As the CEO of MetricStream, I am often asked, “How difficult was it to become a leader of a successful tech company, being (1) a woman and (2) an African-American?”
Since a young age, I always knew that I wanted to run a business. Every club or organization I got involved with, I’d eventually end up leading. I dreamed of being able to build a great team, create a trusted brand, and make a significant impact. However, when I began my professional journey, I knew that because of my gender and ethnicity, the odds were not entirely in my favor. But I didn’t let that get in the way. Today, I am proud to be the CEO of MetricStream, a leading technology company that I helped build from the ground up.
That being said, I know how daunting it is to be a woman, and especially a female entrepreneur or executive in the field of technology, where the lack of gender diversity is a serious cause for concern. Silicon Valley Bank’s recent “US Startup Outlook 2016” report found that a significant 66 percent of startups have no women on their boards, and 46 percent have no women in executive positions. However, about a quarter of respondents (26 percent) said that they have programs in place to increase the number of women in leadership roles. And therein lies the good news – things are slowly but surely changing.
Also read: Where are the Women in Financial Services?
So, what is it about tech that presents such tremendous opportunities for women to do incredible work?
I don’t need to tell you how pervasive technology has become – in our cars, our homes, our workplaces, our appliances, even our jewelry. The US Department of Labor has predicted that between 2014 and 2024, computer and information technology occupations are expected to add about 488,500 new jobs – that’s a jump from about 3.9 million jobs in 2014 to about 4.4 million jobs by 2024.
Another great thing about tech – it is disrupting every industry and is one of the fastest growing and most profitable industries in the US. Copia, Privail, and Senseware are three of the hottest tech startups in the US today. They’re also all led by women. Added to that, CEO and Presidents, Stacy Brown-Philpot (TaskRabbit), Amy Pressman (Medallia) and ANN Wojcicki (23andme), are showing the world that women can build and run tech-centered businesses just as successfully as men.
There’s never been a better time for minorities and women to climb the ranks in tech than right now. Technology is the greatest agent of change, with the potential to completely transform our lives, our societies, and our world. What’s more, companies are finally coming around to the fact that gender-diverse teams bring more skills, breed more innovation, and drive better performance.
So, what can women, in any phase of their career, do to capitalize on the career opportunities available in tech and improve their odds for success?
Make a PACT with Yourself
- The “P” stands for Planning
- The “A” stands for Action
- The “C” stands for Confidence
- The “T” stands for Tools”
It’s a simple 4-step mantra:
- Plan your path
- Take Action to differentiate yourself
- Lead with Confidence
- Leverage the right Tools
Here’s the good news – you don’t have to go it alone. Joining professional networks is a great way to tap into the rich and diverse backgrounds and experiences of others. As an example, I am a member of the Committee of 200 (C200), an international organization composed of more than 400 preeminent women business owners and corporate executives. Organizations such as this play a crucial role in supporting and nurturing future generations of female business leaders.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of mentors – especially for women. When I started out in my career, I adopted mentors. Yes – I adopted them. I found a lot of people shy away from being mentors because they’re worried that they won’t have the time and commitment that’s required. So I stopped asking people to be my mentor. I just started treating them like one.
Also read: How to Build Success Through Mentoring
I’d go up to them and say, “I just had a quick question. What do you think about this?” Or “How would you approach this challenge?” Usually, they’d respond with a quick idea. Later, I’d make sure to go back to them and say, “Thanks so much, I followed your advice. This is what I did, and here’s how it turned out.” Inevitably, they would be happy because their advice had a positive impact – which in turn makes them more willing to help you again. Good mentors not only give you the advice and guidance you need, but will also be there to back up your credentials, and help you reach out to the right people when you need to move ahead in your career.
Technology is disrupting every industry, and is transforming our lives and our world, which means that the career opportunities available in technology right now, especially for women, are tremendous. And yes, there are still challenges. But things are changing for the better. There has never been a better moment in time for you to make your mark.