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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

March 30, 2022
#passthemic

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

I never gave a lot of thought to gender representation until I entered the cyber security industry. I worked for a leading company with discernible gender parity, however, everything shifted when my business interactions broadened. I’ll never forget attending my first conference. Before 9 AM, I was met with a cat-call from one dude and an intense stare down from another — the latter of which was so off putting that I stopped to check if I had something on my pantsuit. In my moment of fluster, he handed me his business card: CIO of the United States Army. Interactions like these change the whole dynamic of how you see yourself; how you see your industry; how you see your work.

Of course, not everything is so direct. Lack of female representation shows up in far less nefarious ways.

I work in sales, and building rapport is an absolute imperative. You can build rapport in many ways, one being identifying commonalities such as hometowns or sports fandom. “Oh, you live in Pittsburgh? How about those Steelers? What a season!” I could hardly care less about professional sports, but many folks on the end of the pitch do. And I try to navigate those waters full of low-hanging fruit.

I also balance professionalism. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I intentionally try not to be overtly personal. I never want to put anything out that could be misinterpreted.

I’m still figuring out that balance. There’s a sales phrase: “People buy from those they like.” The wiser version is: “People buy from those they respect.” That second phrase definitely influences me. I’m always contemplating how I want to portray myself and how I want to be perceived. Some common themes are to be poised, articulate, and intelligent. I try to control my presence by leaving no room for interpretation on who I am or the product that I’m representing. I don’t see men walking the tightrope or performing such an extravagant balancing act.

That said, I think women in tech could have more power than we think. We just have to see each other as allies. I wish that women would lean on each other, seek each other out for mentorship and community. Men do this naturally. I think we’ve all seen groups of dudes leaving the office in matching ‘tech bro’ outfits heading to Happy Hour, where undoubtedly there’s a mixture of camaraderie, venting, and strategizing.

I think this causes a bit of imposter syndrome for a lot of women. Instead of looking up and branching out, we keep our heads down and focus on results. We’re so committed to proving our worth that the focus is less on community-building and increasingly individualistic. I don’t want to just critique, but craft by participating in Women @ super{set} and building a community for women in tech across not just one company but many.

There might only be a few women on each kind of team but when we all come together, it’s less obvious that we’re a minority.

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