Advice for women in software development

Tom Driver
By Tom Driver April 6, 2023

World Computer Day is celebrated on December 9th. This is not a random date, as it was selected in honor of Grace Hooper, developer of the first compiler and precursor of the universal programming language COBOL.

Women are protagonists and pioneers in the history of technology. Over the last century, women have dominated the field of computing. To name just a few, there’s Hedy Lamarr, the actress who invented wifi; Rose Dieng, Frances Allen, the first woman to win the Turing Award and a pioneer in compiler optimization and high-performance computing. Grace Hopper, one of the pioneer programmers of Eniac, the company that created the first programmable computer; Margaret Hamilton, who coded the software that made the first moon landing possible; Radia Perlman, who contributed to the development of the internet; and Frances E. Allen, the first woman to win the Turing Award…

Despite their contributions being written in history, the lack of recognition for women’s participation in technology is evident. Giving visibility to these historic women, as well as creating new opportunities for women to feel they can belong to the field is essential to bring them back to tech.

It has been shown that the low visibility of women in STEM areas leads to a lack of interest from girls in careers that are increasingly necessary in this day and age. According to data from the “February 11th” project, only 7% of girls see themselves as scientists in the future.

On the other hand, the Women in Digital Scoreboard report by the European Commission states that female representation in these areas is 19%. This is compared to the 1980s, where the percentage of women in technology was almost 40%.

Similarly, data from the European Commission suggests that incorporating more women into digital jobs would benefit the economy by up to €16 trillion annually for the overall GDP of the European Union.

Dani Gutierrez from Source Meridian shared a series of tips for women who are already working or want to start training in software development.

Dani Gutierrez is a certified Project Manager and Product Owner with over a decade of experience in the world of software development, and a focus on medical data. She is part of the original team that formed Source Meridian, the company where she continues to work. She is one of the main drivers for maintaining and growing their commercial relationship with Purplelab, one of their main clients, which has been achieved through continuous improvement of products and processes, efficient deliveries, and participation with colleagues in decision-making.

Why is the presence of women in the world of technology important and necessary?

We are in a time where we are in constant contact with technology on a day-to-day basis, and it is essential to have a female perspective to understand the needs of half the population. That way, we can provide balanced technological solutions where all users can benefit.

Additionally, several studies have shown that a diverse team performs better, has greater problem-solving capacity, and higher commitment from team members, which translates into greater staff retention and, ultimately, higher profits for companies.

Could the demand for female talent in software development increase in the following years?

Definitely. The growing technological dependency pushes the demand for professionals in the software development industry so high that the current workforce cannot cover it, creating an excellent opportunity for a greater influx of women into the sector.

Even leadership positions will also see an increase in demand since, in addition to having the same technical abilities, women show greater strength in emotional and social competencies related to leadership. Personally, I see the demand for female talent in our company Source Meridian, where women occupy 47% of leadership positions.

Why is there a shortage of female software developers and women in technology?

I think this reality has been changing, and although we now see a higher number of women compared to previous times, there is still a gap when compared to our counterparts.

It is worth noting that the stereotype that was constructed by society about who can work in tech still has an impact, which has resulted in a low number of female representation in the different positions in the field. It has also limited the number of female role models available to follow, as well as the exposure they have in the field, making many women not consider this sector as an opportunity to develop their careers.

In addition to this, another gap we face is at the level of early exposure and motivation to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics.

Undoubtedly, another gap is presented in the environment, which is related to job opportunities. This is because, unfortunately, there are still companies where the culture is very masculine and they give greater opportunities in leadership positions and better salary compensation to men.

What effect does the lack of women’s participation have on software development?

The main effect is without a doubt the solution of problems from a single perspective (the male perspective), leaving aside the needs of 50% of the population (the female perspective) and leaving them unresolved.

How do you think the academic and labor sectors can support women to be part of this industry?

I believe that a very good way is through early age outreach programs such as seminars in schools and colleges, even having representation of women who lead the industry at fairs and conferences. For young people, opportunities can be generated through seedbeds and conferences and workshops to promote knowledge and hiring.

I am a woman and I am looking for opportunities to succeed in the tech world. How should I start?

I think that a combination of studying and participating in various events and conferences is an excellent way to start getting to know more about the industry, as it will give you the opportunity to meet people who work in the field.

Once you start participating in the industry, if you have the opportunity to have a mentor, take advantage of it. Without a doubt, this is one of the things that has helped me the most in my professional career because I have been able to count on an excellent mentor like Michael Hoey, CEO and Founder of Source Meridian. Once you know the industry and have people to guide you, you can also contribute to the industry by being a mentor for someone else.

Take advantage of opportunities even if you don’t feel ready, the chances are you are. It’s important to always challenge ourselves, and often imposter syndrome can make us reject opportunities that would have a high impact on our careers.