The Biggest Barriers Facing Women in Tech Today

The Biggest Barriers Facing Women in Tech Today

This content was created by Girlboss, in partnership with Northwestern University.

One of our favorite things to tell anyone who will listen is how smart, talented and ambitious our Girlboss community is. We know that we have a cohort of computer science wizards and information technology masterminds that are changing the world in front of our eyes. But being a woman in tech has its own set of challenges: women held only 26.7 percent of technology jobs in 2021, according to data from, a global non-profit that’s on a mission to diversify the tech sector. And there’s many reasons for this: the toxic boys’ club culture, and the lack of flexibility, pay equity, inclusive hiring, support for working mothers and proper education and career opportunities at the college level.

Although we can’t solve all of these deep-seeded issues overnight, we hope that this is a good place to start—with the help of you, our Girlboss readers, and a few inspiring experts.

What you have to say:

“I’m my own biggest barrier. I feel so often like I suck at my job, I don’t know what I’m doing, and when I’m not feeling confident, I want to hide.”

What we have to say:

It might be time to go back to school, to help you realign with your goals—or maybe discover new ones. Northwestern University's Master of Science in Information Systems program is designed for professionals who seek a hands-on, laboratory-based experience that will broaden and deepen their knowledge of new and emerging IT. You’ll learn about eight specializations including Artificial Intelligence, IS Security, and Database and Internet Technologies. And with a flexible curriculum that aligns with a wide range of career goals and an expert faculty of working professionals, this program is perfect for those who aspire to be the next generation of IT leaders.

What you have to say:

“I work in the tech industry doing finances and I have never felt more disrespected in my life. I’ve been called secretary, been told to do things that have nothing to do with my role and have been entirely silenced anytime I bring up the fact that someone is not doing their job (causing more work for me).”

What we have to say:

Amber Hart, president of Women in Technology

“For a long time, I tried to join ‘the club.’ I wore clothes that were dull so I could blend into the sea of black and gray suits. I made myself the note taker at meetings so others would know that I had a purpose for being there. I went out of my way to accommodate others at an incredible and inconvenient cost to myself. But a moment came, after the first time I got fired, that I realized that none of that really mattered. The worst had already happened to me. I got fired from my first real job—a moment that felt embarrassing and enraging. But I was still standing. I bounced back quickly. The world—and my career—had not ended. This emboldened me. From that moment on I brought my most authentic self to everything that I did. Now, what you see is what you get. Instead of trying to fit in, I stand out. Have challenging conversations. Speak truth to power. Don’t be afraid to be you. You will fail. You will be uncomfortable. You might get fired (I did—twice). But I promise that your career, connections and opportunities will also flourish and take you down a path that you never imagined.”

Fact: Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Information Systems program prioritizes flexibility, which is perfect for working mothers. You can get your degree online or in-person in the evening in Chicago.

What you have to say:

“Working in a large organization (in any field) is difficult to move up or to grow. I've been trying to get a promotion, and it’s been extremely difficult with the upcoming recession. just keep asking for opportunities (within my paygrade) where I can work and grow my skills.”

What we have to say:

Lisa G., creative technologist consultant at The New York Times and CEO and founder of You Are Tech

“Being a woman in tech requires navigating a complex journey but it is rewarding. Here are some secrets to success for moving up:

Find your community. Find and create a support network around your career aspirations or that you feel fits you best. For example, I am a member of Black Women Talk Tech. It is a community designed to support Black women who are technologists and founders. It is important to be around like-minded individuals as a woman in tech. A strong network can help you grow your career and provide a sense of belonging and empowerment. This journey can feel lonely; it feels great to be around others who can relate to common challenges you may face on your journey within technology. There are many communities that focus around many niches within the tech ecosystem. Find one that aligns with you.

Find a mentor. The best mentors will be willing to share their experiences and knowledge with you in an effort to help guide and support your growth. There are also platforms and resources that take the self-help approach with navigating your career with the support of programs and resources. I have created a platform called You Are Tech that helps individuals navigate their journey within tech. We have authored a journal that helps you with your career trajectory to help you achieve the career of your dreams within the tech ecosystem.

Speak up. Your voice matters. Do not be afraid to ask for a raise or a promotion if you have done the work, know your worth. When asking for promotions or an increase in salary, be sure to present your projects and success metrics to your management, therefore your work is highlighted. When working on new projects for work be sure to speak up and use your voice as well to produce thought-provoking ideas.

Be resilient. Resiliency means being able to get through rough patches without giving up on yourself or your goals; it means knowing when something needs fixing even though most people around you don't see it yet; it means recognizing when things need changing even though everyone else seems happy with how things are now; and creating something better than what currently exists today. The tech industry is full of exciting opportunities, but it's also a challenging place to work. There's no doubt that the current job market has created a high level of competition, and that can make it hard to find work you love. Resilience is adapting a growth mindset and setting realistic expectations.”

Fact: Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Information Systems program emphasizes the effective leadership techniques and communication skills necessary to lead integrated projects and implement change management and innovation. Students build skills and a strong network by learning from a professional faculty of leading data science experts.

What you have to say:

“My biggest barrier is not having enough women on my team. In tech, there is a gender disparity where not enough women are in engineering roles, and tech in general lacks representation. It's isolating being on a team of all men and even the most aggressive diversity and inclusion initiatives aren't tackling the bigger problem: lack of women in STEM.”

What we have to say:

Susan Lang, CEO of XIL Health

“The tech industry does in fact have a disparity issue in terms of pay, promotions and inclusion. For many years, I was the only woman on my team. In my experience, it is critical you work for a supportive boss. If you don't have one, I suggest moving on either within or outside of the company. Don’t stay if you’re in a toxic environment because you will get stuck. It's also critical to find a mentor who is at least one level above you. Almost all of my mentors were men, but eventually, you’ll become the female mentor that others are looking up to.

One time I was sitting in a board meeting with a group of all men senior executives and all men board members, and they were talking about baseball in New York, and I don’t know anything about baseball in New York, so I stepped away from the group. Then, one of the older board members came up to me and said, ‘Susan, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘I don’t know anything about baseball.’ He said, ‘They don’t know anything about this either! Get back in there, stay in the conversation and don’t assume your voice doesn’t matter.’ It was just a great lesson to learn that once you get a seat at the table, you stay at the table. You don’t back away because you’re uncomfortable. You have to be continuously uncomfortable.”

Fact: Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Information Systems program connects you with a diverse community and expert faculty of experienced women leaders who are working in tech.

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