The tech industry has a gender problem.
Let's consider this: Women comprise only about a quarter of all employees at tech behemoths Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle and Microsoft. When it comes to launching tech ventures, the situation only gets worse: Just 10% of high-growth tech company founders are women.
Women make up a significant portion of the tech-consumer market — so it makes little sense that there is such disconnect in the professional spectrum. The benefits of a diversified workforce are numerous, especially considering that many American women are highly active on the Internet and social networking sites. Looking at the big picture of the market, Nielsen estimates that women's spending power in America ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion, and Fleishman-Hillard Inc.
The good news is that things appear to be changing. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that women are beginning to catch up with the divide. Part of the improvement might stem from popular, media-savvy and powerful female leaders in tech, such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
But that's only one part of the equation. There is an entire movement of women who defy the statistics and the odds and follow their dreams of success by founding tech companies of their own, and many times, these entrepreneurs are strong advocates for other women in the field.
Below, we take a look at some key pieces of advice from women who have found success in the tech sector:1. Create a Dream Team of Uniquely Skilled Colleagues
Surround yourself with people that have the skills and experience you do not have. In this process, honesty is the key: Know what you do not know and look for people that can fill the gaps where you lack. The ultimate goal is to create a dream team where people can learn from each other and where each person's contribution is unique and invaluable to hitting the common targets.
Getting a mentor and forming a support network is key. Entrepreneurs will face many obstacles, and it's this group of “trusted advisors” that can help provide outside ideas, advice and guidance on overcoming challenges, as well as help build confidence as you move forward. Groups like Springboard Enterprises, the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network and the Dell Founders Club (for funded founders and CEOs) are all great options to finding the right supporting network.
Be strategic about where you choose to spend your time. Engage in an activity only if it truly adds significant value to the business and your contribution is critical. Otherwise, happily delegate/outsource. Don't be afraid of hard work, especially when you are first starting out. And if you join a team, the more valuable you are, the more responsibility you will be asked to take on.
I think women in tech have strong intuition on digital behavior and emotional triggers that translates to rich online experiences. My piece of advice for women tech entrepreneurs is to trust your gut rather than following industry standards, and build something unique. I admire and respect many of the large, consumer-facing platforms that have been built in the last ten years; however, sometimes it is just so obvious they were built by men and for how men like to shop, organize or filter.
Empower yourself and look for companies that are willing to empower you as a young employee. The fact that you're just starting out should mean very little in terms of your ability to create huge value and have significant impact. One way to do this is to ask yourself: What if the success of the entire company depended on me? What would I do then? What problems would I need to solve and what opportunities would I pursue?
It's also critical to pursue your own curiosity. Curiosity should be one of the most important factors in making a decision about whether to accept a job offer. Are you curious about this industry, the company culture or the problem the company is solving? What about the specific people you'll be working with? Even if the benefit of this curiosity isn't obvious up front, it will likely lead you to professional greatness and fulfillment down the road.
Lastly, don't get stuck in mediocre situations. So many people waste precious time working jobs they dislike. Life is too short for this kind of work! The faster you move away from average or negative work environments, the faster you're likely to find the job you'll love.