IT expert: ‘Women just want to do their job’
March 22, 2023
min read

IT expert: ‘Women just want to do their job’

Barbara Oberrauter-Zabransky
Barbara Oberrauter-Zabransky

Even if it’s year 2023, women in technical professions are still a minority worldwide. This leads to many problems in everyday worklife - and above all to a queasy feeling among the women themselves, as software tester and coach Kris Corbus knows. She has been working in the IT industry for more than 20 years, and experiencing a lot and observed even more.

In an interview with WeAreDevelopers, the developer from Jena reveals the challenges that women in tech are still struggling with, why it is often easier to hide one's own gender and what employers can do to ensure a safe and non-discriminatory working atmosphere.

women in tech interview gender pay gap diversity

Kris, you are a ‘female tech talent’ yourself - how do you feel about being a woman in IT?

I have tried to ignore my gender for many years and have done a lot to not stand out as a woman. I wish I could have ability to remove my breasts when I got to office (laughs sadly). You surely don't want to be reduced to the role of representative of one gender. That forced me to behave differently - and just because I didn't have a penis.

It was a bit late that I have realized that I’m not alone with such issues, and that other colleagues have these problems. That's when I figured it out: It's not up to individual men or women, it's up to society. Since then, I've spoken openly about these issues, urging people not just to watch, but to make a stand and avoid staying out of the discussion.

Our study shows that women in IT still face discrimination. How did you experience that?

It begins with typical ‘only for women’ tasks such as making coffee or cleaning up the communal kitchen. Tasks assigned to one person. Other times I've been passed over for projects that would have interested me because they can’t be trusted to kids - even though I was full-time employed like everyone else. Last but not least, early in my career I had to deal with harassment and stalking without getting any help out there.

women in tech interview gender pay gap diversity

You have been working in the IT industry for many years. Do you notice any change in this situation for women?

Today, more attention goes to diversity, especially in large corporations. Managers are also trained accordingly, which should make the work more relaxed. Unfortunately, often, I'm still the only woman in the team.

We recently had a team event where I, as a woman, stayed alone with eight male colleagues in the forest. Now, of course, as a woman, I've been used to avoiding potentially dangerous situations for many years. Camping alone with eight men in the dark forest definitely falls into that category. Of course, my colleagues are very nice, but I still decided to go for the daylight activities and then go home.

In your opinion, do employers show too little sensitivity on this topic?

Unfortunately, but not only in relation to women. I keep seeing job advertisements that advertise foosball tablesl. As they say in English I’m on the ‘full spectrum’ - loud, sudden noises simply scares me. If there is a foosball table like this in the lounge or in the dining room, I can no longer enjoy my breaks in peace and relax. I would wish that more consideration would be given to neurodiverse people here as well. At my current employer I have a chess board in the lounge - that's relaxing too! (laughs)

women in tech interview gender pay gap diversity

Our study shows that professional recognition is very important to women in particular. In your experience, are female IT professionals achievements sufficiently recognized?

The superiors are mostly male, so from the outset it seems to me that  little attention is paid to recognition. But women also have a duty to deliver: the classic ‘Sleeping Beauty Syndrome’, in which a woman hopes that someone will guess what she wants, has had its day. The universe needs to hear what you wish for - that's the only way it can come true. Be it a project, a promotion or just recognition.

What characterizes female IT talents? Is there a common denominator or are they all completely different?

Women come in all sizes, shapes and qualities. And that's a good thing. If there's something we need in IT, it's diversity! This is the only way we can solve the problems of our customers that are not all the same. As long as there is only one woman in the team, she has to integrate herself so as not to attract unnecessary attention. In addition, there are no female role models: if you want to get promoted, you have to copy successful men – and in doing so, you lose a bit of your own identity. In my experience, it takes at least three women in the team for the situation to calm down. But in many companies we are still a long way from that. (laughs)

What do female career paths look like? How do they differ from those of men?

As long as there are no strong women's networks, most women still have to fight their way up on their own and take a lot in the process. Of course, that makes them bitter and vicious to a certain extent - and therefore not of much help to the women who follow. In addition, it’s often the case that only women without childcare obligations can play according to the male rules, who then often suffer from their childlessness. So there is still a lot work to do for employers.

women in tech interview gender pay gap diversity

Gender Pay Gap: Are women in IT paid enough or do you have the feeling that they are lagging behind their male colleagues?

I have a very clear message for all employers, managers and HR managers: Stop exploiting women's insecurities! Unfortunately, many women still don’t know what they can ask for in salary talks. Employers take advantage of this ignorance, trying to get away lightly.

The employment contract often prohibits employees from discussing their salary with others. This is not only illegal, but also prevents women from becoming aware of unequal treatment. Women must know their market value - and employers must no longer get away with it if they hire women well below their worth.

What advice would you give to young women who want to work in IT?

I keep finding that the coding skills of young women are incredibly good. In order to convey the technical know-how, they also need power skills: negotiating skills, self-confidence and the ability to set limits and sometimes just say no.

My advice to young, but also experienced women in the profession, is to create a folder with all the awards, hymns of praise, letters of thanks and to read it regularly in order to boost your own self-confidence. We have to keep reminding ourselves of what we can do and what we have already achieved in order not to fall into self-doubt. Many women are still afraid of this, they don't want to show off. I counter that: ‘You don't show off when it's true!’

What can employers do to attract more female IT talent and create safe spaces for women in tech?

It starts with the board: you need successful female role models who aren’t just quota women. It also needs ongoing communication and information about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. In addition, diversity and women's promotion training for managers and communication training for all managers and supervisors.

And then there is the large field of corporate values: Here I would advise employers to examine all values in terms of how they affect the individual destiny of the employees.

women in tech interview gender pay gap diversity

Your conclusion: What’s next for women in tech?

Women in tech just want to do their job. They don't want special treatment or quotas, they want to grow and learn and be given jobs that are challenging and exciting regardless of physical characteristics and genitals.

ABOUT: Kris Corbus is a passionate software quality evangelist, meet-up founder, conference organizer, speaker, mentor, trainer and coach. Born in Latvia, she loves to look behind software scene and to recognize connections and patterns behind errors, project development, software quality, corporate culture, management, customer performance and team spirit. Find more info at this link.


#Wanted and #Misunderstood: A Developer Survey 2023 (Full Report)

Download now

#Wanted and #Misunderstood: A Developer Survey 2023 (Full Report)

Jetzt downloaden