When it comes to jobs across the fluctuating tech sector, there’s one constant — a persistent gender imbalance.
In 2020, women held just 32% of tech roles in the United States, according to a report from Accenture and Girls Who Code. Among engineers, women made up 16% of the workforce, and held only 27% of jobs in computing. And of women who start tech careers, 50% leave the field by age 35.
But in 2023, the news is not all bad. Here, we introduce you to three tech experts who teach UW Professional & Continuing Education programs. These women say there are bright spots ahead for anyone ready to make their way in the tech world, no matter your background or where you've been on your career path.
Read on for advice and pro tips from three women in tech who will inspire you to thrive in your own career and help make the tech world a more welcoming place for all.
1. “We must show up, learn and grow.”
User experience expert Jenn June says the field of UX design is open to people of many talents. She says anyone who’s interested in conducting research to understand people — how they live, what they believe, and how they move through the world — can design great user experiences.
“UX is truly interdisciplinary,“ Jenn says. “We need people with a wide variety of perspectives and areas of expertise.”
How Jenn got here: “When I was going through school at the University of Washington Tacoma, I was planning to be a psychologist. I got into this field accidentally, when a new DoD organization asked me to be a research assistant. I got to explore different technologies, from virtual reality to mobile health apps, which were new at the time. It opened my world to behavioral health and psychology in a completely different way.”
How Jenn is thriving: “I am technically in a leadership position and certainly do have a seat at the table. I don’t believe my presence there is any less than anyone else’s. Regardless of what our culture may be doing that impacts women’s growth within any industry, our perspective and lived experience matters. We must show up, learn and grow.”
One move Jenn says you can make: “Allyship is important. Identify people within your sphere who you feel comfortable with saying to them, ‘This is an area that is new to me, can you help me understand it?’ Look for folks you can trust will have empathy and understanding.”
A tip for tech leaders: “For years, leaders have had the chance to refine their thoughts and be able to speak on the fly. There are a lot of people who are still learning to do that. We need to create space for them to speak out. Even if they fumble, you don’t always have to rescue them. I’m amazed how folks can articulate an issue or a problem if you give them the time to do it.”
2. “Can I Please Be In Charge of All This?”
Data visualization expert Gina Bremer says this emerging area in tech is a match for creative and analytical people. She says you’ll have a head start if you have an eye for design and take the initiative in this rapidly changing field.
“You are looking to tell a story with data, not just visually, not just with your technical skills, but fully communicating that story to your team,” Gina says. “Step-by-step instructions are not always going to be available.”
Instructor, Certificate in Data Visualization
- First paid job: Italian restaurant hostess
- First job in tech: Entry-level data analyst at PayScale
- Current role: CEO and founder of Lifted Viz, specializing in data visualization, data storytelling, visual design and business intelligence strategy.
How Gina got here: “It was exciting to learn that there’s opportunity in this growing tech world to bring creativity to business. I moved from data entry to visualization very quickly. My company was considering Tableau for external marketing and wanted to use data to tell a story. After that first meeting, I was like, ‘I'm sold. Can I please be in charge of all this?’ I took every opportunity I could to volunteer for Tableau work.”
On the gender imbalance in tech: “I’m seeing the gender gap at a higher-level start to decrease. I’m witnessing female colleagues getting promoted and succeeding in their careers. How do we increase the applicant pool of females applying to these jobs? The strategy I’m taking now is guest lecturing at a high school. I believe that inclusivity is about starting from a younger age.”
One move Gina says you can make: “Connect with your true, local community. I was fortunate to be getting into this field, and specifically Tableau, when it was growing in Seattle. I got involved with the local Tableau user group. I was getting support from inside my company, and community members who helped me learn and grow. You don’t have to learn everything on your own.”
3. “How Do We Shift the Conversation?”
For eight years, entrepreneurial consultant Kia Davis worked with startups and university training programs in Dubai. In that part of the Middle East, she says, tech hackathons and bootcamps for local citizens bring in more women than men, and students there learn from a young age that STEM and tech are equal-opportunity fields.
“The issue we have in the West around gender disparity doesn’t have to be like this,” Kia says. “Who’s coding the app doesn’t matter, if what matters is whether the app works.”
One move Kia says you can make: “How do we shift the conversation so that it is about creating more for everyone? It’s not always about beating the competition. Silicon Valley uses a lot of war terminology — this very masculine-aligned ideology around battle. We don’t talk about cooperation or shared value enough. Many firms do well by understanding their role in the marketplace and how they can help or benefit others in the ecosystem.”
One way to spot an equitable workplace: “If a company is investing in getting quality candidates, that’s a strong signal that they want a diverse environment. Are you doing talks at women-in-tech clubs at the local university, or are you only posting a job on GitHub? All these little decisions affect who shows up in the lobby for interviews.”
How Kia sees things changing for the better: “Social movements are forcing companies to look at these issues. There’s a much richer discussion happening around inclusion and respect. Companies can’t continue just having beanbag chairs and a candy wall and expect to hire top talent. They must justify their actions to achieve ethnic and gender parity.”
START OR ADVANCE YOUR CAREER IN TECH
Discover how UW Professional & Continuing Education can help you make your next moves in the tech sector. Check out the programs below and other offerings in programming and tech, data and applied math, and business and leadership.