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Mollie Nycum-Duvnjak Reflects on Women in Tech

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I love to read.  For those who know me, it’s fairly common knowledge that I tend to read multiple books simultaneously -– switching from one topic to another as my brain absorbs the information.  Sometimes I need to take long breaks from a book in order to get through it. Rarely, will I read a book cover to cover, without interruption.

I recently did the latter; I read a book cover to cover. I share this odd fact to illustrate my interest in the book and in the topic -– “Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” – the tagline from the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

In her book, Sandberg  advocates that women change certain behaviors, touching on topics that really hit home for me.

  1. We must continue to prioritize women in underrepresented areas of business going forward. 
  2. We all need to ‘seek and speak our truth’.  Don’t water down your thoughts with modifiers and qualifiers.  To quote another amazing woman leader, Brene Brown, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”  We are doing no one any favors by watering down our truth.  Speak it out and proud, ladies!
  3. Women in industry need to continue to ‘lean in’, (asking yourself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid”), and ‘sit at the table’ (literally and figuratively). Fight the imposter syndrome that we often face and allow ourselves to be leaders in conference rooms around the world, along with the rest of our peers.

This was timely (though not intentional), leading up to International Women’s Day. I didn’t read this book ironically, but because I’ve NEEDED to read the book and others like it for the duration of my career.  As a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry, I needed to read it to inspire pushing boundaries in my career.  As a mother, I needed to read it for my daughter’s sake.  As a mentor, I needed to read it for my peers.  I needed to face the reality that many women face each day at work –- being one of few females in your sphere of influence.

Though the presence and participation of women in tech has grown in the last few years, we are still largely underrepresented, underpaid, facing discrimination and challenging work environments. Overall, women technologists make up only 28.8% of the tech workforce today -– a modest increase from 25.9% in 2018 and 26.2% in 2019.* Even so, the turnover rate for women in tech is more than twice that of males’, most often due to lack of support or outright damaging behavior from their managers that undermined their success.**

I feel truly fortunate that at Biarri Networks, we prioritize inviting more women to participate and lead.  We are focused on improving the conditions and assumptions in the industry that lead to those damaging statistics. An incredibly brilliant and strong woman, Laura Smith, our VP People & Culture works tirelessly on creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees within Biarri to thrive in.

And I report to an open-minded male CEO, Paul Sulisz, who recommended that I read both Sandberg and Brown’s books. Paul is constantly reflecting on his impact on the culture of the business and provides me personally with strong mentorship and guidance as I grow my career.  Additionally, I work with many other talented and inclusive individuals who are conscious of and passionate about changing the statistics in our organization. The Biarri team truly seeks to understand, know, and support one another.

But for much of the industry, that’s not the case and the current trends are not the future I want for myself, my daughter, my friends, and other women in the world.  I share Sheryl Sandberg’s enthusiasm for getting to the point where women’s voices are at least half of the conversation.

Pull up a seat at the table, ladies.  Lean in, and let’s make ourselves comfortable.



* Wilkerson, Brenda Darden. “2020 Top Companies for Women Technologists.” AnitaB.org, 29 Sept. 2020, anitab.org/research-and-impact/top-companies/2020-results/.

**Ashcraft, Catherine, et al. “Women in Tech: The Facts.” Ncwit.org, 2016, www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/womenintech_facts_fullreport_05132016.pdf.



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