Boss Lady

5 ways to beat the challenges of being a woman in tech


My co-founder and I both left very female-dominated industries to set up Careseekers, an online platform that directly connects care workers and people needing in-home care.

We built the platform from scratch after we struggled to find suitable and affordable in-home care for our grandparents and realised there needed to be a better way. We now face the daily tasks of running a tech platform, which we quickly realised comes with its own set of challenges as women.

Don’t be scared when you stand out – own it

The first thing we noticed was how male dominated tech is. Prior to starting Careseekers, Lauren worked in marketing and I was a human rights and disability discrimination.

We would find ourselves at tech events where we were often the only women, or part of a very small group of women, in the room. At first this was really daunting. It was very tempting to stand in a huddle in the corner but we quickly learnt to own it and actually use this to our advantage.

We made sure we introduced ourselves to as many people in the room as possible – because we looked different to 99% of people in the room they would remember us anyway, so we wanted to make sure they knew who we were and what we did. The way we saw it, our next investor or someone who could really help us with the product may be in the room. It was a great opportunity to find them.

Done is better than perfect

In tech, there is this great idea of the lean start up. As part of the lean start up you create a minimum viable product. This is the version of your product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters. You put this product into the market and then learn from there – measuring usage, making changes. It is an iterative process.

A minimum viable product rarely looks like your dream product; it is far from perfect. The important thing is to get it out there and start measuring and learning.

I think women can really struggle with putting something out in the universe that is not perfect. However, this is really the best way to develop a sustainable business.

You have to put aside your desire to have the perfect product out there on day one and rather embrace that if you are being entrepreneurial and innovative mistakes are inevitable and actually part of the process.

Criticism or failing to delight your customer is where you will get your best learning – even though it is difficult to swallow at first.

Learn the jargon

Like any industry there is a lot of jargon in tech. Already we felt quite self-conscious about our lack of tech knowledge. Not understanding the language people were speaking made this worse. I used to make a mental note of words that I didn’t understand and when I got home at night jump on Google and research them. What I found was that it really was just jargon and the actual concepts were quite easy to understand. For example people would talk about ‘sprints’ and ‘daily stand ups’. These are really just specific periods of time in which work will be completed (sprints) and daily meetings updating the team on the status of work (daily stand ups).

Understanding what people are talking about makes you feel somewhat better in an environment where you already feel like a fish out of water.

Surround yourself by supporters who believe in your ability

I think women have a tendency to downplay what they are doing as just a little project until it succeeds. However in tech you often need to sell your vision and dream to get people on board in the early stages.

We did an accelerator program and from the beginning had people around our business who believed in us and our idea. They were instrumental in helping us raise money and act like a serious business from day one.

Find those men and women in tech who don’t treat you any differently because of your gender – they will be your best supporters and give you confidence that you can do the task at hand just as well as anyone else in tech. You really do need a network to build a piece of tech.

Understand that it is hard for everyone and we need more women in tech

Creating a piece of tech, raising money, getting it out there for the first time is really hard regardless of your gender. The men on our accelerator program struggled with these first steps as much as us. Seeing, and reminding ourselves that no one was finding this easy was really helpful – it made us realise that if we stepped away from it because we were finding it hard there would be even less women in tech. Given how few women were in it already, this was certainly something we didn’t want to see.

About Marissa Sandler

Marissa Sandler – Careseekers Co-Founder and CEO – has 15 years’ experience as a human rights and disability discrimination lawyer. She co-founded WIPAN, an organization that mentors women leaving prison. Marissa is committed to creating practical solution to problem that impact the welfare and wellbeing of individuals and their community.

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