An open conversation about ‘women in tech’ with Teamleader’s female IT specialists

We invited four of the women at Teamleader in IT specialist roles to talk about what it’s like for them to work in the tech industry, which today - as recent statistics clearly show - is still a predominantly male world. The result was an animated discussion during which personal opinions and experiences were freely shared and welcomed with an open mind. This is a concise but honest account of that group conversation.

Meet the four IT specialists

Blog ESG Women In Tech 2

Looking at recent numbers, in the EU, on average, only 18% of IT specialists are women. Does this number surprise you?

Ghislaine: 18% is still not a lot, but at least it’s evolving. Back in the day, during my studies, I was literally the only woman.

Sonal: I saw this number coming back a lot of times throughout my life. When I look at my education, in my university, probably around 10% of the engineering students were female. In my professional career, in 90% of the meetings, I was the only woman.

Blog image 826x345px ESG Sonal

Is this ratio a problem? Do things have to change?

Kalina: Personally, I’ve never experienced this as a negative thing. But I have to say that, in my previous job, I was lucky to have a female mentor in a manager position. This has had a very positive impact on me. This is why I would like to see more women working in tech, certainly in senior positions. Most importantly, it’s seeing women in those roles succeed.

Blog image 826x345px ESG Kalina

Katrien: I’m used to the fact that there are fewer women in technical roles and departments, but I don’t think it’s a negative thing per se. It’s not that people think I’m not a good data scientist because I’m a woman. I believe that, genetically, we have different interests which, by definition, makes us lean more toward certain roles and jobs. So I’m not sure if we have to try and fix something.

Sonal: I understand your point, but we cannot exclude the socio-economic circumstances we grew up in. They really influence us. My current understanding is that the world we grow up in shapes our personal interests. I wouldn't have been interested in technology if I hadn’t been exposed to it as a young child. I do believe that, in general, boys are still being pushed more towards these technical jobs and girls more towards caring roles.

Have you ever experienced this bias yourself, like during your studies or your professional career?

Kalina: I started doing woodworking classes a year and a half ago, and most of my fellow students were men. I felt a bit insecure, it was a bit overwhelming. The teacher, a man, said he was “very positively surprised because I had manicured nails” so “he didn’t expect much”. I found that comment to be offensive and discriminating: making assumptions about someone’s technical capabilities because of how they look.

Sonal: A teacher once double-checked my grades, because she couldn’t believe that, as a girl, I had such good grades. It stays with you because you have a feeling that people are judging you behind your back, and even if you achieve something you still have a lot of self-doubts.

Ghislaine: I can relate. During my studies, my teacher said: “This is not something for girls, what are you doing here?” After my studies, nobody wanted to hire me because I was a girl. Eventually, I found a job, but not in a technical role. External people coming to the office often assumed I was the secretary. But this was at the beginning of my career. From my perspective, nowadays, people don't think like that anymore.

Do you think there is a conscious or unconscious bias against women in IT specialist roles specifically?

Ghislaine: In my previous jobs, I had to prove myself more than men. At Teamleader, I’ve never experienced anything like that. In the end, it’s a personal thing. Some people have assumptions, but certainly not everyone.

Blog image 826x345px ESG Ghislaine

Kalina: In my experience, the really technical roles - like developer - are mostly carried out by men whereas the organizational roles - like product manager - are more often assumed by women. I think it’s generally more accepted for me to be a product manager rather than a developer. But I never felt that I had to prove myself more because I’m a woman. It might be different for someone in a very technical role, though. It might be interesting to hear it from a female developer.

: One of the reasons I moved to Europe is because of my gender. Here for the first time in my life, I was evaluated for my skills, not for my gender. The situation in Europe is in stark contrast to the rest of the world. We’re having the conversations here, other countries are far more traditional. Here, I have never experienced anyone treating me differently by looking at me. If you’re really capable, you will get the opportunity. Which wasn’t the case in my country. In my professional life, I don’t feel discriminated against, but I would like to see more women doing what I do.

Why would you want more women in IT specialist roles? What’s the benefit of better balance?

Kalina: If you look at the PED department you have a few women, but in Engineering & Management men are overrepresented. So currently, there are a number of decisions that will definitely be biased, although unconsciously, not on purpose. People think in different ways, whether it’s gender, whether it’s cultural background. More diverse teams will lead to better results. In the same way, it’s not good to have only female nurses or teachers.

Katrien: Like you said, it goes for all different characteristics. You need more diversity across the board. Although, in all honesty, I do enjoy the fact of having a more unique profile in a team.

Sonal: I’m a bit tired of being unique. I really wish I was common, that I didn’t stand out because of my gender, my colour. And I agree with Kalina, those subtle biases are dangerous because you can’t pinpoint them. It’s very important that we acknowledge that science and research have proven that having more diversity in your teams - for example having more women in IT specialist roles - will automatically lead to better results. It doesn’t start and end with gender, of course, but you have to start somewhere. Where do we start, that’s the question.

What could help to correct the imbalance?

Kalina: Representation helps, having female role models helps. So yes, companies should definitely try and hire women for roles that are typically mostly occupied by men.

Sonal: I agree. When I see other women doing the job that I do, it helps. This is why it was very valuable and meaningful for me to see that with Kalina and Giuseppina I would have two fellow female product managers.

Thank you for your openness Ghislaine, Kalina, Katrien and Sonal!

This group conversation took place in the context of International Women's Day. In this way, Teamleader wants to highlight the topic of being a woman in the tech industry, without taking a position on the matter. The opinions and experiences shared in this conversation are personal. To also gain insights and feedback on what it is like to work as a woman at Teamleader, the conversation was attended by someone from HR and from Management.

    • 08/04/2022
    • Last modified on 27/10/2023

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