I fell into the tech world by accident. One reason is that the concept of search engines was still in its infancy, so my industry – search engine optimisation (SEO) – hadn’t even been thought of when I was studying. But I think another reason is that as a woman, it never occurred to me to pursue something technical.
Somehow though, that’s where I ended up. Throughout my time in the SEO industry I’ve found it funny how gender-stereotyped the various roles seemed to be: graphic designers, copywriters and marketers tended to be females, while software engineers, technical SEO leads and UX specialists tended to be male. Thankfully this is changing, but here are four things I’ve learned in an industry that has, up until now anyway, been traditionally male dominated:
- Ignore the stereotyping and focus on the work. There has been the odd time I’ve walked into a client meeting as the “SEO specialist” and been faced with barely-concealed scepticism from male clients about whether or not I have the technical knowledge required. Over the years I’ve learned to ignore this and simply get on with the task at hand. After all, the work you do and results you achieve are what really matter in the end.
- Women are very different to men – and that’s a good thing. There’s an outdated but still strong subconscious belief that one needs to act and think like a man in order to succeed in the workplace. But women have plenty of unique strengths to offer: diplomacy, multitasking, empathy and an eye for detail. Of course these are not traits that are completely absent in men – my point is that a woman who plays to her own strengths rather than trying to emulate a man is the one who will be more successful.
- We have different priorities, and that’s ok. To me, true feminism is about understanding that we’re not the same as men, but that we both deserve the same rights. Allowing working moms to work flexible working hours, for example, means understanding that they’re effectively working two fulltime jobs at the same time. This in turn is an acknowledgement that a woman’s role – while different to a man’s – is equally important. Obviously in the households where the men are the primary caregivers, this applies to them too.
- We need to believe in ourselves more. In “Lean In”, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talks about how a successful woman will often attribute her achievements to luck and to other external sources, whereas a man will naturally attribute that success to himself. If women had the same amount of self-belief as men, the world would look radically different.
While there may still be some elements of a “boys’ club” in the tech world, this is changing fast. As a woman in the industry, I’ve learned to focus on the success I want to achieve rather than be too distracted by any prejudice I may encounter along the way. The world reflects your beliefs back at you – so if you see yourself every bit as capable as the men you work with, you’ll always find evidence to match that belief.
[About the author: Catherine Black is a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist, digital strategist and web copywriter. She is a co-founder of Black Mountain and has over 12 years experience in paid and organic search marketing. Catherine convened GetSmarter’s flagship Internet Marketing course and co-wrote their Copywriting for Online Marketing course, and is the author of “301 Ways to Use Social Media To Boost Your Marketing” (McGraw Hill, 2010).]
[Main image – CC 2.0 by Wikimedia Commons]