Women in tech: “The most important thing when starting out is to be more self confident”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we 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 Lisa Mo Wagner, Product & Growth Consultant.
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?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in tech to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Lisa Mo Wagner, Product & Growth Consultant.
Lisa Mo Wagner, Product & Growth Consultant
What got you interested in technology?
I’ve been interested in tech since I was a kid, thanks to my dad. He involved me early on and showed a lot of things to me. Then, as soon as I could write, it became normal for me to load my games from floppy discs. I also unscrewed and opened our PC tower more than just once, together with my dad, to replace something and to upgrade the PC. We always had consoles lying around and had internet access early on. Funnily enough, I am the only one of my siblings on whom this left such a long lasting impression.
After my social economics studies, I worked for a small start-up and was supposed to build up the customer service. I was therefore quite involved with our log-in area and the questions related to it. Unfortunately though, it was not so easy to use and so I kept on thinking about new small things and changes, which would make our clients life easier, and which were then implemented together with the developer. This was a lot of fun for me and I was not even aware at this point in time that it was a profession. I did not find out until later, and now nothing can make me budge from this position. I would say, like all product managers, I stumbled into it.
A day in Lisa’s life
New projects often start with a workshop. I have already anchored many different things: Role definitions, organizational planning, brand development, growth-hacking ideas, co-creation, and much more. Actually, every company has a product, and you can also market and sell services as products. Therefore, I don’t get bored too quickly.
Paragons and sponsors
In my first official position as a Product Manager, I had a wonderful QA Engineer at my side (in the meantime he became the Team Lead Support QA Engineer), who always had time for my questions and gave me unsolicited, thought-provoking insights. By the way, my first developer team was always happy when I asked them things, and they could teach me SQL and GraphQL, for example. Unfortunately though, I’ve met few women in similar positions to mine, but a lot in related areas and different communities like “Women in Product”. These networks are great when you have to “vent” or want to exchange ideas, because sometimes you think you’re crazy when you experience sexism at work.
Did anyone ever try to stop you?
I wouldn’t say that they are deliberately putting obstacles in your way. Nevertheless, as a woman you often have to work twice as hard and prove yourself, and then the feedback is often rather vaguely formulated and nothing that can be implemented. I’ve been told things like “you have to be friendlier”. There are studies on the topic, which show that men usually get feedback on achieved business goals and concrete suggestions for improvement, while women are addressed in terms of communication style and personality.
We still have a long way to go, but a lot is already happening.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Technically, I have not developed anything myself, but I develop all my workshops myself – based on Design Thinking, Design Sprints, Lean and Agile principles, and they are individually tailored for the client.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
We are slowly catching up, but thinking back to 2004, when even I thought that computer science or something similar was just not for me, that I wasn’t capable of that anyway, that I just wasn’t such a nerd – it will surely take a while longer. I know several women who are now in the tech industry, but who did not previously have the self-confidence to do so. That has to change! Young women and girls should not have to worry about that at all and simply learn, study, and try out whatever they please.
I have experienced these “Boys Clubs” often enough – on management levels and in meetings that I attend as a technical expert, I am constantly interrupted. When I share an idea with a colleague and support him in implementing it, he runs off and praises himself – especially in front of the boss, of course. When you stand up for something, then you are “bossy” or “aggressive”. I have experienced all these moments more than just once in my career and that annoys me. As a woman, especially as a woman of color, you are quickly placed into a militant, feminist corner and you are not taken seriously. For this reason we need men as associates, as so-called “allies”.
I wouldn’t say that they are deliberately putting obstacles in your way.
Any obstacles along the way?
I have heard from third parties that a former colleague takes advantage of prejudices against women in meetings and pretends to be a “stupid blonde”. This harms all women, because it keeps stereotypes alive and strengthens those that have long been outdated.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
Not so long ago, a study found that companies with more women are on average 15% more successful, and diverse teams are even 35% more successful. This shows that we not only need more women, we also need diversity in our teams in general. We develop products for a diverse society, more points of view and experiences of different people are necessary to do this really well.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
I’d like to say soon, but that would be unrealistic. We still have a long way to go, but a lot is already happening.
Tips & Tricks
Be confident! The most important thing to get started in the tech scene is to be more confident. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from the book “Feminist Fight Club” (which sounds wilder than it actually is): “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man”. This is, of course, a generalization, but there is also a lot of truth in it. Women only apply for a job if their skills match up to the advertisement by about 85%, whereas men will apply if their profile is as low as a 40% match. Even if you hear a lot about the problems of women in the tech industry, now there are many companies that are outstanding, that pay attention to diversity, and are committed to it. Find such a company and then dare to do it! Especially in the tech industry you will find a lot of people from different career paths.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Tips for women in tech: “Setbacks and ‘failures’ are really learning opportunities”
- “I think women in tech should try to step out of their comfort zone more, speak up more without having imposter syndrome.”
- Women in tech: Drawn to technology like a moth to a flame
- Diversity talk: “You can’t be afraid of failure. If you don’t try, you will never succeed.”
- Advice for women in tech: “Women should seize the opportunity.”