Making Room at the Top for Women in Tech

As I saw the conversations pop up across social media related to International Women’s Day, I’m compelled to add some of my experience to the dialogue.

This article in particular, 14 Rules for Being a Woman in Business, does a great job of highlighting the fact that the problem of gender inequality in senior roles is still big on a global scale, but that there many great ways to get yourself into the critical minority. This piece spoke to leadership roles across all industries, but in the tech sector specifically, we know that the numbers of women in leadership roles looks at least this bad – or maybe worse.

It would be easy to conclude, that most CEO’s have a bias against hiring women into senior roles – that they systematically ignore qualified female job applicants in favour of their masculine peers. I think this is totally false.

From my seat, as an advisor to tech companies looking to hire leaders and other scarce and talented teammates, I see something that probably comes as a surprise. In almost EVERY SINGLE SEARCH we take on, there is an unprompted and quite serious request that we focus on finding a woman for the role. Each company wants first to find the most qualified person for the role, but assuming that we’ll turn up at least a handful of exceptional options, they want us to put extra effort into ensuring that they have a few great women to choose from.

These jobs are not only in areas where you’d expect to find more women, in marketing or HR, but across the board, in engineering, finance, operations and sales. Our leaders know that they’ll benefit from diversity in their board room, and that the great women moving up the ranks need and want role models.

It turns out that the demand for women in the top ranks of tech companies isn’t the problem. In fact demand for our top female leaders far outstrips supply. The challenge, it seems to me, is not about limited opportunities, but rather a limited number of strong women who are ready, willing and able to move into senior jobs.

I know that pointing out this truth does not solve the problem. But perhaps it shifts the conversation just slightly.

If you are an exceptional woman who wants to pursue leadership, you have reason to be optimistic. The data and the anecdotal evidence show that your journey will not be easy, but if you can find your path, a few good mentors and some serious conviction, there are many great tech companies that will welcome you with open arms.