Breaking the glass ceiling: The power of tech talks for women in tech
In today's rapidly evolving tech industry, women continue to face unique challenges and underrepresentation. To build and nurture a culture of diversity, technology companies need to provide platforms for employees of all identities to develop skills, learn from each other, and celebrate their achievements. One such powerful tool is tech talks.
At Okta, our Women in Technology (WiT) group recently launched a new monthly Tech Talk series. The experience of giving a tech talk in a safe and supportive environment has helped Okta’s women across Engineering, Product, and Design develop confidence, share knowledge, and connect with others across the organisation.
It started with a casual chat…
About a year ago, a group of women in Okta’s Technology org gathered in our San Francisco HQ for an inaugural event. During the happy hour, one of us suggested the idea for a new group: WWW: Women, Wine, and Whiteboarding.
The phrase was so catchy we were all eager to help kick off this new series. We were excited to have a community with which to exchange knowledge and practice our presentation skills, all in a safe, comfortable, and lighthearted setting. Moreover, we all wanted to learn what it looked like to be a software engineer, product manager, or SRE in an area of the company with which we may not be familiar.
In just 10 months we’ve hosted 10 tech talks from women across the organisation, with topics ranging from “Don't Panic: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Incident Management for Engineers” to AWS Costing 101 and a deep dive into Okta Verify. We’ve hosted presenters from entry-level developers to directors from Okta’s Customer Identity and Workforce Identity product units.
Building a safe and inclusive forum
Many women and other minorities in technical roles have a tendency to doubt their technical abilities or feel a lack of confidence in sharing their expertise with a live audience. This means many of us are hesitant to raise our hands when a speaking opportunity presents. These tech talks aim to change this narrative by offering an inclusive, empowering forum for our brilliant women technologists to share their work.
To foster more engagement in the tech talk series, we prioritised making the sessions informal and interactive. Each session is preceded by rapid-fire questions to get to know the presenter and is followed by a Q&A and casual conversation. Why should we need a polished presentation with multiple rehearsal sessions to exchange technical knowledge with other engineers?
Benefits of tech talks for women
Here are some benefits we’ve already seen since introducing the tech talks:
- Technical learnings: Among many benefits, these tech talks provide opportunities to enhance our technical skills and breadth of knowledge. The close-knit environment we’ve built allows for dynamic conversations that can help us all gain a deeper understanding of the topic at hand while staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the field.
- Skill development: Tech talks also help women develop communication, presentation, and leadership skills while building confidence.
- Building connections: At the end of every tech talk, we conduct a casual chat session. This has provided everyone with valuable networking opportunities and helped us learn about other teams and roles, opening up avenues for future collaborations.
- Mentorship: In addition to traditional networking, tech talks provide opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship. By connecting with more experienced professionals in their field, women gain valuable guidance and support as they navigate their careers.
- Cultivating leadership: Lastly, getting comfortable giving tech talks can fuel opportunities for women to take on leadership roles within their teams and beyond. Our hope is to use the talks to elevate the next generation of leaders within our technology organisation.
Tech talks are an essential tool for empowering women in technology. By providing a platform for women to share their experiences, ideas, and expertise, tech talks can help break through the glass ceiling that often limits opportunities for advancement. The WiT Tech Talk series is helping us build a more diverse and inclusive workforce and tech industry that empowers women to achieve their full potential.
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