We wrapped up our Microsoft 365 Government Community Calls for 2022 with a session on Women in Tech to give a voice to the amazing women in the IT-Government space and shed some light on critical topics to address in 2023.
Our guests—Jacqueline French, Erin Fitzgibbons, Allison Zanelotti, and Angela Ploumis—sat down with hosts Sarah Gilbert and Rima Reyes to talk about the experience of being a woman in the IT industry, the challenges along the way, and how they overcame those challenges.
Watch the full session below or read on as we summarize the key points of their discussion.
Challenges in the IT-Government space
No matter the industry, women face obstacles and bias in their careers. But for our guests, here are the personal challenges they have faced in their careers:
- Personal appearance: Our hosts Sarah and Rima shared that because they look different than what’s usually portrayed in the IT-Gov space, there’s a tendency for people not to take them seriously. Sometimes, looking young for their age would even build a wall against the initial trust or buy-ins.
- Age: Our guest, Erin, found that age became a concern for some people in the industry. Some of her colleagues saw how she started, and so even when she progressed in her career, they still tried to put her in a box, leading to the challenge of always proving herself and her qualifications in achieving her current job and role.
- Outdated processes: For Jacqueline, the outdated processes in IT-Gov led to men chasing her down for how differently she did things. This created a bias because the processes they wanted her to conform with were designed when ideas in IT didn’t involve women in minority taking roles in the industry.
Diving deeper into these challenges are layers of bias that need to be addressed. To overcome them, it was critical to build confidence and force a perspective change in their respective organizations. Among all their personal stories, here are three key pieces of advice they shared to help other women in the industry find success:
1. Call out the bias
Women in tech are 4x more likely to see obstacles than men when it comes to promotion. As a result, many women believe they need to work harder to prove their value. Furthermore, even when women get promoted to leadership, they’re often met with unnecessary contentions about the way they run things.
Sometimes, this may be caused by proximity bias—because male leaders have always worked with their male colleagues, they instantly consult with their historical inner circles regarding work.
But if your organization is serious about eliminating bias, there needs to be a pull where new members, especially women, are included in discussions and decision-making.
As women, there is a need to exert an effort in terms of demanding what is right for you as well as helping communicate the bias you see once you see it, and then helping share awareness on how others could help eliminate it.
2. Start and grow your career by being authentic
Many women in the industry—including our guests and hosts—come from different backgrounds, mostly non-technical ones. While this used to be thought of as a disadvantage, it actually brings in new and fresh perspectives to the tech industry.
Here are some key takeaways of why being authentic will help women in tech progress in their careers:
- Being authentic in what you are and what you do is what’s going to help you shine and do your best work. Then, you can learn and grow by asking the right questions to the people with whom you resonate best. Not only will it play a huge part in your experience but will also help you in accomplishing your mission.
- If you don’t put yourself in a box – or let other people put you in one either – you’ll be able to grow your skillset. When you marry that with technology, you’re bound to do greater things.
- There will always be so much to do as women in tech, so being selective about what you want to do and finding your voice to say no to what you don’t want to do sets the right expectation for your goals and career path. Setting boundaries will also help you find the right balance between pursuing your professional and personal goals.
- Asking the right questions will help you learn and grow in your career path, so be sure to find the right people who will give you answers.
At the end of the day, it is critical to authentically express yourself, embrace who you are outside of work, and integrate your personality into what you do and be brave about showing it.
If you do, you’re also encouraging other women to speak up, enjoy what they do, and explore what they can do at work!
3. Battle your imposter syndrome with good support
As a woman in the government space, it can be hard to bring up change because there are rules in place strictly being followed – you may hear, “That’s how it’s always been done.”
When you try to do things your way, it’s normal to feel overcritical about yourself and need validation—which oftentimes can lead to imposter syndrome. To deal with imposter syndrome, our guest Angela reminds to “tame it so you can contain it”.
But understanding that you have it is only half the battle, especially when you need people to echo your voice and to enable change.
This is where it’s important to find the people who – through relationships you’ve built in your career – will support you. Colleagues who will not only remind you of your accomplishments but also give you the space to process high-pressure situations will help you eventually break free from the shackles of imposter syndrome.
Want more? Dive deeper into our guests’ insights when you watch the full session!