While the tech industry has long been a male-dominated field, an increasing number of women are entering tech and making fantastic contributions every day.
Michelle McGrath, co-founder and CEO of DataTrue, is one of the women hoping to lead the way in helping the tech industry become more diverse. Despite studying marketing as a student, she fell into tech shortly after graduation when she started a job at an Apple-related company. She learned software and tech tools in the workplace, and had to learn to hold her own in many situations where she was the only woman in a room full of developers and engineers.
These early experiences caused her to fall in love with tech and analytics, and she used this to guide the rest of her career, including working as a national marketing manager for AT&T and doing business development work in London. Discovering the many ways that analytics can provide value to companies eventually led her to co-found DataTrue, which helps companies validate and test their data for better insights and results.
Though women continue to face many challenges and biases entering tech-related fields, McGrath believes the times are changing. She cites three key factors in particular that she feels will help lead to an influx of talented women in the tech world, allowing the industry move to even greater accomplishments.
Here’s a closer look at some of the trends that are already making an impact:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first factor that McGrath believes will help more women get into tech is the increased visibility of women in the workplace. “There’s long been a misconception that there aren’t any women in tech, and that’s simply not true,” she explains. “As more women take the lead, it will be that much easier to overcome these misconceptions and inspire a new generation to enter the field.”
A key part of this increased visibility is the result of women who have been willing to rise to new challenges in order to advance their career. Before diving into the entrepreneurial world, McGrath was put on several high-value projects at the larger companies she worked for. She cites being prepared and willing to step up as an essential trait that helped her gain visibility in the field so she could advance her career.
Increasing one’s own visibility in tech requires hard work and initiative, as well as a natural curiosity that enables lifelong learning. Even in her role as a CEO, McGrath continues to exercise these principles by learning new tech tools as they are released, putting in the extra work on her own time so she can continue to be an effective leader.
With increased visibility also comes the potential for more mentorship opportunities. In McGrath’s opinion, giving female tech workers the opportunity to be mentored by other women will be crucial for improving gender equality in the tech world. This comes from personal experience.
As McGrath explains, “At one point in my career, I was made the manager over our company’s development team, though I knew nothing about development! Thankfully, there was an older developer with the company who gave me enough information to understand the development world so I could become a good leader. My mentor helped me learn how to have intelligent conversations with engineers about the product and ensure that what we did aligned with client needs. This mentorship was a big help to me during those early stages of my career.”
McGrath notes that as a female in tech in the 1980s, she was quite lucky to be at a company where another woman could serve as her mentor. Today, she explains, there are more resources available to help women get an extra boost as they start their tech careers. Programs like the Women in Analytics Mentoring Program are more readily available to increase the connectivity of the tech community.
As awareness of these mentorship opportunities increases, more women will be able to get the support they need to grow their careers — even if these connections are made through the digital world.
The tech industry is naturally geared toward entrepreneurship — but being an entrepreneur has long been stereotyped by sacrificing your work-life balance to undertake a solo endeavor. Fortunately, this outdated mindset has been gradually replaced, making it easier for women to get involved in entrepreneurial endeavors in tech and other fields.
In McGrath’s case, being able to collaborate with a co-founder was essential for staying connected to the tech industry while also managing a family. “Entrepreneurship was forced on me when we moved to a new city for my husband’s job. We were in a new place, and I had a family to raise. I had to take a step back and ask myself, ‘What do I want to do?’”
Going into an entrepreneurial endeavor on the side seemed like a natural fit so she could have time for her family, but launching a successful company required more than a part-time commitment. By collaborating with a co-founder, McGrath was able to have the work-life balance she needed initially and then gradually take on more work in her startup as family responsibilities decreased.
McGrath has worked with her co-founder for 10 years, with both parties taking on different roles to ensure the success of their company. Such collaborative partnerships make it much easier for women entrepreneurs to reach their goals in tech and other industries — indeed, regardless of gender, having a co-founder has been found to improve decision-making and accountability, provide access to new skills and opportunities and even help entrepreneurs avoid burnout. Best of all, with today’s tech tools, co-founders no longer necessarily have to live in the same city to collaborate and grow a business.
As McGrath’s successful career illustrates, there is no reason why the tech sector should continue to struggle with gender inequality. While there is still a ways to go before old biases and misconceptions are completely eliminated, the example of McGrath and other female “techpreneurs” shows that there is great reason to be optimistic about the future.
As increased visibility and mentorship opportunities inspire more women to enter the tech world, the gender balance will be erased, opening the door for greater innovations than ever before.