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Women in Digital and IT
by Marianne Kay
At age 14, I took entrance exams to attend Lviv Physics and Mathematics Lyceum (LPML), a selective high school in Ukraine that specializes in STEM subjects. Studying at LPML was one of the best things that happened to me. Academic expectations were high, but teaching standards were high too. There was this amazing feeling that we were all in it together to learn, to start lifelong friendships, and to make the world a better place—not just in Ukraine, but globally.
Unsurprisingly, LPML was a very male-dominated environment. The majority of teachers were men. The boys-to-girls ratio among students was 5:1. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. If anything, being one of the few girls in class made me feel special. I found the academic side of things challenging, but I loved playing soccer and going on hiking trips to the Carpathian Mountains. Overall, I was a motivated, happy student and doing my best.
I spent my university years studying mathematics and have spent my entire career in the digital and IT fields. As a female, I continued to be in the minority. I don’t remember ever being discriminated against, disrespected, or otherwise treated unfavorably because of this. To be honest, I probably preferred working with men to working with women. It’s only recently—after 20 years in a male-dominated industry and managing a team of developers that was exclusively male—that I started to reflect on what gender diversity in the workplace really means and why it’s so important. The following are some of the insights I’ve gleaned into gender equality and gender diversity that can help men and women understand each other better and work together more effectively.
APPLYING FOR A JOB
When women are looking for a job, they do it thoroughly, methodically, and cautiously. Women tend to apply for jobs only if their skills and experience match the job requirements completely. Men, on the other hand, are much more pragmatic and happily apply for a job if they only meet 60% of the requirements, according to Harvard Business Review. In part, this is because women tend to be less confident than men, but it’s also because women don’t have the same knowledge of how the recruitment process in the corporate world really works.
In addition, research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that women may be put off from applying to jobs that use masculine-coded language (including words such as active, competitive, and/or decisive), while men are much less sensitive to the wording of job ads. Tools such as Gender Decoder can help you to challenge the way job ads are written in your organization. On the whole, attracting female talent to male-dominated industries isn’t easy. I remember hiring software developers in 2021, and female applications were few and far between. This is not surprising given that as of 2022, only 11% of developers are female, according to Statista. The imbalance starts in school, in which girls don’t always get the same educational opportunities as boys in technical subjects. As a result, sourcing enough female candidates for job interviews can be a challenge. Having a token minority candidate doesn’t work either—if there’s only one woman in your candidate pool, odds are she will not get the job, according to Harvard Business Review.
When it comes to career progression, men believe in their own success more than women do. Men have high aspirations and constantly think about the next step in their professional development, consciously choosing responsibilities and tasks that will help them to advance their career faster. Women find it harder to say no to the day-to-day demands of the job and get stuck in the same role for longer.
Men are also more confident in asking for a salary raise. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of the book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation—and Positive Strategies for Change, found that men negotiate their salaries four times more often than women do. The gender pay gap in the U.S. and in the U.K. is about 18%. Using the metaphor of the pay gap as a calendar, men are paid for a full year of work, from January to December; women are paid only until the end of October. (For more detailed breakdowns of the pay gap in each country, see the Business.org and GOV.UK links in the sidebar.)
On the whole, women are less confident in their abilities than men are (see, for example, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman). In male-dominated environments—and particularly in leadership positions—many women suffer from impostor syndrome, which is the persistent inability to attribute success to one’s own actions and assuming that luck and other people’s contributions play a disproportionate part in a person’s success. When we don’t see many women succeeding around us, acting as role models, this contributes to feelings of self-doubt.
A WORD ABOUT MEN
Women facing challenges at work doesn’t mean that men have it easy. Women take more career breaks than men because of parenting and caregiving commitments, and this makes re-entering the workplace tricky; however, not taking any career breaks at all—which most men don’t—has risks too. Men often miss out on family events and on having a better work-life balance because of their busy work schedules.
Diverse organizations are proven to perform better. The conversation about gender diversity isn’t about men or women getting more favorable work conditions or about accusing each other of unfair treatment. The gender diversity debate is about cultivating a workplace in which every individual is able to thrive and achieve their full potential. There are a number of ways in which men and women approach work differently. When we are aware of each other’s differences, we are able to work together more effectively—and everyone wins.