Note: This post is inspired by this question submitted to Quora.
There are many benefits to a career in technology:
- wages and compensation are high compared to other industries (even accounting for the wage gap between men and women)
- many tech jobs offer flexible schedules and working environments
- the work can be intellectually challenging and fulfilling
Here are some bits of advice I’d give to women considering a career in technology, or to those just beginning one.
Practice building confidence and be mindful about not selling yourself short.
It’s well known that women routinely under-assess their own skills as well as their value to their workplace or organization. Watch for this in yourself and work on ways to build your own confidence and self-assessment abilities.
Build and utilize a support network.
I can’t stress the importantance of having a network of people you can reach out to when things get tough (which they will, because that’s life). But don’t wait until you’re down in the dumps to reach out. Find a group of people you connect well with and make consistent connections with them. Don’t be afraid to attend women-only events and groups if you find that’s where you feel most comfortable.
Know that you will encounter sexism, racism and other misbehavior.
The tech industry is full of very privileged individuals and you will undoubtedly encounter sexist, racist and other kinds of bad behavior. No matter how trivial this behavior seems know that you are under no obligation to brush it off or grow a thicker skin. Know that you can talk about the bad behavior you encounter. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this publicly, utilize your support network.
Avail yourself of feminist and other anti-oppressionist resources.
Start with geekfeminism.org and microaggressions.com.
Learn to negotiate and ask for what you are worth.
This is a corollary to “not selling yourself short” and includes salary as well as desired job position. I know of companies who will offer the harder to fill, less prestigious positions to women first simply because they are more likely to accept them (even when they would prefer the more prestigious position). Read Ask For It for some good tips on negotiation in the workplace.
Know that work environments can vary significantly.
Workplace culture and environment can vary drastically from company to company. Don’t forget that when you’re interviewing, you’re interviewing the company in addition to them interviewing you. Ask them about their anti-harassment policies and what they do to facilitate women achieving in tech. If you think they could be doing better, consider letting them know.
Be a life-long learner.
Tech is a rapidly changing field where practice makes all the difference. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Read code and write code. Go to user/meetup groups. Teach others. Practice. Build.
Fellow tech women who have been around a while now: What tips would you offer? Leave ’em in the comments!