7 Commandments for Women in Technology and Other Male-dominated Fields

I’m sure most of you have read my article “Time to end the frat house culture! We need more women in our midst.” I want to see more women in leadership roles and the ranks of techies, scientists, and entrepreneurs. This not only benefits society, but is also great for business (see my previous article for the data).

This article was inspired by several months of conversations with successful female professionals about the subject. I also had the pleasure attending a great event organized by MITX and Girls in Tech called “Lessons Learned: Women’s Careers in Review”. Here are 7 “commandments” that summarize everything I’ve learned so far:

  • Don’t ever use being a woman as an excuse for anything “ (Dianne Hessan – CEO of Communispace). Nothing is more damaging than self-segregation. All the BS (like women are not good at math or leadership) you may have heard from some idiotic teacher or a male counterpart is just that – BS! There are women engineers, mathematicians, CEOs, etc. and you can be the next remarkable one too.
  • Find mentors TODAY. Yes, thanks to the remnants of old-school thinking, the climb is much steeper for women in male-dminated fields. But if you find another woman who has done it, you can gain knowledge that will skyrocket your career. Find a role model you admire and ask her for help. Most people love to help, because it is the ultimate reward and recognition! And BTW, there are plenty of male mentors, like myself, who will help you proper yourself forward.
  • Use being a minority in you field to your advantage. Are you one of the few women in the sea of testosterone at a techie event? This is the time to gun for the most important folks in the crowd and get their face time. You will get attention and be remembered because you are not dime a dozen. As a man, I love being in a minority at some of the events dominated by women for exactly the reason I just described.
  • Stop hanging out in female only groups and dive into bigger communities. Cutting knowledge in technology, entrepreneurship, and other fields is not developed in academic institutions or by a handful of thought leaders. The best stuff comes out of huge communities and you have to contribute to gain. Be it user group events or online forums – find time for them and participate. Example: are you an aspiring video game developer? Become the “gamer chick”!
  • Stay professional at all times – don’t date people you work with. I heard this advice from several female exec friends of mine. There is no place for romance at work and it is one temptation that should be put to rest not only by women, but also by men.
  • As a parent, you will always be concerned about not spending enough time with or being there for your kids. Get used to it. Get over it. Deal with it. Your kids may just thank you for that some day.”  (Nataly Kogan – founder of Happier, Inc). This one is important for all parents to understand. My mom and dad were very successful and busy people, but they also were great role models, and we had the best childhood. Grow your career and show your kids how it is done – you will build better future productive members of society.
  • Learn how to speak last” (Gail Goodman – CEO of Constant Contact). This piece of advice is again applicable to both genders, but women gain from it the most. Because there is a wide stereotype about women “sharing a lot”, use it to your advantage and make people listen to what you have to say. It is an art you will have to master.

I really learned a lot from the conversations about these topics with my female peers. It is definitely going to make me a better leader and help change things in the professions I deeply care about. I hope all my readers – male and female – will walk away from this article with something they can use in their daily careers.

Photo credit: Mike Licht

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