Being a young girl with an interest in a technical field can be daunting. Statistics show that there is still a considerable gender gap everywhere you turn in this industry; it can get discouraging! Luckily, there are plenty of women who have gone before us who can provide some killer encouragement and advice to younger ladies.
We surveyed our friends in STEM who identify as women and heard their experiences, both negative and positive, from working in a male-dominated environment. We also asked them for some candid advice to share with other girls/women who are considering a career in the tech world. Here’s what we got:
1.Shop Around for Careers
Security is a broad field with something for nearly everyone. Don’t just get caught up in the idea that it’s all about hacking. (Although that part is cool, too.) Security is a growing and well-paid field, so it also provides a great future for learning, personal growth, and income.
Lisa Vasa, CISO
2. Learn from Your Mistakes
Don’t feel stupid. Make a mistake, recover, and then keep going.
3. Start Educating Yourself ASAP
I would tell them to join NOW (National Organization for Women), American Business Women’s Association, or National Association of Professional Women in their college years. They have seminars and you can make great contacts (wish I would have) that can serve you well when you run into women-based issues in the workplace. Also, you’ll have a good view of successful professional women who are steps ahead of you.
Anonymous Respondent, Technical Writer
4. Stand Up for Yourself
…I would say always be confident in your knowledge and skills. You may find that you don’t get to slip when others can. Also, THE ISSUE OF PAY INEQUALITY continues, even for women in management positions in engineering. Another reason to join an association to get a grip on how to deal with that ongoing reality.
Anonymous Respondent, Technical Writer
5. Lean on Your Family and Friends
Overall, I think friends/family think my job is “really cool” when I tell them I work in cybersecurity. It’s definitely encouraging that they think the field I went into is interesting and important.
Kathy, Enterprise Account Executive
6. Don’t Change to Fit In, Find Where You Fit In
Whether you’re assertive or soft-spoken, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to change your personality to “fit in.” Learn, code, communicate with your peers, and ultimately, if for unfortunate reasons, you end up somewhere you’re not valued, remember: it’s not you. Don’t be afraid to say no, to leave. There’s always some other organization out there that is ready to welcome you for who you are, and in which you can shine.
Maria, Software Engineer
7. Enjoy Your Work
Study hard, always ask questions, make sure you enjoy whatever you decide to step into and define your life mission on a personal level in order to weave it into your professional environment (i.e. bringing joy and inspiration to those around you).
Kailani Joy, Marketing & PR Consultant
8. Be Strong!
If interested then do it. Become the best you can be. Don’t take offense easily, stand your ground, don’t get emotional. You will have to work harder than your male counterparts to prove your worth and your value.
Anonymous Respondent, Compliance Manager
9. Computers are Gender Neutral
Women are strong and have done amazing things throughout history, especially in STEM. Don’t let someone’s fear hinder what makes you happy. Computers don’t care if you’re male or female – they work the same regardless. Just get on and do your thing. Also, find out how to best leverage your likes, your abilities, and your natural tendencies. You come with your own unique set of tools, find new ways to bring them to the cybersecurity space. We need innovative, creative ideas more than ever.
Amy Werry, Information Security Awareness Specialist
And if you still find yourself needing a kick in the butt to jumpstart your venture into the technical world, check out all of our Women’s History Month blog posts. This year we have been highlighting a different historical “geek girl” each day on our Twitter account. Follow us to learn even more about the brave and brilliant ladies who paved the way for all Women in STEM!