Co-Founder of Women in Cloud. I influence brands and entrepreneurs to unlock economic access through digital strategy and partnerships.
A lot of ink has been spilled about the hurdles women face in tech, but there are just as many reasons women can succeed. The results of a study by Quantopian showed that between 2002 and 2014, Fortune 1000 companies run by women performed three times better than S&P 500 companies run by men. According to the results of a McKinsey 2020 study on diversity, businesses with diverse workforces (including gender diversity) perform better, retain more employees and hire more talented people than companies that don’t focus on diversity.
Despite the evidence that being a woman in tech can empower you and your employer, systemic change is slow, and talented women want to become high-level cloud professionals today. Still, only about 16% of senior-level positions and 10% of executive-level positions are held by women, according to results from a study by Entelo. So, what does it take for women to become leaders in the cloud market? Here are three of the most important steps you can take:
1. Don’t let myths stall your career.s you begin your journey into higher-level roles in the cloud industry, remember that it’s often companies that fail to retain great women, not women who fail to “cut it” at great companies. The findings of a Harvard Business Review study of 107 consultants revealed the fictions tech businesses tell themselves about why women are underrepresented in leadership positions. Here’s one highlight from the study:
Myth: Women are too family-oriented to hold top-tier positions. One of the most prominent beliefs was that women failed to advance because they couldn’t manage the long workdays while also being devoted to their families.
Reality: Men and women both struggle with work-family balance. Upon further analysis, the researchers found that both women and men struggle with work-family balance — but women were inordinately encouraged to make accommodations, such as downgrading to part-time or transitioning to simpler roles. The researchers determined that the real culprit in women’s stalled career advancement isn’t gender differences in skill or family care but the unrealistic professional expectations that arise from a culture of overwork.
2. Focus on specialization.Becoming a leader in the ever-evolving cloud market is all about experience, visibility and specialization. Because the cloud industry is so vast, deference is given to thought leaders of their respective fields. These individuals have the experience to speak competently about the future of their field — and they also have enough visibility to be influential.
These three factors are key to becoming thought leaders. Women pursuing the cloud industry should find a specialty that suits them and learn as much as they can about it. There are a few other skills that you should hone, as well. After all, this isn’t just a matter of book smarts — having the “street smarts” to present, defend and apply your ideas is just as important, especially when 82% of women in STEM positions say their ideas are ignored and sometimes even stolen.
That’s where mastering communications comes in. Professional women need to invest in mastering executive communications to navigate a male-dominated world without diluting their strategic vision or being talked over.
3. Invest in other female cloud professionals.Research of the Center for Talent Innovation shows that the most successful women in STEM “invest deeply in peer networks.” This goes far beyond having an acquaintanceship with other female coworkers. The top-performing women in the study would risk their own reputations to help their peers by advocating for their skills, making sure they receive credit for their ideas, referring them for new positions and connecting them to senior leaders.
Women in tech need to seek out and contribute to the growth of one another. Attending professional development seminars geared toward women is a great starting point, but you should also find a mentor and seek out executive sponsorship to advance leadership opportunities. Being an influential woman in the cloud market requires this level of participation with male and female professionals.
While there’s nothing simple about becoming a female leader in the budding cloud market, you have a lot to bring to the table. Remember that, while you will face hardship, the solution is to cut through all the noise, so continue developing yourself professionally and personally — and keep paving the way for other women to follow.