SIX TIPS Women Need for Successful Tech Careers

-By Eve Tahmincioglu

Making it in the male-dominated technology industry has its challenges.
But it can be done.
To help get you on the right path, DiversityInc spoke with Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, IBM’s vice president of diversity, and Dr. Laura Hass, Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, who shared valuable tips that can lead to a rewarding tech career. (IBM is No. 22 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list)

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#1 MAKE YOUR ASPIRATIONS KNOWN.

If you aspire to achieve something great in your career, it’s important to dream big, and share your dream.
Keeping dreams a secret “doesn’t help anybody,” said McIntyre. “If you can articulate your dream, folks will know what you want and what you’re up to. They can help you spot opportunities for conferences, papers, [and even] patents for special projects.”
As the support starts to roll in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who want to support you. But in order for this to happen you’ve got to be able to tell people about it.

#2 ASK FOR HELP.

“I think that when we talk to our most successful tech women, they all had challenges,” said McIntyre. “Its amazing when you start to talk to people about your dream and how you can make your dream a reality, how much help and advice you get, [it] doesn’t make going after your dream feel so daunting.”

#3 SEEK OUT ADVISERS.

Mentors, sponsors and peer
coaches are incredibly valuable and helpful to the progression to any career and that it’s important to ask them for help when you need it. “Ask them what they did when they were in a difficult situation,” McIntyre said. “It’s important to make sure that we are collaborating, and leveraging our networks and our support ecosystem along the way.”

#4 CONSIDER BECOMING A LEADER, EVEN IF YOU NEVER DID.

“When I was newly into my PhD I had no interest in leading or managing people. Just give me a good hard technology problem and let me go,” Hass recalled.
“As I matured, I wanted to do more ambitious things. I realized that I could do them better leading a team of people, she explained. “That became a lure for me to hedge the technical and management path.”

#5 HAVE FUN.

For women who want to stay in the tech industry for the long haul, Hass said the key is to “have fun.” Hass, who started her tech career nearly 35 years ago and is now an IBM Fellow and Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, said it’s important for you to understand different things will appeal to you at different points in your life.
Throughout her career at IBM, Hass did not become complacent in one role. She stepped out of management positions to get into the roles that were more exciting for her.
“I think a lot of time people think there is only one route to their goals,” she said, noting that she has seen people divert from their career paths to start a family or take a few years off to train for the Olympics.
“Then they think that they can’t come back,” she said, but they can.

#6 FIND YOUR OWN PATH.

It’s imperative to be honest with yourself, Hass advised. Try not to pay attention to somebody else’s vision of a career path. Doing so may make you feel inadequate and then you find yourself on a career track that wasn’t meant for you.
“What I tell my mentees is — you have to be very honest with yourself and what is going to excite you, she added. “Then you have to move toward opportunities to do that.”

College-Educated Black Women Least Likely to Have a Well-Educated Spouse

A recent Social Mobility Memo of The Brookings Institution indicates a large percentage of Black women with college degrees remain unmarried because they seek to only wed a Black, educated man.
“Single black female BA seeks educated husband: Race, assortative mating and inequality,” published April 9, offers that the current trend of “assortative mating” in the U.S. — choosing a spouse with similar an educational background — is less available to college-educated Black women.
Black men are the second least likely to earn a college education, after Latino men. And Black women are least likely to “marry out” across racial lines.Therefore, if interracial marriage is not an option, the potential for a college-educated spouse decreases.
Forty-nine percent of college-educated Black women marry a well-educated man, compared to 84 percent of college-educated white women.
Using five-year estimates from the 2008-2012 waves of the American Community Survey, the authors examined race gaps in marriage patterns.

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Key Findings:

  • In the past few decades, marriage rates in the U.S. have fallen sharply, and sharpest of all in the Black population.
  •  The proportion of Black college graduates aged 25 to 35 who have never married is 60 percent, compared to 38 percent for white college-educated women.
  •  Married Black women who are college graduates are much more likely to have a husband with a lower level of education (58 percent), compared to
    whites of a similar background (48 percent).
  • According to the authors, “Even if Black women rise up the ladder, in part because of their efforts to acquire more education, one of the key mechanisms for maintaining that higher status for the next generation — assortative mating — is less available to them.”
  • This means households with two college graduates earn more income, which sets a solid foundation for the next generation.

Black Women and Interracial Marriage

In his 2011 book Is Marriage for White People?, Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks focuses on the marriage patterns of Black, middle class, educated professionals.
He conducted a decade of research, including interviews focused on dating and marriage ideals and experiences. Banks cites Black women advancing economically and educationally at higher levels than Black men as a cause for low-marriage rates among Blacks in the U.S.
In an interview with TIME magazine, he discussed a gender imbalance within the Black community: “Two African American women graduate from college for every one African American male. Despite this imbalance, there is still enormous social pressure on Black women to only marry Black men — to ‘sustain’ the race and build strong black families. And this means marrying Black men even if they are less educated or earn less money. In short, no matter the personal cost, Black woman are encourage to marry ‘down’ before they marry ‘out.’”
Banks explained that, for the sake of a man, Black women are pressured to give up certain kinds of life experiences, while white women are taught to cultivate them. And Black women should be open to having relationships with men who are not Black, and focus more on class.
“This would be good for them, for their children and even benefit other Black couples by helping to level the playing field, he said.”
However, authors of “Single black female BA seeks educated husband” do note that the racial gaps in our society offer the “greatest equity challenges of the 21st Century,” more so than the marriage gaps.
Inequality toward Black men in America has contributed to the difference in education levels between Black men and women. For example, the racial gap in U.S. arrest rates.
Black women do have a lot of factors to consider when seeking a mate. Yet, there is no set formula on educational status, class or race that will definitively result in a successful marriage.