If you're thinking about starting a career in tech, you may have wondered just how true tech stereotypes might be.
Is tech hard for women to break into? Is the field boring and tied down to an office?
Media images and public discussion based on stereotypes have led to damaging misconceptions about tech. These misconceptions form a barrier between tech and people who could transform it.
The tech industry thrives on new, exciting voices who challenge preconceived ideas. An influx of students and professionals who rightly recognize tech as vibrant and inclusive are helping to dispel and rewrite common tech myths.
Read to learn how some common misconceptions about working in tech clash with the tech industry's reality, according to established tech veterans.
Negative stereotypes about tech can deter people who might offer valuable contributions.
Common tech myths have caused the public to perceive computer science jobs as antisocial, isolated, and office-confined jobs dominated completely by men. The truth is more complex than that.
Two tech veterans, CEO Victoria Mendoza and educator Sarah Lean, join us to review common beliefs about tech. While it is true that the tech industry still faces challenges with representation for women and people of color, tech is a vibrant career field.
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Women in STEM may bemoan that tech still seems like an "old boys' club." There is some truth to this belief, as men are overwhelmingly represented in information technology careers. However, according to Mendoza, women are claiming space in the tech industry:
Many people see tech companies as an "old boys' club." Well, for the most part, it still is one — but at least women are now pushing barriers and making themselves available to take on management positions often dominated by men.
A career in tech actually is a woman's world, too, as we see many skilled women engaging in web and app development, data science, AI, and machine learning technologies.
Women are slowly claiming their fair share of the tech job market instead of being sidelined into positions like project management, creative and design, and administrative work.
At the end of the day, a career in tech means how you present yourself and how you actually bring something to the table so that people in the industry will give you the same respect and importance.
— Victoria Mendoza
Diversity in tech still lags. But women who look for the right employers can find challenging, high-salary opportunities in tech.
Men still far outnumber women in tech. As of 2021, only 26% of the U.S. computing workforce identified as female.
This has led to bias in hiring, responsibility delegation, and compensation. Female tech professionals shouldn't look at this industry through rose-tinted lenses.
To be honest about it, I was quite idealistic about the tech industry at the onset of my career.
Coming from a sales and marketing background, I thought the industry has progressed in terms of opportunities for all sexes from being a man's world. But now, I see women still struggling to make their presence known.
As a Latin woman, minorities like me are still a small percentage of this vast industry.
— Victoria Mendoza
I assumed if I worked hard and learned my trade, my hard work would be recognized. Unfortunately, as a woman in tech, I am often overlooked or dismissed. I was once mistaken for a colleague's wife when I attended a tech conference!
The bias is that women are not technical. But some of the best technical people I've worked with have been women.
There is a lot of work to be done in this area.
— Sarah Lean
Due to widespread gender bias, women still get overlooked and dismissed in the tech industry. Racial minorities — including minority women — are also underrepresented. Around 13% of Americans are Black, but Black people held only 7% of computer-related jobs in 2021.
Women are still combatting the systemic bias they face in STEM professions, despite historically being among the biggest innovators in tech.
Some newcomers to tech might assume that tech jobs always feature a central office location and a 9-5 work schedule. They might be surprised to learn that many tech jobs are fully remote and allow worker flexibility.
When I first started in tech, I thought as it was an office-based job, it would be a 9-5 job with no weekend work. How untrue that is. It's a job that can be 24/7, 365 days a year. I've worked weekends, had to work at 3 a.m. as that was when the maintenance window was, and been on-call.
— Sarah Lean
Blame films like Office Space for perpetuating the stereotype of tech workers packed into cubicles as the norm.
Depending on the role, tech workers may be able to set their own hours — or may face long workdays and weekends on-call. They may work in an office or embrace a digital nomad lifestyle.
Some tech majors walk into the industry not conceiving that their work will bring them into contact with other cultures or points of view.
However, a few years of working will show you that the tech world extends far beyond your office.
How universal it is — I never thought about it when I started in tech. Tech is the same all over the world.
It's enabled me to build up friendships with people all over the world. I've also been fortunate enough to be able to travel the world. I've been to the U.S., South Africa, Belgium, Denmark, Norway … No one told me tech was a job I could do and see the world.
— Sarah Lean
If you're worried that a tech career will limit you, never fear! Working in the tech industry may allow you to travel, meet interesting people, and experience new cultures.
Most tech jobs require comfort with working solo for long periods. But people in computer science careers benefit from social skills. Being a successful tech professional requires you to collaborate, take constructive criticism, and provide mentorship to those around you.
I didn't realize how much IT would help expose me to so many people and different departments.
I've had the chance to speak to many different people, from CEOs to payroll clerks. Each has their own story to tell on how important to tech their job is. As IT experts, knowing the tech is important. But also understanding the people and how they use the tech is important. Don't forget to build those relationships.
— Sarah Lean
The myth that tech is about technology comes from a misconception about what drives tech. People drive tech, not technology. Technology is only as smart as the people who guide it, and good technology comes out of a spirit of collaboration.
Tech newcomers sometimes feel insecure about their level of proficiency. The most experienced engineers, programmers, and managers seem to have all the answers. But this is not the case at all.
Even the most seasoned professionals don't know all the answers.
Many people assume you need to know everything, and if you don't, you aren't at the same level as your peers. I've yet to meet anyone that knows it all. We all have our specialist areas or areas where we excel, but no one knows it all.
There is no shame in using search engines or forums or asking for help. We need to normalize it being okay to ask for help.
— Sarah Lean
Pop culture presents the stereotype of the all-knowing, isolated tech-pro. Truly experienced people know that even the best have gaps in expertise.
Success in tech is about constantly learning rather than needing all the answers.
The most common myths about tech have painted a picture of the field as confining, exclusive, and impossible to master. These conceptions don't reflect the field's full reality.
Not only has the tech industry become more inclusive in recent years, but public perception of tech is changing to resemble the cosmopolitan, human discipline it truly is.
If you hope to work in tech and want to help make it more equitable for people of all genders, ethnicities, and cultures, consider joining or supporting one of these organizations for diversity and inclusion in tech:
Victoria Mendoza is the CEO of MediaPeanut, a media and tech website dedicated to helping consumers understand complex technology concepts. As the CEO, she is responsible for running all facets of the business.
Victoria has a proven executive management track record and over six years of experience driving sales growth in the technology industry. Before joining MediaPeanut, Victoria was chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales for GetitGirlTime, responsible for all global sales and marketing activities.
With a diverse career spanning over 15 years, Sarah Lean has been a part of every aspect of the IT world. Sarah is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and ex-Microsoft employee.
Sarah is proud to give back to her community. As a STEM Ambassador, Sarah helps others learn how IT can impact and change their lives for the better. She enjoys teaching the next generation of young women how they too can rise in a male-oriented field and succeed in their careers.
In 2017, Sarah founded the Glasgow Azure User Group, a community meeting bimonthly to network and discuss the latest in technology.
Sarah's enthusiasm for the technology field has allowed her to speak at public events, most notably Microsoft Ignite.
In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.
Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.
Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali's goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.
Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
Last reviewed March 22, 2022.