“There isn’t enough clarity on what it means to work in tech and to be a woman in tech”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Rona Ruthen, Head Of Operations at Curve Ltd.
Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Women in Tech — The Survey
We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!
Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.
Without further ado, we would like to introduce Rona Ruthen, Head Of Operations at Curve Ltd and speaker at JAX Finance 2018.
Rona Ruthen, Head Of Operations at Curve Ltd.
Rona has 10 years of experience in Financial services, Risk Management and Payment solutions. She’s currently working at Curve as Head of Payments. Before Curve, she worked at Fiverr and Payoneer.
What got you interested in technology?
I’m originally from Israel and My first exposure to tech started when I served in the intelligence unit in the IDF (as an Israeli we have a 2-year mandatory service).
It was like working in a big tech company – in uniform. It was an exciting world of innovation, breaking boundaries and seeing how the power of technology changes how things are done. After that, I got my BA in Economics and an MBA and worked as a risk management consultant in financial services for a few years. I got that job after meeting a friend of a friend at a birthday party. I didn’t even know what it meant to work in risk management before that party. While I found it very interesting and money does make the world go round, a few years later and it was clear that innovation and change in financial services are coming from the tech world. That’s where I wanted to be, help create something, maybe even make a difference.
I moved on to Payoneer, a global payments company (it was a fintech company for the first few years!), then to Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services. Then I moved to London and joined Curve — a fintech startup on a mission to simplify the way people spend, see and save money.
Support from family and friends is key to making the right decisions, overcoming challenges and developing your career. I think the two main aspects in which family and friends have the most impact are 1) awareness and discovery — learning about my friends’ jobs, challenges, and journeys, as well as getting their help to identify my interests and strengths has been inspiring and helpful. 2) Support — making bold moves (switching jobs, moving to another country) can be daunting but having a supporting circle makes a huge difference.
A day in Rona’s life
Curve is a fintech startup, established in 2015. We are 42 people who work hard to build a connected financial world. Curve is creating an operating system for money that connects everything in your financial life in one place. We’ve created a smart app that links all your payment cards to a single Mastercard. It’s a simpler, safer way to use all your accounts and save money, with personalized cashback and automated spend insights. Now we’re enabling Curve to connect with other accounts and apps, from new credit to everyday budgeting.
I’m Head of Operations at Curve which means I lead a group that is responsible for customer experience, compliance and financial crime, card fulfillment (creating a card is so much more fascinating than I ever imagined!) and operational processes and projects with our partners. No day is ever the same as the previous one and none of them pan out as planned. It’s hard to define a typical day, but I spend a lot of my time in meetings with our partners, with my team and with other teams like product and engineering. We’re a small company so almost everything is cross-functional. I also work on projects that support the company’s growth and prepare it to scale.
It’s the nature of working in a startup company and the nature of the role and I love it.
I’m proud of quite a lot :) but at the top of the list is my team at Curve. Building a team of smart, ambitious, caring people who I like and am happy to see when I come into the office in the morning is a great feeling. Startup life can be very challenging but having the right people around you can make all the difference. We work together to build and improve processes and this plays a key role in Curve’s growth. I would like to think that I have at least a small positive impact on their personal development and careers.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think there are misconceptions about working in tech: you need to be a developer, work 14 hours a day, it’s impossible to find balance and keep your career momentum when having kids. So for me, it’s mostly about awareness. Women in tech (like us) are surrounded by other women in tech and women who are passionate about raising this awareness, but when I think about other friends and acquaintances — second, third and even more remote circles, the situation is different. ‘Tech’ is such a huge industry with so many opportunities, but it’s hard to get your head around it unless you’re in it or very close to someone in it.
There isn’t enough clarity on what it means to work in tech and to be a woman in tech: What are the different roles, the skills required, how do you acquire these skills?
Awareness can and should be raised across all age groups, from young girls to kids in high school, university and even working women who could improve their income and the variety of options and interests at work. It includes better role models, more exposure to computers and science, more exposure to the variety of roles and skills required.
One of my favorite episodes of the Freakonomics podcast is an interview with Christine Lagarde who heads the IMF. At some point, she says “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters it would be a different story”. I agree with that. There is research that shows diversity and having a balanced team contributes to the bottom line. Companies should be hiring more women not because it’s the right things to do but because it’s good business.
Unfortunately, I think it is going to take a few more years until we see substantial change and until we feel our workplaces are balanced and equal. I’m encouraged by movements like #MentorHer which can have a shorter term impact, as well as create more role models for younger women and girls. However, it depends on both women and men in the tech industry taking a more pro-active approach to changing the situation.
The obstacles vary from team to team but I can say that quite often, and especially the higher up you climb, you will be the only woman in the room and, more often than not, women are outnumbered by men. Even though I have personally never felt intimidated by it, it has a lot of impact — on the way you dress, the way you speak and how comfortable you feel in your environment. These things can play a role in the way women perform in their jobs.
To put it in harsher words, in an industry led by white men, products developed for white men and funded by white men — as open-minded as this industry likes to think it is, there are undercurrents. It’s present in product design, marketing, job description and hiring. Only companies and leaders who are very aware and make a conscious effort to change and address these things, can really create a different environment.
Having said all this, I don’t think women should be deterred from jobs in tech — be part of the change even if this means simply being a part of the industry.
Tips & tricks
My best advice is to talk to as many women in the industry as you can — learn about different companies, different segments, different roles and opportunities and hear about the journeys that other women have gone through in their careers. You’ll find that there are so many possibilities out there and that they are not beyond reach.
Don’t be afraid to ask how others have achieved what they have and get recommendations on how you could make your next move —whether it’s in tech or upwards. There are so many talented and accomplished women out there who would be happy to talk and help — just get in touch.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- “Technology reflects the people who make it”
- “In the right company, working in tech is a great career”
- Why women fall out of the tech pipeline
- Breaking the mold: ‘It’s not that you’re good — it’s that you’re female’
- How to avoid the culture of male programmers
- Creating an equal playing field is about more than just teaching someone coding skills
- The more women you see in STEM, the less intimidating it is for others to join
- The tech industry tends to lose women along the way. Change is underway
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Tips & tricks for women
- Transitioning into a tech career? Silicon Valley culture is one of the biggest initial obstacles
- Abby Kearns: “Diversity ensures continuous innovation”
- “In technology, you become a lifelong learner — More women should embrace this career”
- Cultural impact is not driven by gender, but by diversity
- Everyday superheroes: “I don’t have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes”
- Diversity talk: For tech, it’s less about a pipeline problem and more of a marketing problem
- Diversity talk: It’s important to receive support from tech communities
- Everyday superheroes: Women just need to see more of us — techie women
- Anyone who wants to learn and grow won’t continue in an industry that tells them they are stupid
- There is too much allowance for tolerating toxic people in tech
- Coding myths and how finding communities like Hear Me Code helps you learn best
- 3 strategies to try out if you want to support women in tech
- Young women carry less career gender bias and more media influence
- Women are often pigeonholed into “soft skill” roles and pushed away from engineering
- Diversity talk: Many women suffer from the impostor syndrome
- How to succeed in tech: Shutterstock’s Rashi Khurana gives her tips
- Diversity talk: Using lingo is making tech sound harder than it really is
- Diversity talk: “We can’t expect men to hand us equality on a silver platter”
- How to succeed in tech: Agnès Crepet gives her tips
- “Many people still need to be taught that diversity is more than just a trend”
- “Many companies lack the infrastructure & career growth opportunities to support female employees”
- “Diverse teams can help prevent unhealthy competition that occurs sometimes in male-dominated teams”
- How to succeed in tech: Testlio’s Kristel Kruustük shares her tips
- “As the tech field becomes cloud-based, the flexibility and remote work culture will grow”
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from Atlassian’s Molly Hellerman
- Diversity talk: “Women should not be herded into a career to meet quotas”
- “The tech industry can move even faster by increasing the diversity of talent”
- Diversity talk: Even if your team is not very diverse, what matters is that they value you
- Diversity talk: Exec reveals her secret to success — Always be curious
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from GitLab’s Barbie Brewer
- Diversity talk: Tips from Lisk’s Gina Contrino on how to succeed in tech
- “The combination of tech IQ and people EQ can set you apart in the tech world”
- “Mentorship, acceptance, and trust are really important in fostering gender diversity in the workplace”
- The tech industry is not solely responsible for pushing gender diversity