If you’ve been thinking about starting a career in engineering, you may have wondered what real tech stereotypes could be like.
Is technology hard for women to break into? Is the field boring and tied to an office?
Media images and public debate based on stereotypes have led to harmful misconceptions about technology. These misconceptions create a barrier between technology and people who could transform it.
The tech industry thrives on new, exciting voices that challenge preconceived ideas. An influx of students and professionals who rightly recognize tech as vibrant and inclusive is helping to dispel and rewrite common tech myths.
Read to learn how some common misconceptions about working in the tech industry clash with the realities of the tech industry, according to established tech veterans.
Common myths about working in technology debunked
Negative stereotypes about technology can deter people who can make valuable contributions.
Common tech myths have led the public to view computer science jobs as antisocial, isolated, and office-based jobs that are completely male-dominated. The truth is more complex than that.
Two tech veterans, CEO Victoria Mendoza and educator Sarah Lean, join us to discuss common views on technology. While it is true that the tech industry still faces challenges with the representation of women and people of color, tech is a vibrant career field.
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Tech is just an “old boys’ club”
Women in STEM may complain that technology still seems like an “old boys” club. There is some truth to this belief, as men are overwhelmingly represented in careers in information technology. However, according to Mendoza, women are claiming space in the tech industry:
Many people see technology companies as an ‘old boys’ club. Well, for the most part it’s still one — but at least women are now pushing barriers and making themselves available for managerial positions often dominated by males.
A career in technology is actually also a women’s world as we see many skilled women engaged in web and app development, data science, AI and machine learning technologies.
Women are slowly claiming their fair share of the tech job market rather than being sidelined in positions such as project management, creative and design and administrative work.
Ultimately, a career in engineering means how you present yourself and how you actually put something on the table so that people in the industry will give you the same respect and importance.
Diversity in tech still lags behind. But women looking for the right employers can find challenging, high-salary opportunities in technology.
The gender gap has been closed
Men are still much bigger than women in tech. As of 2021, only 26% of U.S. computer workers identified as female.
This has led to bias in hiring, delegating responsibilities and compensation. Female tech professionals should not view this industry through rose-colored glasses.
To be honest, I was quite idealistic about the tech industry at the start of my career.
Coming from a sales and marketing background, I thought the industry has evolved from being a man’s world in terms of opportunities for all genders. But now I see women still struggling to make their presence known.
As a Latin woman, minorities like me still make up a small percentage of this huge industry.
I assumed that if I worked hard and learned my trade, my hard work would be recognized. Unfortunately, as a woman in tech, I am often overlooked or rejected. I was once mistaken for a coworker’s wife while attending a tech conference!
The prejudice is that women are not technical. But some of the best tech people I’ve worked with have been women.
There is much work to be done in this area.
— Sarah Lean
Due to widespread gender bias, women are still overlooked and fired in the tech industry. Racial minorities – including minority women – are also underrepresented. About 13% of Americans are black, but black people held only 7% of computer-related jobs by 2021.
Women are still fighting the systemic bias they face in STEM professions, despite being one of the greatest innovators in technology historically.
It comes with regular office hours
Some technology newcomers assume that tech jobs always have a central office location and a 9 to 5 work schedule. They may be surprised to learn that many tech jobs are completely remote and offer workers flexibility.
When I first started in tech I thought it was an office job but a 9 to 5 job with no weekend work. How false is that. It is a job that can be 24/7, 365 days a year. I’ve been working weekends, had to work at 3am like the maintenance window was, and was on call.
— Sarah Lean
Blame movies like Office Space for perpetuating the stereotype of tech workers being pigeonholed as the norm.
Depending on the position, techies may be able to set their own hours, or may have to deal with long work days and weekend shifts. They can work in the office or embrace a digital nomadic lifestyle.
Your company, or office, is the center of the universe
Some tech majors walk into the industry without realizing that their work will bring them into contact with other cultures or points of view.
However, working for a few years teaches you that the tech world extends far beyond your office.
How universal it is – I never thought about it when I started out in tech. Technology is the same all over the world.
It has allowed me to build friendships with people all over the world. I have also been lucky enough to be able to travel the world. I’ve been to the US, South Africa, Belgium, Denmark, Norway… Nobody told me technology was a job I could do and see the world.
— Sarah Lean
If you’re worried that a tech career will limit you, don’t worry! Working in the tech industry may allow you to travel, meet interesting people and experience new cultures.
It’s about technology, not people
Most technical jobs require comfort with prolonged solo work. But people with careers in computer science benefit from social skills. To be a successful tech professional, you need to collaborate, receive constructive criticism, and provide mentorship to those around you.
I didn’t realize how much IT would help me expose myself to so many people and different departments.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many different people, from CEOs to payroll administrators. Each has its own story about how important it is for tech to do their job. As IT experts it is important to know the technology. But also understanding the people and how they use the technology is important. Don’t forget to build those relationships.
— Sarah Lean
The myth that technology is about technology stems from a misconception about what drives technology. People drive technology, not technology. Technology is only as smart as the people who run it, and good technology comes from a spirit of collaboration.
You must have all the answers
Tech newbies sometimes feel insecure about their skill level. The most experienced engineers, programmers and managers seem to have all the answers. But this is not the case at all.
Even the most experienced professionals don’t know all the answers.
Many people assume that you need to know everything, and if you don’t know that, you’re not on the same level as your peers. I’ve never met anyone who knows everything. We all have our specialties or areas in which we excel, but no one knows everything.
There is no shame in using search engines or forums or asking for help. We need to normalize that it’s okay to ask for help.
— Sarah Lean
Pop culture presents the stereotype of the omniscient, isolated tech pro. Truly experienced people know that even the best have gaps in expertise.
Success in technology is about constant learning rather than needing all the answers.
The most common myths about technology have painted a picture of the field as restrictive, exclusive and impossible to control. These views do not reflect the full reality of the field.
Not only has the tech industry become more inclusive in recent years, but the public perception of tech is changing and starting to resemble the cosmopolitan, human discipline it really is.
If you hope to work in technology and help make it more equitable for people of all genders, ethnicities, and cultures, consider joining or supporting one of these organizations for diversity and inclusion in technology:
Victoria Mendoza is the CEO of MediaPeanut, a media and technology website that helps consumers understand complex technology concepts. As CEO, she is responsible for running all facets of the company.
Victoria has a proven track record of executive management and more than six years of experience driving revenue growth in the technology industry. Prior to joining MediaPeanut, Victoria was Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Sales for GetitGirlTime, responsible for all global sales and marketing activities.
With a diverse career spanning over 15 years, Sarah Lean has been a part of every aspect of the IT world. Sarah is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and ex-Microsoft employee.
Sarah is proud to give back to her community. As a STEM ambassador, Sarah helps others learn how IT can impact their lives and change them for the better. She enjoys teaching the next generation of young women how to grow up in a male-centric field and succeed in their careers.
In 2017, Sarah founded the Glasgow Azure User Group, a bimonthly community gathering to network and discuss the latest technology.
Sarah’s enthusiasm for the technology field has enabled her to speak at public events, especially Microsoft Ignite.
This article has been reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico
In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor’s degree in computer science, which gave her the foundation she needed to excel in roles as data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer and computer science instructor.
Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a non-profit called COOP Careers, Monali helps graduates and young professionals overcome the job gap by teaching them data analytics tools and guiding them through their professional development journey.
Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women and educating young people. Monali’s goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skills and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.
Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
Last reviewed on March 22, 2022.