Carrots, Sticks and Showing up: How to encourage WiTs

Thoughts on how to encourage women to embrace technology careers.

Tech Friends

One of my favorite things about being in tech is attending tech events. Of course, I love speaking at tech events as well, but I digress...

In one recent conference, I attended these two talks that I want to talk about. The first one was pretty serious and focused on all the "wrong" things people do that they should probably not. It was a very informative session, all the knowledge I could use. And it left me concerned, and feeling like I was doing a lot of wrong things.

The second was extremely informative, funny, and approachable, and tackled a much larger and more complex topic than the first talk. However, this talk left me feeling upbeat, and positive, like I could do this.

Both the talks were presented well, by very experienced speakers, and were very useful. However the second talk left me wanting to tackle the tech presented, while the first left me questioning if I should.

The reason I want to mention these is because often in our enthusiasm to talk diversity, we focus on all the scarecity and what is bad or wrong. We focus on the lack, not the opportunity.

In an era dominated by rapid technological advancements, the need for diversity in tech is more essential than ever. As we navigate our way through the digital age, women remain underrepresented in this sphere, making up only a fraction of the tech workforce. The solution? Use incentives to lure them in and show them what's possible.

The Carrot vs. Stick Approach

The proverbial 'carrot and stick' refers to the two principal methods of guiding behavior. The stick stands for punishment for non-compliance, while the carrot represents rewards for a desired action. When it comes to promoting diversity in tech, or any industry for that matter, it's clear that encouragement and rewards (the carrot) are far more productive than chastising those who don't fit the mold (the stick).

Consider the various ways in which organizations can use incentives to encourage women to enter tech:

  1. Scholarships and Grants: Financial support exclusively for women pursuing tech studies can level the playing field, especially for those coming from underprivileged backgrounds.

  2. Mentorship Programs: Connecting women with established professionals in the field can provide the guidance and support necessary to navigate the early stages of their careers.

  3. Flexible Work Schedules: Women, often the primary caregivers in families, benefit from work hours that consider their unique needs.

  4. Recognition and Awards: Celebrating the accomplishments of women in tech can inspire others to aim high.

On the other hand, using the stick approach, such as blaming or shaming individuals for not joining the tech field, can deter potential entrants. It is critical to foster a positive, welcoming environment that focuses on what can be achieved, rather than what hasn't been done.

The Power of Showing Up

Representation matters. When young women see others like them succeeding in tech, it paints a picture of what's attainable. It's not about creating a singular path for women to follow, but showing the myriad ways they can carve their niche.

As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said, "You cannot be what you cannot see." This sentiment holds particularly true for women contemplating a tech career. If the industry feels like an exclusive club with few members who look or think like them, many will be discouraged from even considering tech as a viable career option.

But when women in tech speak up, share their stories, and highlight their accomplishments, it does more than just bolster their profiles—it sends a powerful message that there is space for women in this dynamic field. Each story becomes a beacon, illuminating a path for others to follow.

The Ripple Effect of Success

Success breeds success. When one woman shines, she unconsciously permits others to do the same. We need more voices to narrate their tech journeys, and to speak of both the triumphs and challenges. It's through these candid conversations that myths are dispelled, and a more accurate picture of the industry is painted.

Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder of STEMettes, an organization aiming to inspire and support young women into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) careers, once remarked, "Diversity breeds innovation, and innovation breeds business success." Her journey and countless others underscore the value women bring to the tech table. Their unique perspectives, coupled with their technical expertise, drive forward innovative solutions that reflect the diverse needs of global consumers.


Encouraging more women into tech isn't just a matter of fairness or equality—it's a matter of securing the industry's future and ensuring it remains at the forefront of innovation. The carrot, in the form of incentives and rewards, combined with the power of representation, can be the impetus needed to usher in a new era of diverse technological brilliance.

As we forge ahead, let's remember that every woman's success in tech creates ripples, reaching corners far and wide, touching lives, and inspiring countless others to dream big, and most importantly, to show up.

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