Women In Tech: Facing The Challenges Head On
Posted: Thursday, Mar 07

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Women In Tech: Facing The Challenges Head On

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking both about the strides women in tech have made as well as the hurdles that remain. The overall female representation in large global technology firms was expected to reach 33% in 2022, inching up 2% since 2019, according to the most recent update from Deloitte. Moreover, the percentage of women in leadership roles has also been climbing.  Women have been gaining ground in the tech industry and that’s an achievement worth celebrating.

Still, the gender gap remains, with women expected to make up just 25% of technical roles and 25.3% of leadership roles in 2022, according to the same Deloitte survey.

Of the hurdles women in technology face, one of the most prevalent is the deeply entrenched gender bias that pervades the tech sector. We see this in recruitment and hiring processes. It continues with unequal opportunities for advancement once on the job. And it’s present in the lower salaries that women earn compared to their male counterparts at every rung in the ladder from early in their careers to senior leadership.

Another obstacle is the absence of role models. The lack of female representation in leadership roles deprives women of crucial mentorship and sponsorship from senior leaders of their own gender. Without guidance from successful women in the industry, aspiring female professionals often struggle to navigate a path to career advancement. Unfortunately, it’s frequently a vicious cycle, as women without the strong guidance mentors bring or opportunities that sponsors provide are less likely to be considered for leadership positions in the future.

Still another challenge is the need for more family-friendly policies and work environments that support work-like balance. Whether it’s chores or care-giving, working women still take on the bulk of household and family duties. Without supportive work policies, , women are overwhelmingly disadvantaged in the juggle between career advancement and family obligations.

So how do we overcome these challenges? I believe all of us have an important role to play, starting with the tech companies we work for. Organisations must work to remove bias from the hiring and promotion processes. They should offer mentorship and sponsorship programs that match seasoned women with those just starting out. They should train all employees and leaders on diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias to create awareness of the issues. They should implement family-friendly policies, flexible work locations, and flexible work schedules that facilitate work-life balance. And they should measure and openly report on key diversity and inclusion metrics. All of these efforts help foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment for women.

Women at all stages of their career have a role to play, too. As female leaders, we have a responsibility to mentor and sponsor other talented women coming up through the ranks, while proactively fostering an environment of community and connection. In the meantime, those of us new to the profession can proactively seek out mentors and sponsors, speak up and share our perspectives, and join employee resource groups and other professional networks that advocate for our interests.

Finally, all of us can become more aware of the hurdles women face and take action to help level the playing field. By welcoming and supporting our female coworkers, by recognising their voices and ideas, by recommending them for advancement opportunities, and by advocating for more equitable company policies—each one of us has a part to play in raising up the women around us.

No doubt progress has been made, but there’s still much further to go to achieve gender parity in tech. Ultimately, a diversity of voices and perspectives is essential to producing more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable outcomes. To put it simply, when we invest in women, we bring a better digital world to life.

Kara Sprague
Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer. Kara Sprague oversees F5’s entire portfolio of multi-cloud application security and delivery solutions. Sprague joined F5 in 2017 to lead the Application Delivery Controller business. In her most recent role, she served as EVP, Application Delivery and Enterprise Product Ops, where she was responsible for the BIG-IP and NGINX product families, along with enterprise-wide product operations. Prior to F5, Sprague spent 13 years with McKinsey & Company, where she held various leadership positions across their technology practice, including the Technology, Media, and Telecom Practice for the Western Region. Earlier in her career, Sprague was on the engineering staff of Oracle, Agilent Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard. A trained computer scientist and electrical engineer, she holds a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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