Recently, all in one week, I listened to two podcasts (Digital Analytics Power Hour and Present Beyond Measure), attended a Google female founders meetup and a Women in Focus event all focusing on women in tech and women in digital analytics.
Unsurprisingly, I have been unable to stop thinking about women in tech and what that means for the digital analytics community.
I am not a woman in tech. My professional background is working within a highly technical Government Defence organisation, where, yes, I was a woman. But I’m not technical, right, so I never think of myself as a woman in tech. I might have advised people on highly technical operations – but I can’t do them. So it doesn’t count. Last year I joined a digital analytics company where I am learning to run analysis through R. True, my most visited website each day is stack overflow (hey – I’m learning) but I’m not a woman in tech because I’m not technical.
And then I came upon those two podcasts. And then an event. All in one week. It shifted my perspective on how I think about myself.
I listened to women talking about what it’s like to work in a male dominated industry – that applies to me — check/check (Defence/Digital Analytics).
Women talking about being intimidated at work because they are in meetings with highly technical colleagues talking about highly technical work and feeling like they can’t ask a question for fear of it being a ‘stupid question’ but also desperately wanting to understand how something works – check/check.
Or worse yet – women talking about asking the stupid question (which isn’t actually stupid) and then being judged for asking it – check.
Women talking about how they are motivated to learn terrifying new skills for their job but feeling like they can’t get there fast enough – check/check.
Women talking about how they want to be known as a thought leader in their field, and not just the token female for a working group, a speaking panel or a company quota – check.
Women talking about how they have to work twice as hard to be considered as competent as a male colleague (check/check). And don’t get me started on what happens when you make a mistake.
Well it seems I am a woman in tech. When did this happen? Remember… I’m not technical.
So after listening to these women in tech share their experiences and realising that I am after all, a woman in tech, I started to think what’s the next logical step – how do we get more women in tech.
I am a woman in tech and I have an answer for you.
The easy group:
Some women are drawn to the analytics field and they love it – they take names and kick butt. These are the women that you already work next to and hear from regularly – they are like Michele Kiss, Krista Seiden, Lea Pica and Aurélie Pol. Keep supporting them and they will continue to inspire many young women to get involved in a more technical field through the amazing examples they set across the industry.
The hard group:
These are the women that don’t think they are technical but also have an open mind – this is me. I came to be an analyst because I love understanding how people work – and data gives me an answer to how, why or what someone did and an idea of what they will do next.
I’m not afraid to ask a ‘dumb’ question if it means understanding a problem better (in some jobs this has even been an asset). I’m not afraid to learn a new skillset. I’m not afraid to be surrounded by intelligent, technical colleagues, even if it means being the only woman in the room. I still remember being the only female in my advanced physics class and my teacher betting I would top the class – and I did (note: I do not encourage gambling in high schools). I thrive off being around people smarter than me because it pushes me and I learn from the best (the same reason I like to exercise with people fitter than me).
The key to getting and keeping this group is to bring them into the industry in any way possible. If you interview a woman who is good at marketing hire them for a marketing job. If you interview a woman who likes cluster analysis give them the opportunity to work on cluster analysis. If they like data visualization, focus their efforts on data visualization across the business. If they enjoy tagging let them be the tagging expert. If their strength is client relationships make them client facing. If they get a buzz from testing, put them into a testing role.
Harness what they are good at. Don’t focus on what they are bad at. And here’s why.
You will make women feel confident. And confidence in their ability to do their job will keep them. It will inspire them. It will drive them to try something outside their comfort zone that will make them better in their area of expertise. And then they will get hooked and realise what an amazing industry digital analytics is and how the technical is not so scary. In turn, those women will inspire other women. And those women will listen to some podcast and realise somewhere along the way – they are also a woman in tech.
I don’t need to explain why bringing someone into a new industry, an industry which they are already uncertain of, and getting them to spend 90% of their time on things they are not familiar with or told that as a woman, they shouldn’t be good at, will lead them to run for the hills.
As someone that believes in mentoring, I advocate a strengths-based approach for all staff, not just women. Too often we focus on what a person can’t do, instead of what they can do. It’s a mode of corporate thinking which is rubbish. A strengths-based approach to your staff will not only ensure you get the most out of them but also keep them longer because they will be interested and passionate about what they do. It’s true for all and is particularly important for women in tech.
I confess. This is not based on evidence or data (seems I forgot my job title didn’t I). But it is based on personal experience and when it comes to why you love your job, often times that can mean more.
“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion” (W. Edwards Deming).
My name is Moe Kiss. I am a woman in tech with an opinion about how we can get more women into digital analytics. I am here. But more on that to come…