Women in Software Engineering: Avoid these traps to succeed in tech

updated on 11 September 2023

According to a recent survey by Statista, which highlights the gender imbalance in the tech industry, only 5% of all developers identify as women

So how do you succeed in an industry where you might be the only woman on the entire team? We decided to ask our network for their best advice. 

This quick guide contains tips for women engineers who are starting out their careers in tech, but also for women who are progressing as Senior, Staff & Principal Engineers, or on the Management / Leadership track. 

Want more career advice like this? Email us and we'll crowdsource answers from women in our network (or just join our Slack network here). 

1. Don't Become The Note-Taker

  Meryl Dakin, Founding Engineer @ Knock.app
  Meryl Dakin, Founding Engineer @ Knock.app

A big trap women in the Leopard network fall into is the IC vs manager track trap. They get recommended for project manager, product manager and engineering manager roles early on in their career (because of their impressive communication and collaboration skills), and then get passed over for later promotions or team lead positions because of lack of technical depth. 

The key to avoiding this is to not get too sucked into the administrative aspects of collaborating, and to proactively carve out ways to go deeper as an IC. 

When you're early in your career, avoid volunteering for administrative and team-management tasks on a project, so you can focus on building your technical skills. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you have to take it on. 

Plus, you don't want to fall into the default role of project manager—this will only pull you away from a more technical trajectory.”  

Meryl Dakin, Founding Engineer @ Knock.app 

2. Don't Forget: You Ship 

So many women in the Leopard network come to us feeling beat down by the job search process, sometimes saying they just don't feel good about themselves. In those circumstances we like to do a resume walkthrough to remind them just how much work they've actually done.

Imposter Syndrome is so convincing, but the key is to regularly record your tangible impact so that you don't let it get the best of you (and so you can remember all the great things you've accomplished during the interview process).  

I've worked primarily with companies dominated by male developers. I encountered instances where I needed to prove myself and my capabilities, especially when it came time for my performance evaluation. When working for those companies, I felt a certain amount of pressure to succeed and make everyone see that I was worthy and fit for the task at hand.

For me, I knew the most important thing I could do was to deliver my best work. Your work speaks for itself, no matter if you're male or female.” 

Kanyarat Nuchangpuek, Co-founder, Ling App

3. Don't Undervalue Your Unique POV

  Kathy Zhou, CTO and co-founder at Queenly
  Kathy Zhou, CTO and co-founder at Queenly

As a woman in tech in a male-dominated industry, you might feel like you have to fit in and conform to what's considered "normal" to be successful. But the truth is, your unique perspective and experiences can be your biggest strength.

I kicked off my career as a full-stack software engineer at Pinterest and got to help grow that company from a mid-sized startup to an IPO'd public company. 

During my time there I figured out how important it was to communicate effectively, write well, and mentor others as an engineer.

My advice is for those young women who feel they might not fit the mold of what an ‘ideal’ engineer should look like: embrace your unconventional background. 

We need more young women who can write well, look at a problem and build products from a different perspective. The leaders of the future of business, and engineering will look a lot less like the toxic stereotypes, and look a lot more like you."

Kathy Zhou, CTO and co-founder at Queenly

4. Don't Opt Yourself Out of Opportunities 

  Jigyasa Grover, Sr ML Engineer @Twitter and Author of DataforML
  Jigyasa Grover, Sr ML Engineer @Twitter and Author of DataforML

It's a well known saying that men apply for a job when they meet ~ 60% of the qualifications, whereas women often only apply if they think they meet 100% of them. In  Linkedin's Gender Insights Report, they noticed that women tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and end up applying to fewer jobs than men. The takeaway: try to break the habit. 

“Take this as a cue to apply for that role you had been dreading or grab that next project at your workplace - try to step out of your comfort zone, however under prepared you might feel. 

Ask those seemingly ‘trivial’ questions, connect with your mentors, and break tasks into smaller action items."

Jigyasa Grover, Sr ML Engineer @Twitter and Author of DataforML

5. Don't Self-Isolate 


"Take the time to build your network. Being the only woman in the room can be lonely, but we do exist! 

Create a network of folks you can lean on and learn from, and join organizations like Women Who Code.”

 Jossie Haines, Executive Coach for Engineering Leaders at Jossie Haines Consulting.

Your network is a valuable resource for finding better jobs, landing clients, or funding your startup idea. Get involved with women in tech events, attend meetups and conferences, and connect with other engineers online.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. The more people you meet, the greater your chances of finding mentors, and friends within the engineering community.


Focus on your strengths, build strong relationships within the engineering community, and never stop learning. And remember we're here to help! 

Leopard is on a mission to help women engineers make informed decisions on where to interview and work. If you want help vetting employers who actively value, hire and promote woman engineers in tech, join Leopard's network today.

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