Main image of article Leadership Roles: A Highly Visible Symbol of Equality for Women in Tech

In Dice’s new Equality in Tech Report, 58 percent of technologists who identify as women stated they believe gender-based discrimination occurs frequently or very frequently, compared to 31 percent of men. 

Discrimination is also perceived as a factor when it comes to opportunities for career advancement: The study found nearly half (47 percent) of women respondents said they’ve witnessed discrimination in leadership opportunities; some 45 percent had encountered discrimination in the context of promotion, and 32 percent said that discrimination had interfered with project opportunities. 

“Women are currently underrepresented in IT as related to overall population. By promoting qualified, capable women, IT has the ability to set the standard for harnessing the talents of knowledge workers and providing paths to success for all employees,” said Krystin Fakalata, regional executive, Dayton, at Array Information Technology. “As we continue to encourage STEM activities to children, with a special emphasis on young girls, we need to provide them with role models who can provide mentoring and examples of achievement. Kids can’t dream what they can’t see.”

Any discussion related to workplace equality also needs to address the underlying aspect of how technologists care for their families. “Specifically for women in IT, flexible work schedules would have a major impact on women’s willingness to take on increased responsibilities,” Fakalata added. “All too often, people with small children are hesitant to take positions that have stringent work hours because they know they will have responsibilities related to their children. Because women are traditionally the primary caregivers, this means it is often women who turn down opportunities for advancement.”

For employers, that means a focus on flexible work schedules is key. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are shifting to all-remote or flexible models—but technologists may still need to negotiate with their managers over schedules. 

“IT today enables this flexibility and I think in that regard, we already have the tools needed to enable this change. If the pandemic has done nothing else, it’s proven that women—and men—in IT have the ability to work in a non-traditional office setting and still be successful in meeting all of their commitments,” Fakalata said. 

Need for Leadership

For Anshu Agarwal, CEO and founder of Nimbella, it is important to see more women in leadership and management roles. Representation in leadership simply isn’t there. At the same time, more work needs to be done regarding pay equality for women in tech. “Once there is a balance in leadership roles, there will be balance in other roles, which will result in pay equality and role equality at all levels,” she said. “If companies have a mandate to improve workplace equality, then they need to put more women in leadership roles.”

Dice’s Equality in Tech report found that more than a third (35 percent) of technologists who identified as women reported dissatisfaction with their current compensation, versus 29 percent of technologist respondents who identified as men.

Judy Sunblade, vice president of revenue growth and enablement at WhiteHat Security, recommends that young women technologists consider specialized fields such as cybersecurity, which can offer lots of opportunities for advancement.

“Don’t shy away from it because of the misconceptions of it being too technical. Yes, there are technical positions but it is a business,” she said. “It’s an everchanging industry with a plentitude of opportunities. Don’t miss out on a growing industry because it doesn’t seem like a traditional path for you.”

At WhiteHat, she added, more than 60 percent of the executive leadership team are women. “I got involved in cybersecurity by following my passion of helping high growth organizations to accelerate their sales by implementing sales best practices and a robust revenue enablement process,” she said. “It was important to me to find a company whose culture and sales philosophy matched mine, and that includes empowering women to be workforce leaders.”

There are different expectations of girls and boys as it pertains to STEM. “Continuing to fight for equality for girls, young women and women in all aspects will make it easier for them to capitalize on careers in tech,” she said.

Rita Gurevich, founder and CEO of Sphere, also pointed out that, although women remain the minority in cybersecurity, she has seen a steady increase in not only the number of women entering the field but also becoming leaders.

“Women have brought a different perspective focusing as much on the end-user of the solution as well as the technology itself,” she said. “Women are naturally good multi-taskers that bodes well in leadership roles. In the future, I see the number of women continue to increase and take on more leadership roles.”