The technology sector comprises businesses that sell goods and services in electronics, software, computers, artificial intelligence, and other industries related to information technology (IT).
With digitalization, it’s not surprising for the tech sector to become one of the fastest-growing industries in Vietnam. However, it also has the highest level of gender imbalance, with an average male-to-female ratio of 5:1.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), female workers account for about 37% of the tech workforce in Vietnam, higher than that of the world (25%). However, the data reflects a low level of female representation in this industry for different reasons.
However experienced they are, women constantly face challenges in the tech world.
From indirect aggression to insensitive jokes
“You are an ‘IT girl!’ That’s cool!” is a typical comment that many female developers have heard at least once in their life, which likely results from the fact that men have dominated this tech space for a long time while the representation of women in tech remains low in popular culture.
This example clearly illustrates microaggression, which consists of any actions, remarks, or behaviors indirectly discriminating against minorities. Such comments are mostly unintentional, but listeners are too often placed in a terrible predicament.
“I sometimes wonder whether what they said is a compliment or just sarcasm in disguise,” said M., a 25-year-old, Hanoi-based developer. “It seems to them that young girls studying coding are alien creatures from outer space. Yet these technical roles are not designed exclusively for men.”
Other forms of gender discrimination bothering women in tech include body shaming, sexist jokes, and even sexual harassment. Sadly, these unkind practices seem to be accepted as “expected” in a gender imbalance environment.
Struggle to get equal salary and promotion
As reported by Glassdoor, the female workforce in Vietnam’s tech sector earns a lower income than their male counterparts by 28%. Another report by Women in Tech pointed out that 78% of large tech companies admitted to paying higher for men than women.
Moreover, the same report found that 53% of tech female workers often had to prove their worth to their bosses, colleagues, and clients. “I have to present my achievements to every new manager, which often makes me feel unqualified though I have worked diligently as a graphic designer and developer for almost eight years,” said Ngoc Trang, a 28-year-old, Hanoi-based game designer.
It is even more challenging for women to climb the career ladder in tech. According to Harms & Landay (2018), female employees were not considered for managerial positions in many tech firms, which is likely to result from the age-old notion that women cannot wholeheartedly focus on work once they get married. Even worse, female managers are often confronted and challenged by male workers who underestimate women’s leadership and capabilities.
Struggle to get along with male colleagues
Apart from work-related issues, female employees in tech companies often find it hard to get on good terms with their male coworkers. “Male colleagues often hang out for a drink after work or play football or tennis together in their free time. As women, we can hardly follow suit. In fact, male and female coworkers rarely chat in the workplace because we don’t share the same taste in music, films, and other things,” said Ngoc Trang.
Interactions outside the workspace are essential for better bonding and understanding among colleagues of all genders. Therefore, a lack of them will hinder work efficiency, as shown in many studies on the online working model during the COVID-19 social isolation. It can also be the case when women must be on the same page with their male counterparts.
How can women thrive and shine in the tech space?
Focus on your strengths
There is no doubt that women have many competitive edges in technology. A study conducted by Stanford University found that female developers often possess a keen eye for detail, persistence, and carefulness, which helps them quickly detect bugs in complex codes and resolve them accordingly.
Besides, high receptivity, outstanding creativity, and good problem-solving skills are the major assets that contribute to their enhanced critical thinking skills, more innovative solutions, and better teamwork.
To make up for the lack of interactions within their department, tech female workers often find comfort and friendship in other women in other departments. Therefore, they are more likely to act as connectors to promote cross-departmental collaboration and help to enhance work efficiency.
Find mentors and support networks
As a minority in the tech world, women are less likely to find a female role model, especially when they are complete novices in this world. However, you can try to find a mentor who can be a teacher or an experienced female senior.
Because they went through all the problems currently bothering you, they can be very supportive. As a result, with their mentoring, you are in a better position to overcome those challenges.
Additionally, you can look for support groups, associations, or non-profit organizations designed for women in the IT space where you can find your mentors, make friends, and expand your networks.
Capitalize on unique opportunities
Gender imbalance in the tech sector will remain a widespread concern for the time being. The good news is that many technology firms, institutions, and research centers have been going to great lengths to close the gap in many different ways.
In particular, some companies try recruiting female workers or developing certain policies to support them. Other organizations are offering scholarships, internship programs, and short/long-term training to promote women’s participation in the tech space. As a result, you are more likely to find scholarships and sponsorships to cover your further education and research or upgrade your skill set in the tech world compared to those in other industries with higher female involvement.