Experiences of Women in Technology

Woman with AI generated glasses

On the 8th of March, we celebrate International Women’s Day to accelerate efforts for women’s equality. The global day also aims to bring up the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women1.

In alignment with this agenda, we recently hosted a roundtable discussion inviting women working at SimAnalytics to unite, celebrate accomplishments, and share their experiences as professionals in the technology sector. Through this discourse and the insights shared in this blog post, we endeavour to provide a space for the unique, yet collective, perspectives and experiences of our group of women. We aim to inspire dialogue, reflection, and therethrough action both within and beyond the confines of our organisation.

Setting the scene

In many comparisons of gender equality, Finland (SimAnalytics’ HQ), like its Nordic counterparts, ranks highly. Whilst gender pay gaps are not closed and a mere 7.5% of women are managers as compared to 20% of men2, within Finnish higher education and the labour market another phenomenon also persists: stark gender segregation. Women represent less than 20 percent of the technology industry3 (which is also reflected at SimAnalytics where the figure is 22.2%). At the same time, the workforce is ageing – an estimated 130,000 new workers within the industry are needed to enable growth, workforce well-being, and the sought-after green transition4.

While gender equality should be enough of a reason to question the persisting segregation and large differences in the number of managerial positions, the numbers game provides further reason to act. Also, whilst women are notably more affected by the consequences of the figures in question, it is good to note that practices that favour the values of men, also tend to limit the growth potential of men as men subsequently become bound by masculine expectations5.

A tale of coincidences

Each woman’s journey into the tech world is unique. Some of us women who participated in the roundtable discussion were drawn to technology from an early age, fascinated by technology's inner workings and good grades in mathematics. For others, the transition into tech was more gradual, spurred by experiences and encounters in other fields. Notably, despite varying degrees of interest in technology no one had sought out a career in technology from the very beginning – we all just ended up here when the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Common threads of self-discovery, learning by doing, and navigating without formal guidance weave through the narratives.

Navigating obstacles

The lack of formal guidance may to some degree be linked to the lack of family and friends working within the industry. While everyone noted a positive attitude from others towards pursuing a career in tech, the lack of a helping hand amplified the experience of obstacles encountered on the way. Us women at the roundtable note that some of these obstacles are likely shaped by gender biases and a masculine workplace dynamic, but simultaneously find it hard to separate our personal experiences as individuals from those of a gendered experience. Many of us however had a hard time believing that our experiences of feeling overlooked for promotions to grappling with imposter syndrome throughout our careers were solely individual experiences.

Imposter syndrome looms as a pervasive challenge for us women throughout our careers, casting doubt on our abilities and contributions. Overcoming this internal struggle has for example entailed embracing self-assurance and asserting opinions without reservation. At the same time, the room highlights that there is a subconscious battle between adapting to the masculine norms such as being assertive to advance in our careers, and embracing our feminine traits which we see would provide a different type of value to organisations while bearing the risk of not being taken as seriously.

A hunch that women need to prove themselves before being hired or promoted whereas men more often are handed opportunities based on potential, was highlighted. The existence of what some might term "boys clubs" and the prevalence of gendered expectations only serve to compound these difficulties, erecting barriers to equal opportunities and hindering professional growth.

Recognizing the value of diversity

In our experience, the presence of female colleagues brings invaluable perspectives and strengths to the workplace. Beyond conforming to gender stereotypes, we see that women often contribute a wide array of soft skills, promote collaboration, and challenge conventional norms, thereby enhancing organizational culture and driving innovation. Many of these skills are also linked to our perspectives of good leadership. This however doesn’t imply that men and masculinity are obsolete – gender diversity requires a balance between parties.

Achieving gender equality in the tech industry necessitates collective effort and accountability. Participants highlight that women can support and empower one another through networks and mentorship programs while advocating for inclusive practices and policies. Simultaneously, men play a crucial role in promoting allyship, challenging biases, and fostering an environment where everyone can thrive.

There is a tired wave in the room when discussing contribution – like with any marginalized group, the group that holds power should also hold responsibility for using that power for the greatest good. The ability to question biases and prevailing norms requires effort and rightly so. A historical overrepresentation of men within a profession shapes the image and ideal of the profession6. However, masculinity and femininity as well as their role in an industry are societal constructs and as such they have been shaped by people and can hence consequently be re-shaped by people7. This re-shaping begins with an understanding of current biases and norms.

We see that the recognition of gender diversity as a team effort would shift the conversation from an attack-and-defend position to one where mistakes and biases are understood, taken seriously, discussed, and acted upon.

Looking ahead

As we reflect on the conversations and insights shared, it becomes evident that addressing gender inequality in the tech industry is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic one. Failing to address these disparities risks perpetuating outdated norms and stifling the industry's potential for sustainable growth and innovation. Furthermore, the tech industry plays a crucial role in making products for everyone, not just men. Without diversity and greater representation of women in our workforce, certain technologies and solutions may never see the light of day. If the industry’s goal is to create solutions that cater to the needs of our entire society, then our workforce should reflect the diversity of our communities.

As Susanna Bairohm, Research Manager at TEK highlights in her doctoral thesis on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math): “Change must start from acknowledging the facts: it is not about innate differences between men and women but about a constructed masculine culture, which is based on the notion that men and technology are connected whereas women and technology are not.”

By championing diversity, challenging biases, and amplifying underrepresented voices, we can collectively build a tech industry that is inclusive and reflective of the diverse, current, and upcoming talent within it.



[1] https://www.internationalwomensday.com

[2] Grönlund, A., Halldén, K. and Magnusson, C., 2017. A Scandinavian success story? Women’s labour market outcomes in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Acta Sociologica, 60(2), pp.97-119.

[3] https://womenintech.fi/2021/05/women-in-tech-finland-leaps-into-the-next-level/#:~:text=About%2020%20percent%20of%20all,competition%2C%20initiating%20change%20is%20inevitable.

[4] https://teknologiateollisuus.fi/fi/ajankohtaista/tiedote/selvitys-teknologiateollisuus-tarvitsee-10-vuoden-sisalla-130-000-uutta

[5] Simpson, R., & Ituma, A. (2009). Transformation and feminisation: the masculinity of the MBA and the “un-development” of men. Journal of Management Development, 28(4), 301-316.

[6] Van den Brink, M., & Benschop, Y. (2014). Gender in academic networking: The role of gatekeepers in professorial recruitment. Journal of Management Studies, 51(3), 460-492.

[7] Gherardi, S., & Poggio, B. (2001). Creating and recreating gender order in organizations. Journal of world business, 36(3), 245-259.

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