Early in her career, Sharmyn Kayani was waiting to be interviewed for a role at a technology company when a male fellow interviewee made what he thought was a light-hearted remark.
“I might as well leave now,” he said. “They probably have a female quota to fill, and you’re going to get the job anyway.”
It was an upsetting early introduction to the gender bias that is prevalent in the technology industry. That someone might consider her gender more important than her skills and passion for tech was eye-opening for Sharmyn.
Her interest in technology was nurtured in her childhood by her father. They would break apart old computers to study their components. Today, she is a VMware Solution Engineer based in Sydney.
Passion and knowledge
Despite the gender bias Sharmyn has faced, she is still passionate about her career in technology and is proud to represent an increasingly gender diverse workforce in the industry.
According to research by Deloitte, large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022, an increase of two percentage points from 2019. This increase, though small, is indicative of real progress.
“I’m the technical conscience behind a lot of the decisions that our customers make,” says Sharmyn. “I meet clients all around Australia, understand what their business objectives are and work out how to help them with VMware technology.”
She believes organizations that have more women in tech roles benefit from diversity in thinking and newer approaches to problem solving.
With research showing diversity in teams fuels better performance and innovation, more leaders in technology are recognizing the business benefits of a gender-diverse workforce and are nurturing a more inclusive culture.
Culture is a key enabler
Building an inclusive and supportive organizational culture is critical to help advance women in tech. Training programs for employees across the organization to raise awareness on gender-based bias and discrimination is important in building this inclusive culture. The training should also focus on educating employees about unconscious bias — behaviors that can seem neutral but are harmful.
“Companies should invest in awareness training for everyone, including managers and leaders,” says Sharmyn. “There needs to be more awareness on the bias and discrimination women have experienced in the past and steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Showing the way for other women
Women leaders in technology play an important role in inspiring more women to pursue careers in the industry. These role models can share their pathway with others and make “getting there” more visible to younger women or women aspiring to switch to a career in technology.
So, what does Sharmyn have to say to women considering a career in tech?
“Try not to be pigeonholed into a particular type of role. Tech is so broad, so stay open to different opportunities,” says Sharmyn. “If you feel you’re not enjoying something right now, don’t feel constricted by it. There are many opportunities and avenues to pursue in the ocean that is tech.”
“Before joining a tech organization, consider how progressive its culture is. The company may be growing, but do you see yourself growing in that business? Do you see women being supported and being recognized? There are so many companies out there. Choose an organization that is making a difference in the world and adding to the community as well.”