Alternative Pathways to Success for Careers in Tech
17 July 2023
Welcome to the EQUALS Leadership Coalition webcast series.
During this series we are exploring different aspects of leadership in technology – what it means, what it looks like for individuals and entrepreneurs – and how collectively everyone can contribute to closing the gaps and removing gender bias in technology. Our first webcast on diversity, equity and inclusion provides some examples of different pathways to success and good practice examples individuals can take to achieve success.
We all know the statistics showing the significant lack of progress in closing gender gaps in STEM. Despite the evidence from the last decade, progress is not being made in advancing girls and women through traditional educational structures to achieve university level degrees in computer science or technology related fields. Of the technology workforce (both in the technology sector and in technology functions), approximately 25% are women, and about half that percentage (12%) are in decision making and leadership roles.
The old ways of finding and developing talent aren’t working.
Amazingly, the number of women who are taking different pathways to have careers in technology or using technology in their roles is skyrocketing.
Through targeted certification programs, bootcamps and other gender transformative digital skills based programs more women and girls are gaining the skills and knowledge to advance in technology roles and in professional roles more generally.
On June 27, Stephanie Ginos, Rohena Miller and I had the honor to lead a discussion regarding the changing career paths and pathways in technology. Stephanie, a senior executive with deep experience in many forms of technology (user experience, data programming, metaverse, stack management), talked about not having a university level degree and how she learned to be a technologist. Stephanie reinforced that technology is how business and things in general get done. With this type of definition, the skills and basic concepts of technology seemed more straight-forward and clear for her. She could apply that thinking to all types of processes or problems and not be intimidated as easily. Too often we see girls and women succumb to the imposter syndrome or the internal doubter. This is often the biggest barrier we face.
Rohena picked up on the theme of being intimidated by vocabulary. She shared how the Planet Mogul meta-verse provides a safe space for under-served and under-represented parts of our society and economy to explore ideas, concepts and options with anonymity and transparency. It’s also full of role models and examples of individuals who followed alternative paths – the creator of Transformer toys was the first African-American car designer at General Motors – and how attempts are ways to learn and never failures such as Mae Jemison, the first African American women in space failed to get investors for what eventually became the Fitbit. We discussed the power of role models – all kinds of role models to provide representation and celebrate all the ways of achieving success.
Our cultures reinforce the idea that not successfully achieving a higher level or prominence is a failure and the end. This is an issue when we examine women’s career paths in general. Most do not follow a straight up, ladder like path; instead, the paths are varied with lateral moves, gaps, even some chutes and some stretches of ladder like growth.
No single path is best for all, and organizations need to remember this when evaluating candidates.
In general, we should remember that “a loss” is a chance to improve, to train differently, to learn a new approach. We encourage anyone interested in starting out, building or changing a career to be technology focused to ask questions, learn from those around you, find mentors. Use certificates or badges or other types of credentials to show what you know. We know that technology is a significantly large arena and is constantly growing.