As a Hispanic woman with years of experience working in Silicon Valley, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many female and minority professionals. Recently, I was promoted to the role of CEO/President of ATR, something I’ve worked towards my entire life. Recognizing the power of my new position, I find it more important than ever to provide support for women and minorities in tech and beyond.
Finding Your Voice in a Male-Dominated Industry
It’s well known that the tech industry is a male-dominated field. After all, only 26% of professional computing occupations in the U.S. are held by women, with women holding just 17% of Fortune 500 CIO positions. Despite this, the tech industry is also one that prizes innovation, new ideas, and novel thinking. Women can stand out as fresh minds that push companies forward, but only if we are vocal.
This is difficult when faced with working in a flawed industry. Consider a Stanford study where researchers observed 84 technology recruiting sessions on campus held by 66 companies. Of those sessions, only 22% featured females speaking about technical work. Men dominated the conversations and were the primary individuals speaking to and asking questions of the students, while the women recruiters were relegated to gender-stereotypical roles such as passing out raffle tickets.
While gender equality is a multi-layered issue, the Stanford study represents the crux of the problem. Negative behavioral norms are reinforced and ultimately hold down women in their careers by pushing them into support roles even when their position is the same as their male counterparts. This is why a new HP study finds that women are more likely to apply for a job only when they are 100% qualified for it, compared to men who are prone to apply even if they are just 60% qualified.
At ATR, we prize the female voice and encourage women to be vocal. We know all our hires have great ideas and we want to hear them. That can’t happen if a huge segment of our employees feel they can’t or shouldn’t speak their minds. To that end, I urge business leaders to provide platforms and make it comfortable for all employees to find their voice. And for females everywhere, whether in Silicon Valley, staffing, technology, or any field, if you’re at a company where you feel oppressed, there are other employers who would be happy to have you.
Diversity Is Vital to Business
A lot of what women face is also felt by ethnic minorities. The portion of Latinos who make up the tech industry has actually declined, down to 4.8%. When you’re different from the majority, it’s easy to feel alienated. However, the smartest companies understand that different opinions provide the new ideas they rely on. In fact, studies show that a one percentage point move toward representative diversity leads to a three percentage point increase in revenue. That could amount to an extra $400 billion in the IT industry.
For minority professionals looking to make an impact in the business world, it comes down to maintaining confidence while connecting with others to find your support system. For us at ATR, the NMSDC has provided a strong diversity community over the years. It’s allowed us to remain strong in what makes us different and to not be afraid of forging new paths. Similarly, connecting with other women in technology and other female executives keeps me motivated and confident in our collective standing in the industry.
Setting the Example
Finding your community as a woman or minority is important in pushing your career forward, but we must go further than that. It’s necessary to set the example, not just for our current peers, but for those who look up to us. There are so many bright minority and female minds out there, and I believe it’s our duty to show them what they can become and give them something to aspire to. ATR has been around for 30 years, and we feel a responsibility to provide guidance. I was fortunate to have positive role models and examples in my life, and we must do the same for future and emerging professionals in the hopes of one day creating an equal playing field.
As I take ATR into the next generation, giving back to the minority business community continues to be a priority. At the same time, I maintain my passion for mentoring young women. They are our future, and today’s girls should know that STEM careers are just as exciting and can provide as many opportunities for them as they do for their male peers. As you grow as a woman or minority (or, like me, both), set the example for the future and show them what it means to be a modern leader.
Leading a Silicon Valley Business as a Woman and Minority in 2018
The future is never set in stone. Whether you’re a woman, minority, business leader, tech industry veteran, or emerging professional, it’s on each and every one of us to make a difference for the future. Collectively, we can speed up and broaden the social change that can bring true equality. Be vocal, be confident, set an example, and watch as the next-generation of women and minorities soars to new heights.
ATR is making the world a better place, one job at a time. Whether you’re a woman, minority, business leader, or job seeker, choose an article below for further insight into the female and minority business communities.