You don’t have to search far and wide today to find a story about women in technology. Financial Times even has an entire section of their publication dedicated to the topic. While these stories and narratives are positive, empowering and hopeful, it raises some questions about the strategy and implementation. I often ask myself: what does it really mean to be “a woman in tech”. Are you still in the club if you aren’t creating, testing or deploying code?
With a degree in business and linguistics, it may not be immediately apparent that I would fit at all into the category of a woman in tech. I’ve spent a good portion of my career in Silicon Valley helping create and implement customized technology solutions for the top tech firms. I’ve even taken some classes at a local college on coding throughout my career to better understand how the software strategies I helped create actually work. But, to say that I had ever touched a real, living, breathing piece of code in my life would be fallacy. This naturally begs the question of where women such as myself fit into the equation of women in tech..
While, yes, I don’t write much code, I have years of experience understanding how customers use, engage with, and become loyal to pieces of technology. My expertise lies not in moving things through the development pipeline, but rather in developing solutions that solve critical business problems for my customers that provide meaningful value to the user. Isn’t that what the end game really is about? It has always been the backdrop for what we do but improving customer experience is increasingly obvious and fundamentally a requirement to our business. The notion of focusing on features for features’ sake is becoming more less and less important and unless any feature is driven by a customer need, is a waste of time.
We often hear about “women in business” or “women in leadership” or many others, just fill in the category… “women in _____.” But we never or seldom hear these phrases aimed at men. There’s no such thing as “men in tech” or “men in leadership.” A narrative that highlights the success of women in any field is mandatory but fitting it neatly into a catchphrase is limiting on the surface. Defining women by their roles in any specific field or industry, usually lends to confine us to only that specific storyline. Still, I find myself identifying with this ever increasing group of women in technology – as I do believe it conveys our passions and one that ultimately define me. While this group is one that I have come to include myself in, I also believe my unique position outside of the traditional STEM structure comes from being a leader, and a visionary, and not about studying (or not studying) computer science in college.
So then, at the end of the day, my passion truly lies in technology and developing strategies that help companies become true innovators by creating solutions that solve their customers problems. Over the years, it’s been truly satisfying to see the technology companies I have worked for create joy for customers. So, where does that leave us? I believe that no matter your role – executive, operations, marketing, strategy, sales, developer – if you’re a woman and obsessed with creating technology that solves a customer problem and is something you talk about, write about, and eat, sleep, and breathe… then yes, you are a woman in tech, even if you aren’t on the frontlines creating the software and hardware.
As every industry begins to embark on a digital transformation, more women might become confused as to where they lie in this “women in ____” narrative. However, no matter which narrative you choose to associate with, or whether to associate with a narrative at all, it’s important that all women continue to offer support and mentorship no matter what their career choice.