IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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IWD 2024: Women in tech shouldn’t have to trade their identity to succeed
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

Working in the technology and cyber security industry has provided me with many career opportunities, enabled me to make great life-long connections and have a vocation that is exciting, challenging and fast-paced.

I’ve been fortunate to work with people who have encouraged and challenged me. I remain connected to these people years later. Their influence has led me to take on a mentoring role with people at the start of their careers and those new to the industry. There’s a certain sense of achievement in helping someone grow and become successful with their own personal journey. 

Unfortunately, there have also been others who decided to push their views onto me, such as those who thought a more traditional life of marriage and children would be a worthy enough life goal. Today it is typical to have both a career and family and the role of raising children falls to both parents to share. This in itself provides opportunities and challenges. 

But as a woman coming through the ranks twenty years ago, I found myself at the receiving end of limiting gender perceptions held by those at the top. I’ve lost out on job promotions because I was at an age where I could be thinking about starting a family, and this counted against me.

I’ve been asked to take the meeting notes or make coffee, being the sole woman in the room. I’ve also been excluded from social events that have a greater focus on drinking or playing golf than any specific business context. I can still remember that feeling, seeing my confidence ebb as I wondered whether I would ever feel like I had earned a place at the table. 

So, I decided that I would become ‘one of the boys’. I learnt to play golf so I could hold my own on the course; I joined drinking nights out and tried to keep up. I took on the language of business that the men used and slowly but surely found myself in ‘their’ world. 

But in doing this, I found I had started to lose my own sense of self. My identity, my ability to make decisions that were right for me and my values were slowly being eroded. I was working to the rhythm of others rather than my own. In this tight-knit and small business environment where everyone knew everyone, trying to break out of the mould of expectation was difficult, to say the least. 

I knew I had to develop a recipe for success that would provide me with the uplift of energy and excitement I needed in life, and, as is often the case, I met and immediately connected with someone who had the same aspirations. We started a three-year passion project that researched, interviewed and photographed a number of talented, creative women.

All were brought together in a beautiful book, Spirit – Conversations with Creative Women, where we explored their lives and work. The challenges they faced, the support they received from others, and their overriding passion for their creative work was inspiring. It validated the fact we all need support and encouragement from others at some point and that we should all follow our passion and dreams no matter what they are. We can’t allow others to dictate our path through life.

Today, I carry myself authentically at work. I acknowledge that times are changing, but in male-dominated workforces such as the technology industry, there’s still a conscious effort needed to ensure all genders thrive. Everyone deserves success – and while women need to internalise and remember their value, business leaders need to continuously push for an inclusive culture.

My advice to women looking to enter, or currently building a career in the technology industry is twofold. 

Firstly, there is plenty of opportunity for you to seize. The constant change in our industry makes it a rewarding and dynamic place to work. You will find yourself constantly challenged in the best way possible. 

Secondly, if you find yourself in the throes of self-doubt, remember there is space for you in this industry. Think about who you have in your life that inspires you, make connections and find your mentors who will support you on your journey. And likewise, make the effort to help others achieve their dreams and aspirations.