Women in tech: “Diversity is mute without inclusion!”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Khallai Taylor.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Khallai Taylor.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Khallai Taylor
Khallai Taylor is a Fintech Product Evangelist in Berlin and a consultant of secure API’s and Blockchain in Africa, America, and Europe. Khallai works directly with engineering, product, compliance and sales teams ensuring streamlined communication and product development between the teams. Khallai has 17+ years as a technologist, academic and an advocate for women in tech.
What first got you interested in tech?
I’ve always been interested in how things work and as a kid, I would take apart Ataris and other electronics and put them back together (Yes, I just dated myself!). In undergrad, I majored in engineering but became discouraged when I saw no women or people of color in any of my courses. Leading to me changing my course of study, but in graduate school, I was focused on pursuing technology and successfully completed my degree in the field.
How did you end up in your career path?
I started my technical career at IBM and moved on to academia becoming a Professor and Dean of Computer Science at the undergraduate level in the United States. As such, I worked closely with businesses in the community and local government to create technical programs and apprenticeships for my students. Which taught me a great deal about technical needs within businesses, finding talent, and scaling. As a woman in tech, you will always face obstacles. For me, this consisted of people doubting my qualifications, expertise, and abilities. Yet, I always overcame these obstacles as soon as I opened my mouth because I am well skilled in my field and know my stuff!
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
I’ve been lucky to have wonderful female role models throughout my career. Including the first African-American female engineer at IBM! Having role-models that look like you is essential to building confidence and learning how to navigate the industry. Because I have always done things relegated for another group of people my family and friends have always supported me because I will do it anyway!
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Absolutely! I’ve had men challenge my knowledge, education, and abilities more times than I can count. With each encounter, I just become more motivated and focused to learn and more importantly reach higher!
A day in Khallai’s life
I am the founder and CEO of RegTheory a cybersecurity and regulatory training firm. We serve the financial sector in Europe and West Africa. I spend my time growing my company, building the core product and meeting with investors.
Having role-models that look like you is essential to building confidence and learning how to navigate the industry.
What are you most proud of in your career?
As an active member of the National Center for Women and Information Technology on the outreach committee dealing with initiatives related to the recruitment and retainment of young women in undergraduate technology, I’m most proud of the resource I assisted in creating for faculty and staff at the undergraduate level on Building Sustainable Initiatives for Diversifying Undergraduate Computing Programs. This project specifically focuses on young women in tech and the faculty they encounter within the 1st year university programming course. My years of volunteer service to this organization helped me to understand and value the importance of women lifting up women throughout her career. Throughout my career, I have mentored and championed other women in an effort to encourage and support them in a male-dominated field of technology.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
There was a time when girls were not encouraged to study engineering, math, or computer science but times have changed! Girls and women are pursuing these technical fields in record numbers and are starting to have a presence in technical roles. However, there is still much work to be done in Europe to increase the number of women in the field. I believe that everyone needs to see someone who looks like them to believe that they can do it too. This is especially true for women to see other women in technical roles and leadership roles within organizations.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
As a woman, I am constantly challenged on my technical knowledge. As a woman of color, I have been treated as a member of the cleaning staff instead of the CEO of a tech company. Many times I have had men talk over me in a meeting or just yell at me for speaking. All these obstacles made me stronger and more aware of the importance of mentoring other women in tech. Having a support system is fundamental to having a long career in the industry. Understanding how to navigate and building a powerful community of women in tech is a lifesaver for women in this industry, as it provides a support system and allies.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
Throughout my career, I have mentored and championed other women in an effort to encourage and support them in a male-dominated field of technology.
Yes, women are naturally analytical thinkers and excel at problem-solving. Having more women in technical fields brings new perspectives and insights to products and services that use technology. In turn increasing customer adoption, retention, and revenues for the company.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
Diversity is mute without inclusion! Meaning that it is not enough to have initiatives on paper that state the company has a diverse workforce when there are no female developers or women on the leadership team. Companies need to have processes and a respective culture in place to actively hire and grow female talent on their engineering teams. In addition to attracting top technical females who will serve as part of the senior leadership team. It’s no longer acceptable to say you believe in diversity without inclusion nor is it ok to claim that there are no qualified women for the role because that is simply not true! Companies just need to put in the effort to find female talent!
What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?
Know your value! Be confident in your skill-set, understand the value you bring to the team and always negotiate your salary. Don’t be afraid to take a seat at the table and if there isn’t a seat there, bring your own. As a woman in technology, you develop a thick skin and the ability to navigate ambiguity. You also have a responsibility to lift up and champion other women in technical fields.