Disrupt | HER: The Future of Women in Digital

What is the future of technology and how can we, as women, be an integral part of it while getting the recognition and compensation we deserve? That’s the question we sought to explore at the Caribbean Women in Tech’s “Disrupt | HER: The Future of Women in Digital” panel recently.

The session, hosted by Ingrid Riley, featured panelists including myself, Erica Simmons, Heneka Watkis-Porter and Stacey Hines – an all-women panel that represented a range of experiences in the tech space. More than a hundred women from various backgrounds, including high school and university students, freelancers and entrepreneurs, executives and digital professionals came out to be a part of the discussion.

Future Trends in Technology

Technology is rapidly changing, therefore being in this space means knowing what are the upcoming trends and changes and ensuring that you are positioning yourself and enhancing your skills in order to capitalize on it.

Erica, the Executive Director of Centre for Digital Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing at the Caribbean Maritime University, knows a lot about tech trends. She encouraged the audience to start positioning themselves in the cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics spaces, as these are the areas that will be receiving the most attention within the next few years.

Cybersecurity in particular will be of significant importance to everyone, no matter where you are in the world. We’ve seen how devastating hacking and security breaches can be for individuals and businesses, so skills, tools and advice will be in high demand as people become more security conscious.

Expanding The Tech Narrative

Another big topic of the night was about broadening the narrative about what is possible in tech and in the digital economy for women. The image we conjure up when we think about working in tech is the one we’ve seen in movies – some lone wolf in a dark room with a screen full of code. It is so much more than that!

Stacey, who started out in computer science and programmer, quickly realized that wasn’t her passion. She then transitioned to become a brand strategist, who now uses technology to accomplish many other things that don’t directly involve coding.

Heneka, who coaches entrepreneurs and business leaders, uses her podcast, Entrepreneurial You, to build value for brand and promote her business. I’m not a “techie” in the true sense of the word either, however my use of social media has become a huge driving force for my brand. Neither of these involving coding or special technical skills, and they cost little-to-nothing to execute!

Those are just a few examples of the way people are using technology to build businesses today. The fact is, technology is all around us and it’s not going away any time soon, so even if your skills aren’t directly related to technology, you can still (and absolutely should) find a way to make technology a part of your professional pursuits.

Knowing Your Worth

What started out as a conversation centred around technology itself transitioned into a much deeper conversation about valuing yourself as a woman in a male-dominated field, knowing the worth of your work and charging accordingly. Many weren’t worried about the technical aspects of their business. It was really about them wondering if they can truly achieve the success they’ve dreamed of as women in that space.

One of the biggest struggles for me on my professional journey wasn’t the transition from what I wanted to pursue versus what I ended up pursuing, it was knowing my worth and placing my value on that worth. When you are young and inexperienced and coming into yourself as a professional (especially in industries that you aren’t qualified for on paper), it is extremely difficult acknowledging, owning and monetizing your worth when you don’t even know what that is!

However, if you are excellent at what you do, you create tremendous value wherever you go, you take pride in putting energy, effort and time into your work and you invest in your professional development, you should never feel guilty about placing great value on your worth!

Many of us don’t do it because we are afraid that people won’t pay what we charge if it’s “too high”. Guess what? They absolutely will. And they will value your services a lot more because of it. If someone can’t afford you, it’s not about you. You do not have to lower your rates for them. It’s not impolite or rude to decline working with someone who can’t afford you. In fact, it’s the most respectful thing you can do…for yourself!

Here’s a clip from the event with my response.

Despite being a tech event, it really came down to women owning and claiming their power and stop asking for permission and seeking validation to be in these spaces.

So my takeaway message to any woman in any field, tech or otherwise, is this: Know your worth, own it, claim it and be unapologetic about it!

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