It’s been a historic year for women. There are more women serving in Congress than ever before, and a record number ran for president in 2020. But even with these significant gains, women—both in the U.S. and around the world—can still find gender equality elusive. The situation is further exacerbated in the tech sector. According to a study published by the European Union, only 17% of people working in technological fields (specifically, ICT) are women. Worse still: according to the same study, those women earn 20% less than their male counterparts. Despite the efforts made in elementary schools, high schools, and universities, little progress has been made if we look at recent trends these past few years. There are still invisible barriers and glass ceilings which discourage women from studying STEM fields at university and hinder professional equality between men and women in this industry.
Despite these setbacks, women are increasingly making their mark. Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, "Google-ing" is possible due to Karen Sparck Jones’ discoveries, and Hedy Lamarr’s secret communication system inspired GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. Today, women are doing amazing things in tech, such as Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, and YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki. Drawing upon history Allison Hartsoe, Founder and CEO of Oregon-based Ambition Data, elaborates, “The challenges faced by women are numerous but that never stopped us from fulfilling our ambitions. I am particularly fascinated by Elizabeth the First. Despite the kind of world she lived in, where women were constantly looked down upon, she helped lay the foundations of one the most powerful nations on Earth. She established an English church that helped shape a national identity and remains in place today. A modern example would be that of Sally Krawcheck, co-founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. Even though she was the CFO at Citibank, she was subjected to the kind of discrimination which women are usually subjected to. But that didn’t stop her, did it? Today she runs the Elevate Network, a global community of women committed to fostering and promoting gender equality in the workplace. They do this with the help of online webinars, online networking, and career advice on topics like creating a personal brand, growing a business, finding a mentor, reinventing your career, and finding balance and fulfilment. I personally benefited from the opportunities created by her organization. I find leaders like her very inspiring, who faced discrimination and turned it around into a very powerful mechanism for women to rise.” beams Allison.
Indeed, today women are taking advantage of such mechanisms. It’s a welcoming space for women entrepreneurs, where collaboration, consensus, and diversity rule. Much of it is virtual, as more and more women opt to do business online. The number of women founders and owners has increased dramatically in recent years, and the impact of businesses with women at the helm is significant in terms of revenues and hiring.
A 2019 report by the SCORE Association, which provides free mentoring service for small business owners, shows that between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21% to a total of nearly 13 million (12,943,400). Employment grew by 8% to 9.4 million. Revenue rose 21% to $1.9 trillion. Over the past five years, the annual growth rate in the number of women-owned firms has been more than double that of all businesses. This is a cycle that must continue, “So many women today are becoming leaders, business owners and CEOs, what I am looking forward to is to see these leaders become the next venture capitalists. The ones who fund the next exciting idea. Because that can be a force multiplier for those who are denied opportunities just because they do not fit the model of what a leader should look like,” affirms Allison.
Modern women leaders are utilizing strengths like effective networking, empathy and an inclusive, holistic mindset to grapple with issues as universal as the future of this planet and as personal as the day-to-day challenges of being a woman, “There is a big expectation for women CEOs that in order to be successful you have to work yourself to death. It is tragic that so many people believe it to be true. I see all these male CEOs being celebrated for putting in punishing hours at work, but when you look closely you find out that their personal lives are hanging by a thread. Want to be successful? Work smarter, not harder”, affirms Allison.