Why do women find it so hard to break into the world of technology, asks entrepreneur Tarah Wheeler van Vlack in her book Women In Tech. She tells her story and those of seven other women, like Israeli hacker Keren Elazari and gaming expert Brianna Wu, all of whom have worked in the field of technology and have had to face challenges. Through these stories, she explains the unconscious bias, inflexible policies, sexism and discrimination that women face. The book offers practical advice on dealing with these issues. We liked these six key pieces of advice:
Don’t get intimidated: Women interviewing for technical positions are often grilled much further on their knowledge than men. So don’t get fazed and remind yourself to take joy in your skills.
Dress the part: Don’t wear heavy make-up. “Techies like to think of themselves as serious-minded folk, and heavy make-up can cause some cognitive dissonance," says van Vlack. Don’t wear skirts or dresses. “It’s something I’ve learned over the years of watching how people react to women in dresses when they show up for a tech interview."
Negotiate hard on salary: Do not name a number first. Women are too afraid of “ being seen as a bitch “ to bargain hard enough. This can lead to huge gender pay gaps that multiply over time.
Learn to communicate: The way you walk, shake hands, stand , sit and gesture sends hundreds of messages to the people around you. Authority will be granted to you if you are brisk, walk erectly with purpose rather than lean away or extend a languid hand.
Go out and network: If you are job hunting, you need to attend three networking events a month on a regular basis. Do attend the after-party where people get to know each other.
Get a mentor, be a mentor: Start by working with the person you want to be mentored by, and let the relationship turn more organically into the one you want—this need not be with another woman.
Becoming a mentor yourself, you will gain insight into others. You can grow your network from working with your mentees. They have access to people and ideas you do not.
What men can do
Watch out for that unconscious bias.
■ Start learning how to look past the kinds of cultural biases that penalize women’s typical life trajectories.
■ Make telecommuting and flexibility part of the package.
■ Specify “salary negotiable" because men will negotiate regardless of that announcement, but women may not.