By Leslie Witham, Technology & Innovation Director at GYK Antler
With everything going on in the world lately–from #MeToo to the deafening lack of female keynotes at CES, major cultural issues facing women have finally been brought to the forefront. These awful stories are popping up at such an alarming rate that it’s hard to keep up. As such, it’s obvious that more needs to be done to shift our culture, especially in the tech world. Too many female computer science students and young professionals are exposed to intimidation and discouragement—sometimes overt and other times more subtle and systemic.
So, rather than just getting outraged by all of these stories, here are five ways that you can take action to help empower future female tech leaders:
Support local women-in-tech groups
Creating relationships with other leaders in the tech industry allows for a collaborative community where ideas and careers are supported. The more that leaders work together and learn from each other, the more innovation is likely to be fueled. And the more we help women to grow into leadership roles, the more we can continue to pull each other up. Although I didn’t necessarily recognize it at the time, the presence of female tech leaders throughout my education and career truly shaped my confidence that I could be successful in the STEM fields.
Connect with the youth
It’s critical for professional women in tech to be present for young women and girls. By being a part of the journeys that these tech women will embark on, we will together shatter the ceilings that hold too many women back. Take advantage of opportunities to speak to young women at colleges and high schools about your professional career and successes. For those young girls who may still believe the misconception that there aren’t women in STEM fields, you can be the real-life example they need to inspire them to pursue their interests in this field.
Be proactive with young women in your company
Grab lunch with women in more junior roles at your company. Answer their questions and let them shadow you at presentations or in meetings. Making yourself accessible to the individuals just beginning their careers will not only help increase their confidence but accelerate their professional capabilities.
Have young girls in your life? Gift them STEM toys and activities. By introducing technology at a young age and in a fun way, girls (and kids in general) will be more likely to discover their talent and passion for the STEM fields in a way that’s organic and enjoyable.
Change the narrative
When talking about women in tech, avoid clamoring on about the low numbers and negative stats. Instead, talk about the vast amount of opportunities for women in this industry. Women and girls are needed in tech conversations not to raise the percentage but to bring a valuable voice and perspective to help drive innovation. It’s time that everyone truly understands that women deserve a spot at the table.
Like any successful professional career, for me, the road to becoming the Technology & Innovation Director at a leading advertising agency as a first-generation immigrant Latina from the inner-city was not free of difficult days. But, I have been blessed with incredible female technologist role models from my school days through my professional career. These women have had a profound impact on my career and ultimately my life.
It’s time for an industry-wide effort to do more to shift our culture and not just talk about change, but take action to empower women in tech at all stages. It is essential to the longevity of our industry.