The technology area has been permeated, over the years, by female figures who have reshaped history. The most famous examples are certainly Ada Lovelace, who thought about information processing before computers even existed, and Mary Jackson, the first black woman engineer at NASA, whose trajectory was told in the film Beyond the Time.

But if I ask you to name women who are making a difference in technology today, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to think of many names. Who are the leaders guiding the current market? There should be countless numbers, considering that almost 200 years have passed since Ada. But it’s not the case.

According to the Women in Technology survey, only 28% of technology positions in the world are held by women. A study carried out by Statista reports that, of management positions, only 22.5% are female. There was a 10% increase between 2015 and 2021, which is great, but it is still a very low number and speed. Women in Tech itself states that, at the rate we are going, it would still take more than 132 years to achieve gender equality — assuming linear progress, which is unlikely to happen.

All of this explains why leading, as a woman, is its own challenge. I was and am in this role and, despite having learned many ways to overcome the obstacles of this path, there are still constant complications that arise from the way society has been formed until now.

To begin with, leadership brings a certain level of pressure and expectations, which become even more particular for women, especially in technology, as it is a sector with a male majority.

I have my leadership style, and along the way I heard a lot of things: that I should be more permissive here, or firmer there; that I should follow a “maternal” model and get closer; or that he should follow male examples in the area. All these “shoulds” held me to a standard expected of a female leader.

The truth is that what makes a person a leader, whether man or woman, usually comes from the same principles. They are similar motivations, ambitions and fears, and this was proven in a study by Insper with the consultancy Robert Half. So why do people want to dictate what attitudes are ideal or not for women? Why do they react differently when their expectations are not met by one leader or another?

There are several cultural issues involved in this problem. We live in a society structured in a certain way, and several business areas continue to follow old patterns. It’s really very difficult to change, because we act by pure reproduction of behavior. On this path, until I got to where I am, I had to study and understand the context that women find themselves in so as not to limit myself to what others expected me to be or fall into imposter syndrome, and then act even more strongly in my positioning to manage situations in which my leadership was questioned.

I have seen situations in which the expectation is that female leadership would come closer, that they would show care and attention to the person being led beyond the professional context. Would this be expected if I were a man? Would my way of leading be considered distant, or would it be appropriate? By looking at male leaders in my field with similar attitudes, I already have the answer. They wanted me to be a woman in line with what was agreed upon as a woman in this type of role: more of a mother than a manager.

On the other hand, I’ve met women who struggled to reproduce conventionally masculine behaviors, not because they wanted to, but because they saw repeating these stereotypes as the only way to grow or even survive in their positions.

Today, I am at the head of a company with a strong presence in technology, with 70% female leaders and a general workforce made up of 68% women. I know, in practice, how much it is possible to achieve with a diverse team whose gender is no impediment to competence.

Gender equality in the corporate world, both in the technology area and in the entire job market, is a slow process. We certainly need to accelerate, but to do so it is essential that the actions of each company and each individual generate an impact. It’s a lot of work, but everyone does their part, change happens.

*Adriana Campos graduated from ESPM in Advertising with an emphasis on Marketing, and in Big Data and Creativity and Leadership from Stanford University, is the founder and CEO of Adtailone of the main full-service digital performance marketing agencies in Brazil.


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