Tips to making it as a woman in the tech industry in Arabia

Having started my Tech career back in 1996, I’ve spent the first 10 years working for different local startups and small businesses before I decided to co found Spring, the leading web and mobile development consultancy.

I started as an MS Access programmer, to ASP before moving to quality assurance then project & product management. In those 10 years my bosses were two brilliant women at first then a couple of brilliant men who all played part in shaping and advancing my career. I consider myself to be lucky to have had the chance to work with such great minds and personalities as back as the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Despite having several female leaders and pioneers in the Tech industry in Jordan, women still face many obstacles in landing or growing their tech careers.

Sexism is high in our arab societies, and in the mostly male dominated Tech sector, you will most probably get the second-class-employee status, get paid less, lose a promotion to a male colleague, or get stuck at a role your managers feel it’s most comfortable to them or be told what you can and cannot do. It sometimes feels like the world wants to limit your choices, so what should you do to overcome this?

Below are few tips that I believe should help:

1. First: Do not ever hesitate to change the course of your career at any time in case you loved working in another position no matter how different it is from hat you’ve done in the past. Even if the voices around you go against that change for any reason, you must persevere & learn the basics of the new job, to convince your management with your readiness and competency for that new challenge.

2. Second, if you love to code, then code. You will hear a lot of “advice” from your friends, family, boss or colleagues that coding isn’t a good career for women, that it needs long hours, staying late at the office or working late from home. Working in technology is always seasonal, everyone involved gets to work long hours just before a big release. From developers to designers, to quality engineers, to project managers to team leaders, to documentation team..etc. Everyone. So if you love coding, don’t get intimidated by the long scary hours. Most companies now give laptops -if your’s don’t, then ask for one — so you can work from home when needed if that is more convenient in case family pressures you to come home early evening.

3. Third, ask, demand and take credit. Our societies raise women not to ask for their rights, to be shy, and in the process convincing us that this is a great value women should have! Think different, when you think you achieved what merits a pay raise, ask for one, if you have an idea to make things work better, then make yourself be heard, when you achieve a milestone, do take the credit. I assure you that all your male colleagues do all of that and more.

4. Make sure you are paid well and similar to your male colleagues. Many men in our societies, even that ones that think they value women in life and work, believe men have more responsibilities and thus need to be paid more. Never accept that. Just because our societies in general bombard men with a lot of financial responsibility, it doesn’t mean that any man, saving to get married or married with children should be paid more than you whether you yourself were single or married. People get paid for the work, creativity and effort they themselves put into a job, period. Even if salaries were equal between staff, make sure whatever other in-direct benefits your male colleague gets because they are married (Rent allowance, kid’s school fees…etc.) that you get a similar treatment if you are married or get an equal extra benefit if you are single, like more vacation days, a gym subscription…etc.

5. Ask questions relating to the status of equality whenever you are being interviewed for a position or given an offer. And do some research on the company equality reputation before deciding to take their offer. Know this, every relationship between human beings is a two way street. Your boss hired you to do a job and do it extremely well, and you accepted that job to learn, advance and get paid well. So in interviews make sure you ask your potential employer blunt questions about how women are treated in the company. Put it out there from the start. They might intimidate you saying whatever about women, just say you want to make sure that you’ll be working at an environment that will most help you reach your potential. That should do it.

6. Make sure you report any harassment through the proper channels and never get talked out of it for whatever reason your boss or the head of HR tells you. Remember, you do report such behaviour to 1) So it doesn’t happen to you again, 2) So it doesn’t happen to anyone else again, 3) Because nothing will ever change if we stay silent about it.

Happy geeking everyone!

An edited version of this article is available in Arabic @akhbarekME here

Razan Khatib

Razan Khatib

Playing at the intersection of culture, technology, and values. Trying to structure my thoughts and share experiences, learnings, and insights. Co-founder of @spring_apps
Amman, Jordan