Monday, April 12, 2010

Women in IT

This past week I was invited to speak at a women’s networking group that had been started internally by a multinational software company. Recognizing that working in a male-dominated industry can be challenging for their female employees, they wanted to be proactive and support them.

Like the major law and accounting firms, more organizations are starting to develop programs to support the professional and personal development of their female staff. And it makes sense to invest in such strategies if they want to retain and grow the talent they have within their organizations.

There were three of us on the panel and our topic was the power of networking. None of us had met before and we came from different backgrounds, yet our advice was very similar.

1. You have to believe in yourself first before you can ask others to have faith in your abilities. Try to limit your self-doubt and surround yourself with positive people who will support you.

2. When you network, both internally and externally, give first. As one panel member said “when you give, forget but when you receive, always remember” Good advice.

3. Consider volunteering, both within and outside of the organization. You gain new skills sets, broaden your networks and your horizons because who knows where your volunteer roles can take you.

4. Ask for opportunities within the organization. One of the reasons women are often overlooked for a promotion is they haven’t got management experience. Think about your long term goals, reflect on what skills and experiences you will need to get there, and go for it.

5. Find a mentor who will encourage and support you. Someone who sees your potential; who will always be honest with you, even if you don’t like the message and who is willing to invest the time in fostering your development.

6. Rather than trying to achieve work-life balance, determine your priorities which will change as your career and family life evolves. Always make some time for yourself.

Global research suggests that addressing the problem of shortage of women in the IT sector starts young, when girls' self concepts and aspirations are formed. CATA WIT has recently launched a new website - which focuses on educating young women about careers in advanced technology and providing access to mentors - women who have been successful in these types of careers.

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