Int'l Women's Day: Why women in the workplace need to support each other

The number of women in the programming industry has risen to 20% since 2013.

(Clockwise from top left) Ruth Polachek, Tom Goldberg Abramovici, Irena Derenshtein, Daphna Litvin and Liron Kreiss (photo credit: RAN BIRAN / TATIANA REEF / COURTESY)
(Clockwise from top left) Ruth Polachek, Tom Goldberg Abramovici, Irena Derenshtein, Daphna Litvin and Liron Kreiss
“Women in the workplace need to support each other,” says Ruth Polachek ahead of International Women’s Day March 8. “Often, just seeing another woman succeeding in your field is incredibly powerful.”
Ruth Polachek is the founder of She Codes, a community of more than 50,000 women established in 2013 with the goal of reaching 50% women software developers in Israel’s hi-tech scene.
“Eight years ago, I was working on two companies I had founded, and I was looking for other people like me who were computer programmers,” Polachek says. “Eventually, a friend and I started learning to code together, and we invited other women to join us. We quickly saw that there was a lot of demand, and we starting organizing additional branches around the country, first at the universities, and then for the general public. It was becoming huge, and we signed a contract with the Labor and Social Welfare Ministry to provide software development training. Now, in the past year alone more than 2,000 women have completed our courses and 700 have found jobs in the field.”
Polachek, an accomplished serial entrepreneur who is now working on a new start-up to make COVID-19 tests more easily available, says women comprised about 14% of all programmers in Israel when She Codes started.
That number has now risen above 20%, she says.
“Women coders are an opportunity for everybody,” she says. “There is a shortage of programmers in Israel and many places around the world. If more women learned to code, and we reached 30% of the sector, that would already solve a lot of the problem. There are other fields, like law and medicine, which were dominated by men until recently, but now have 50% representation by women. We can do that with coding too. We just need to change the narrative women tell themselves and give them more access to the tools they need.”
Tom Goldberg Abramovici, vice president of business development at Tel Aviv-based data privacy company Mine, is one woman helping change this narrative. "Our company truly believes in equal opportunities as can be shown by the fact that we have women in every department with some teams like the Product team being predominately female."
THE MOTHER of one says the head of an entrepreneurship program she took early in her career was a role model that helped her envision what women can accomplish. “she combined the unique skills and advantages of the female perspective with powerful business skills.” she says. “ this left a big impression on me on how I want to be as a female executive as well.”
“Role models are important,” she says. “Even if there's no close personal connection there, it can be motivating to see a powerful woman in an executive position  to remind you that it is possible.”
Other women working in the hi-tech ecosystem tell similar stories.
“When women have other women in the workplace to look up to, it makes it so much easier to succeed and achieve your ambitions and goals,” says Liron Kreiss, a software engineer at Tel Aviv-based Cybereason. “I studied electrical engineering at Tel Aviv University, but only 13% of my graduating class were women, and I wasn’t really sure that I was going to stay in this field. When I came to Cybereason for a job interview, the position wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but the woman who interviewed me was impressive in a way I had never seen before. I decided that I wanted this woman to be my manager and that what my exact job would be was less important. Having a female role model at the company made a big difference.”
Women often work with a feeling that they have to prove themselves, says Daphna Litvin, engineering director of application security at Imperva. “The customers I face are mostly law enforcement agencies, so I am almost always the only female in the room,” she says. “Everyone sometimes feels a need to prove themselves, but women tend to focus more on their imperfections and feel like they aren’t good enough. A lot of women also worry that their employers will need them to act very seriously at work as if it is their only priority. But the culture in the tech world is the opposite – it is very open to individuality and your ability to bring your experiences into your work. I wish more women understood that.”
Irena Derenshtein, Development Team Lead at Tel Aviv-based cloud security company Semperis, agrees. “Women in tech have plenty of room to advance,” she says. “My field is very exciting, but we don’t get enough résumés from women. The main problem is that there aren’t enough female role models out there. Even as little children few girls seem interested in learning math, and even fewer in the army. I always felt like I had to work harder. Fortunately, it is not the same as much today.”