What we learned at SXSW: “The five advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in tech”

Being a women in technology is becoming less of a stigma these days but there is still a problem with women not being taken as seriously in this male-dominated field.

Four powerful women in the tech world led a panel at SXSW this year about having “girl power” and being a woman in today’s world working in technology. The panel was led by Hui Li of Airware, Joelle Emerson of Paradigm, Surabhi Gupta of Airbnb, and Tracy Chou of Pinterest.

Jeffery Zeldman
Photo: Flickr (Jeffery Zeldman)


Yes – women are underrepresented in technology, but we can use this to our advantage and turn this into an opportunity. Women can do this by demonstrating their noteworthy knowledge and capabilities to upper management within their organization.

Make yourself stand apart from the crowd.

Tracy Chou made a powerful point and gave insight about how as women we sometimes feel intimidated to speak up in meetings or large groups when we may be the only woman present.


Read Write
Photo: Read Write

“When I first started in tech I didn’t speak up as much. Then it hit home for me when I talked to a friend about this and she said ‘If you are in a meeting and you don’t say anything at all then you are like a chair – except you take up more space’. So think about this when speaking with others in groups and try to say at least one thing in every meeting. You should learn how to better advocate for yourself and in turn we will all end up advocating for each other.”

– Tracy Chou

  Five disadvantages to being a woman in technology

1. Being outnumbered

Sometimes if you are the only female in a meeting people don’t take you as seriously. We need to change that as a whole and men can help us to change this by advocating for us in these situations.

2. Self-confidence difficulties after failure

Women can sometimes feel down about themselves post failures or not knowing how to do something. Women should try not to internalize things and learn to be confident regardless of failures that are encountered. Grow from your failures.

Sohel Parvez Haque
Photo: (Sohel Parvez Haque)

3. We come off as boastful at times

When women aren’t taken as seriously as men we have to lay out our credentials and background in order to be taken seriously. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable for women and we come off as boastful when we do this but sometimes this is required to gain respect.


4. Isolation from other women

Having fewer women in your work environment can make you feel isolated and alone. There is a feeling of comradery when a group of women or a group of men get together. When you see men having this and you don’t have that as a woman in the workplace it can be difficult.

Lisa Clarke
Photo: Flickr (Lisa Clarke)


5. Work/Life Balance

Work/Life balance can be an issue with having children and taking time off of work because when there are less women in your work environment you may be one of the few who has to take time away from work due to pregnancies, children, family, etc. This could cause strife in the work and make you appear as if you are less invested in your career than your male colleagues.


Five advantages to being a women in technology


1. Tech companies want to hire women

A lot of companies in technology are trying to hire more women and retain more women. Once you are working somewhere you now have a platform to get your voice heard.

2. Motivation

Motivation is derived from men and other women questioning your career path in tech, which can motivate women to succeed even more.

3. Women create diversity

Diversity makes us smarter. Diversity can create improved decision making and problem solving, which promotes thought. In a room where a lot of people look different than you – you are more likely to try to validate your opinions or justify them more strongly.

4. Change of perspective

Women typically bring a different perspective or view to the table, which we can use to our advantage among a male dominated field. This change in perspective can add value to companies and their brand by integrating alternative brand strategies based on alternative cultural views.

5. Sharing power

Pride isn’t an important factor for most women. Women understand when to share the spotlight or when we should embrace it ourselves. This collaborative nature can be an asset to tech companies.

Times are changing and the future for women in technology is looking bright. We are owning our own leadership styles and taking control of our strengths. There will always be advantages and disadvantages when it comes to gender roles in every industry – but women are making strides in the technology field now more than ever before.

If you enjoyed the topics in this article, we recommend reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, which is a fantastic book about gender differences and challenging women to reach their goals. Sheryl challenges readers to change the conversation about what women can’t do to what women can do, which encourages us to work together to create a more equal world.