!