Margaret Wise, Arke’s VP of Strategy, tells an interesting story about giving a kick-ass technical presentation — only to have a random guy approach her at its conclusion to say, “Man, you have great calf muscles.”

It’s enough to make anyone who prioritizes intelligence and experience whinge.

But for women in tech, comments like this are commonplace — in spite of the woman’s age, qualifications, or professional demeanor.

The Women in Tech Issue

Women remain the exception rather than the norm in start-ups, venture capital firms, and boardrooms. They’re underrepresented at tech gatherings, and they are even more underrepresented as speakers at industry conferences.

I can give you plenty of stats.

Women hold only 25 percent of the 4.5 million computer and mathematical occupations in the US. The numbers are even lower for women of color: Latina and Black women hold only 1 percent and 3 percent of these jobs, respectively.

Women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63 percent of the time, and only 17 percent of new start-ups during the first quarter of 2017 had women founders.

A Matter of Perspective

Wise is the first to acknowledge the disparity. She’s regularly the lone woman in breakfast business meetings, and frequently addresses audiences where some 90 percent of the attendees are men.

But while those experiences are reminders of how far women in tech still have to go, Wise is surprisingly optimistic.

“Yes, women in tech still have significant challenges,” she said. “But they also have plenty of opportunities.”

Wise recently hosted a dinner for 15 senior female leaders. “It was an inspiring evening, and I left feeling confident each person present would do anything possible to help one another. The experience buoyed my optimism about a future where women more easily and effectively collaborate, communicate, and share knowledge for their mutual benefit,” she said.

ARKE hosted a Women's Leadership Dinner at Sage in Atlanta this week. In addition to ARKE's Margaret Wise and Natalie Weathers, the event drew attendees from UPS, Herschend Family Entertainment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, AGCO Corp., Equifax, Stanley Black & Decker, and State Farm.

Margaret Wise, second from right, top photo, recently hosted a Women’s Leadership Dinner in Atlanta. In addition to Arke’s Natalie Weathers, front right, top photo, the event drew attendees from UPS, Herschend Family Entertainment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, AGCO Corp., Equifax, Stanley Black & Decker, and State Farm.

Unique Insights on Women in Tech

Wise counts herself fortunate: her employers have always respected her contributions and valued her opinions. At both Arke and at her former employer, she was quickly promoted to VP.

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As the only female on the leadership team (twice), she’s gained unique insights into the issues woman-in-tech face today.

Among the small group of women in technology, she’s also a member of an even smaller group: Moms in Technology. “I enjoy spending extra time with fellow young mothers in tech. I enjoy sharing the ‘hacks’ I use to manage complicated schedules and job responsibilities,” she said.

Networking, Cooperation Are Key

Obviously, there’s no quick fix for the underrepresentation of women in tech — and change is slow.

But Wise projects hope, and believes women have great potential to make a difference.

To borrow the thinking of the Anita Borg Institute, she envisions “a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies they build it for.”

Wise believes women can accelerate their success through collaboration, networking and mentoring. “I’m proud to be among the women who are leading the way for the next generation of women to be even more successful,” she said.

Arke is an Atlanta-based brand experience consultancy specializing in strategic implementations of marketing technology solutions. We’re building on our roots in technology and experience design to drive the next generation of experience focused businesses. By leveraging the right people, processes, marketing technologies and data, we produce measurable results. ARKE: Experience, Results.

Want to know more? Contact VP of Strategy Margaret Wise or Arke CTMO Chris Spears.

Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.