PLEASE STAY: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive

Women on a tightrope

Take two women in tech with a combined 75 years of experience in the field of information technology. Throw them together with warm weather, sea breezes, snacks, and a cocktail after a long day at a business conference.

Toss in spirited discussions about the state of IT, how women in tech survive, their respective career journeys, challenges encountered, joys experienced, and the many lessons learned along the way. Shake gently lest this particular cocktail explode in your hands! What do you get?

How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive

You get a years’ long friendship built on mutual support and collaboration, and a deep-dive into the state of women in tech, past and present, with the release of their book Please Stay: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive.

Acting over the years as mentors and sponsors for women (and men!), as well as actively participating in public speaking, ERGs (employee resource groups), diversity committees, taskforces or working groups for women in IT, Kelley Irwin and Debra Christmas knew people could be inspired to do more, and were committed to shaking up the industry. But they also realized something was lacking after all that heady inspiration. The HOW.

  • How do we find our voice?
  • How can we be a friend – not a foe – to other women?
  • How can we stop sabotaging ourselves?

So, they set out to write the consummate book, one that would answer the hows with insights, guidance, and strategies, and would help other women navigate their path in this field using specific tactics, advice, and actions.

They also sought out and chatted with women in tech from around the globe and at every level of their careers! They wanted to connect with – and connect YOU with – the broader community of women in tech.

The Impact of Women in Tech – as Mentors and Mirrors

Women are working in the Information and Technology (IT) sector, and more are joining every day.

But women still make up less than 24 percent of the global IT workforce. In the book, Kelley shares an anecdote that might help explain this low representation: “I graduated and started a job as a junior computer programmer. It was exciting to be working in a department with so many other technical people. The number of women in the overall technology team was small and there were no women in management roles. This barrier was a barrier of opportunity – at this company and in this role, and in many future companies and roles I have held since.”

Indeed, lack of female representation has a massive ripple effect on IT. According to reporting by Kapersky, the most common way women end up in the field, or hear of career openings in IT, is by doing their own research. Nearly half took this route, only a third were encouraged to do so while in school/college/university, and sadly, even fewer – around 20 percent – had female role models who influenced their choices. In fact, almost 40 percent of the women in tech surveyed said that last factor – few women in the field – made them think twice about entering the tech field.

And if they do enter? They often don’t stay.

The Leaky Pipeline

The statistics aren’t pretty. Either due to lack of support (at best) or unconscionable and inexcusable behaviour directed toward them because they are women (at worst), there’s a “leaky pipeline” when it comes to STEM and women.

Of women who majored in computer science, fewer than 40 percent are working in the field. For men? That number is over 50 percent. Engineering? Equally bleak – only 24% of women with a degree are actively working in the field. When you drill into the numbers for diverse women, the number plummets.

The skills and aptitude that we need far surpass a degree in math or science. We need creative people, innovative thinkers, excellent problem solvers, and people with social and communications skills. People who can encourage the next generation to embrace our “tech tribe.” 

We need people who understand both the human needs and the technical jargon and can marry the two to unleash wonderful, usable, feature-rich solutions for real life and real people. We need leaders who can engage and collaborate with a workforce comprised of five generations.

In short, we need women.

Please Stay!

It will require women like you, around the world in all industries and all communities, women who are talented, smart, capable, and courageous, to continue to demand our right to be here, our right to lead, and our right to speak so we can all excel.

And yes, we realize that men have made leaps and bounds in the IT field when it comes to respecting women in tech and recognizing their value. We welcome our brothers in arms wholeheartedly and expect they will gain from this book and blog series as well – but we would be remiss not to address the male dominated culture that still dominates certain industries – IT being one of them.

And for those women who are already here, already working and succeeding in technology careers?

Please stay.