Advice from the Women In Tech

I was lucky enough to speak at the Pass Data Community Summit 2022 in Seattle last week. This is the world’s largest data conference, with many great sessions to join and speakers to learn from.

On Thursday was the #WomenInTech lunch, where a panel of amazing women sat down to discuss some of the challenges of being a woman in tech today. The panel consisted of Anna Hoffman, Shabnam Watson, Blythe Morrow, Leslie Andrews, and Jennifer McCown. I found their debate, discussion and advice very interesting, and was thinking that there might be more women out there that would benefit from their experience. I, therefore, summarized some of the discussion points here in hopes that more women (and men!) can read it.

Please remember that the words here are coming from how I remember the talk and that none of the mentioned women should be held accountable for what I write – unless you like what you read. Then they get all the credit!

If you want to learn more about #WomenInTech, you can click HERE.

How can you make sure your voice is heard in meetings when you are interrupted?

Buddy up! If possible, find yourself an ally before the meetings (or in general) that can help you stop the interrupter or help give you credit for the ideas that were in fact yours. Of course, in an ideal world, the best thing would be to stop the interrupter yourself. Still, as was discussed, you can risk being labelled and the goal of the meeting itself can be lost. Many do not want to confront this situation as the greater cause that is discussed and harmony of the meeting is more important. A buddy that can help you get your word across and give the credit you deserve could therefore help.

Another interesting topic on this was if this in fact would serve as a way to undermine a woman. Different viewpoints were shared but summarized one could argue that helping a woman (or another minority) get heard is a way to help our industry. It would be a step in the right direction on correcting behaviour or (unconscious) biases.

How can you turn the agenda in your direction without risking being labelled?

Instead of pushing your agenda, try asking open questions instead. This way the discussion can turn in the direction you want it to and help you get your word across without coming across as too intense. Again, it would be great if it was possible to opt for another view on a topic just like that, but sometimes you are not in a position to do so. Asking questions could be a good tool in such a situation. And this ofc holds for both men and women.

How to get rid of imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can sneak up on all of us and in the worst case stop us from taking opportunities that come our way, or seeing the potential we have and acting on it. In order to avoid this, some great advice was given:

Think of yourself as a guide instead of an expert. It is okay to not know the answer to everything. The most empowering thing you can say is “I do not know the answer to that question, let me check and come back to you”.

Have a goal of lifelong learning. You will never know everything, and your goal is always to learn something new.

How can you make sure you get the correct pay?

This might be a bit depressing, but you should assume you are paid too little compared to your male peers. Do research on what similar roles with comparable experience and responsibility are paid. Then go to your boss and ask for a raise based on your research. And go high. The worst you can get is a no.

How do you stay motivated?

I love this advice: Get yourself a kitchen cabinet! So, what is a kitchen cabinet?

“Kitchen cabinet” refers to any group of trusted friends and associates, particularly in reference to a president’s or presidential candidate’s closest unofficial advisers (Wikipedia).

Build yourself a kitchen cabinet of trusted advisors that can give you advice, help and support when needed. Also, let these trustees know they are a safe place for you. It will help you keep on going, and gain confidence and strength when needed.

Some of this might not work for you. Or you might think that “This is no longer necessary today”, or “This is not how you empower women”. In that case, maybe you have different experiences from the tech world than me – and nothing makes me happier! That means we are moving in the right direction. However, I still think there is some more work to be done.

Let me know what you think – or even better: Share YOUR advice in the comments below!

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