Being a female software developer or software engineer can be a challenge. This is still a male-dominated profession where cultural biases may hinder female workers, after all.
Consider the fact that only 15% of staff in high-tech companies are women, for instance. A Google spreadsheet by a female software engineer at Pinterest even says only 20% of software engineers in a total of 288 companies charted are female.
Women even tend to leave the field earlier, citing issues like glass ceilings, unfair treatment, etc. And if that weren’t enough, this industry also has some of the largest gender pay gaps!
But that doesn’t mean female software engineers should just switch to another profession. Things are changing… and with every female engineer who perseveres in her career, that change gets bigger.
So now, to show our support for all the female software engineers out there, we’re listing tips that can help them find success in their profession.
1. Take Steps to Boost Your Confidence
Believe it or not, this is where most female software engineers need to start. Confidence crises are extremely common among them for various reasons.
First, they tend to be questioned more than their male counterparts. That’s especially true in workplaces where the culture is male-oriented and authority is linked to maleness.
Second, the rarity of female software engineers also means each female software engineer may feel a bigger onus of representation. That is, they feel as though they have to constantly represent “female software engineers” at their best.
They may end up having unnecessarily high expectations for themselves, as a result. This can lead to a mindset where they believe they should always “know the answer”.
But as most veteran software engineers will tell you, software engineering isn’t always about knowing the answer. In many cases, it’s about working out that answer.
That means female software engineers may be setting themselves up for a fall when they try to live up to their own ideas of what the ideal female software engineer should be like. It can have a deleterious effect on their belief in themselves.
Add to that the fact that female software engineers tend to suffer from “imposter syndrome”. This is a feeling that they are imposters who are not good enough to actually be in the field.
That’s why building up confidence is vital. One way to do it is to take time to look at your experience and skills, thereby giving yourself a better picture of your abilities and reasons for confidence.
You should also look for people who can become part of a supportive network. This can be made up of friends, family, colleagues, and even coworkers.
And remember, even male coworkers can be supportive! Give them a chance, because most of them actually are supportive when they have a better idea of what their female colleagues face.
It may help to find a supportive mentor too. This can be a veteran or professional role model who can guide you along the path and assure you of where you’re headed with your career.
2. Get Acquainted with the Full Development Cycle
This is actually great advice not just for female software engineers but all software engineers seeking success. It not only has the potential to expand your skill set but also helps you form better relationships at work.
You see, it teaches you what others in the cycle need from you, how best to deal with them, and how to make yourself invaluable to them.
Understanding the software development lifecycle can thus have a wealth of benefits for your career. It can strengthen your position in a team project or organisation and help you interact better with others.
It can even help you reach positions like team lead, senior developer, and so on. Because you understand the many parts of the project, you’d be better-situated to lead it, after all.
3. Speak Up When Necessary
It seems to be easier for most men to ask for promotions or salary increases than women. This is true even in software engineering.
It’s time to break away from that, however. If you know you deserve more, don’t be afraid to ask.
It may be useful to think of it as the act of tossing away that outdated expectation of women being meek and timid. Having a voice can help you find better opportunities, salaries, and the like.
In fact, you may even create better positions for yourself at your company. If you have an idea that you think can benefit the company, for instance, propose it and offer to lead development on it!
You would be surprised how willing many employers are to reward those who take initiative this way.
4. Look for Local Resource/Training Groups
You should also try to look for local training groups and resources. These give you a chance to hone your skills as well as meet people who could become part of your support group.
You may even try to find female programmer groups in your area for meet-ups. These can be invaluable sources of information for a female software engineer.
They may be able to tell you which employers to avoid and which ones to prioritise. They can give you advice on how to deal with gender inequality at the office and what tech skills to focus on next.
That means they can help you ensure you have the tools and preparation necessary to deal with the challenges you may face as a female software engineer.
Such communities can even prevent you from being blindsided by things like pay gaps and unfair treatment, as well as help you figure out how to deal with them when they do pop up.
5. Be More Discerning in Employers
Here’s the fact: some employers are just less female-friendly than others. If a workplace aggressively promotes a male-oriented atmosphere, you should think twice about working there.
Consider that you are likely to experience more stress, lower wage increases, and diminished chances of advancement at such places.
You will realise that whatever paycheque they may be offering is usually not worth the trouble.
Look for red flags like allegations of “brogrammer” culture or female-unfriendly activity from their past or present employees.
You can even ask to speak to any of their present female engineers to find out how they treat female devs.
Of course, you can also work with a recruitment or placement company for engineers that pays attention to such matters. To that end, it may help to look for employers known for free and fair dealing, as well as a supportive working environment.
For instance, as a member of Skilledd’s community, you can indicate your preference for employers with a company culture that matches yours. We can even provide advice on how to become more attractive to the companies that you want to work for, to that end.
At Skilledd, we strive to empower engineers—whether male or female—by matching them to the job opportunities that actually fit their needs and career plans. To learn more, register with us now.