Here’s a statistic that – to me – isn’t as surprising as it should be: Women make up just 9 percent of global IT leadership today. Yet, women make up 31 percent of the IT workforce. Clearly, there’s a huge gap in representation among IT industry leaders. That’s part of why Key Resources is so proud to be certified as a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

But closing the representation gap will require change on a broader scale. So, how can we encourage the next generation of women to advance their careers and ascend the leadership ladder? After more than 30 years in IT, I know that it’s easier said than done. But looking back at my career, I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way that I believe will help other women in IT move ahead in their career path.

I wrote about these lessons in a recent article for InformationWeek, sharing actionable tips to help women accelerate their careers in IT. Check it out for more details – I covered everything from how to build fruitful mentoring relationships to coping with being the only woman in the room.

That feeling of being an “only” in a room is a challenge many people face at some point in their career, whether by gender, race, age, or any other marker. It doesn’t necessarily go away as you advance in your career, though. Even now, I’ve noticed that I’m often met with strange looks or questions when I’m introduced as the President and Co-Founder of Key Resources. But how you deal with those questions is entirely up to you. Personally, I prefer to let my experience and knowledge speak for itself. Ultimately, people respond well to someone who is confident and knows what she’s talking about.

Presenting yourself with that kind of confidence is also key. The way you present yourself is the way others will view you. And when it comes to getting that next promotion or securing a deal, perceptions matter a great deal.

But for me – and nearly every other woman IT leader I know – forming professional relationships through networking and mentoring has had the greatest impact on my career. Try reaching out to a superior, taking the initiative to offer help on a project you’re interested in even if it falls outside the requirements of your role. Reach out and get advice from the person who has the job you want and learn about the steps required to get there. These kinds of professional relationships will provide invaluable guidance as you continue along the path to your dream job.

Read my full piece, “How to Accelerate Your Career: 4 Tips for Women in IT,” in InformationWeek, for more advice for women in IT. You can also learn more about Key Resources’ WOSB certification here.