Surviving tech's 'bro' culture: Advice from those who've been there

Women with experience in the male-dominated tech world provide advice for other women thinking of working there

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See what you're getting into?

Image credit: flickr/Lindsey Turner

It's certainly no secret that the technology world is awash in testosterone. In the United States, only about 20% of developers are female. Women become even more scarce as you climb the corporate ladder of tech companies. Apple, for example, only has one female executive.

Whether or not women will become more or less scarce in the tech industry in the near future isn't clear. On one hand, the percentage of computer science degrees being awarded to women is decreasing. On the other hand, there has been some encouraging growth in the number of women in top positions at tech companies (and, in fact, at all companies) recently. 

If you're a young woman considering career options, why should you choose technology? And if you do choose tech, how do you navigate your way through this male-dominated world? Fortunately, some of the women who have already helped to blaze a trail in this industry have offered their advice to those considering it in a recent Quora thread.

It's got lots of good advice, in my (yes, male) opinion. Here are some of the tips that I thought were particularly interesting.

Despite being male-dominated, technology has a lot to offer women

"It's got one of the smallest income gender gaps (I believe it's about 96% vs. an average of 70%). It tends to be relatively flexible, in terms of when you work." Nora Mullaney, Facebook engineer

"...the tech industry is also often very meritocratic - with outcomes being judged by quantifiable results (products launched, products sold, numbers hit, etc) which is also helpful for women as it removes some of the subjective judgments women can face in the workforce." Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

Be careful about choosing a company and negotiating salary

"Avoid places with ‘bro' culture like the plague, and watch carefully for red flags during the interview process. Meet the current female employees and ask them about women's issues in the office. Notice the current male-female ratio." Claudia Gold, Data Scientist

"You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." Dolly Singh, former Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX

Know what you want and don't be a wallflower

"Have a clear mission. The clearer and more specific, the better. In my experience, the clearer I am on why I do what I do, the more successful I've been. " Gina Bianchini, co-founder of Ning, founder of MightyBell

"Focus on the work and let the work speak for itself. Use your judgment and common sense and speak up when you feel the projects are going into wrong directions." YunFang Juan, former Yahoo, Facebook engineer

"Show up. Go to panels, events, conferences; meetups, office hours, hackathons." Rachel Sklar, media writer, founder of TheLi.st

Don't try to be one of the guys

"Don't try to do the ‘boys club' thing.  Get to know them individually and you will find you can create allies." Perri Blake Gorman, founder archive.ly, co-founder Unroll.me

"I've  encountered a fair amount of sexism in Tech, mostly just un-educated and insecure rather than mean-spirited. My best advice is to not take it personally AT ALL…." Amy Jo Kim, game designer

Support other women in the industry

"Don't be discouraged to openly supporting other women in tech. Stop seeing other women as a threat and don't believe there are only limited positions for women at the top." Jess Erickson, founder of Berlin Geekettes

"Always help other women who are just getting started. Find the best ones and hook them up." Alison Murdock, VP of Business Development, GigaOM

"Strength in numbers. ...it's great if you have an informal group where you can talk freely, support each other on bad days, and most importantly, pass along information on job openings. I got all of my jobs at Microsoft from referrals from other women." Candace Dempsey, former Microsoft employee

Above all, believe in yourself

"...the key thing is to believe in your own abilities.  If women believe they can succeed in tech, they will." Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

There are even more good tidbits and thoughts on the full thread. If you're a young woman considering making tech your career or just starting out in it, I'd recommend giving it a read.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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