The Journey to Careers in Technology: Women’s Perspectives
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with five women about their lives and careers in the technology field and reflect upon my own. We collectively represent different cultural backgrounds, generations and roles. Today, we all work in the Innovation organization at Pitney Bowes but our paths are truly diverse.
In some cases, there was an early passion and aptitude for science and math leading to educational and career choices in these fields, even though in one case, certain roles were not permitted for women in her country of origin. For others of us, we came into the technology field from marketing, or in my case, an educational background in psychology. I admit I struggled with imposter syndrome earlier in my career, assuming that I wasn’t as “technical” as my colleagues until I embraced my strengths and background in human behavior for the unique perspective and voice that it gave me. Innovation requires all types of people and diversity of thought to deliver impactful outcomes for our clients. Collectively, we see a shift from the traditional perspective that boys are better at math and science and girls are better in social sciences and liberal arts. All of us can shine in any of these areas and, in fact, we need the collective skills and perspectives to win.
Denise Simek: “I think we’ve proven over time that men can be good at soft skills, psychology and more whereas women can also be good at science and technology, math and engineering. We are coming into this elevated way of thinking.”
Cassie Gunn: “One of the misconceptions with students in college is that you have to know that you want to be in the technology field from an early age. That can scare a lot of people away. You don’t have to be an expert on day one.”
Cora Gao: “It’s typical to have uncertainty when you first join a company or try out a new role. I would say, just don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Regardless of the path we took to the roles we have now, we agreed on the importance of female role models, particularly those who have reached levels of success in the technology industry. One of the biggest barriers for women in technology is a lack of representation and inclusivity in the industry. Retention of women in technology roles is much more challenging than that of our male counterparts. Role models, mentors, supportive communities and programmatic focus within the organization are key factors to help women navigate and find those seats at the table and experience real inclusion of our voices.
While women make up 47% of all employed adults in the US, as of 2022, they hold only 28% of computing and mathematical roles (CIO.com)
Irina Ashurova: “ Not all women can speak up or be confident enough to articulate their problems. A mentoring program can help with that.”
Cassie Gunn: “ Pitney Bowes does a really good job in this space, but we can do more to encourage people not to be afraid to fail, accept new ideas and really listen to the conversations that are happening.”
Expanding the pipeline in attracting and encouraging women to enter the field needs to start early. Boys and girls need to see paths with women and men succeeding in technology and other fields. This is a great opportunity for women to give back and be those role models to students who are considering various educational and career paths. Abha volunteers her time to judge middle and high school robotics competitions at the state and regional level. She shared the excitement that the students had in their ability to compete in this arena and build their confidence that this path was open to them to continue if they choose. And Cora is now a project advisor to the Cornell University capstone program that she participated in as a student. In this way, she is enabling the students’ growth, helping them understand what it takes to apply what they learn in school to real business problems in a complex industrial setting.
Pitney Bowes has always been a pioneer and at the forefront in leveraging the power of diversity and inclusion. We recognize that we need to mirror the diversity of our clients and communities in our workforce as a primary factor in our values around doing the right thing the right way and innovating to win. But industry-wide, the gap between men and women in technology roles is much wider than the broader set.
Only 38% of women who majored in computer science are working in the field compared to 53% of men. This has been dubbed a “leaky pipeline,” where it’s difficult to retain women in STEM jobs once they’ve graduated with a STEM degree.
By failing to promote and retain women in technical roles who are in the early stages of their careers, companies end up preparing fewer women for senior roles. This affects women’s lives and livelihoods and could create negative financial and cultural consequences for companies. I am proud to be on the Pitney Bowes team where there is an ongoing focus on diversity and inclusion. Women like Abha are members or our exclusive Technical Ladder program. We place a focus on learning and development, which is so critical in a technology organization.
Abha Khandelwal: “Pitney Bowes has done a remarkable job in terms of driving diversity and inclusion across all of our teams. But technology is rapidly changing and we have to invest in our own development to be ready for the future. This is what we should promote.”
We know there is more to do and this important work is continuous. Ongoing candid conversations on these topics with diverse team members surface nuances that we need to understand and ideas we can take forward. Importantly, we collectively hone empathy for each other and drive inclusivity. This translates to an even stronger ability to innovate and to win for our clients, our communities and our employees.
The most gender-diverse companies are 48 percent more likely to outperform the least gender-diverse companies