Reflections on tech victories and challenges on International Women’s Day
Several women in data engineering, data science, data security and IT management share their views on how other women can make the best of a career in technology.
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March 8 is International Women's Day, and the perfect opportunity to reflect on the state of women in IT. While the gender gap in IT is well-known, there are plenty of ways that data pros and IT professionals can help chip away at it for the benefit of other women, and work together to help advance their own careers. Here, several women in technology offer their reflections on their own careers and some lessons they have learned along the way.
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Seek out other women in tech to help you navigate a successful career path
“The gender gap in the technology industry still exists. When I started working I did not expect equality, but instead started with the assumption that I have to try to work harder than people around me in order to gain equal footing. Nobody can stand up for you better than yourself, so learn how and when to verbalize what you need. Don't be the one who gets easily offended by things around you.

“That does not mean it is easy, but choose to concentrate on the long-term outcome than the short-term pain. The right mentor or sponsor can support and guide you through even the most difficult situations. Make time for the women in your organization to support, mentor and appreciate each other as much as possible.”

- Kanthi Prasad, vice president of engineering, WhiteHat Security
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Digital work and diversity practices should go hand-in-hand
“I enjoy working in technology because I get to help shape the digital world in which we exist, and I know that the influence provided by women creates a product that better serves its users. Working in technology has provided me with countless opportunities to witness the incredible support that women provide to one another (and to the rest of their peers), find role models in the brave, brilliant, and inspiring females around me, and learn to be a fair leader both in the workplace and in my personal life. Diversity in technology (whether it's gender identity, race, culture, age, orientation, or any other factor that makes people wonderfully unique) directly translates to its day to day success in the field.”

- Krista Delucchi, engineering program manager, WhiteHat Security
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Don’t let yourself be defined by common STEM stereotypes
“I appreciate the fact that the people I work with enjoy solving problems by thinking through them, and that I'm valued for the knowledge that I bring to the table as a woman. My current environment encourages and rewards creative and novel solutions, despite the common rep of STEM being sort of anti-arts/creativity. I love the flexibility in this industry - while not all positions at all companies can be done remotely or at odd hours, many can, and that means a lot of people who would otherwise have to choose between family and work can actually balance both.”

- Katherine Haworth, application security specialist, WhiteHat Security
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Mentors and role models are key for success and happiness
“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the many strengths of women and the perspectives they bring to technology. It’s important to remember that women bring a unique voice to the table. They should know their worth and not be afraid of advancing. Our communities and companies need diversity in leadership roles to succeed because every person’s individual background also brings a new perspective that can drive the bottom line, culture and overall success of the business.

"Young women in technology must find a good mentor to be successful, and that requires being proactive, and committing to continuously learning from superiors and peers. Women in technology must remember to never give up on their dreams, always strive to do better and keep a positive attitude. And no matter what roadblocks may come, they should never let anyone limit their potential. They are in charge of their own personal destiny.

"In addition, when choosing where to work, work for the people you admire and respect, not the job offering the highest pay. Lastly, it’s better to keep the ‘gender difference’ idea out of your mind, because there is really no such thing in terms of doing well at work.”

- Joanna Hu, principal data scientist, Exabeam
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Women in tech can tap top internal communication skills
“I love being a woman in tech because there is never a dull moment. Every person communicates in different ways and I feel that being a woman allows me to listen, analyze and appreciate various perspectives in order to help my colleagues feel comfortable speaking with me on a variety of topics. This in turn leads to more positive collaboration which results in agreed upon solutions and compromise.”

- Lauren McCaslin, vulnerability verification team lead, WhiteHat Security
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More ranks of women are key to fill gender and talent gaps
“It’s vital to get more women into the tech industry, for two reasons. Firstly, diversity is important. A team comprised of people with different backgrounds and an even balance of genders is more representative of the clients and customers for who you are building products. Secondly, the tech sector is growing, and it needs more people. It’s a simple numbers game – if the tech industry only employs men, there simply won’t be enough skills and resources to keep pace with the growth.

“I believe that if more women are to enter the tech sector, we need to start young, showing girls that tech can be fun. I started coding when I was about eight years old. My parents bought a computer and I was hooked. It was fun learning how it worked, creating something on a computer. There is so much scope for creativity in tech – more than people think.

“Being a female CTO today still makes me a bit of a unicorn. And, despite my background and position, some still assume I don’t have technical knowledge. And the worst part is that I find myself getting used to these comments. But my team respects me because of my technical expertise, not simply because of my title or in spite of my gender, and this is always how it should be.

“My advice to women keen to develop a career in tech is to just do it. Listen, learn and be the best version of yourself. Find the role that fits you best, and don’t feel obligated to work in a more stereotypical role that may not be the best one for you – after all, it’s person specific, not gender specific.

“In the future everything is going to have tech elements, from fashion to charity to healthcare. Tech has gone mainstream, the typical ‘tech’ stereotype’ is a thing of the past, and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.”

- Svenja de Vos, chief technology officer, Leaseweb
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Women must often speak louder to get their voices heard
“The gender gap definitely still exists in a variety of ways, many of which are widely publicized. For example, statistics say only 20 percent of individuals in tech are women, and only 11 percent percent of individuals in cybersecurity are women. We need more women in upper leadership, and the unequal wage issue is still a reality. I’d like to encourage women to take a proactive stance in not only building the solutions, but being a part of the solution. We need to continue encouraging females in STEM education and build more support structures for women throughout their careers.

“Tech and cybersecurity can have a bad rap for being male-dominated, which can be a deterrent for women looking for diverse environments. When I first started in this industry, I was often the only female among male colleagues and felt extremely outnumbered at the big conferences. Now, years later, the community of women has gotten stronger and incredibly welcoming and embracing. It’s been slow, but it’s changing, so I encourage women to reach out, support each other, and not to feel discouraged.

“My biggest piece of advice for women of all ages would be: ‘do not be afraid to use your voice.’ As women, we bring different ideas and strengths. Be confident in what you’re good at, pursue what you’re passionate about, and let that be the focal point, not the stereotypes.”

- Yumi Nishiyama, director of global services, Exabeam