Article by Tomomi Menjo, Community Program Manager, PlusPlus

The phrase ‘Women in Tech’ tends to conjure the image of engineers and developers – but it’s so much more than that.

The sector is full of incredible, dynamic and intelligent women working at every level – and each one deserves respect, admiration and support. To be a woman in tech is to be part of a diverse network, one that is inclusive and collaborative, yet it can often feel isolating – especially as the only experience popularised is that of the female engineer.

Women working in engineering, programming and development are vital, as are the women in tech who operate in non-engineering and non-development roles – from marketing and executive assistants to admin and non-technical project managers. Each of these roles are essential and crucial in building an effective tech eco-system.

I was recently given the opportunity to share my personal experience of being a woman in tech, and found myself hesitating because I’m not an engineer. This made me realise that there is a real need for non-engineering women in the sector to share their stories too. I recognise and see the challenges faced by female engineers in society, from gender biases to the pay gap – there’s no denying that things must change. We need more encouragement for women to enter the engineering pathway, as well as better advancement opportunities, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that other tech roles exist.

Our skill sets are all unique and women who are not engineers should still feel proud of their contributions to the tech sector and be given opportunities to share their experiences. This is increasingly important if we want to see real transformation in the sector and encourage young women to consider education and jobs in tech. The attention given to female engineering roles, often sidelining the many other roles that make up, can be daunting to a young woman entering the world of work who may be a perfect addition to the tech sector but unaware of how their skillset will shine in an area like marketing or sales.

I feel that there is a lack of respect and opportunities for operational roles and supportive roles in tech, despite being essential and clear examples of women who work, often tirelessly, in tech. Women in these roles deserve more credit, as well as the chance to shout about their achievements and ability. It’s also important to understand the history of sexism that surrounds the roles of secretaries and assistants, as well as how these jobs have been portrayed in the media. Despite the narratives linked to them, these  roles are a necessity for tech companies to drive success.

For all women in tech, especially those who are feeling isolated in their experience, there is so much value in becoming part of a community of mentors and supporters. Having worked at a Women’s Startup Lab, and currently running TechKnowCon, I know first-hand the benefits in having a support group of women that I can reach out to for professional advice and support. We often hear about finding ‘your people’ in life, and this is as important in our careers. It is a real comfort to know there are like-minded women with similar experiences in my chosen sector whom I can tap on the shoulder and seek advice from. We are all constantly learning, and having a community within which this is prioritised has been a great help in my career, and in building relationships in the tech sector.

But women can’t do it alone – it is equally as important for men in tech to speak up about the importance of these non-engineering, yet vital, roles in tech. Women working in this sector are already working hard to secure jobs and opportunities to share their success stories but the fact is that the tech workforce is around 70% male. The more voices talking about non-engineering roles, and their essential role in keeping tech progressing and evolving, the quicker we can make change.

So, how do we make this change, and recognise the importance of every role in tech? Mentorship and coaching programmes, in addition to advancement support, help open up the conversation and allow women in tech to flourish. Having specific programs dedicated to women is also important, recognising that they are often working against challenging circumstances to become a part of the sector in the first place, so giving them an opportunity to share their successes and worries with those who have similar experiences.

As women in tech, we all have a responsibility to make this a sector that is open, supportive and nurturing of the incredible talent within it.