In the tech industry, as the men significantly outnumber the women, many companies are looking to become more diverse and create inclusive environments. Although the stats are improving, compared to the #metoo Hollywood firestorm of 2017, it feels like it’s occurring at a glacial pace.
This week’s Women in Tech breakfast panel are the type of important events for providing women a space to realize they’re not alone and that there are role models. Held at General Assembly in Santa Monica, the panel featured:
Here are some refreshing takes on how to approach networking, negotiations, mentorships, and amplifying your (or other’s) ideas.
Network All the Time
All the panelists agreed it’s important to network and stay in touch even when—in fact, especially when—you don’t need something. When people are in need, it’s easy to see and can be off-putting. Also, remember when you reach out to someone, such as in a cold email, that these are still people, so don’t be scared and provide personal context. This can be as simple as providing a compliment about someone’s portfolio work or what they said at a conference … you may not get a response, yet it will help make your name familiar.
Additionally, not everyone is comfortable in a traditional meet-n-greet format, so make sure to find networks events that suit you. For example a Ladies of UX hiking meet up or a circle group with Lean In Los Angeles.
Show Me the Money
Turns out that women often undersell their skill sets. One audience attendee, who is a tech recruiter, pointed out that by working with a recruiter, it’s possible to get a more accurate picture on the salary range. She gave the example of helping a woman who had been making $80,000, yet the recruiter knew that the typical salary for the role was $140,000.
To help with this, the panel suggested pushing the financial negotiations to the end of the interview process because at each step the organization is further investing and buying into you. Then negotiate on all the elements: title, more salary, a signing bonus, an educational stipend, or all of the above.
All of the panelists and some of the audience members strongly recommended applying to roles in which you do not have all of the qualifications. Their advice, if you hit 50–75% of the qualifications, then put in your resume. There’s two reasons for this, first is that men do this and don’t feel a need to check every box, and second is that good managers want to hire people who will stay in the role for a while so they will need to grow and master the position.
Once you start a new role, remember to be excited and hungry. By stretching for a role a bit out of your depth, it will provide many opportunities to try and learn new things.
Get Two Seats at the Table
When working in a competitive environment, become a role model who ensures that along with a seat for yourself, there’s an additional seat for a colleague. Sometimes this might mean going to your boss to say that “Person XX and myself need to be a part of that meeting/brainstorm/event.” By continuing to do this, you start to show and model a collaborative, inclusive behavior.
Additionally, the panelist mentioned thinking of mentorship beyond the traditional senior-junior roles and looking for peer mentors. Along with the helping to build a meaningful business network, it offers the opportunity to soundboard similar situations and solutions faced at your current career-level.
Be a Bullhorn — For Others and Yourself
An audience member working in the gaming industry commented on how many of her UX ideas were stolen by male counterparts. The panel was unanimous in its advice: have a colleague amplify that it was your idea or, if there’s no one around to do this, then ensure to amplify for yourself.
For example, say that yesterday you or a colleague were telling Thomas some ideas and the next day he promotes the ideas as his own. Rather than call him out directly, pivot the approach to “That’s great, I’m glad we’re on the same page. This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday.” Or if it was specifically someone else’s idea, “... This is exactly what Maryellen was talking about yesterday.”
Keep the Conversation Going
Although most of these issues pertain to women advocating on their own behalf in a male culture (salary, ideas, etc.), the panelists are making suggestions that will help all businesses foster great work environments. It’s important to continue the dialogue so that management teams can foster these work practices, yet it’s equally important to remember that none of this is about an us-vs-them gender environment. These are cultural shifts that take time, education, and continued practice to manifest and transform organizations. So it’s important to remember that everyone is on the same team trying to make great products.