Why We Need Women in Tech: Industry Insights from Product Designer Maureen Herben

Headshot of CareerFoundry blog contributor Maureen Herben.

When I started working as a UX designer, I read statistics stating that there are more women than men in UX design. But in the places I’ve worked at so far, the ratio is closer to 50/50. 

I do notice way fewer women in software engineering and analytics. I’ve also encountered fewer women in leadership roles. And when it comes to C-level management, it’s clear that we are outnumbered.

I believe it’s important to have more women in tech for the simple reason that more diversity benefits everyone. It’s proven to make companies more profitable, allowing for better collaboration and exposure to diverse perspectives.

On a personal level, I feel that work is more enjoyable with the unique mutual support that women can offer each other. It’s important to normalize women working in tech, and to feel represented on a bigger scale. Representation can help us close the gender pay gap and hopefully do away with prejudice and bias.

Editor’s Note: In March of 2024 only, CareerFoundry is offering Women in Tech Partial Scholarships—worth up to $1,500 off our career-change programs—to the first 80 women who apply. Book your application call here.

Why mentorship matters

Throughout my career, I have met a lot of inspiring women. Some were my peers and some were my managers. They all showed me how important it is to support your fellow female colleagues.

As a woman working in tech, you sometimes find yourself in unpleasant situations. Some male colleagues might not take you seriously because you’re “too young” or “too old.” They might make unwanted comments about your appearance, or dismiss your opinion outright. Female colleagues can relate to those experiences and support you. 

I had a couple of great female managers who showed me that it is possible to be career-driven and ambitious, but still supportive and empathetic. There is still this persistent idea that ambitious women are bossy or unkind, and I believe this prejudice can keep women from pursuing big goals.

There are also women that I don’t know personally who greatly inspire me. Julie Zhuo is one of these women, I find her writing and newsletter very insightful. Susan Kare is also a big inspiration. She was the mind behind the classic Macintosh icons and typefaces, and I think her smiling Macintosh icon is indeed iconic!

The challenges of being a woman in tech

The challenges I have faced as a woman are often linked to age or appearance, which I think is quite common. I’ve had male managers tell me to smile more, or make comments about my make-up. 

These comments can become ingrained in your thinking. In job interviews, I avoid giving any information that could give away my age or my relationship status, as I worry people might assume I’ll be out on maternity leave sometime soon.

I’ve also faced challenges around salary negotiation. It’s often said that women negotiate less than their male counterparts, asking for less in salary. I do find negotiating difficult, so I sought out advice specifically from women. To prepare myself for job interviews, I do a lot of research on salaries in my industry and region so I can understand the market better and feel confident about the salary I’m asking for.

Watch Maureen talk about her journey to a career in product and UX design:

Lastly, I’ve witnessed this one multiple times: female colleagues get less recognition for their work compared to their male colleagues, who sometimes have less knowledge, skill or experience. Another common occurrence: male clients or stakeholders don’t consider your opinion, unless it’s reinstated by a male colleague. 

The feeling of not being listened to or taken seriously can be really frustrating. I try to deal with situations like this by echoing what my female colleagues say and give credit to their input.  I try to recognize the situation, and make sure my colleagues feel validated.

Advice for women starting out in the tech industry

What helped me a lot throughout my career is building relationships with role models who support other women instead of seeing them as competition. Those role models can be both men and women, of course! 

The best advice I can give may also be the most obvious: be the role model you wish you had. Support other women in your team, share your experience with them, and praise their work publicly.

Read more about Maureen’s journey in product design: How I became a UX designer and got my first job with no industry experience

What is CareerFoundry?

CareerFoundry is an online school for people looking to switch to a rewarding career in tech. Select a program, get paired with an expert mentor and tutor, and become a job-ready designer, developer, or analyst from scratch, or your money back.

Learn more about our programs