By Heather Abbott, Partner at AKF Partners

women in computing, teacher, STEMNavigating through the world of technology is tough as it is, doing it as a woman is even tougher.

Saying how difficult it is for us women working in technology can be met with an eye-roll from those outside the industry, but it really is a whole different ball game. For women starting in tech, you often get many more opinions that you – more often than not – didn’t ask for and more pressure to be something you aren’t.

As cliché as it sounds, the tech industry is still a man’s world dating back to the early days of video gaming and women have been trying to mould to fit the stereotype ever since or simply choosing a different career altogether. It’s time we start to break that stereotype down and recreate what a person in technology should or shouldn’t look like. Here are a few pointers for how you can start to tap into your own strengths, use your skills and break the norms to eventually transform the industry.

Living and leading with authenticity

For women to tap into our strengths, we first need to understand what those strengths are. Living and leading with authenticity is so important for us to understand our power. As a woman in technology, the most important thing to focus on should be trying to discover and unleash your authentic self. Knowing not only who you are but what your strengths and skills are and how you approach and undertake tasks can help with this.

Pre-pandemic, 90% of UK women claimed to feel inadequate or incompetent at work. Recent studies have shown that there is a link between authenticity and this imposter syndrome. Authenticity is key to overcoming it and this means being and behaving consistently with whom you believe yourself to be. With symptoms of imposter syndrome including self-doubt, fear of not living up to expectations and attributing success to external factors, it is understandable and fair to assume that women who embrace authenticity and appreciate and connect with successes, are less likely to experience imposter syndrome.

Women are generally far less comfortable with self-promotion than male counterparts, as demonstrated by a recent study. In addition to this, the study found that women consistently rate their performance lower than men–women can be far less aware of their abilities and much more susceptible to self-doubt. In an area like technology, which is still highly dominated by men, this is possibly more prominent. Understanding where you stand, and your skills will help you push yourself forward. Sometimes, it is easier to put things down on paper, both your strengths and your medium-term goals, in order to bring your capabilities to life and to create a framework and vision to drive towards your future objectives.

Pushing forward with self assurance 

According to research by PWC, a shocking 85% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women. Without role models and representation in the industry, it is up to us to know our worth and demonstrate it to break down this stereotype. To really break through, the focus should be on self-assurance, not just self-confidence. Self-assurance comes down to showing confidence in the things that you do and say – it’s the real, genuine deep belief that you will be successful and that you will prevail due to your abilities, experience and relentless drive to succeed. This mindset has been shown to be critical to success and even more so in situations where you are in the minority and are more likely to question if you belong and can thrive in your current environment.

Sheryl Sandberg has previously discussed how women tend to not be as confident as men in their abilities and the difference between confidence and assurance is something that needs to be addressed and cultivated in the workplace. It’s this that will help women, especially in a place where they are often the minority.

These changes aren’t going to happen overnight, it takes a lot of hard work and effort. Breaking away from what is the social normal is tough and having confidence in our abilities takes time. Those in the technology sector know that it’s fast paced but it’s the small and slow steps that will make all the difference. Part of self-assurance comes from going at your own pace and tackling issues in your own way – not just mirroring the behaviours we are told to aspire to. As women, we need to march to the beat of our own drums, not someone else’s.

Heather AbbottAbout the author

Heather is a Technology executive with over 20 years of experience leading teams and building organisations across multiple industries and is currently a partner at AKF Partners. Previously Heather led Nasdaq’s Listings Business Technology organisation as Senior Vice President of Corporate Client Technology and Enterprise IT. In this role, Heather was responsible for overseeing the application, development, and delivery of Corporate Client products to help customers more successfully scale, enter and thrive in public markets. She also oversaw all of Nasdaq’s Web Properties, Strategic Technology Partnerships, Corporate Applications and Internal IT.

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube