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5 Most Common Career Challenges : How To Overcome Them As A Woman

Whether you’re fresh in Tech, or a seasoned veteran, all women have to face similar challenges during their tech careers. In this article, we list the 5 most common challenges facing women in tech today, and pinpoint effective solutions to help you navigate your career.

Kyrill Kartog
Kyrill Kartog

Journaliste

Challenge #1: Finding a company that speaks to you

Imagine you’re a young woman studying STEM. You’re in your last year of university, and there’s a big question looming on the horizon: what next? 

Your campus is regularly visited by recruiters from various tech firms who show you and your fellow students shiny promotional videos, praising the plethora of perks and benefits they offer. 

But, for some reason, you simply can’t picture yourself working there. Their message isn’t resonating with you, and you’re left wondering whether the choice to study STEM wasn’t a huge mistake to begin with.

A 2018 study by researchers who went “undercover” in several elite schools in the US found evidence of severely gendered and outdated hiring practices among recruiters. They write that “gender-imbalanced presenter roles, geek culture references, overt use of gender stereotypes, and other gendered speech and actions” all serve to lessen the interest of women at the point of recruitment into technology careers.

This experience is more common than you’d think, and not just among newcomers. Maybe you are currently in a mid-level or senior position and looking to switch companies. But perhaps you’re struggling to evaluate your next move. Lack of clarity around company values, as well as bro culture, are huge obstacles preventing women from finding a company that truly speaks to them, making them feel excluded from the very start. 

SOLUTION

At 50inTech, we evaluate companies based on their values and their approach to diversity and inclusion. It’s how we can make good on our promise to you: that we won’t stop until you get a dream job at a company that truly cares about you! Check out our Company Page overview to browse through some amazing companies, and discover what their current employees have to say.

Challenge #2: Dealing with discrimination

Now let’s say you did manage to find a company that appeals to you. Hopefully you went through a balanced hiring process that didn’t feel overly gendered, and now you’ve been hired. 

Great, you’ve made it! You are now one of the programmers or data scientists working at an exciting tech company. Your future is looking nothing if not bright.

Except, as a woman, it’s not exactly smooth sailing. Unless you work for a highly diverse and forward-thinking company, there’s a high probability you’ll experience some degree of discrimination at work. 

A 2017 Pew report found that while 50% of women said they had experienced gender discrimination at work, that percentage is a whopping 74% for women working in computer jobs, and 78% in male-dominated industries.

On top of that, 36% of the women questioned said sexual harassment is a problem in their workplace. Another study by Women Who Tech found that nearly 50% of women founders and women working in tech have experienced harassment—a statistic that has barely changed since 2017.

SOLUTION

At 50inTech, we give women the tools they need to navigate the male-dominated tech sector.

For example, did you know that letting an awkward silence happen during a salary negotiation can work in your favour? Or that you need a solid plan before you go on maternity leave? Our Masterclasses give actionable tips and answers to some of the biggest questions you’ll face during your career in tech. Visit our platform to browse through our selection of Masterclasses.

Challenge #3: Obstacles to career advancement

In other words, the odds are stacked against women from the very first day of their careers. This can cause them to experience significant psychological pressure, sometimes leading to imposter syndrome—a feeling described in this great blog by software engineer Kate Scheer as “that special brand of disillusionment that makes you feel worthless despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.” 

This psychological pressure also hampers women’s opportunities for career advancement. “As in other industries, women in tech often won’t apply for a job if they don’t feel they’re 100% qualified or have exactly the right experience,” says Nicola Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer at MyTutor, a London-based edtech firm that provides affordable tutoring for GCSE and A-level students online. “As a result, women end up moving horizontally where their male peers progress.” 

SOLUTION

The Tech industry needs to improve—a lot. But we refuse to sit around waiting for that to happen. By joining our community, you can make a difference in your career like benefitting from masterclasses and peer-to-peer support from empowered women, as well as access to the most inclusive jobs at hundreds of amazing companies! 

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Challenge #4: Toxic working cultures

As if all of this weren’t enough, the cherry on top of the cake is that women in STEM often have to deal with all kinds of toxic company cultures. 

Take the “lab-coat culture” in science, for instance, which makes heroes out of those able to work overtime and leaves little room for those with less flexible schedules (e.g. mothers picking up their children from daycare). A study found that 21% of U.S. women in science say they experience “lab-coat cultures”; 25% in engineering face “hard-hat cultures”; and 31% in tech face “geek workplace cultures.” 


Similarly, engineering’s “bro culture” is so masculine that many women feel compelled to do a “whistle-check” on their work clothes to avoid drawing unwanted attention. And, not to forget, the tech world’s “geek culture”, which can make women feel like they have to compete with their male counterparts in a frat-like atmosphere.

Take the example of Emilia Sherifova, a programmer who, in a recent LinkedIn post, wrote: “Growing up, I taught myself how to write code. Coming up as an engineer in the late 1990s/early 2000s at the intersection of two “bro culture” industries (male-dominated Wall Street and male-dominated software engineering), I’m amazed that I made it.”

Of course, not all companies or male teams promote these types of toxic cultures. But simply the fact of being highly outnumbered can make women feel less welcome. A report from TrustRadius found that 72% of women in tech report being outnumbered by men in business meetings by a ratio of at least 2:1, while 26% report being outnumbered by 5:1 or more.   

SOLUTION

Have you experienced discrimination, or are you struggling to navigate your workplace’s toxic culture? The 50-in-Tech podcast is here for you. In just 10 minutes per episode, you get actionable advice from our top guests on how to build a successful career and grow your business.

For example, are you tired of sexist jokes in Tech? Learn how to lead with humour in this episode of the podcast with Dr Vanessa Marcié, Founder & CEO of Leading with Humour.

Challenge #5: The pay gap

Last but not least, there is still the issue of the gender pay gay. According to the World Economic Forum’s latest study, women working in tech in the EU-28 countries earn 16.8% less than their male counterparts, meaning they work 2 months extra unpaid each year.

The good news is that 7 out of the top 10 most gender equal countries are in Europe, with Iceland at the top of the list for 11 years in a row. The country has closed almost 88% of its overall gender gap. It is followed by Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd) and Sweden (4th).

Other Europeans in the top 10 are Ireland (7th), Spain (8th) and Germany (10th). Still, according to the World Economic Forum, in western Europe it will still take 54 years to close the gender pay gap. Globally, that figure is a whopping 134 years

Of course, part of the pay gap can be explained by the fact that many women pause their careers to go on maternity leave while others opt for a part-time career. Also known as the “motherhood penalty”, one study by the National Women’s Law Center in the U.S. estimated the motherhood penalty costs American women $16000 per year. But even after accounting for maternity leave, there is still a 2,7% salary gap between men and women who perform the exact same roles.

SOLUTION

Women in tech need to be paid their worth. Luckily, many of our partners are leading the way when it comes to salary equality.

An example of a company that has achieved pay parity in tech at a global scale is Criteo. Their equal opportunity policy/non-discrimination-policy forbids any form of discrimination prior to and after the recruitment process regarding career progression, salary increases & benefits on the basis of any intersectional identity.  As a result, in 2021 they have succeeded in closing the pay gap to 0% and reaching full pay parity regardless of gender.

Or take Malt, for instance, a company that is building transparent pay grids for every team. Malt finds it helps to remove bias in the recruitment/promotion process. People don't get higher salaries because they ask for them, salaries increases are based on merit.

Interested in working in the music industry? Believe, a digital music company, has a Gender Equality Index of 97/100 in 2020. Believe offers fair pay such that everyone holding the same position, the same level of performance and the same skill set receives a fair wage.

Find the perfect company for you: here

Bright future for diversity

If there is a bright note to all of this, it is that radical change is underway in the tech sector. Nowadays, for companies to perform and grow—but also simply to appeal to customers—they have to be forward-thinking and prioritise diversity and inclusion. 

From hiring practices, to company culture, to product design: the tech world seems to finally be waking up to the need to do things differently. And even though the road ahead is still long and winding, change is inevitable. Over 40 companies have already joined the 50inTech community. We select only the most inclusive companies based on 4 areas of focus: Work-life balance, Equal Pay, Fair Career Path, Diversity & Inclusion policies.

We are on a mission to close the gender gap in tech. We are convinced that Tech companies have to lead the change in diversity, that’s why we provide job offers from companies signatory of the 50inTech pledge which attests to objectives and tangible evidence of their DE&I policy.

Would love to know what is for you the biggest challenge YOU face and we will help you find solutions. Write a comment below! 

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