Beyond the binary: Women’s trials and tribulations in tech

Women break the glass ceiling in a continuous effort to fight for their place in the tech industry.

Despite the world’s clamor for gender equality, social progress is never quite as instant as ChatGPT’s answers to 500-word questions. As much as we’d like to believe that the world now knows better than to gauge a person’s employability based on their gender, this is yet to be the case in many industries, especially in tech. In 2023, only 28 percent of computing and mathematical jobs were found to be held by women—making up less than a third of the industry. A simple Google search of the prompt ‘software developer’ shows that even the world’s biggest search engine associates tech jobs with the male gender.

Still, there are women who wish to prove that code isn’t a “no girls allowed” zone and fight to open doors for others just like them. Although limited in number, tech giants are beginning to see more and more ladies in leadership positions, proving that women have a place in the tech-dominated future unfolding before us. Two such women are Ambe Tierro, the new Country Managing Director and Technology Centers Lead for Accenture in the Philippines, and Adela ‘Delle’ Sering-Fojas, co-owner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seven Seven Global Services.

Hello, world!

Tierro first learned how to code in high school. “I found computers then like magical boxes,” she shares, “and I [badly wanted] to learn how to operate them.” This eventually led to her choosing to take up Computer Science in college, and from there, Tierro’s interest grew at an exponential rate. One of her most memorable experiences was a university project to aid the workers of the Manila Post Office through the automation of the sorting and filing of correspondences. “I distinctly remember thinking there must be a better way to do this,” she recounts, “…[so that] these people can do more interesting things with their day.“

Sering, on the other hand, came from a very different industry—one widely perceived as a polar opposite of tech due to its “effeminacy”: fashion. Still, she did not let the contrast daunt her, recalling that she believed the Information Technology (IT) field to be one where her “passion for creativity and curiosity is very relevant.” Wishing to break the stereotype of IT being a rigid, mechanical field, Sering asserts that tech is “constantly evolving and requires individuals who are adaptable, creative, and curious.”

Now in their respective companies, Tierro and Sering continue to stand as influential women who prove that gender is not, and never should be, a barrier to opportunities in technology. Striving to lead by example, Sering describes inspiring other women as a fulfilling experience. “It’s important for the younger generation to have role models,” Tierro shares, echoing the sentiment. 

Operational glitches

Inspiring as their stories may be, the reality is that the industry treats these women’s rightful feats as exceptions, not the norm. To this day, the tech industry continues to be a glorified boys’ club. There is still a glaring lack of women’s jobs in the field, and it gets considerably worse when looking further at those who sit in power. Its direct results, as Sering describes, are “discrimination and sexism, [which make] achieving our goals and influencing change difficult.” Tierro adds that “it’s hard to aspire to move up when nobody there looks like you or talks like you.”

Women are then left at the mercy of male leaders who don’t fully understand their demands and concerns. For instance, Tierro notes that as a working mother of three, it became a struggle for her to achieve a good work-life balance. This makes having a seat at the high table next to impossible for women, continuing the toxic cycle that prevents women from thriving in the tech arena.

In this sea of gender homogeneity, Tierro found herself in the face of self-doubt. “Not having enough [female] mentors, especially as I was taking on global and regional roles, was quite intimidating,” she reveals. Thankfully, she was able to “[seek] out mentors who were supportive and believed in my capabilities and potential.” This helped her overcome her insecurities and self-limiting beliefs.  

Recognizing the disadvantages presented to women in her field, Sering is unafraid to call out injustices when she sees them. “It is essential to stand up for oneself and assert one’s value,” she stresses. “This means speaking up when ideas are dismissed, seeking opportunities to demonstrate our skills and expertise, and building relationships with clients and colleagues who value our contributions.” Sering makes it a point to treat everyone with respect and fairness, creating a culture of trust within her company.

Tierro takes a similar approach by spearheading programs that promote diversity. “I am transparent about our inclusion and diversity goals,” she maintains. “I promote attending trainings [involving] unconscious bias, and just making sure women have proper representation in leadership teams.”

Debugging the status quo

The presence of female leaders in the tech industry encourages more women to take on the reins of leadership positions. “I would like to think that my accomplishments have inspired women to dream bigger and seek out mentoring and sponsorship,” Tierro shares. Because of their relatively small number, women in the tech industry must support each other and ensure each other’s success.

Sering discloses that she wants to set a positive example for women leaders. “It is possible to succeed and thrive in this field,” she imparts. “I think I have inspired other women to pursue their passions and to break down barriers to equality and inclusivity.”

While true gender equality is still far from reach, Sering upholds, “Gender does not define your capabilities or potential.” She suggests that all of us have the same capacity to learn, make mistakes, and thrive in the careers we choose to pursue. Sexist patriarchal systems that were put in place to restrict women from realizing their maximum potential should no longer be tolerated nor be “put in place”. Sering reassures future women tech leaders, “You have the power to make a meaningful impact in your field and beyond.”

Tierro likewise emphasizes that women leaders should recognize their own strengths and shortcomings, and pass on their wisdom to others who aspire to be leaders in the tech world. She reinforces that if you want to lead, you must “know yourself, grow yourself, ask for help, teach others, and have fun.” This formula for success got her to where she is today, and she hopes it would work for other women as well.

Women have long faced an uphill battle getting their due in the tech industry. Their voices have been unheard—but not for long. As women gradually break the glass ceiling that hinders them from climbing the corporate ladder, their concerns will start reaching a wider platform. Inch by inch, they are moving closer to a world where they are viewed not as subordinates, but as equals, deserving of their achievements in leadership.

Andy Jaluague

By Andy Jaluague

Criscela Ysabelle Racelis

By Criscela Ysabelle Racelis

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