How can more women break into tech?

March 18th 2019

For Women’s History Month, I wanted to focus most of my posts this month around women and the impact that they have. ✨

Today’s post is a collaboration with Pathrise – a career accelerator that works with students and young professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. Part of their mission is to help underserved communities break into the tech industry. They have worked with over 100 women and continue to foster a strong network of professional women.

I’m very excited about this post. I hope that it encourages you to pursue your dream career whether that is in technology. 🙌🏻

Apple iMac – Photo by kaboompics

👋🏻 Hi! I’m Caitlin.

A headshot of Caitlin

I’m formerly a recruiter at Google, head of recruiting at GitHub, and VP of HR at Nava. Now, I’m an advisor at Pathrise, where I work with students & young professionals on all aspects of the job search so they can land their dream job. As a woman who has been working in tech for many years, and especially with a background in recruiting, I wanted to share some tips for women who want to break into the tech industry.

In 2018, only 20% of tech jobs were held by women, despite the industry’s overall growth, and despite the fact that we make up more than half of the total US workforce. There are a lot of articles out there that address this issue from a pipeline, culture, and industry perspective, which are all incredibly important conversations to continue. But, today I wanted to discuss some advice for women who are looking to break into the tech space right now, and what tools they can utilize to find and land their dream jobs.

1. Find a community

A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that women who are in a tight-knit inner circle of well-connected women do the best at successfully finding a job that matches their needs, versus men who can achieve similar results with second-hand contacts.

Forming tighter relationships with other women in the tech industry can lead to insights around under-the-hood information regarding work cultures and environments before you even decide to consider an opportunity.

Join a community on Slack!

Having these connections can also lead to information about new positions before they even open to the public, or if you’re lucky, direct referrals into a position.

Here’s a handy list of groups to start exploring, but don’t forget to take a look at your own network to see who may be connected to the industry.

2. Hustle and create your network

Depending on your location, you may have a lot of hidden networking opportunities that you may not be aware of. Most cities or regional areas have events or career fairs happening all throughout the year. Find them by doing a event searches with “tech” or “startup”  or a particular technology that you have experience with as the keywords on Meetup, Eventbrite, and Facebook Events.

Some other great organizations to check out are Tech Ladies, Technical.ly, Builtin, and Lesbians Who Tech. Is there a particular company you’re interested in working for? Check out their blog or About page to see if they’re hosting any events or meetups, or sign up for their newsletter.

3. Say “Yes” to the application

So you’ve networked and found the right roles for you. Don’t be afraid to apply if the requirements don’t match your exact experience — Know that men are applying for these jobs anyway even if they also don’t meet the qualifications. You should too.

A woman on her laptop

As a former recruiter who has seen thousands of resumes, I have often moved forward with candidates who do not always meet the exact requirements.

What makes you stand out? Write a compelling cold email, cover letter, or statement in the “about you” section in the application that showcase your passion for the company, the role, and your skills.

Never say “no” to an application for fear of wasting time; even if you aren’t a fit, your resume is often saved for future follow up.

4. Own Your Work

As an advisor, my work often focuses on building confidence with students so they can confidently and accurately describe their experience. I’ve observed that women especially tend to downplay their experience — even if they did most of the work on a project, they will often share credit moreseo than their male counterparts will.

When describing experience on your resume or in an interview, always use “I” and strong action words (ie “I developed”, “I launched”, “I implemented”…) and if you truly did work with a team, you can use helper words afterward (ie “I developed XYZ with the help of another engineer”). I highly recommend practicing describing your experience out loud using this format so that you can get more comfortable and confident when the time comes in your interview.

5. Know your worth

Once you make it to the offer stage, do not hesitate to negotiate. Women are typically less likely to negotiate, which is unfortunate, because we are almost always leaving money on the table that our peers are successfully able to take home.

A woman holding a mug that says “Like A Boss”

Never share your current salary, and do your research on comparable roles as a starting point for negotiation – look at similarly funded/sized companies in the industry and take a look at how much they are paying for that role. If companies are unwilling to move on your base salary, ask for an increase in equity or a starting bonus. Share why you are compelled to join the company and how excited you would be to contribute to the mission long-term as part of the give/take narrative.

The more prepared, practiced, and confident we become in our right to negotiate, the more comfortable we will be to ask for what we are worth.


If you want to work with me or any of our advisors 1-on-1 to get help with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow. Apply today!

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4 comments

  1. This is amazing. We need more support out there, and maybe even now more than ever do we need each others backs too. Especially when it comes to careers and dreams.

    Sxx
    daringcoco.com

    1. Thanks for your comment Sonia – you’re too right! 🙌🏻

  2. Sydneysays

    This is so helpful! I love all of these tips, but I especially love the tip about owning your work and using more “I” focused sentences. I think we’re often told not to be too forward about our own accomplishments, but it helps you stand out and be more confident — even on the page.

    I also love the idea of joining a community of tight-knit women that are connected to other places. These days, connections are the only way to break into anything anymore (or so it seems), so I think making more connections with women that will be beyond willing to help you out is such a great tip.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comment Sydney! From my personal experience, community is what I helped me in my journey so far into technology. It honestly is powerful stuff 🙌🏻