Making it in the male-dominated IT industry

| 16 September 2016

By Laurika Möller, Nashua Project Office Manger

Tailor mannequin on white background.

Office automation and IT have come a long way in correcting the underrepresentation of women. Some specialised areas of the industry, however, are still primarily male-dominated.

Luckily, forward-thinking and innovative organisations are taking an active role in closing the gender gap by providing opportunities and encouraging women to pursue science, technology and leadership roles at a young age. But the reshuffling of a male-dominated industry doesn’t come easily – it requires a whole generation to affect change.

Entering the IT industry
In many ways, I’ve broken the mould as far as female IT roles are concerned – I was the first woman to move into my role at Nashua as Regional Business Executive, and it hasn’t always been easy.

Managing project managers – both on internal business projects, new tech, tools, system upgrades and their impact – is a challenging and exciting place to be. And although there are no hard and fast rules as to how to simplify the systemic gender issues in IT, there are some ways to make it a little easier to work as a team and look past gender roles.

Collaboration for success
When you’re managing projects and people, if you’re not working closely with your team, you might as well be working against each other. Collaboration and teamwork are essential, regardless of the industry – but in IT it’s tantamount to success.

The closer you can work with the people around you, the more likely you are to see past traditional gender roles and relate solely based on capabilities. You’re boosted based on performance, regardless of whether you’re man or woman, and you all learn the same lessons, as a unit.

Never forget everyone can and will contribute equally, given the opportunity. Every member of your team brings diverse skills and personality traits to the table, to ensure objectives and projects are on time and of quality. To affect any kind of real change, isolation is not an option.

Adapt or disappear
I think it’s a universal truth that the ability to evolve is as important as any other skill – no matter the industry. This is even more pertinent if you’re grappling to make your way in a male-dominated industry. Remember no job is off limits – there are no restrictions because you’re female, and so there shouldn’t be (within reason).

The ability to adapt to situations makes you more valuable and more equipped for a variety of career opportunities and will open so many doors for growth. We live in an ever-changing society with fluid expectations – IT is no different.

Making it to the top
Young women entering the IT industry desperately need role models and mentors. If you’re starting out in IT, seek out a mentor – someone aligned with your goals, who understands you and understands the position you’re in. Communicate your career goals, allow them to manage your expectations and seek objectivity whenever you can.

Having a mentor is important to share knowledge and grow professionally and personally. It’s a confidence boost, a reality check and a push to become self-directed. It also facilitates better communication outside of your mentor-mentee relationship.

Get involved
Don’t get trapped and wrapped up in your niche IT segment. Make yourself heard and known by getting involved and raising your hand, no matter the task or project. IT is constantly evolving and changing with new, specialised technologies and there’s an opportunity for anyone willing to become the expert.

Starting from the top
To foster a more representative ratio at top-level, the responsibility rests with leaders to surround themselves with employees they believe are objectively brilliant and well-suited for key IT roles – regardless of whether they’re a man or woman. So watch this space.