Women make up 56% of the US workforce, but hold only 26% of tech jobs. The percentage of women graduating in STEM or science, technology, engineering and mathematics is around 19%. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), that number is steadily declining.
Research shows that mixed teams generate more business and improve creative results when working in an environment rich in diversity. With organizations digitizing their operations since the pandemic, tech skills are more necessary for all employees, regardless of gender.
A significant challenge that women face in the tech industry is the lack of role models. Since women are underrepresented in leadership positions, it is often difficult for them to advance their careers and achieve their goals.
In fact, unfair treatment is one of the main reasons women quit tech jobs at a 45% higher rate than men. Additionally, according to the Kapor Center’s Tech Leavers study, women of color face unfair treatment at even higher rates.
US Army veteran Tiffany Pilgrim, a Barbadian American who founded tech PR firm Corelini PR, wants to change this lopsided equation. Pilgrim is also a user experience designer and researcher who stresses the importance of women becoming a more disruptive force in the tech industry to help propel design and innovation.
“We are seeing trends around entrepreneurship and women in tech right now. Entrepreneurship has been growing rapidly since the pandemic, and the trend of women in tech has been at a much slower pace,” Pilgrim told TechNewsWorld .
She predicts that women will become much more visible disruptors in technology in the coming years.
The diversification of opportunities started early
After moving to New York with her parents at age 16 from the Caribbean island where she was born, Pilgrim enlisted in the US Army at age 18, working as a motor transport operator.
Upon completing her military service, she focused on diversifying her knowledge and skills. Initially a classically trained actress, she then trained in fine arts and design. She then honed her communication skills at a London-based global social media agency.
Pilgrim managed top billion dollar brands such as T-Mobile and DAZN, an international sports streaming platform. Prior to founding Corelini PR, she dabbled in the television and entertainment industry as a producer and communications expert, working with celebrities and Fortune 500 companies, such as Showtime (CBS) and Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS), among others.
Tiffany Pilgrim, US Army veteran, is the founder and CEO of Corelini PR.
“I started to realize that I wanted to branch out and start my own tech PR business. After all, tech and PR was my background,” she said of her long tenure with of the marketing agency.
After accumulating more than 10 years of communications experience, Pilgrim has pooled his skills to help tech startups raise awareness of their products. She helped them with their marketing and branding.
As a tech publicist running her own PR firm, she works with top leaders and startups to grow their brands and social media outreach.
This was one of the main problems for new businesses. She explained that when they launched their products, they did not know how to communicate the features and benefits of the product to consumers.
“My company merges technology and public relations to solve problems for entrepreneurs,” she offered.
Tame the elephant in the bedroom
Pilgrim is dedicated to helping other women launch their careers in technology. She is often approached by women looking to enter the tech field as a startup or to take a tech role for another company. Pilgrim is generous with her time, nurtures their interests and answers their questions.
“I always jump into a Zoom session with another woman who needs to get my head around tech,” she said.
Part of this mentorship is necessary to keep women in their tech jobs rather than running away from the biased treatment they often face. Pilgrim isn’t shy about discussing the gender barriers she encountered in her early days.
Pilgrim admits to having faced numerous pushbacks in the military and beyond. For example, her first posting after basic training was at an army base in Colorado, where she was the only female soldier in the fleet.
“It was a shock for me and for the men as well. I had to prove my worth as a woman in an all-male fleet. It’s something I’ve dealt with a lot. It was a challenge when I was there,” she explained.
“Yeah, definitely, that’s what’s happening in the tech industry,” she added. “Of course, I encountered obstacles. You cannot escape this when you are a multicultural woman.
Responding to the shortage of role models
Pilgrim helps tech entrepreneurs make a name for themselves in new and emerging technologies. But her career has an additional focus with a broader vision for newcomers to the tech industry.
She continues to mentor and encourage women to succeed in their tech careers. To that end, Pilgrim helps other veterans break into the tech industry, like she did.
To do this, she uses the organizational skills acquired in the army as well as the strategies drawn from her mastery of communications and design. Upon returning to New York about 10 years ago, Pilgrim began a career in social media client communications.
“I haven’t had any formal communication training. I fell into it because my first job was previously in an agency in London. I self-taught user experience design. I worked for a while with clients and their media image in Hollywood,” she says.
According to Pilgrim, women are currently making a splash in business leadership and technology.
“Many of these women are paving the way for those who follow them. These situations are real for a lot of women, I must say,” she observed. “I believe that women right now are designing a new world.” :
Advice for female veterinarians interested in technology
Over the years, Pilgrim has been actively involved with a non-profit organization, Veterans in Media and Entertainment. Membership totals approximately 5,000 veterans across the United States who are focused on pursuing media and entertainment. They want to have a career in the media or be on a film set, according to Pilgrim.
“I really had a lot of mentors, and I continue to mentor veterans who want to get into the media,” she said. I think now that I’m being heard, it’s a great platform to attract more women who need mentorship,” she said.
Pilgrim recommends any female veteran interested in a career in tech to research the types of jobs that would be best for her. In addition, they must assess their skills. What are they able to do or learn? If that person can’t learn from self-study, go to an immersive technology boot camp.
Other options include taking out loans, getting a payment plan or scholarship, or enrolling in tech training programs that offer veteran discounts.
One of the vocational training paths that Pilgrim followed was to obtain technical certifications for self-study programs. For example, she has been certified by Adobe in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. This qualified her to become a visual design specialist after completing the three programs and learning how to use the software tools.