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Women continue to gain ground in tech sector but more needs to be done

Becky Straker Profile picture for user Becky Straker March 6, 2024
Summary:
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Confluent brought together three of its senior leaders to discuss their experiences as women in tech. Here, they speak candidly about the opportunities that exist, the challenges they still face — and what more needs to be done.

Women working in tech © SDI Productions - Canva.com
(© SDI Productions - Canva.com)

When it comes to discussing the role of women in tech, Murielle de Gruchy — Confluent’s Sr. Director, People Business Partners, Global Finance and Operations, and EMEA Region — pulls no punches. She says: 

I think women have a bit of a hidden superpower. 

We’re more attuned to other people's emotions — something that resonates in Confluent’s values which include traits such as being smart, but also humble and empathetic. That means we understand that good ideas can come from everywhere.

And that’s important. Because it gets to the very heart of the themes of this year’s International Women’s Day. It’s not just about ‘imagining a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination’. It’s about creating one that is ‘diverse, equitable, and inclusive’. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

What’s clear is that the tech industry has seen some improvement regarding the recruitment of women. According to a 2023 survey, women account for around 26% of people working in IT. Compared to 2019 — when just 19% were employed in the sector — it is an improvement. Remote working — and the notion of remote-first companies — has helped. So too has a drive to encourage younger women to engage with STEM subjects, supported by more inclusive graduate programs.

Progress is being made — but more needs to be done

The question is, what more can be done? What else needs to happen to bring about real change? For those already in the industry carving out a career, one piece of advice is to create a personal network of advisors and mentors. Victoria Mileham, Head of Global Recruiting, explains:

I’ve developed a group of my ‘personal board of directors’ to provide help and advice. 

It’s made up of people from different tech sectors who may come from completely different industries and businesses. Some are male. Some are female. Others are from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Crucially, I’m able to go to my ‘personal board’ and bounce ideas around in a psychologically safe environment.

I think that's very important. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Allowing yourself to take in the thoughts of others so that you can assimilate that information and then find a path forward. I think that that's extremely useful — not just for women — but for us all.

Not only can women compete with men, they can excel too

It’s a really important point. Making sure the workplace is more representative of society isn’t just a tick-box exercise. Behind the stats, there are real people involved. Veronika Folkova, Confluent’s Sr. Director, People Business Partners, Global Legal Organisation and APAC Region, explains: 

Many women I talk to speak of imposter syndrome.

Changing that mindset can be a difficult task. But it can be done. Women need to realize that they do have the skills to do jobs traditionally done by men. They need to be confident that their skills are good enough —  not just to develop their career, but to excel and reach the top flight.

Women need to believe in themselves. But they also need to create the foundations for success. To echo the point made by Victoria, they need to surround themselves with a support network that will help them grow.

But while it’s up to individuals to forge ahead with their own chosen paths, there also needs to be the right structures to allow that to happen. First and foremost, that means having a leadership team at the summit of every organization that is in tune with the aspirations of women. Veronika adds: 

I'm lucky enough to have a C-level exec who is part of the Women's Inclusion Network, here at Confluent.

For me, the mentorship that our senior leadership team provides is something to be championed.

Attitudes among men are changing as well

What’s more, it’s an approach that is paying dividends reflecting a deep-rooted shift in attitudes. Murielle de Gruchy says: 

One of the things that I really appreciate at Confluent is how much we have sponsorship from men.

 They have actively become big advocates for women, actively putting women forward and helping us shine. For me, that's one key thing that Confluent has achieved and should be applauded.”

While there’s little doubt that more needs to be done to champion and further inclusivity, it’s a far cry from the male-dominated industry that existed even 20 years ago. Victoria recalls: 

I remember when I first moved into sales being told, ‘Let the men speak,’ when I was negotiating a deal. It’s unthinkable today.

So progress is being made. And one of the biggest areas is in the recruitment of women at the very start of their careers. Veronika says: 

In APAC we run internship programs, working with multiple universities to make sure that not only do we hire the best talent, we also encourage it to develop at grassroots levels. 

For us, equal opportunity — having equal representation between men and women at all stages — is vital.

What’s clear is that despite the advances, gains and changes in attitude, there is still much to do. That’s why Confluent’s focus on diversity and inclusion also seeks to challenge the status quo.

Not only does that mean providing opportunities for female talent, but ensuring that there is a support system in place to allow people to develop. After all, attracting talent is one thing. But if the environment fails to nurture talent — or is not sufficiently diverse —  people will simply leave.

As Veronika puts it, the future lies in women investing in their own careers supported by companies with the foresight to recognize that diversity matters. She says: 

Everyone brings something different to the table.

And everyone should be embraced as an individual. No matter who you are, believe in yourself. If nothing else, that’s one superpower we all possess.

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