Technology Is a Woman

Warsaw, 14. April 2022

In my previous article on female power in IT, I tried to investigate the most prevalent fears that might still keep us – women, girls, and people socialized to occupy women’s roles – from working in the tech industry. This time I would like to focus on the topic of sisterhood and give a broader perspective on women in tech. We have so many reasons to be proud of ourselves, so instead of dragging out this introduction any longer, I’ll just get right to it.

The road to IT through sisterhood and mentoring

In the January issue of “Zwierciadło”, Polish journalist and TV presenter Magda Mołek, whom I personally admire for her YouTube content, said these beautiful and wise words: – I’ve always said: instead of tripping up other women, give them a hand and see what happens. Let’s give each other a chance. The same values lie at the core of various women’s initiatives, e.g.:


There are many, and one of their core tenets is supporting and helping women find their footing in IT. Above all, I’m referring here to sisterhood and mentoring. To showing women that they can actually do it, and that the industry doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – dominated by men.

When looking for an employer, it’s also worth looking at the organization’s work culture, training budget, and equality topics.

Karolina Hałaszkiewicz
Agile Lead & Coach

Why is mentoring so important to us?

According the report “Women in IT {2021}” I have mentioned in my previous article, as many as 39% of the surveyed women admitted that they had difficulty finding a fitting job offer. One in three respondents didn’t know how to begin their education and what specialization they should choose. Other discouraging factors are the high costs of IT courses and the overwhelming amount of material to learn. Mentoring programs organized by women for other women could be the answer to these issues.

In order to learn something and to do it well, you must practice. Learning a new role in the tech industry follows the same rules. – It’s the same thing with learning tennis or horseback riding. When you try to do it on your own, you’re all over the place, you don’t know where to begin, and end up reinforcing various myths and unhealthy convictions. But when someone tells you where to start and shows you what you could improve, you’ll definitely learn faster. – claims Karolina Hałaszkiewicz, Agile Lead & Coach.

– Women are so focused on getting jobs in tech that it’s all they think about (…) someone with more experience might point out that when looking for a new employer, you should also pay attention to the work culture in their organization, their training budget, as well as issues of equality and wellbeing. Women entering the IT sector don’t necessarily think in those categories – she adds.

Mentoring programs are therefore a valuable contributor to professional development and one should take advantage of them. The aid of a kind and experienced partner who will share her experiences with us is invaluable. One of the most popular initiatives of the non-profit Dare IT is a three-month mentoring program that allows you to take your first steps in the industry in one of eleven specializations. Aside from a consultation with a mentor, the organization’s mentees also gain access to expert webinars, job fairs, and get a meeting with an HR expert. The opportunities are there for the taking – all it takes is the will to reach for them.

History is a woman, and so is technology

Let us now go back in history, because even though we might mostly associate it with boring classes and memorizing dates, it offers many inspiring examples.

Ada Lovelace

Maybe not all of you know this, but the history of programming is full of great women whose knowledge and achievements have had an enormous impact. At the beginnings of many well-known tech giants, we find women without whom today’s global market might have been quite different.

Ada Lovelace is considered to be a pioneer in programming. In the first half of the 19th century, she devised a way for machines, called analytical engines, to conduct calculations. When men were fighting in the second world war, it was precisely women who provided the workforce for many economies around the world. In the 1940s, programming was considered to be an auxiliary profession, and therefore was often done by women. In the 1960s, “Cosmopolitan” – a women’s magazine that followed a slightly different formula than the one we know from its current issues – started publishing articles about “coding girls” and encouraging women to try this lucrative career.

The women who have conquered the digital world

Grace Hopper, one of the pioneers of programming, who worked to develop the first programming languages and created the first compiler, reportedly compared programming to making dinner and believed that women were “naturally” predisposed to being great at both. While we might now debate this claim as we strive to abolish patriarchal ideas, Grace was right about at least one thing – women are simply good at programming. In our local context, I would like to direct your attention to the book “Cyfrodziewczyny. Pionierki polskiej informatyki” [Digigirls. Pioneers of Polish Programming] by Karolina Wasilewska. It talks about the history of Polish programming, which was shaped chiefly by women. Back in the 1970s, IT labs were referred to as “hen houses” on account of being so dominated by women. The situation changed dramatically only in the mid-1980s, which is why none of us should waste any more time doubting whether IT is a good fit for women.

Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-American film producer and inventor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, invented the FHSS technology, on which our current WiFi is based. Anne Easley, a NASA scientist, developed software for rocket segments. She manually ran mathematical simulations for an experimental nuclear reactor, called the Plum Brook reactor. Annie’s first project would end up being used by NASA to study potential uses for nuclear energy in space for the next 40 years.

Margaret Hamilton was the head of the Department of Software Engineering at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory during the creation of the steering programs for Apollo 11’s main navigation computer. The programs were created from scratch, allowed man to land on the Moon, and gave birth to an entirely new branch of the space industry. Was it easy? – When I first got into it, nobody knew what it was that we were doing. It was like the Wild West. There was no course in it. – she recalls in an interview with “Wired” magazine. But was it worth it? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Finally, I’ll bring up a quite recent achievement, but one that is dear to my heart on account of its recent anniversary. Kate Bouman was responsible for developing an algorithm that pictured a black hole. Katie was a member of the team whose photograph of a black hole was published exactly on April 10, 2019.

I hope that these snippets of history helped you understand, as they did me, that we really have the power! Sure, not each and every one of us should and will work at NASA, but at least we can be certain that we are standing on the shoulders of some incredible women.

FemTech among the hottest trends of 2022

Now that the history lesson is over, let’s fast-forward to the present day, where new developments might just give us a reason to be very proud in the near future. Even though many people in Poland will claim śpiulkolot as the word of the year, in terms of technology, there is definitely a place on the podium for FemTech.

It is being projected that FemTech (female technology) – a business sector lying at the intersection of medicine and technology and using the latter to meet women’s needs, is one of the fastest growing innovations and the trend will continue in the coming years. This new industry is mainly focused on women’s health and women’s life cycle, but it also encompasses various technologies dealing with mental and physical well-being, as well as sexuality. It should be noted that this industry is mostly being created by women themselves. It is women who are behind the innovative ideas that are meeting our needs: creating FemTech startups, participating in discussion panels, educating others, and on top of that – introducing new services and products to the market.

The first FemTech app that reached a wide audience is 2013’s Clue, which helps monitor a woman’s ovulation cycle. Almost 10 years later, similar services aren’t a novelty anymore, but have become of real interest to big venture capital players. In terms of the Polish market, last year the Your KAYA start-up, which offers subscription-based organic, bio-degradable intimate hygiene products, attracted serious attention from investors. Ultra Violet Futures, the first FemTech trend forecast agency in the world, projects that one of the main hot topics over the next few years is going to be radical inclusivity. Products and services for women will stop being geared towards only young, white, heterosexual representatives of that group. Another big growth area is going to be menopause and the changes the female body undergoes during that period – a topic which had been mostly ignored until now.

Moments of doubt are just that – moments

I’d like to circle back now to sum up my thoughts from both articles and talk about what we as women in IT are able to achieve, and to what values we can aspire. If I were to ponder now what I could say to girls who are about to embark on a new career, I’d start with Dare IT’s founder’s Aleksandra Bis’s encouraging words: Even though changing your industry or specialization is hard, it can fortify your conviction that “you can make it”. It’s worth remembering that our experiences and achievements are a foundation upon which we construct our belief in our effectiveness. If we’ve already achieved success in a field once, why would this time be any different?

Even as recently as a couple of years ago, I would sometimes find myself not understanding a thing. I’d google strange phrases, feeling like everyone around me was speaking in a completely different language. There were times when I had to set aside some of my competences or modify them until could be of use to the people around me. And you know what? I still get those thoughts sometimes, because with every turn your path makes, you realize that it’s only getting longer. But that’s okay – this thought should only help you when you are beset by doubts.

Taking to heart the words of the above quoted Karolina Hałaszkiewicz, you should prepare yourself for the fact that tech is a universe of roles. You can switch them from time to time, but before you start, you should ask yourself a couple of questions: is this exciting to me? Is this a good environment for me? And if so – why? If your sole priority is a higher salary, and you have no interest in the industry, you’ll probably regret making this decision at some point.

Individual success is dependent on the ability to work with people, work on oneself and fit into the culture of the organization.

Resume starter pack

In terms of the people aspiring to join the industry, the most appreciated will be those who easily adapt to changes and who can work with agility, quickly gaining new skills, understanding and following the business goals of their clients and their organization. Another valuable characteristic of a prospective candidate, regardless of their experience level, is their ability to effectively communicate, in terms of both the project’s and their own needs, goals and requirements. Based on numerous industry forecasts and trends, individual success – however you define it – will mostly be contingent upon an employee’s ability to work with others, work on themselves, and to adjust to their organization’s culture. It is being said that soft skills will soon become as important an indicator of experience as hard ones.

What do we do if we are rejected or no one gets back to us following an interview? Try again! With each new interview, we gain new experience, which is progress in and of itself. It’s a good idea to write down all the questions we didn’t know how to answer and to fill the gaps in our knowledge. Above all, you should remember that rejection should not impact your self-esteem. Obviously, that’s easier written than done, especially if we’ve been judged from childhood. We’ve all had moments when we doubted our skills or questioned our decisions. I’ve also been rejected a couple of times, and I have done some rejecting. It serves to broaden our experience, and with time it is going to yield benefits. Remember that the reason for the rejection does not lie in you. You can always improve your skills, expand your knowledge, and present yourself more fully at the next interview.

A couple of suggestions for future employers

When it comes to organizations, inclusive language in job postings is definitely a good thing. You can also try to limit bias during the recruitment process by ensuring that interviews are conducted in a mixed-gender environment. For example, a Berlin company uses anonymous applications in which until the third stage of recruitment no one knows whether the person applying for the position is a man or a woman. It’s also a good idea to promote female role models on your social media channels – stories of women in leadership positions or fulfilling other responsible roles can inspire and uplift others.

According to a 2019 Stack Overflow survey, in Poland women account for about 5.9% of all people specialized in programming. According to other studies – though here I suspect that they included not just programmers, but also other positions – they constitute 25% of all programming teams. The more women there are in the industry, the more diverse it is. Diversity breeds originality, fresh ideas, it ensures growth and makes it easier to look at current problems from a new point of view.

Girls, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all of you and hope you always find a strong wind under your wings!



In SYZYGY I have Agile Facilitator & Backlog Master roles, among others…
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