Women in Technology POV:Looking at Failure Differently
By: Maria Anderson
How many of us have failed at something and felt completed deflated or demoralized by it? How many of us have felt energized by failure and could hardly wait to try again? Did we take a moment after the fact to ask ourselves what we learned from the experience? Likely not. We probably played this video of failure over and over in our minds, wondering what we did wrong. The topic of failure is one that I have been exploring recently because it is something I struggle with. I believe it is even more important to explore failure within the context of women in technology. Why? As women, we generally take less risk in decision-making, so we miss out on presenting game-changing, innovative ideas.1 In addition, women take failure personally when we should be looking at failure as a learning opportunity.
In my experience, though there is scientific evidence to support this2, men and women perceive failure differently. Men typically see failure as a learning opportunity and do not take it as personally as women. This perception of failure has been ingrained in women from an early age when we are encouraged to be perfectionists.3,4,5 The challenge with this approach is that women tend to shy away from situations that might fail when, in fact, these situations may present wonderful opportunities!
Failure is not easy. It does have an emotional component to it.6 The key is to approach it as an opportunity and ask this question: if I do this, what’s the worst that can happen? I would bet the answer is not as scary as you might have imagined.
Without failure, there will be little innovation in an industry that demands it. I once read a post that said, “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” What an amazing statement to live by! The challenge women face is that we often ask for permission rather than forgiveness, even though we could contribute so much more.
The world of technology is constantly changing, and we are continuously being asked to do more with less. This means thinking innovatively and creatively about how to be more efficient in providing solutions to our business partners. In order to advance your career as a woman in technology, this means understanding how much risk you are willing to take in order to try new and innovative solutions. Where is your threshold for failure?
To keep learning, failure is necessary. I just started reading this fantastic book edited by Jessica Bacal called “Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting it Wrong.” Jessica interviewed a number of high-performing women and the one theme that is evident to me, so far, is that failure provides great learning opportunities.
So let’s change our perception of failure, face failure head on and put your fear aside! After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
About Maria Anderson
Maria Anderson is a board member of IOUG for which she is also the VP of Finance. She is passionate about leadership education and development for technologists, and has a column regarding strategic leadership in IOUG’s SELECT Journal. Maria has more than 25 years of experience in the technology field, including as a systems analyst, application developer, and Oracle DBA. She is currently an I.T. Manager at Encana Corporation, an energy company based out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In her spare time, Maria is pursuing a graduate degree in leadership.