HOW TO THRIVE AS A WOMAN IN TECH IN SILICON VALLEY
Like many other industries, the Silicon Valley bubble still has a diversity problem. Data shows abysmally low numbers of female founders, female investors and female leaders at the board level or C-Suite of tech companies. If you are adding intersectionality to gender inequality, the numbers get even worse.
However, at the same time, there is huge momentum behind #metoo and #timesup as women successfully draw attention to injustice and demand change. And as an optimist, I want to believe that progress will be sustainable this time. While the media, activists and female employees hold their employers accountable for addressing gender parity heads on, every woman making it to the top has the opportunity and responsibility to inspire more women to follow her by leading by example and advocating to hire, retain and promote women.
Here are three survival tips from my career working in tech in Berlin and Silicon Valley:
Seek out a safe & encouraging work environment
Many tech companies finally get pressured to diversify their pipelines. During the interview process, ask about career development and mentorship programs especially for women and whether an employee resource group exists or the company would support you in creating one. If your company is too small, join online or offline communities like Elpha or Changemaker Chats to find companionship. If you experience gender discrimination or sexual harassment, make sure to report it using new tools that support and empower survivors, like Callisto.
Look for allies & mentors
I have been lucky to have had male and female allies and mentors throughout my career. Don’t be afraid to ask crossfunctional leaders for help when negotiating a promotion or in moments of career transition. Especially in Silicon Valley many operate with a pay forward mindset and are happy to give back. If you don’t know who to approach, seek out an accountability partner first. This can be anyone who is a peer, who is willing to check in with you on a regular basis in exchange for getting your feedback and support.
Focus on the progress & act
While it is important to call out inequality, do not let horrifying anecdotes, headlines and studies highlighting gender discrimination drag you down. Focus on the positive change that you can observe in your immediate environment and remind yourself of the lasting impact you can have on every single female that is turning to you for friendship or advice. When you get together with other women in tech, reserve some time to vent and even more to come up with action to create lasting change.