Saturday 15 February 2020


So many times I've been asked how do we increase the number of women in tech roles and for years I've had no idea what the answer was - I had no idea why I was the only female in my teams. However, I've more recently paid attention to the tech teams that are 100% male vs the tech teams that have a good diverse balance, and I think I know what is different.

Technical Female Leadership

So much focus goes into women in management leadership roles, however if your organisation has no senior female technical leads, then you will never be able to tip the balance.

  • You can't be what you can't see. This mantra has been repeated so many times it almost hurts to write, yet to be honest - it hasn't stuck for the technical fields. The simple fact is, a female is much more likely to sidestep into a non-technical role if there is no obvious pathway for her in her career. Or worse, not even join your organisation in the first place. And really, who'd blame her?
  • Female technical leaders are less likely to have unconscious bias and are more likely to mentor and drive both males and females equally. They will have high expectations of both genders. Therefore, your female techs will be given the same difficult projects and same training opportunities. A female tech isn't there to meet your quota, she wants the same work as the guys and if she's not given the same opportunities - she will leave.
  • Female technical leads have a vested interest in improving the gender diversity problem. She wants to tip the scales and see more women in tech. So she will actively grow a diverse team for you.
  • A female senior technical lead is likely part of multiple women in tech communities and groups. (I joined my first one in 1995 at ANU before starting engineering and have been in at least a dozen since). She's flying your banner just by being in those groups and showing that your organisation is diverse. She knows technical women and as a leader, she knows she can encourage them to apply for tech roles when they are advertised.
Can a senior male technical lead do a good job of mentoring and growing a diverse technical team? Possibly - though there is less evidence of this.

If you're reading this and already formulating excuses for why you don't have female tech leads, I've heard them all before.  "There is no pipeline, the women leave tech roles before reaching this level" or my (sic) favourite "We'd have to drop the standard to recruit female technical leads"

I want you to stop, pause, think about the attitude and biases you're projecting with these excuses. Consider whether you genuinely want change or you just want to look like you want change. If you seriously want change - then make change.