The Lack of Support For Women In The Tech Industry and What They Really Need For Business Leadership

The Root Cause Discovered of Top 3 Challenges They Face

Sarah Prince, 23 May 2018

Sarah Beth Prince

In the past few years there has been a huge push for supporting young girls and women in STEM careers(1). Though many women have risen in the ranks of the tech industry overall, all of the support that is publicly touted is not sufficient. The support and programs for helping these women acquire the skills and get into the career of their choice far outweighs the support they truly need inside of the corporate world.  

Women in tech industries face drastic challenges in a variety of areas with coworker relations, career advancement, general family and personal care issues, financial burdens, and many mental and emotional stressors to deal with on a daily basis.  

Most female tech employees, especially in higher ranking corporate positions, face the above issues on a constant basis. Although these women have great skill sets that make them fantastically competent, excel easily, and maintain strong work ethic, they are unable to find resources and support for internal struggles that directly affect their ability to thrive in the corporate world.  

Such stressors contribute to increasing levels of:  

  • unhealthy stress levels, 
  • mental instability, 
  • emotional issues, 
  • and continuous health problems.  

Alongside the constant presence of mental issues, they're unwilling to discuss and deal with them because of the social implications of the industry.  

Women in tech are playing in the "man's world" and are always trying to fit into the "big boys' club". They're focusing on hard skills instead of soft skills because that's all that is considered valuable in the industry(2). Because they're often major contributors to the family finances, or act as the main care provider, they're constantly striving to increase their position in order to gain greater income. The goal with this standard is to relieve pressure because of having an increased income.  

However, with a higher rank in corporate standing comes greater demand on her to excel and perform beyond her means, thus adding to the original stress to begin with. They're constantly "leaning in" and putting themselves at the same table as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, but this approach is not working in every circumstance(3). But this is just tipping the scale of imbalance farther in the wrong direction.  

What the tech world teaches women to do in order to make their lives happier, easier, and more enjoyable, actually in turn makes it worse without the proper awareness and support they actually need. 

The purpose of this white paper is to explore the evidence with said women in the tech industry that shows what they truly are in need of. This report is for those women themselves, with purpose to provide accepting validation for their challenges. It's also to start the conversation and movement toward the resources available and what additionally can be created to support such a magnificent grouping of working women in the corporate world today.  

3 Key Challenges Facing Women In Tech On A Daily Basis Based on the responses from 45 women in the tech industry, contributing to these findings, 76% rated their stress levels at 6 on a scale of one to ten. Although there are varying factors contributing to stress levels, many in depth explanations of their stressors were passionately expressed and very common across all those surveyed.  

Also in relation to their most significant cause of in need of a solution, results showed even splits across all of these three areas: health (33.3%), wealth or finances (33.3%), and relationships or communication issues (33.3%). From this, and having been in this exact scenario myself, I can see how there is an intertwined complex of issues at play that is challenging women in this industry.  

I'll outline three of the key challenges seen from these results. They are:  

  • the feeling of never being enough, even as a successful high performer 
  • combined overwhelm for all of her specific roles she has to fill (i.e. wife, mother, provider, job roles, etc.) and the confusing communication within those roles 
  • wanting to spend more time with family, but must work more for increased income and freedom to do so  

As you can see, each of these challenges correlates to the even spread of these women needing the most help in the health (feeling like never enough, i.e. emotional and mental health), wealth (must work more for freedom), and relationships (overwhelm with roles). Let's explore deeper into each of these challenges.  

1. The emotional struggle of never feeling like she is enough plagues these women. Of the 45 women surveyed, 63% stated this struggle was an everyday issue constantly being dealt with. Such expression from those surveyed include the following statements. When asked, "What bothers you the most right now?" many participants said, quoting directly:  

  • Never being enough. I’m a high performer but people always want more. 
  • Having to prove myself time and time again. 
  • Doubting my own skills and capabilities. 
  • The immense pressurefor perfection.
  • Constant impostor syndrome. 
  • Self-esteem. 
  • Expectations from my teammates, manager and client that I am not sure I can reach.  

What's interesting is that these women are already gifted, have skill sets and work ethic to go far beyond what many women achieve in their lifetimes, but the environment hasn't supported or acknowledged their success.  

At the start of their schooling or corporate careers, most women in this industry are so driven that they are fully confident in what they're doing with their life and work. However, as time goes on, though this drive still remains on the surface, underneath their exterior is a woman that has lost all confidence. 

These women are playing games in a "man's world" and are often the only female, or just one of a little few, in the room. We all know the pay gap that women face, especially in the tech industry(4). Of all responses to the research, 25% of women surveyed mentioned this frustration. And when they're efforts are not supported with a peer group, pay, and business structure that fosters their original passionate drive to pursue the career in the first place, her inner foundation falls apart.  

Of course, these women all have their own experiences and interactions with unique outcomes. But no matter their exact position or circumstances, the commonalities they share have all led to a deeper issue of lack of self-worth. A lack in her capabilities, a major doubt in herself, and added frustration that her desires will never be fulfilled because she feel she can never measure up.  

2. The overwhelm of her roles and issues inside the relationships of those roles adds to the lack of fulfillment and stress. Of all the women surveyed, 20% called out this struggle to their personal situation.  

Such expression from those surveyed include the following statements, quoting directly:  

  • Executives seem not to take my status updates or capacity plans seriously. 
  • Watching men I trained get promoted faster than me, when they have less experience and have taken more time off. 
  • I cannot do anything to help the people who report to me. 
  • Being too mentally tired to actually give my child the growth and confidence he should build up. 
  • To combine a meaningful career and family. 
  • I want to be respected for my domain expertise and for my contributions to be recognized. 

These women are hard workers, they communicate very well because of their work environment, they're good providers. In essence, they do anything and everything. In does so much, which they're very capable, it comes at a cost.  

It's interesting that many of their main reasons for going after success is for them to be able to spend more time with their family, yet that seems hardly the case now. Then all the original motivating support from peers and counselors in order to get them into the industry, that has completely shifted to a work environment that doesn't prove meaningful, there's feeling of contempt, they feel undervalued, and their efforts to improve the situation seems to always fall short.  

And it's not their fault(5). They're doing everything society and the industry educates them to do, even more. But the false dichotomy of problems in the tech industry that these women face has long been overdue for a solution.  

3. Wanting to spend more time with family is a never ending issue. Of all the women supporting this research, 49% of them responded with some form of family stress caused by their time put toward their work. Some may look at this and simply say it's their fault that they chose to have kids and that the corporate world shouldn't support that. But in turn, these mothers are raising the most resilient children with some of the best skills because of their career and family choices.  

However, their desires to have more time with their loved ones is evident. A sampling of their statements:  

  • I don’t have enough time and energy to see my family. 
  • [I want] work that won't overflow into my family time. 
  • I can’t afford to take care of [my mom] and her health issues, start a family, and focus on my career. 
  • I know probably 6 or 7 amazing women who have left after having children because they needed more time and couldn't reach an agreement with the company.  

The United States is one of few countries in the world that doesn't have extended leave for mothers after just having a baby, and further support for their growing family(6). But it's more than just maternity leave too.  

Because of typical work shifts, these mothers (and parents in general) will only see their families for a few hours per workday. Then many weekends, work may be expected, or taking care of their household duties overruns relaxation time with family. Many women in tech are so bogged down with work responsibilities, even personal time for appointments ends up being done during normal family time because many corporate work schedules don't allow them to come and go during the workday.  

The tech industry's environment and current roles demanded of these women drastically affects them across the board with all areas of their well-being. 

So it's clearly seen how the tech industry's environment and current roles demanded of these women drastically affects them across the board with all areas of their well-being: health (mental and emotional specifically), wealth (lack of sufficient finances), and relationships (communication strains and time with family.)  

The Unspoken Challenge That Is The Real Problem There is a deeper level to the difficulties that the women in the tech industry face. Although on the surface, everything previously mentioned is absolutely valid and true, the hidden meaning underneath the surface reveals more of what these women face.  

When asked, "What's going on for you that's SO deep that you don't want to tell anyone?" 91% of the women surveyed opened up and revealed their true vulnerabilities. Such responses included:  

  • I feel powerless, frustrated, and beaten. I want to quit. 
  • I worry that I might not be cut out for this life. For the first time I think I might want to quit and I know that I can’t. It makes even exploring those feelings difficult. 
  • I'm tired of being the problem solver but I don't want to be dependent on anyone else. 
  • [ My ] mental health concerns are getting constantly stepped on by other people. 
  • That I am suffering from anxiety. 
  • Maybe my dream life would be exactly as stressful and unfulfilling as this one. 
  • I mostly think I might be better off dead, since I have a life insurance policy that's worth more than my work. 

All of these responses reflect one single challenge that's hardly acknowledged: mental well-being. Whether these women are aware of it or not, they're all suffering from some lack of support and capability with their mental health and strength. This leads into every area of their lives without them knowing it.  

Mental wellness is mainly soft skills that are not given any value, especially in a workplace centered around technology. Only hard skills are measured, documented, and considered. This is truly sad and premature. 

Because of the structure of society and most typical beliefs in the corporate world, the issue of mental wellness is hardly ever addressed. Research clearly shows that the mental well-being of individuals is the main driving force for their entire character, so it's crucial, even in business settings(7).  

Of all the women that participated in this research, 98% of them expressed something that had mental well-being as a core problem. That is virtually every single women working in this industry. Every single one of these women needs support. Perhaps they've been told they need help in a medical setting for extreme cases. Perhaps they have issues that they're unaware of. But I suspect that most of these women know they need help in this area, they're just unwilling to admit it because of the stigma and negative personification this declaration will label them with(8).  

The fortunate truth is that when even one individual's mental well-being is improved, it has a positive effect upon everything they encounter, on every action they take, and on every experience in their life. Women in the tech industry don't need another "hoo-ra!" meeting led by an HR consultant that's teaching them how to play the "man's game" in order to get ahead. They don't need another program to help them crawl up the corporate ladder in order to find more time and joy in spending time with their children. They don't need another certification of skill that adds more letters after their name to be more visible to the industry.  

These women each need a complete reformulation and understanding of her own mental well-being and a guide to walk them through fortifying themselves in their own unique circumstances. Resolving These Challenges By Addressing The Root Cause I've created a diagram outlining the aspirations of women in this industry and a projection of how things are currently going wrong and right for them, and also how they can start moving toward what they need.

Woman's Ideal Well-Being

A woman's ideal well-being is subject to different interaction areas of her life, namely her experience with:  

  • herself 
  • loved ones 
  • associates 

All these of these play key roles in supporting her true livelihood. Livelihood can be defined as all areas of her life. Each of these interactions builds upon one another.  

A woman's experience with herself is the largest foundation piece. The next to be kept in place is her experience with her loved ones, such as her husband, family, and friends. Next comes her experiences with associates, such as in business, colleagues, clients, etc.  

When one level of her livelihood is not strong is sufficiently supported by her continuous efforts in life, that level cannot support the levels above. What women in tech are constantly doing is trying to pull well-being from somewhere in order to keep their contribution to their careers and their relationships with their families alive. But what is taken away is from her own self nourishment.  

It's like playing the game of Jenga(9) with the energy of her livelihood. Imagine the building blocks of Jenga, and as you progress through the game you're continuously pulling from building blocks down below in order to build a higher tower.  

This is what's constantly happening in these women's lives. Except there's absolutely no building blocks down below with herself. So she's constantly pulling the blocks out from her own feet and the environment she's be taught to be in doesn't teach her how to support herself as such.  

What this model portrays is the key things that need to be nurtured in her well-being in order for her entire life to feel like it's thriving, for that fulfillment she's always been seeking to become a constant figure in her life. With herself, she has to learn how to personally nourish her mind, body, and spirit so it's a solid brick that can't be taken from.  

Then in developing her well-being with her loved ones it takes true energetic connection from a mental standpoint for those relationships to flourish. But when the 'self' level is fully fortified, it is easier to build connection with family and friends. Similarly the next level up, in order to have the best interactions with her colleagues in the industry, her creative talents and contribution needs must be met. Again, it's always easier to fortify this level of her experience when the previous two levels are taken care of.  

The stronger each layer in turn, the stronger the one above it, going higher and higher in turn. But when she doesn't have the skills and awareness to fortify her mental wellness to keep her entire livelihood strong at each level, it will crumble. The key, wrapped around everything is through mental wellness, mental health, mental awareness. Without it, she stays in an overly stressed state, constantly pulling out blocks to pile on the top of her life in effort to achieve more, while dragging and depressed that things aren't turning out the way she thought.  

By implementing mental wellness and proper self-nourishment in her life, she will rise to to a level of stress virtually gone, and she'll feel that excited exhilaration again just like when she walked through the doors on her first day of work after graduation, into the industry she loves. 

But again, we come full circle to the main cause of the problem. There are no such support programs that are well known in the industry for supporting women in this way, especially in tech, as breadwinners, and mothers. May I suggest a simple road map to fulfilling the well-being of these women as outlined in the mental wellness ideal as shown above.  

The Road Map Every Woman In Tech Needs Every woman's experience and circumstances are unique to her. Her capabilities, beliefs, environment, resources, skills, and desires are unique to her. But the great thing about this fact is that the transformation she needs is can be specifically tailored to her mental wellness through the following:  

  • Clarity 
  • Self Care 
  • Mindset 
  • Action 
  • Resilience

Just like using any road map, she cannot get to where she is going without first knowing where she is. So the first step of Clarity simply means that she needs to figure out a number of things related to how she feels, what she wants, her biggest problems to fix.  

Next she absolutely MUST implement a self care routine that is profound. Most women believe self care is just washing their face and brushing their hair each day and they're good. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Simple grooming etiquette is completely different from self care. She needs a very deep set of habits, routines, and practices that nourish each part of herself (mind, body, spirit) on a daily basis.  

Third, she'll need to fortify her mindset when it comes to every aspect of her life. There's more to a healthy mindset than just thinking positively. She must develop herself on a very personal level so that those building blocks she needs in her foundation are built, solid, and immovable.  

Then she'll need to restructure her values into her time, productivity, and specific actions she takes each day. This isn't just reorganizing her schedule and getting herself motivated in front of the mirror. Although those things can be important to some, there are levels of action that come from the previous steps she's experience (clarity, self care, mindset) that affect exactly what decisions she makes about everything in her life. Thus she's become more in control of her life than ever before after building up to it from the right angle.  

Finally, supporting her in building resilience with the new structure of her livelihood that she's just built is crucial. She cannot expect to go from one step to the next in a straight line along this journey. This is about building upon something beneath and keeping everything strong all along the way for the rest of her life. Certain practices and ideas must become ingrained in her mind and continuously acted upon in order for her desires to be fulfilling.  

She comes from a place of:  

  • feeling all her hard work and success is never enough 
  • constant overwhelm and stress about everything that she has to do 
  • wanting more time with her family and better relationships 
  • misses having fun 
  • feeling powerless and beaten 
  • tired of doing everything for everyone else, at work and at home 
  • thinking her dream will never be fulfilling like she hoped  

She'll end up in a place where:  

  • positive strength and excitement are her dominant emotions on a regular basis 
  • she has a tailor-built solution just for her that she can constantly refer to for the rest of her life unique to her own values and aspirations 
  • the results she wants will be measurable and distinct 
  • looking back, she'll realize she found the fastest route to fulfillment and wishes she'd found it years earlier 
  • she can see positive growth in every aspect of her life 
  • her experience in her industry is finally gratifying and she feels powerful in her role  

Because I saw such a huge need for this solution for women in the tech industry, and wish I had had it myself when I was there, I created the SP5 program to help solve these challenges.  

The exciting thing is that many more corporations are becoming aware of the need for mental wellness in their business leadership programs. The SP5 program fits this need. 

After putting the SP5 program into place for your organization, you'll see the women in your ranks becoming more than you ever thought. Their influence will greatly drive your corporate goals and aspirations to further completion and resolution because of their contribution(10).  

Results you'll see in supporting the mental wellness side of your business leadership programs for the women in your organization:  

  • relationships between executives and colleagues will improve on a communication and interpersonal level 
  • employee satisfaction rates will improve and greater constructive feedback will abound 
  • productivity and meeting timelines will be easier and enhanced among your current procedures 
  • you'll see women in your organization rise in the ranks and influence those around them more positively 
  • sick leave and emotional drainage will decrease, saving your organization money and expense 
  • conflict and discontent will decrease as female employees become better at resolving issues more effectively and thoroughly  

The SP5 program can be taught in a group setting, such as over the course of a few days in a seminar style with the key women in your organization. Or it can be tailored to a personal level as one on one coaching with your female leaders for greater unique results and return. If you'd like to move forward in getting better results for your organization through supporting your female business leaders, please contact me at sarah@sarahbethprince.com. Just mention this article, or see the form below.  

Above all, with all that we desire for and of women in the tech industry, by providing them the tools and life skills necessary to help not only them, but your organization to achieve more than it ever has before.  

It's never a waste to enhance the inner structure of your company—your people. Which means it's never a waste to enhance the inner structure of their livelihood. The SP5 program is your solution.  

Enhance Your Business Leadership Program

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