Top Female Tech Influencers – Why Female Mentors Matter in Tech
In insight / By Ellen Bowers / 06 March 2017
In an industry with a huge diversity problem and the gender pay gap widening it is no wonder that the number of women embarking on a career in technology is dropping. Luo Mingxiong was recently quoted in Tech in Asia stating “we don’t usually invest in female CEOs, it’s not because of any kind of prejudice. Just think about it carefully, besides giving birth, what can women do better than men? Nothing.”
It is no wonder that technology had become a male dominated industry. It’s difficult to believe that in 2017 ideas like Mingxiong’s are still being upheld and that as a direct result of this the industry is missing out on the opportunities that female leaders can bring to technology, business, and innovation. Women working within a male dominated industry often feel as though they must try much harder than their male colleagues, that they must know more and do more research just to prove that they deserve to be there.
Mentors are one way to encourage women to become a part of the tech industry, if there are positive examples of women shown within tech then women are more likely to feel as though they can follow in their footsteps. If you are only shown men in a position of power and influence within an industry, then women are less likely to believe that they can become a part of it. Mentoring and role models can help women to build up their confidence and career, mentors can also help open up networks, set and achieve goals, and give a sense that someone is looking out for you.
We’ve put together a list of the top female tech influencers who also aim to reduce the gender gap in technology.
Melinda Gates has chosen to use her unique position as the head of one of the largest philanthropic organisation and her own personal experience of working within the tech industry to help women in technology. After she graduated from Duke with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA, Gates joined Microsoft at 22. At the time, she was the companies youngest recruit and the only female of the 10 MBAs hired that year, so it’s easy to understand why the lack of women in tech is an issue that Gates is passionate about.
Gates quickly ascended through the ranks at Microsoft however despite her personal success, she took issues with certain aspects of Microsoft. “When I started, I loved the industry and what we were building but I didn’t love the corporate culture.” Now Gates is working to ensure that female voices in the industry are being heard. “It’s important for all of us who have a seat at the table – men or women – to stand up and say what we see.” In the past Gates has been reluctant to appear in the public eye, however, she had to put that aside to become an ambassador for this cause and to be as she stated, "a better role model for her daughter."
Gates is funding huge amounts of research as to why there is a lack of females in tech “we simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls.” Gates aims to tackle issues such as why the number of women studying computer science drops at each stage of schooling, the lack of female perspectives in teams who are developing new products and family leave policies in Silicon Valley. Gates aims to uncover the hidden inequalities that appear to be the root cause of the lack of women in technology.
Allison Esposito is another top female influencer in technology, while Esposito was working as a content manager at Google Play she was unable to ignore the many obstacles faces by women in tech. Esposito knew something must be done and figured that the best way to start was to bring people together, in 2014 she started to organise coffee meet-ups that expanded out from dozens of acquaintances and friends to hundreds in just one week. The group now known as 'Tech Ladies' developed an online presence that included a newsletter and a job board and before she knew it Tech Ladies had grown to include over 6,000 women.
Tech Ladies connects women from all over the world allowing them to expand their networks and learn the kind of negotiation skills that women have traditionally been discouraged from learning. The aim of the organisation is to encourage women to get into tech jobs, and once they do to get the salaries and respect they deserve. Instead of pitting women in the same career against one another, Tech Ladies aims to bring females working in technology together in order to help them all succeed. "It’s not just a job board, and it’s not just a community it’s both” states Esposito and this is what she cites as Tech Ladies success.
Sandburg is one of the most prominent female names in technology, the COO of Facebook has been a keen advocate of having female role models to turn to for encouragement or support in the workplace. She states that ‘reaching equality is the right thing to do. And it’s also the smart thing to do.’
When companies have an equal and diverse workplace, they are more innovative and bring in more revenue and profits. Sandberg asks what are innovations and solutions are we missing out on because the technology workforce does not include females. Sandberg introduced the Lean In community that connects and supports women working or studying computer science and engineering. Sandberg aims to resolve the plummeting numbers of female participation within those industries, by providing mentors and advice to women in tech.