Women In Tech Start-Ups On How To Make Your Voice Heard In A Male-Dominated Industry

'As a woman in the tech world, you stand out, which is a great thing. Use it to your advantage.'


by Arianna Chatzidakis |
Published on

A study conducted by PWC with 2,000 students showed that 'only 27% of females say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% say it is their first choice.' Why? Well, 'over a quarter of female students say they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male-dominated.' But how do those of us wanting to pursue a career in tech build a name for ourselves in the industry? And how can we make our voice heard in a place that's very male-dominated? Well, we can start by following the advice from these three successful women in tech start-ups...

How can women build their name and authority in the tech industry?

Sophie Abrahamovitch, co-founder of the app Drinki (which offers users free drinks and discounts in bars all over London), was completely new to the tech scene. She told us, 'having a back-to-front, inside-out knowledge of your product is one of most important pieces of advice I can give. Become an expert in what you’re working on' if you want people to take you seriously.

If the thought of the male-dominated tech industry scares you, don't let it. Sophie told us 'this industry isn’t like the corporate world, where you need to have a certain persona to succeed. People want to feel like they’re talking to the real you. And as a woman in the tech world, you stand out, which is a great thing. Use it to your advantage.'

How can women in tech maintain a powerful voice at work?

WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid is no stranger to start-ups. Her latest tech venture Beautystack introduces a new way to book beauty appointments, where users can scroll through inspirational beauty pictures to discover the professional behind the look, and then book an appointment with them. Her advice for women is simple: remember that 'you are as capable as anyone else and you deserve to be at your job. Start with this type of thinking and you will naturally develop your voice and role within an organisation. If people are talking over you, or not giving you the support and credit you deserve, then pause, smile and let them know you will write a detailed follow-up email where no one can interrupt or disturb you, and make it difficult for you to get your point across.'

But what should a woman do if a man ‘hepeats’ them in a meeting?

Hepeating aka the act of a man saying what a woman has just said, but louder, can take place in any industry. But obviously, the odds of this happening are increased if you're predominantly working with men. Sharmadean's sound piece of advice? 'Pause, smile and say “Thank you so much for paraphrasing my comments and making it easier for everyone in the room to understand the point I was making.” I always thank difficult people for their comments. Ultimately they just want to feel heard.'

Are tech networking events a good thing for women in start-ups to attend?

Yes! In fact, Marby Kwong, the Lead Artist at the tech gaming company Supersolid, said she used networking events for meeting and mingling with employees of other companies that she was interested in. 'Even just to get a feel of what it’s like to work for that company can be really helpful in scoping out your options for future endeavours. Be approachable and chat to everyone and try to exchange contacts with people you would like to keep in touch with! If possible, try to find out what software/platforms the companies you are interested in are using, and gain proficiency in them if you ever intend to apply there.'

Meanwhile, Sharmadean told us: 'I’m actually quite shy in new group situations and as I often look very different to everyone else, it can be quite tough. I prefer seeking out specific individuals that I want to learn from and meeting them one-on-one.' While networking events aren't her thing, she did 'spend a lot of time at AI conferences and tech talks listening and learning' before launching Beautystack. 'I stuck out like a sore thumb and made no friends but I just asked questions and listened.'

Do women in tech need to be their own advocates?

As Marby very well puts it: 'as the ratio of talented women in tech slowly grows, it's up to us to keep the momentum going and to shape the future of this industry.' So, in short, yes, women DO need to be their own advocates, and they also need to support each other in the process. That can take the form of shouting about a colleagues achievements or expanding your tech team by employing more females, just as Sophie has done: 'I’ve hired confident women alongside me and we all motivate each other.'

And if you're just starting out, Sharmadean recommends finding 'a sponsor or cheerleader in your industry that will champion you. I have a few amazing ones and their value is priceless.' As for where you can find a mentor, networking events are a great shout, and don't be afraid to strike up a conversation on social media with someone in the industry that you look up to - you never know where it might lead you!

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Follow Arianna On Instagram: @ariannachatz

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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