In many ways, the tech sector has made significant strides in gender diversity, but it seems we still have a long way to go.
Despite what many who ‘struggle’ with gender balance might say, you don’t need to look very far to find countless incredible women who are excelling in STEM sectors.
In fact, we had to carefully whittle down a long list to just 100 incredible women for International Women’s Day, not struggle to make up the numbers.
This particular list focused on women who are not only outstanding in their field, but are tireless and vocal advocates for pushing gender diversity both in STEM and elsewhere, and battling to close the unrelenting pay gap.
But there are so many other women in science and technology succeeding in their careers who show that, while there is so much incredible work done for women in tech, there is still a long way to go.
Jayne Groll is the co-founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute. She carries a number of credentials and her IT management career spans more than 25 years of senior IT management roles across a wide range of industries.
Groll told Siliconrepublic.com that she’s actually an accidental technologist. “I was fortunate to work on the business side of a Wall Street law firm that had embraced Unix in its earliest commercial days,” she said.
“When the firm recognised that they needed to implement a support and training interface to the user community, I was promoted to lead that team. Over time, I evolved my knowledge and skills and ultimately held management roles in a variety of organisations.”
Groll is essentially self-taught, though she admits that working with some amazing men and women along the way has helped her professional life.
She taught herself enough Unix for that initial promotion in Wall Street and, from there, she continued to diversify her skills through jobs in multiple markets.
“My knowledge journey continued with Agile and Scrum. In 2012, I was invited to my first DevOps Days in Mountain View, California, and got excited about a movement that created a balance between automation, culture and process,” she said.
“DevOps seemed to connect the dots between everything I had experienced or learned. In 2015, I co-founded the DevOps Institute with Alan Shimel and Lisa Schwartz.”
‘I always felt I had to work harder’
Despite the level of seniority and success Groll has achieved in her technology career, she has still come across the many biases and negative experiences that women face.
“I think there is a conscious or unconscious bias that women are not as ‘technical’ as men. Of course, that’s ridiculous – there are so many talented women in tech today that have made huge contributions. Regardless, we still have a huge gap in the ratio of men to women in tech roles,” she said.
Groll remembers the early days when women in IT were really those who provided support, almost like a welcoming front office, so that the male developers didn’t have to deal with the users.
As she moved into more senior roles, she was usually one of the only women on the management team.
‘I cannot even express my disappointment that, decades later, we are still dealing with issues that are discouraging woman from pursuing a tech career’
– JAYNE GROLL
“Despite that, my reporting structure was never direct to the CEO – I almost always reported to the CFO, so I would hear about strategic initiatives after they were decided without any opportunity to contribute ideas or insights,” she said.
“Essentially, I was told what my team had to do after the strategy had been finalised by a group of men.
“I always felt that I had to work a little harder, to prove my competencies a little more and to push my way into strategic decisions. From speaking to a lot of women in tech, I think many have had the same experience,” she said.
Groll said she wished she knew better ways to handle biases earlier in her career instead of relying on her male bosses to fight for her cause.
“I cannot even express my disappointment that, decades later, we are still dealing with issues that are discouraging woman from pursuing a tech career. With the digital age upon us, we need every talented person to help shape the future,” she said.
“I am glad, however, that gender parity is gaining more attention, and that making work a safe, productive and fulfilling place for women is under scrutiny. Hopefully, this will effect some positive change.
“There are several men that I know that are championing the cause and taking substantive steps to ensure that women are included in teams, panels, thought leadership and other opportunities.”
The future of tech and DevOps
Groll said digital transformation is going to change how we interact in our lives. “We are just at the very beginning of what promises to be amazing advances in how technology supports us as professionals and consumers,” she said.
It’s clear to Groll that artificial intelligence is going to be a major disrupter, and those working in tech will need to lead, follow or get out of the way. “We are going to have to take substantive steps to consciously shed our biases, so we can get on with the business of creating amazing tech.”
However, gender biases aside, Groll said it’s a great time to be in tech for both men and women. “Few other fields will encourage the type of disruptive innovation and critical thinking that we are seeing today.”
She also advised people not to focus entirely on grooming their technical and automation skills. “Culture and positive human interaction are proven elements to successful DevOps. The most important aspects of a DevOps culture are trust, safety and respect, and everyone needs to practise those characteristics daily.”