Women – How to Break Barriers and Reach the Top

By Chaya Soggot, founder and chief executive of adtech firm, Woobi.

 

Ellen Pao, the investor who sued one of the world’s most famous venture capitalist firms for gender discrimination, recently slammed the “toxic” environment of Silicon Valley for the growing “influx” of “greedy” male graduates. Interestingly, for a sector you’d imagine to be at the forefront of diversity, the stats are quite revealing. It seems almost paradoxical that the global workforce of both Apple and Facebook is just 32% female.

 

It is time for us to all look in the mirror and strive to ensure the technology industry leads the way in creating a diverse workforce where your gender, age, disability, nationality or religion is as irrelevant as the colour of our smartphones.

 

In my view, companies benefit greatly from diversity. It’s the secret recipe for boosting success in creative and innovative industries. So here are my top tips for women aiming to make it to the top:

 

Stop thinking of yourself as a woman

Stop thinking of yourself as a “woman”, think of yourself as a professional. By focussing on our gender, we are creating and reinforcing the stereotype.

In many places around the world, women are being held back due to pre-conceived perceptions of what is accepted in certain industries. And this is not solely an issue for the technology industry, although here it is perhaps acute with outdated stereotypes of what it takes to succeed in technology.

 

Forget the stereotypes

Probably the biggest issue is one of stereotyping and so women need to be careful not to enforce it, by seeing themselves as “women” before they see themselves as professionals. Women do get typecast, but at times we don’t realize how we typecast ourselves as well. When I tell women I’ve hired a female CTO they look at me with surprise. Not because they doubt my choice, but because they never thought of a woman for a job that most see more normal for a man. But if women put themselves forward for the so-called male jobs and ignore the stereotyping then I am confident that over time things will change. We are sometimes our own worst enemies.

 

Use females you know as inspiration

I admire people who can break down barriers, create change and achieve the impossible, whether they are male or female. During my life, I have had many inspirations, both male and female. Some of my inspirations, who have undoubtedly acted as my inspirations include my mother, the women on my management team and my personal friends. These women, each in their own way, have accomplished incredible things by both male and female standards. Women who don’t let labels and circumstances get in the way of their dreams are both inspirational and admirable.

 

So how can we remove the lack of diversity at the top?

Of course, the focus on diversity stretches way beyond just women. There are deeper rooted issues around socioeconomic statuses that need to be addressed. As far as unconscious bias stands, candidates may be eliminated because of their name, the area they live in, the place of birth and many other personal factors which have no effect on their talent and performance.

 

I believe that by removing personal information from a candidate’s application, we don’t only get the advantages of a diverse team but also hire incredibly talented people other companies may pass on because of unconscious bias. The issues of diversity within the technology industry are so much bigger than whether a company should hire a man or a woman.

 

So, what can we learn from all this?

As technology bosses, we should be leading the way. We are an industry lauded for innovation and creativity, so why aren’t we taking the lead when it comes to smashing the glass ceiling? We should create a truly equal and diverse workforce from the top to the bottom.

 

At Woobi, we develop technology for the in-game advertising industry, with a mission to create an emotional engagement between the gamer and the advertiser. Given that according to many studies, including recently the Internet Advertising Bureau, over 50 percent of gamers are women, we would be missing a huge trick if we did not employ women at the most senior levels of our company.