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How to survive as a woman in tech

Written by Nuskha Semaun on 6 March 2020 for Professionals

Not too long ago, we organized our first ‘Women in Tech’ event and invited 4 top leading ladies to have a round table session with some of our female Exellysts. Jocelyn Darbroudi (CIO DKV Belgium), Caroline Van Rompuy (CIO Agfa), Vicky Buyse (Managing Director Gantis) and Annemie Depuydt (Director ICTS KU Leuven) took the time to share their experiences and stories on leadership, career progress and gender equality.

Unfortunately, I cannot hand you a guide that says how to become CIO of a major firm. It’s not that simple. If it were, then I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk writing this blog, but I would be on a plane to Abu Dhabi as a CIO of a multinational company, #sorrynotsorry. However, based on the insights of these power women, I can and will (you’re welcome!) give you some tips and tricks to handle yourself as a woman as you pursue your career in tech.

Here we go!

DIY: How to survive as a woman in tech

#1 Stay a woman

The tech sector is, sad but true, still a predominantly male sector. Because the few women that work in tech are mainly surrounded by men, they sometimes have the tendency to act ‘more male’ or ‘man up’. When they do so, they will mirror the behavior of the men at the office because they think that’s the way to get accepted by their male environment. Don’t you ever do that! You should always stay yourself, stay a woman. Everyone has their own qualities and it’s the mix of these qualities and this diversity that makes a perfect match. We have to stop seeing sex and gender as binary. Researchers have affirmed that not only gender but sex as well sits on a spectrum. In the end, it shouldn’t even matter whether you are a man, a woman or whatever you want. You use your brain to say something, not your sex. The ultimate goal? Everyone should talk about leaders, not female or male leaders. Just leaders.

#2 Stop the self-censorship

Ladies, we are in big trouble! The biggest problem women have is self-censorship: we don’t always say what we think or feel. Women are often too controlled in what they say, they overthink too much. This can block yourself and your career. We don’t always dare to say something, because we don’t feel entitled to or are even afraid to. If you take this self-censorship too far, you may be faced with the impostor syndrome. If you suffer from this impostor syndrome you underestimate your own performances and qualities and have the idea that you’ve only accomplished something due to luck. Recognize this? Be conscious of this impostor syndrome and do something about it! Don’t let your doubts control your actions. Accept your qualities, but your flaws as well. Dare to speak up and don’t consider yourself less than anyone else. It’s all in your head, you just need to get rid of it!

#3 Make mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, no matter on which level you work. This doesn’t change over the years, experience has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the learning process: if you want to learn something, you’ll have to try it and see where it gets you. Mistakes are very important in growth. If you are afraid to make mistakes, you won’t get anywhere. Dare to fall and if it hurts, you will learn. Try not to take it personal when someone points out your mistake but rationalize and analyze what went wrong instead. Do you get emotional when you feel like you’ve messed up? Don’t feel ashamed to show emotions, just remove yourself from the situation. Not everyone can handle emotions in a business context, so they might respond poorly with “don’t get emotional”. When this happens, don’t let your head down, remove yourself from the situation by taking a break or using humor. It requires some practice but the more mistakes you make, the better you can cope with them.

DIY: How to survive as a woman in tech

#4 Invite yourself to the table

Opportunities don’t come along that often. But if they do, you’ll have to be ready to grab them. Don’t jut sit by and allow opportunities to pass by. Don’t let life happen to you, take control and speak up. There’s no point in waiting for the invitation, create opportunities by inviting yourself to the table. Dare to express your opinion and ideas. Once you’ve done that, you will feel empowered!

#5 Fuck the quota (but not just yet)!

30 years ago, when a woman got a higher position, people asked “Who did she sleep with?”. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. We’re not here to judge, but you don’t want this way of thinking. We all want to be measured equally, but we’re not there yet. At this moment, women still need quota to be considered for a c-level position. Although quota should disappear in the end, for now it’s necessary to have. It can accelerate the process of considering women for higher positions in general. The more females we see in the board, the more it can be an example to younger females to feel empowered and motivated to get out of their comfort zone and take the leap.

#6 Find the right company

All the above steps may be useful, but only in the right company. You can sit at the table as much as you like, but if your boss doesn’t want to listen, it’s game over. If you don’t get chances to grow, it’s time to go. Make sure that everything you do is driven by passion and motivation and have a good attitude. If this is not noticed by your boss, then you are better off somewhere else.

DIY: How to survive as a woman in tech

Want to attend one of our next ‘Women in Tech’ events? Great, just send me a message at