Ten Ways Women in Technology Can Increase Their Visibility

Learn what to do to get noticed in your company, industry, and technical community

27 May 2015

Photo: iStockphoto

Many of the speakers at April’s IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference said they often felt invisible among their male colleagues and within their organization. To help women raise their prominence, attendees received a booklet produced by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which lists activities that highly successful women do. For those who missed the meeting, I’ve listed the tips below.

  1. Work on projects with direct business impact. Choose roles that are strategically important to the business, and be clear about how your work fits in with the company’s goals.    
  2. Take risks and step outside your comfort zone. Ask for opportunities that will stretch you professionally. Research shows that women can be harsher critics of their work than men, and this can prevent them from applying for positions even though they are highly qualified.    
  3. Choose or ask for assignments that allow you to demonstrate your technical abilities. Look for opportunities across the organization where you can use your technical strengths to add value to a team.    
  4. Seek mentors and sponsors who have organizational clout. Mentors help advise you on your career and the company’s culture, while sponsors advocate for you, making sure that your work is visible to influential people within the company. (Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich and Cisco’s Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Pankaj Patel said in their WIEILC keynote addresses they had committed to mentoring more women.)   
  5. Develop a strong network and continually look for ways to diversify it. Participate in cross-functional, cross-organizational projects to help close your skill and knowledge gaps.   
  6. Look for internal and external opportunities to speak and present. These opportunities can help you demonstrate leadership and raise your visibility. (Several WIEILC speakers said becoming an active IEEE volunteer provided lots of venues for public speaking opportunities and leadership roles.)   
  7. Serve as an internal advocate and mentor others—both men and women. Mentoring can be a rewarding way to grow professionally and to expand your leadership skills. Make mentoring part of your performance goals so you can be recognized for your contributions. (Consider trying IEEE MentorCentre, an online program that matches IEEE members for the purpose of establishing a mentoring partnership. As Kristen Pressner, head of Roche Diagnostics’ human resources department for Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, said in her WIEILC closing remarks, “There is no perfect female leader role model. If not you as a mentor for other women, than who?”)   
  8. Know what you are good at and promote that about yourself. Consult with mentors, your manager, and other colleagues you trust about ways to pitch yourself. Develop a succinct way to describe your strengths in a variety of situations. (As Pressner told the WIEILC audience, get your “me” speech down.)   
  9. Try to work with and for managers who have a reputation for considering their employees’ perspectives, needs, and talents in decision-making. Talk to other employees you trust to get a better sense of how different managers and teams operate.   
  10. Keep up with emerging trends and technologies so that you can take advantage of key opportunities when they arise. Let your manager know about skills you’d like to develop, and create performance goals for developing these skills. See if your company offers support to attend professional development opportunities. (WIEILC is one event to consider. It had several sessions that covered innovative areas that are looking for women engineers including cybersecurity, gaming, robotics, and space exploration. Videos of these and other sessions are available on IEEE.tv)
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