Female engineers say it's important to break into the ole boys' network

Don’t shirk from or dismiss the ole boys network. You have to break in if it matters.

If you want a job or a promotion, understand what the company is trying to achieve and pitch your skills to help the firm.

Finally, don’t get bogged down constantly proving your competence. Passion, excitement for a project counts more than a set of skills.

Those were some of the key takeaways I got from a panel of female engineers I moderated Tuesday at the Invent Your Future conference in Santa Clara. The women involved were also featured in a column I wrote about what it takes to make it as a woman in the tech industry.

While other industries like medicine and law have become more female, with women doing the critical work, the numbers of female engineers has remained low. And about half of those who break in don’t stay, as I wrote in a column, with women with technical training saying they felt uncomfortable and unsupported.

And it seems that there is a tech gender flare-up every month or so over a company’s treatment of a female employee. The most recent example is GitHub, where a female engineer resigned after accusing the company of ignoring harassment. This week, Tom Preston-Werner, one of GitHub’s co-founders and a former chief executive, stepped down, as the New York Times reported, after an investigation into gender-based harassment found nothing illegal.

But listening to the female engineers on this panel, I heard a positive, hopeful message and a lot of advice for women who want to succeed in tech.

Watch it here:

Above: An image of the Invent Your Future conference panel, “Women on Fire – Ignite Your Technical Career.” April 22, 2014. 

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (188 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.