Against the Grain: Standing up for More Girls in Tech
Career Development The women who venture down the path less traveled to increase gender diversity in the tech industry offer themselves as role models for young girls looking to break into the business.
Mediaplanet: Who was a role model of yours in the tech industry growing up?
Erin Teague: Unfortunately, I did not have very much exposure to women in high tech careers growing up. My mother, while not in tech, was my biggest role model. She’s currently the principal at a public middle school in the Detroit metropolitan region of Michigan, and was a teacher in the same school district growing up. The passion with which she has pursued her career was unlike any other. This was incredibly impactful for me in terms of shaping the way I’ve approached and prioritized my career.
MP: What is it important that we close the gender gap in tech-related jobs?
ET: Diverse teams make better decisions, which lead to better outcomes. It’s important that technology companies work to close the gender gap to ensure the best possible outcomes for every problem they are working to solve. Additionally, the world has changed since the introduction of the smartphone. Now that approximately 3 billion people in the world are online and almost 2 billion people have smartphones, the face of technology consumerism has evolved to become more representative of the world's population. Given that women are equal users of consumer Internet and mobile products, it makes sense for women to build these products as they have a unique understanding of the use case.
"As a young girl in tech, it may be the case that there are only a few other girls in your classes, group projects and teams. At times, this experience can feel isolating and very lonely."
MP: What do you see for the future of women in tech?
ET: Overall, I’m optimistic that not only the gender gap will close, but also that women will be in leadership roles throughout the sector. The number of women in founder or CEO roles of hyper-growth startups solving key problems in the world will radically increase, and I cannot wait for this to happen!
MP: What are some of the challenges you face in a predominantly male industry?
ET: By far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is overcoming imposter syndrome: the belief that I didn’t belong and that I was not quite deserving of my roles and responsibilities. Beginning in college, when I was the only black woman in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department of 1,200 students, I experienced culture shock and became immensely aware of the fact that I was the only one of my race and gender.
As this reality continued throughout a large part of my professional career, feelings of being an imposter have never completely gone away. However, it is something that I’ve learned to recognize, tackle head-on and use as a motivator to achieve.
MP: What advice would you give to young girls looking to excel in tech?
ET: As a young girl in tech, it may be the case that there are only a few other girls in your classes, group projects and teams. At times, this experience can feel isolating and very lonely. Don’t give up, because the world needs you. The most important thing you can do is to recognize and embrace the unique perspective that you have, and then use it to your advantage!