Harder, better, faster, stronger
min video //
min read //
December 5, 2023
We asked 38 women in the Iraqi|KRI tech industry what barriers they’ve met in their careers and what strategies they have applied to overcome them. Short answer? It’s tough and the burden is often on you to prove your worth. But more and more are fighting for a better work culture.
It is in equal amounts disheartening and empowering to read the stories of women doing their utmost to succeed in the tech industry.
When we asked our Re:Coded community of women what barriers they struggled with the most, discrimination towards women came out on top at 44.7%.
Let’s just take a few examples.
“A major issue is the expectation in both the community and workplace settings that women are less efficient in the software development field,” wrote Khadija, who is a software developer with over 5 years of experience.
Or what about this account of the struggles women go through?
“Professional career development is hard in MENA regions - especially for women. Basically, the competition is not fair. Rather it has been built on undervaluing women and women are either not trusted with jobs and responsibilities or threatened by their abilities,” writes Noor who is working as a data analyst.
However, discrimination is not the only issue.
The industry lacks role models and supportive networks with 42.1% citing this as a barrier to growth and only 26.3% pointing to colleagues as the main pillar of support in their careers. That support is found among family and friends with 71.1% citing family as the main pillar of support followed by friends at 55.3%.
Despite that many seem to have strong support from family and friends which were cited among the least experienced barriers.
Furthermore, 36.8% cite the fact that there are expectations for women to pursue other careers than in tech or that there are simply too many other responsibilities for a woman to take care of (28.9%) in order to build a successful career.
“Honestly, I've faced a lot of obstacles. The lack of awareness and cultural understanding within the community, their non-acceptance of a dedicated, career-focused woman, and some criticisms from relatives, in short, everyone believes that my pursuit of success is mere entertainment rather than hard work,” said Nabaa about the expectations for women in the industry.
Breaking the glass ceiling
With all these barriers why still pursue a career in tech? When expectations of what to do with your life and career are often sending you in another direction?
The uplifting message is that no one from our survey really seems to regret their career choices and they’ve found ways to fight their way through these barriers to succeed.
“Don't be deterred by stereotypes or gender biases. Instead, use your unique perspective as a woman to bring fresh ideas and innovation to the table. Seek out mentors and allies who support your growth, and never stop learning. Remember, your potential is limitless, and you can achieve great success in the digital world,” says Nabaa.
From the survey four strategies seem to emerge.
1- Be the best version of yourself:
It seems tough and unfair to lay the burden on yourself, but most women in our survey felt that was a key element to succeed
“Identifying the stereotype rather than denying it and working hard to succeed. In other words, be so good they cannot ignore you,” says Tara who is a managing director with more than 8 years of experience.
2- Shine a light on stereotypes: It might take time to fight back and it requires strong characters, but the rewards will be felt by all.
“I didn't remain silent about the barriers I faced. I actively engaged in discussions with colleagues and peers to raise awareness about these challenges. By sharing my experiences and insights, I aimed to challenge stereotypes and biases that exist in the industry. These conversations can be powerful tools for change. Moreover, I made it a point to share my achievements and experiences on LinkedIn. I believe that by sharing my journey and successes, I can contribute to changing the community's view on women in the tech industry. I hope to inspire and encourage other women to pursue their dreams in this field,” was the powerful message from Khadija.
3- Build mental resilience: You’re likely to experience discrimination and expectations throughout your career, so you might need to learn how to block out the criticism at times.
"I have become more focused on my well-being, both mentally and physically, and have started to disregard negative opinions, choosing to only welcome constructive feedback,” writes Nabaa.
4-Find a mentor to support your journey: Lack of support was cited as a barrier to success, and there is so much strength and advice to be had if you find the right mentor.
“I joined an initiative (she codes too) to teach and support women in tech to teach them and provide my knowledge, so I can help our community grow,” writes Aya who is a web developer on her approach and how she found a way to give back.
Ultimately the road ahead is rocky for women still looking for a career in tech, but there are many who came before you who are fighting for a better future both for themselves and the community of women in tech.
“You are inherently valuable. Be bold and brave; ask for what is rightfully yours without hesitation. There is nothing lacking in your worth, so go for what you truly deserve,” writes Sima in a powerful message to all.
You can read all of the barriers and strategies to overcome them in the report here.