Women engineers who are eyeing the CTO’s office face a number of challenges as they make their way up the ladder. But despite having to handle everything from stereotypes to biases in a male dominated environment, women can up the odds when putting these five tools to work.
- Identify a Mentor. Although woman engineers often seek out women mentors, the pickings can be slim in IT, given that women account for approximately 25 percent of the technology workforce. As a result, it may be worthwhile to consider a male mentor.
- Learn the “I” Word. Women tend to downplay their accomplishments, often using the “we” word, or the “team” word when talking about successes they’ve had in their career, says M.J. Tocci, director of the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University. She stresses the importance of women saying “I” when referring to successful outcomes that they were directly involved in, and that they need to articulate their role in the success.
- Seek out Challenging Projects. Xerox CTO Sophie Vandebroek suddenly found herself a widowed, single mom at age 34. Nonetheless, she took on challenging projects while learning to simplify her home life and be more efficient, she told the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
- It’s OK to Oppose. While women are often cited for their collaborative skills and consensus building, it’s also OK to oppose proposals. StubHub’s CTO Raji Arasu said in an interview with the DailyMuse that one of her greatest challenges was learning to say when she disagreed with a solution or direction that was being proposed.
- Leverage Being the Only Woman in the Room. Cisco’s CTO Padmasree Warrior told Forbes that women should take advantage of the fact that they’re often the only woman in the room and, as a result, will likely have their voices heard.
“We are starting to see a growing shift in companies that want women in key positions across their companies. There has been a greater awareness over the last two or three years,” says Carolyn Leighton, chairwoman of Women in Technology International. In other words, the time is especially ripe to aim for that CTO role.