Yang Lyu, a back-end engineer at Kablamo in Australia, is one of only a few women on her team in the male-dominated field of software development. However, this was only sometimes the case in the early days of coding. During WWII, most of the world’s first computational machines used in code-breaking were operated by women. According to industry estimates, women comprise only 25-30% of software developers today.
When it comes to gender diversity, the industry can do better. Unconscious biases and a lack of awareness of the IT profession among students are two obstacles that must be overcome before women’s representation in software development teams can improve.
Role Models Required
According to Rachel Teng, a junior front-end engineer at Acronis, a cyber security and backup software supplier, a fundamental challenge is the need for role models. “There are many successful and well-known [male] software developers and IT professionals. The lack of women makes me wonder, “Are there any career paths [for women] that will last 20 or 30 years?”
In the consumer banking division of DBS Bank, executive director and head of the platform transformation, Archana Manjunatha, admitted that a lack of female role models is a significant problem that only worsens as one climbs the corporate ladder. Another challenge is an unconscious bias that develops early, with even primary school-aged children viewing math and science-related fields as better suited to men, according to Manjunatha.
Kablamo’s Yang also participated in the webinar and stated that family and school education could help change that bias. She grew up believing that the tech industry was better suited to men, but family, school, and teachers allowed her to change her mind.
Yang also mentioned that, with multiple paths available, the path to a tech career could sometimes take the scenic route. She graduated with a degree in architectural design, but it was when she got a job as a telecommunication engineer that she realized she had a knack for coding.
Have Support Systems In Place
Another challenge for women is thriving in their careers as they progress through life stages. They must juggle raising children and working or even taking time off for family before re-entering the workforce. Kwong believes that establishing support systems can assist women during difficult stages.
“Do not be afraid to lean in and ask for help,” Manjunatha added. Even if you do, you can eventually make a comeback because so many people want to make things so simple that you don’t have to stop trying altogether. Teng expressed gratitude to her family, particularly her husband, who works in cyber security. He has advised her on how to improve her role and navigate working in the tech industry.
Key Success Factors
The discussion then shifted to the critical factors for women’s success in the tech industry. According to Archana, it all comes down to competence and confidence, regardless of gender. “Developing your competence is critical, and with that competence comes confidence. Continue to learn, develop your skills, be confident in yourself, and don’t be concerned about too many setbacks,” she added.
While more should be done to enhance gender diversity, Manjunatha urged women to improve their skills consistently.”Keep yourself up to date,” Manjunatha added. “Technology is always changing. What got you here isn’t going to get you there tomorrow, so stay current. In this industry, you must have a growth mindset and the desire to keep learning. While it is possible to upskill, e-learning, or retrain without taking a certification course, Kwong noted that certification is a way to benchmark one’s competency and skill set.
Kwong and Manjunatha agreed that achieving gender balance in tech teams and the industry would result in better code, products, and technology. “We live in a world where gender representation is roughly 50-50,” Manjunatha explained. “At DBS Bank, for example, our customer base is nearly 50-50. As a result, products cannot be designed and developed by an unbalanced technology team; the diversity of thought is critical in any technology field. Otherwise, you will cater to only a subset of society.”
Archana emphasized the importance of increased advocacy. “We live in much better times, but there is still a long way to go. If only 20% of us try to solve the problem, the problem will not be solved or will take longer. The remaining 80% or so must participate in finding a solution. Otherwise, it’s just women clamoring for equality and parity.”
While there are challenges, there are also numerous opportunities for women in the technology industry. “Many times I wondered, if I was smart enough for this,” Yang said. But my art teacher said that putting in the hours over talent inspires me. Instead of questioning your intelligence, put in the hours, be willing to learn, and give it your all.”