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Women in Tech Championing the Cause for IT Women

By: James Cummings

It’s not news anymore there are relatively few women in IT, and when you find them they do not always command the same level of respect as their male counterparts. Some of the evidence lies in the disparity between the salaries received by women in tech and that of their male peers.

A recent study by Spiceworks, a Texas-based professional network for IT, discovered women in IT are more educated than the men and are often paid less. The study revealed that in the US, 82% of women in the industry have an associate’s degree or higher compared to 69% of males. However, when you compare the median salaries of both groups, we find female IT professionals earn 6% less per year.

As saddening as the situation is, it appears women in IT may fare better than women in other sectors. The US Census Bureau released data revealing that, in 2015, women’s salaries were 20% less than men’s across all industries in the country.

In this piece, we highlight tech women who despite this apparent gender-related discrimination forged a path to the top. We also highlight another category of leading women in tech who are helping the cause in one way or another by getting more women in tech or by empowering women already in the industry.

Kathryn Minshew

Kathryn Minshew is the CEO and founder of job search website, The Muse. Before her business received a $2.8 million seed fund and became the success it is today, she had to deal with rejection and harassment by male investors. After she had been told she was “too nice” to run a startup, she decided to make some changes: wearing edgier clothes, practising more aggressive eye contact when the occasion demanded and sticking to strictly discussing investments at meetings.

In one case, an investor made advances at her at a dinner hosted by tech entrepreneurs. Claiming he wanted to meet Minshew to learn about her business model, the guest of honour at the party got her to talk to him privately. They started talking business, but it didn’t take long before the discussion took a more personal turn, forcing Minshew to leave.

Kathryn Tucker

Kathryn Tucker is the creator of RedRover, an app that helps parents find local events and activities for their children. It has social networking features that allow users to follow friends and family to see what they’re doing, save their favourite activities and places as well as rate and review them.

While she was participating in a panel discussion on what fundraising is like for women, she recalled a meeting with an angel investor who had told her he didn’t invest in women. When she was done with her pitch, the investor informed her that he didn’t like the way women think. Perhaps in an attempt to compliment her, he then declared that she was more “male” in her thinking. Tucker left the room and never spoke to him again.

Tracy Chou

Tracy Chou is a prominent software engineer with an impressive portfolio under her belt. From her days in Stanford when she interned at Google, Facebook, and Rocket Fuel to her career in Quora and later Pinterest, Chou has left her prints all over Silicon Valley. She is not one to be ignored especially regarding the dust she raised when she got interested in knowing exactly how represented women were in the IT sector. She went hunting for data and found that the numbers of women in tech were far less than companies were willing to admit.

Later, Chou put up a blog post where she urged tech companies to disclose what proportions of their technical staff were women, starting a GitHub repository to help track the figures. Thus began her fight for including more women in IT. In late 2015, she launched Project Include to boost the fight for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Katherine Zaleski

Katherine Zaleski is the co-founder and president of Power to Fly, a service dedicated to helping technical women find full-time remote jobs. In 2015, she published a piece where she apologised to all the mothers she once wrote off as lacking commitment to their careers after she had a daughter of her own. She quit her decade-long career in journalism to co-found Power to Fly because she wanted women to be valued for their productivity, rather than for long hours spent in an office.

Minerva Tantoco

Minerva Tantoco became the first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of New York City in 2014. She focuses on fostering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) education for girls, among her other duties. Her experience in the tech industry spans a successful 30-year career, with four U.S. patents on intelligent workflow to show for it.

A lot of her work has been focused on applied innovation to design tech strategies to get awesome businesses off the ground. Tantoco is consistently involved with creating equal opportunities in tech and making computer science available to students.

Deborah Jackson

Deborah Jackson left a career on Wall Street to start Plum Alley, which is the first Kickstarter specifically for women entrepreneurs.

With her co-founder, Andrea Turner Moffitt, Jackson set up PlumAlley to connect women investors to female entrepreneurs who have a hard time raising capital. Plum Alley Investments doesn’t focus on early stage funding like most other angel investors but joins investors in Series A rounds or higher. Members invest as a syndicate, with each individual deciding how much she’d like to contribute.

Jackson is also a co-founder at the Women Innovate Mobile Accelerator, created to help women building new mobile-first technology. Starting at Goldman Sachs, her expertise stems from a 20-year career of raising capital for governments, companies, and other issuers in the public and private markets.

As Senior Developer Taylor Humphrey at umbrellar.com,  one of the leading tech companies in New Zealand, explains, “business funding is a struggle to get, and it is even moreso for female entrepreneurs, who have a harder time securing VC funding. It’s great to see Deborah championing the cause for women entrepreneurs.”

Debra Sterling

Debra Sterling is the entrepreneur and engineer who founded GoldiBlox, a children’s multimedia company that aims to inspire little girls to build the next big thing. GoldiBlox has been a success in many toy stores around the world and is widely acclaimed for challenging gender stereotypes with the first girl engineer character. Using storytelling and STEM principles, the company creates toys, apps, books, animation, videos, and merchandise to empower girls to ultimately build their futures.

After getting her degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design from Stanford in 2005, Sterling worked in design and branding before coming up with the idea to start GoldiBlox as a way to encourage little girls with an interest in engineering.

The future of women in the IT and tech space is anything but dismal considering the efforts made by leading women in the industry. From trained professionals to women who stumbled into IT from an entirely different career path, women are taking charge and helping to make the future brighter for technical career women.