Technology should, in theory, make the world more inclusive. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that the European tech industry has a serious diversity problem, and that women still have to wait a long time to earn as much as men. This makes International Women’s Day, first celebrated in 1911, still very relevant. We talked about this with the women of LDJ.
In the current day and age, you might think that events like Women in Tech and International Women’s Day are no longer important. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The tech world is still largely a white male culture, and according to Bloomberg research, women born in Europe this year will not earn the same as men until their retirement age in 2086.
Nowadays, many companies are actively working to improve their diversity and inclusivity, and there are good initiatives such as Diverse Leaders in Tech. However, there is still much work to be done. This alarming diversity problem can only be improved if we continue to talk about these topics and highlight inspiring women and initiatives at the aforementioned events. So, it’s high time to look back and reflect on the experiences of our own LDJ women: Juliette, Laura, Liza, Margreet, and Shanna, after International Women’s Day.
All the women agree that the tech industry is still a male-dominated field. However, there are differences in the extent to which this has been an obstacle in each of their careers.
Juliette, as a videographer at LDJ, actually has the most technical role, and that sometimes leads to surprise: “People sometimes react surprised when I tell them I work with film cameras, lighting equipment, sound technology and editing software. That goes against the stereotype that both men and women have of a videographer.”
Shanna also notices that there is still a stigma among both men and women that technology is not for women: “Technology is seen as mathematical, complicated, and nerdy, so it’s for men. That’s completely untrue. Technology is innovative and progressive. I think we need to look at technology itself and the role of men and women in it differently, without biases.”
Liza thinks in solutions: “Women are certainly underrepresented in technical roles due to these types of stereotypes. Fortunately, I also see positive initiatives to close this gender gap. It will take some time until everyone is completely equal. Because gender biases are unfortunately still very normal in salaries and job applications. In my work as a PR specialist, it’s slightly different, but even then people are sometimes surprised when they meet a woman instead of a man. That’s why women still have to work much harder to prove themselves, especially to men. That’s why I find it very inspiring to see successful women in leadership roles at tech companies.”
Margreet agrees with Liza, but suggests that it requires a specific approach to turn the tide: “In my experience, some men still think they are inherently smarter than women, they engage in mansplaining.” It is best for a woman to convince with facts and not with emotion. Bring the facts, not the drama.”
Liza & Shanna
Stereotypes and culture
Are men and women actually different in their thinking and actions? And does this make them more or less suitable for roles in the technology sector? Or is this an outdated generalization in need of renewal?
Margreet believes that it is mainly culturally determined: “When you ask children what they want to be, there are just as many girls as boys who want to become an astronaut or inventor. Unfortunately, our culture ensures that fewer women ultimately become astronauts.”
According to her, young women should be encouraged more to study technical subjects: “It all starts at school with the subject package. Girls can choose STEM subjects just as well, but that was rarely done in the past. And whether this is now sufficiently encouraged is the question. In my time, few girls went to study at TU Delft. Now there are fortunately many more. I hope that trend continues.”
Laura is very clear about the link between technology and men versus women: “I don’t think the way technology is used by people depends on the gender they were born with.”
Juliette suspects that women approach technology in a slightly different way: “I notice that there are a lot of videos made that look very flashy with a lot of focus on technology. But then much less attention is paid to the story, the narrator, and the connection with the target audience. As a woman, I think it’s important that technology and the human component are well balanced. In addition, I try to let the voice of women be heard in tech companies in my video productions. This is difficult because there are simply often few women in those companies. Yet I notice that it has positive effects to bring them into view. It attracts more women to this industry. And for men, it’s also nice not to look at a man again in the picture.”
Shanna also believes that women should apply their specific skills in their work: “Technology is sometimes seen as a very limited and boring field, while it is actually very broad. I think women can excel in roles where they can use their creativity and empathic ability to the fullest.”
So, can we say that women should focus on specific roles in the tech world to function optimally?
Margreet thinks so, but not exclusively: “Traditionally, women are seen as better with emotions. Tech and psychology would be a nice field to further develop. Furthermore, technology should be used much more to solve the current problems in the world. Women can excel in these areas, but in my opinion, that also applies to men. I don’t like that strict separation.”
Juliette sees a good future for women in the responsible tech domain: “I am a strong proponent of better thinking about the social consequences of technology and acting accordingly. I don’t know if this is something uniquely feminine, but I find it very important.”
Career advise for woman in tech Are there any tips for young women to become successful in the tech industry?
Laura is a big advocate of standing up for yourself and working hard: “Believe in yourself and go for it! Respect your colleagues, but don’t let anyone belittle you. And most importantly, stand up for yourself, your values, and the things you believe in.”
According to Liza, it’s important not to be afraid of technology and stereotypes: “Learn about all the new technologies and don’t listen to people who say it’s ‘not women’s work’. Network with other women in the field, find a mentor or sponsor, and join organizations that support diversity and inclusivity in tech.”
Shanna believes that as a woman, you need to set aside your fear: “Don’t be afraid to claim your place and sometimes say no. Women are often afraid of being seen as ‘bossy’ or ‘difficult’. If you want to make a career in a male-dominated tech world, don’t be afraid to speak up.”
“Just do it!” says Juliette resolutely. “I think the tech world is eager for more women. With so many developments and growth in the tech sector, this is a perfect time to step into this industry if you’re interested in it as a woman.”
And for those who want to go for it, Margreet has some practical tips: “Go for the highest possible STEM education and negotiate the best salary. Women don’t negotiate enough, while men do. Fortunately, you can learn that as a woman too. You will undoubtedly face challenges during your career, so it’s better to aim for the highest possible. Nowadays, there are plenty of opportunities for women to be successful in the tech world. Amy Webb is a great example of this.”