Breaking the boundaries – women in tech need to take charge

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Yaara Letz, partner consulting engineer at Tyk, explains why women in tech need to carve out their own career path rather than wait for diversity and inclusion initiatives to slow push through change.

Gender diversity has been a hot topic recently, with efforts to achieve better balance becoming more prominent within the technology industry. Despite the perception of the tech industry’s male-dominated culture, organisations are starting to embrace a rich mix of not only genders, but skillsets and personalities to get the best results. A variety of backgrounds is essential, especially when it comes to creative solutions and critical thinking around problems. However, talented women within the sector should not wait for the industry to catch up and grant them opportunities for the sake of ‘diversity’. They should forge their own path.

Throughout my studies and career, I have worked in male-dominated environments. There were only a handful of women in my classes. My first job was in a UNIX system admin team, which was predominantly male. But I didn’t care. The role turned out to be a valuable decision, which has assisted me throughout my career; as a C++ developer in the Hi-Tech world and investment banking industry, all the way through to my current role as a Partner Consulting Engineer at Tyk (an API platform).

I have always approached my career by focusing on myself, the changes I can make, and my contributions rather than my gender. I have followed a set of principles which have served me well: know your stuff, be prepared and, most importantly speak up – even when it feels like a challenge. Share your thoughts, make human contact. Writing code and documents is not enough if you want to climb up the ladder.

I’m confident that in a few years there will be more women in tech roles and more opportunities to make an impact. As these women become more senior, they will act as mentors to younger women who want to enter the field. But women at the start of their careers shouldn’t wait for this to become a reality. It’s important to take control now and carve a path for yourself. Focus on developing inner confidence and becoming an expert in your chosen subject area. This combination will make you stronger, both personally and professionally. While diversity initiatives are certainly needed, my view is that they can only do so much. You are your own brand and it is important to invest in yourself, your education and your career. That’s the only way to remain competitive and relevant.

From an organisation’s perspective, building a truly diverse workforce does not only mean employing different people. An environment must be created where different people are allowed and encouraged to flourish. We need to work together to ensure that everyone is seen for their own merit, not solely for their gender. This requires a cultural and industry-wide shift. As a woman and an engineer this view is part of who I am and a significant part of my day-to-day role at Tyk. But I think there’s more we can do to challenge that mentality.

Within a modern organisation, everyone should be encouraged to speak up and be accountable for their projects. Business leaders should focus on communication and encourage all employees to bring their expertise and opinions to the table. This ‘flat’ approach spurs people to invest in themselves and think through their approach. This creates an environment that embraces new ideas and it’s something that I’d hope to see replicated across all sectors.

It’s encouraging to see businesses incentivise projects that bring more diversity in the office, but it will ultimately take years to reach a natural balance. In the meantime, female technology experts should ensure that their voices are heard in the workplace, contributing to a new culture that is not dictated by metrics. Don’t wait to be told you can be part of a diverse workforce – be the driver that creates an inclusive culture where gender is no longer a blocker but an accelerator.

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