Despite the progress that’s been made over the past decade, women in tech still face significant barriers.
From imposter syndrome to a lack of role models, unequal opportunities to bias and stereotyping leading to a hefty gender pay gap—this list, unfortunately, goes on.
For this article, we sat down with Mazzie L. to discuss her experience as a woman breaking into the world of tech.
We’ve also gathered experiences from seven female founders you’ve likely heard of, including Whitney Wolfe Herd (Bumble) and Payal Kadakia Pujji (Classpass), all of whom have battled burnout, discrimination, and the gender gap on their journey to becoming some of the top female tech CEOs in the game.
Whether you’re at the start of your journey in tech, or well on your way, you are not alone.
Mazzie’s story: from compliance officer to DevOps engineer
Mazzie is relatively new to the tech industry.
After taking a Full Stack Development bootcamp with CodeOp, and an in-house DevOps bootcamp at her current company, today, she’s a successful DevOps Engineer.
Mazzie now stands as part of the 19% of women making up the ICT sector in Europe (opposing the 81% male counterpart) and is part of the 15% of Black women in STEM (66% White, 10% Asian, 6% Hispanic or Latina).
Mazzie took some time out of her busy schedule to guide us through her experience in tech so far.
She shares her challenges, her inspirations, and guides what recruiters can do to attract, hire, and retain talented females in tech.
This is Mazzie’s story.
Q: What or who inspired you to get into tech?
Mazzie: I was working as a compliance officer for a company in Madrid and got to know some of the content writers on that team, some of them came from a developer background web, frontend, backend developers, data analysts, etc.
This was back when we were all going to the office Monday to Friday, and being around them continuously piqued my interest in tech.
They would often trigger memories from my IT classes at school, being very curious about computer hardware, and software—it was something I could explain after so much practice.
During 2020, with too much time to think and seeing those colleagues going back into their previous developer roles, I started taking some free Python courses.
At this point, I’d been living in Spain for so long, jumping from job to job simply just to have a job.
I knew it was time to actually put meaning into my professional career, and change my life; especially the financial aspect of it.
“For my fellow career changers, don’t let finances stop you from switching to tech.
Yes, the bootcamps can be costly, but there are cheaper and ‘freer’ resources. For my developers out there, a CS degree is not necessary.”
Q: What does it mean to be a woman in tech?
Mazzie: Personally, there are many layers of this for me, I’m a minority within a minority so under that I don’t even know where to begin.
It seems like there are many of us, but that is on a surface level. When you have team breakdowns, especially for development teams, there sometimes aren’t that many women in senior developer positions.
Another layer of being a woman in tech is the imposter syndrome, especially when you’re at junior level. It shouldn’t feel different, but it does.
We want to prove ourselves, even though we’ve gone through a few interviews, and had the training and the education to the same level as our male peers.
“Imposter syndrome is silent and we’re all figuring out ways to not let it get to us.”
Q: What’s been your biggest challenge working in tech?
Mazzie: I have two. One is speaking up for myself. The other is not being afraid to take on new projects even when I don’t know how to start them initially.
The more I said yes and asked questions later, the more I realized: I have the knowledge and the process to complete the task at hand.
I’ve now started saying something and being the first person in the room to say yes to a task rather than waiting until they were assigned to me.
“Say yes to new challenges. Everything you want to say no to is because you’re scared or you feel like you still need to prove yourself. You know much more about what you’re doing than you think.”
Q: What’s been your biggest success? (so far)
Mazzie: Over the couple of years I’ve been in tech, it has to be seeing the finished outcome of my work and presenting it to shareholders.
I’ve created plugins that will make certain aspects of the automation processes for my team easier.
Today, I’ve also completed two Python certificate courses and will be going for the intermediate levels in 2024.
Q: Which tech companies do you have your eye on because of their female workforce?
Mazzie: Honestly, the current company I’m part of right now is great. They have a network for and about women in tech.
It’s inspiring to hear about the different experiences we have; and we all learn from each other.
I don’t know much about other companies, but I am part of a few online forums run by women and I love the way everyone helps each other, be it looking for work, offering mentorship, or time to study for interviews/exams.
“Women all around the world are willing to be honest and vulnerable with strangers, knowing that we all want each other to succeed.”
Q: How can recruiters, founders, and HR staff attract and retain top female talent?
Mazzie: Actually hire them. It sounds obvious, right? Speaking from a developer point of view, I always question: why do I hardly see female senior developers in some teams?
We have plenty of women on the HR/recruitment level teams, so what is going on?
Does no one question why there are some male-only teams in some companies, even though those companies have an equal number of female developers on a junior/middle level?
Q: What are you most excited about for future females in tech?
Mazzie: With the way that artificial intelligence is taking over the conversation, I am excited to see what some teams will be doing with the information they have at hand.
I went to a bootcamp that catered to women, non-binary people, and trans women.
I believe there will be more successful AI companies founded by these people over the next few years.
Diverse people build diverse products.
“Continue to further your career once you get your first, second, or third job and promotions. There is so much to learn about in this career, it’s impossible to stop learning.”
Top female founders in tech that inspire Mazzie
As evident from both our chat with Mazzie and the reported figures, the difference between men and women hired in tech is still huge.
That being said, women are slowly closing ground on founding tech businesses—and there’s research to prove that they may be better at it than their male counterparts precisely because they’re female.
In fact, research from BCG found that women-owned businesses generate higher revenues with the average ROI being double that of their male counterparts.
Further research from The World Bank shows that female-owned businesses are growing at double the rate and contributing almost $3 trillion to our economy.
Yet, investment in female-first businesses remains half of what it is for male-owned businesses.
Investors are missing a trick, but women aren’t letting that put them off.
Let’s celebrate some of the top and emerging female-owned tech businesses today.
1. Lucy Yueting Liu, Airwallex
Founded in 2015, Airwallex, the Australian-based fintech startup, is currently on Series E and has achieved Unicorn level startup status.
Co-founder and President of Airwallex, Lucy Yueting Liu is responsible for day-to-day operations, client relationships, and speaking engagements.
As she discussed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Asia Fintech, the early years of Airwallex weren’t easy:
“I was only 25 and I had to sit across the table with regulators or with financial institutions where people are often judged and stereotyped by their age …
I also looked very, very young, which did not help. Now, as a 30-year-old, I do quite well in those conversations, but maturity is something that’s very different [to age].”– Lucy
2. Anne Boden, Starling Bank
Starling Bank needs little to no introduction. The UK-based, mobile-first fintech startup is currently on Series D and was co-founded by Anne Boden.
Starling is currently valued at $3.15 billion, and is the seventh biggest UK-based fintech market capitalization.
“I launched Starling to offer people a fairer, smarter, and more human alternative to the banks of the past,”-Anne
3. Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble
Bumble, the popular dating app, was founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd.
Since humble beginnings, it’s gone on to champion a community of over 100 million people worldwide, pushing over 1.5 billion women to make the first move upon matching with someone.
“For all the advances women had been making in workplaces and corridors of power, the gender dynamics of dating and romance still seemed so outdated.
I thought, what if I could flip that on its head? What if women made the first move, and sent the first message?“-Whitney
4. Leah Busque, TaskRabbit
Founded in 2008 and acquired by IKEA in 2017, TaskRabbit helps people get odd jobs done across the globe—including furniture available in 200+ IKEA stores too.
Since launch, TaskRabbit founder, Leah Busque, has been named one of the 100 most creative people in business and helped the startup raise $50 million in venture funding.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a female entrepreneur, or founder, or a woman in tech. I just think of myself as someone who’s passionate.”-Leah
5. Melanie Perkins, Canva
Founded in 2013, the popular design platform was last valued at $40 billion, with over 60 million monthly freemium users and 500,000 teams enjoying the platform’s drag-and-drop UI.
“If the whole thing was about building wealth, that would be the most uninspiring thing I could possibly imagine.”-Melanie
6. Purva Gupta and Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan, Lily.ai
Founded in 2015, Lily AI couples customer-centric language with ecommerce products, helping brands like Macy’s and J.Crew earn upwards of a 9-figure revenue lift.
“Immensely proud of the Lily AI team, incredibly thankful to our amazing champions and customers, and so excited about the journey ahead. Here’s to pushing boundaries and uplifting the future of retail!”-Purva
7. Payal Kadakia Pujji, Classpass
The Unicorn status fitness app, ClassPass, has been valued at $1 billion in recent years.
Founded back in 2013, the platform has encouraged over 60 million reservations in its time.
It was only when she met other founders, some female, that Payal decided to take the risk.
“All [my friends’] friends were building apps. I remember being like, “You do this full-time?” They were like, “Yeah.” I realized, What if I thought of an idea? I felt like I could build something.”-Payal
The future for women in tech is rapid
There you have it: eight inspiring women, fighting the women in tech crisis.
Whether you’re just starting off or are already well on your way, let this article encourage you to keep pushing against the challenges those before you have faced.
There are support systems for women, empowering internal ERGs with a focus on attracting and retaining female talent, and plenty of tech companies championing female-first cultures.
Some of the biggest, most profitable startups across the globe are female-founded.
Mazzie, too, is proof that it’s never too late to jump into tech, and despite the odds, there are many companies and good-egg humans out there to support you on your journey.