As a woman of color in the tech industry, the path to leadership can often feel like an uphill battle. From facing microaggressions to breaking through the glass ceiling, the challenges are unique and multifaceted. But despite these obstacles, women of color have the potential to bring valuable perspectives, skills, and leadership qualities to the table.
In this blog post, we will be discussing the strategies, mindset, skillsets, and tools that can help women of color succeed as leaders in tech, and how to overcome the unique challenges faced in this field.
What mindsets will you need to succeed to navigate in the new era of tech leadership?
To succeed as a leader in tech, it is important to keep technology, business, processes, and people together as it enables alignment, customer-centricity, innovation, collaboration, and continuous learning, ultimately driving organizational success. As a leader, striking a harmonious blend between fostering differentiation and driving innovation in the business, while also acquiring the necessary skills is important. This allows for steady progress, adaptability, and the ability to explore new ideas and experiment, enabling personal and professional growth throughout one's career journey.
Women of color face unique challenges:
Lack of representation: Women of color are still underrepresented in positions of power, media, and other forms of representation. This can make it difficult for them to see themselves represented and to feel like they belong.
Microaggressions: Microaggressions are subtle, everyday forms of discrimination that can be harmful to a woman's self-esteem. They can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low confidence.
Racial and gender discrimination: Women of color face both racial and gender discrimination. This can make it difficult for them to succeed in school, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.
This causes self-sabotage and low confidence in women of color and as a result, they
- may not apply for a promotion because they don’t think they’re qualified.
- may not speak up in meetings out of fear of being judged.
- may take on more work than one can handle because of fear of being seen as lazy.
- may stay in a toxic job thinking it will be difficult to find anything better.
These can be obstacles to growing as a leader. However, shifting the mindset to focus on strengths, letting go of things out of control, having a growth mindset, and continuously learning and improving can help to overcome these challenges and succeed as a women leader in tech.
It's important to remember that self-sabotage and low confidence are not personal flaws. They are the result of systemic oppression and discrimination. If you are a woman of color who is struggling with self-sabotage or low confidence, there are things you can do to overcome these challenges.
Find a support system: Having a strong support system of friends, family, and mentors can be incredibly helpful in overcoming self-sabotage and low confidence. These people can offer encouragement, support, and advice.
Challenge negative thoughts: Ask if it's really true. Is it based on facts or on stereotypes? Challenge the thought and start to replace it with a more positive one.
Focus on your strengths: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. When feeling down, focus on strengths. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Reminding yourself of your strengths can help to boost confidence.
Set goals: Setting goals and working towards them can help to build confidence. When you achieve a goal, you feel good about your abilities.
Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself physically and mentally is important for overall well-being. Self-care helps with gaining more energy and focus and making you less likely to self-sabotage.
What are some of the strategies for success as a woman leader in tech in this new era?
Networking: Building a strong network of mentors, sponsors and advocates can provide valuable guidance and support as you navigate the industry.
Developing skills: Continuously developing your technical, business and leadership skills can help you stay competitive and be seen as a valuable asset to your organization.
Being visible: Seek out opportunities to be visible within your organization, such as taking on high-profile projects or speaking at industry events.
When I faced similar challenges in my career, I was working at LinkedIn. With the support of other women leaders at the company, I was able to work on a few high-profile projects. In addition, I applied for the GraceHopper event in 2019 and got to speak at the conference in front of 500+ women. This helped with gaining visibility and growth in my career and as a result I am now working as a Product Lead and part of the founding product team at StarTree.ai, an early stage start-up working on cutting-edge technologies.
Being an advocate: Speak up for yourself and other women in your organization, and push for policies and initiatives that support diversity and inclusion.
Paying it forward is something I learnt at LinkedIn and as a result, I started helping and promoting other women of color by providing coaching and mentorship on various platforms, on social media,at work, and in other communities I am part of.
Building an inclusive culture: As a leader, you have the power to create a culture of inclusion and respect, where everyone feels valued and respected.
In my career, I kept reminding myself of this very important thing. I made it a point to create a culture of inclusion and respect and started practicing this in everything I do today.
Embrace change and new challenges: The tech industry is constantly evolving, and as a leader, you need to be able to adapt and embrace change.
Emphasize work-life balance: As a leader, it's important to set an example and make sure that your team members feel comfortable and supported in their work-life balance.
Building a personal brand: Building a personal brand that reflects your values, strengths and professional achievements can help you stand out in the industry and increase your visibility.
Leverage technology to stay connected: Use online tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging and social media to stay connected with your team and clients.
Be a role model: Be a role model by being confident, visible, and supportive.
What tools and skill sets one can leverage to enhance their career journey as a woman leader in tech?
- Technical skills: Continuously developing your technical skills in areas such as data analysis, AI, engineering, and tech writing can help you stay competitive and be seen as a valuable asset to your organization.
- Leadership skills: Developing your leadership skills such as strategy, decision-making, people management, and communication can help you lead effectively and inspire your team.
- Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI): Understanding and managing emotions and relationships is a vital skill for any leader, and it is also an important tool for building a culture of inclusion and respect.
- Business intelligence and acumen: Understanding the business side of the tech industry and being able to make informed decisions can help you drive impactful results.
- Community and social networks: Building a community and leveraging social networks can be a great way to build and practice new skills, and expand your professional network.
- Coaching: Building a team of mentors, sponsors and advocates can provide valuable guidance and support in your career journey.
- Public speaking: Being able to communicate effectively and inspire others is an important skill for any leader, and public speaking can be a great way to build your confidence and develop your communication skills.
- Training and development: Invest in learning new skills and knowledge, such as taking online courses, attending workshops, and mentoring with more experienced professionals.
As for next steps, I would suggest taking charge of your career by taking action:
- Work on building more self-awareness. There are several online resources that help with uncovering your strengths – here's one resource I found useful.
- Become an avid learner leveraging your learning style - sign up for courses or make reading as a daily habit or do a side project or listen to podcasts while you go for a walk or exercise.
- Build your network by joining a community or social media platforms or attending an event for people with similar interests.
- Build a career success plan with clear objectives and a timeline. Commit to yourself. Hire a coach if you need help in this journey. I personally found it tremendously helpful and am very grateful to my coaches and mentors!
- Don't forget to focus on self-care and mental health - do things that make you happy and energetic.
- Pay it forward - share your knowledge, be a multiplier and help other women in the network.
While I was working at LinkedIn, I published an article that covers what it takes to succeed as a leader in tech in more detail and has insights from several LinkedIn leaders (including women leaders). You can find it here.
I also recently started my own podcast and LinkedIn newsletter on “Product Mastery in the age of AI and chatGPT”. If you are interested in this topic then you can subscribe to it to learn more for personal growth. If you have knowledge on this topic and want to share and participate in my podcast then send me a DM on Elpha.