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How Women Can Beat the Odds in the Tech Industry The tech industry continues to suffer from a significant gender gap, with women holding less than a third of relevant positions, and the rise of AI and automation further marginalizing them.

By Lena Grundhoefer

Key Takeaways

  • Despite promising progress, gender inequality still pervades in areas like venture capital, sales and AI research.
  • This makes it imperative to foster gender diversity for both moral and business reasons.
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Women are underrepresented in the tech industry, holding less than a third of computer and mathematical occupations. It's only getting worse with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, as a new McKinsey report found women are 1.5 times more likely to be impacted by generative AI in their work. As a woman working with clients in tech, it can often feel isolating.

However, most days, I view it as an advantage because women have a different natural skill set than men. Our empathy helps in listening to clients and understanding the design process. We are less transactional and more inclined toward human connection, which is a great trait to help build a strong team. We also have different perspectives of the world, and various perspectives are essential for long-term success.

Related: 4 Strategies to Empower Women in the Workplace

This gender gap in technology is long-standing and caused by a variety of societal issues, ranging from stereotypes, bias and hostile work cultures to lack of early exposure and STEM educational pathways.

Companies like Amazon developed AI hiring bots to screen applicants, and, despite being proven to favor male applicants, they are still in use. Not only that, but women were also disproportionately impacted by recent big tech layoffs. Axios and Layoffs.fyi found that 45% of 3,404 workers confirmed laid off from tech employers between October 2022 and June 2023 were women, despite companies like Meta having 63% male workers in their workforce. These layoffs also focused largely on departments like Human Resources, which is nearly 73% female.

Web3 does get better. Some organizations like Boy's Club, SheFi and Surge do an amazing job combatting this by onboarding, retaining and curating female-oriented events to onboard more women into the ecosystem. This sector still inherits the same Web2 bias, though.

Boss Babes surveyed Gen Z about Web3 and found young women were 36% more likely to lack any formal education about the sector. Boston Consulting Group partnered with People of Crypto Lab to find only 13% of Web3 startups include a female founder, and only 3% of those were all-female founding teams.

All-male founding teams in Web3 raised an average of nearly $30 million each, compared to only $8 million for the all-female teams.

Related: Gen Z Is Seriously Misunderstood — Here are 3 Secrets Young CEOs Employ to Disrupt Industries

This gender gap exists in venture capital firms (where only 15% of VCs are women, and only 3% of funds go to all-female teams) and extends to tech sales teams, where women make up only 25% of salespeople and 12% of sales leadership. In school, 80% of AI professors are men, and after graduation, only 10 to 15% of AI research staff at companies like Facebook and Google are women.

Even just by existing as a woman, tech can threaten me, regardless of whether I work. Research shows that 96% of deepfakes online in 2019 were women, and generative AI is known to accentuate biases while disproportionately affecting women.

There's no reason for any of these problems to exist, either. A McKinsey report on diversity found companies with at least 30% female executives are up to 48% more likely to outperform their least gender-diverse counterparts. In fact, both gender and racial diversity from the entry-level to the C-suite can increase a company's bottom line.

Building this foundation as an entrepreneur is especially important as you scale beyond your garage into a multinational company. There are ways to succeed as a female entrepreneur in the tech space.

Getting ahead as a female entrepreneur

I can't understate the importance of continuous learning. It's easy as we get older to remain stuck in our ways, but the more knowledge you have, the more confident you'll be in every aspect of your life. That's why it's important to learn something new every day, whether directly related to the business or not.

Sometimes, we can learn something in a completely unrelated field that can be applied to our own, so always stay open to new experiences.

Related: 4 Research-Backed Reasons Why Women Belong in Tech

Don't be afraid to be unabashedly who you are. Speak your mind, take the lead, and be willing to win or lose as yourself. We all battle imposter syndrome, and I realize it's difficult to "be yourself" when you aren't entirely sure who you are. Still, you should stand confident and follow your dreams, regardless of how difficult the road can sometimes be.

As a woman, also be prepared to go the extra mile. My business partner and I regularly attend business conferences like Consensus and NFT.NYC, and speaker panels are often filled with men. We're lucky to account for 10 to 20% of the speaker slots, which means we must compete harder and bring our A-game.

It's also vital to lean into your strengths–while you may have a steeper hill to climb, you can remain competitive by focusing on your core skillsets. Everything else can be outsourced as you build a team of specialists in areas you struggle in. It doesn't mean you can't still struggle through and learn new things, but your bread and butter should focus on what you're best at.

More than anything, understand that change is slow. We're living in the 2020s, and my challenges are not much different than those my mother and grandmother faced at my age. You'll still face adversity no matter how hard you work or climb.

Gender diversity isn't just a moral imperative; it's a business imperative. Innovation thrives on diverse perspectives, and women are essential to this ecosystem.

Being a woman entrepreneur has unique challenges, but it's not impossible. In fact, overcoming these hurdles helps us refine our skills and come out stronger on the other end. Tech bros may run the world, but that doesn't mean we can't claim our space, disrupt the status quo, and lead with passion and resilience.

Lena Grundhoefer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & Consultant of ZEIGEIST Labs

Lena Grundhoefer is the Founder and Consultant behind ZEITGEIST Labs, a NY-based digital marketing and strategy consultancy. Her consultancy advises Fortune 500 companies and VC-backed startups across entertainment, emerging tech, B2B SaaS, professional services and culture.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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