How the tech industry can lead the charge on equalityHow can the tech industry embrace equality? Information Age spoke to seven women about their personal experiences to find out
The tech industry is arguably one of the biggest drivers of social innovation, so championing change around the perception of women in the workplace should probably come as second nature. However, the tech industry has a long way to go in closing the skills gap, as well as the perception gap around women in technical and leadership roles.
Information Age spoke to seven industry experts about their personal experiences of gender in the tech industry.
A personal perspective
“Since a very young age I have been interested in technology, so it was natural that despite studying business administration, my career path quickly led me to tech. At the beginning, I used to count how many women were attending any meeting or event — there were so few that if we reached 20% it would look ‘balanced’ to me. This has now changed. Even if women are in a minority in leadership and technical positions, we are no longer considered to be ‘rare birds’.
“As in any other industry, I would encourage women to know their own strengths and to not be shy. You should be open minded, ready to learn new things and be challenged often by new developments that present both opportunities and threats.”
Choosing a STEM degree is key to career development in tech according to Imogen Smith, applications engineer at Content Guru: “I believe that STEM subjects are applicable to any career you may later choose. Studying Maths at university, I realised that I really could choose to follow any career I wanted. I was also lucky to be on a Maths course that was almost 50% women and I never felt like I was treated differently to the boys at all. But I am aware that this is not the same story everywhere. There is nothing more annoying than feeling that you have been side-lined or treated differently because of something out of your control, like your gender. Everybody should be given equal chances to excel in what they are good at or interested in.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity now to learn to code in many different languages. I know that I would never have been able to pick up this skill as fast as I did without my Maths degree. I think there is still more to be done to find ways that everyone can learn to love, and learn to code to start closing the gender gap.”
The technology industry is an exciting space to work in and Caroline Seymour, VP of product marketing at Zerto, believes we need educational programmes to help more women and girls find their passion in this ever-evolving industry.
“I truly believe that if more women knew what I knew about working in the exciting and growing worlds of software, cybersecurity, cloud, AI, analytics and others, we’d see the tech career gap close even faster and in even more parts of the world. And with more women globally pursuing science and tech through higher education, I’m confident we’ll get there. By applying proven techniques like role model programs, early exposure, hands-on and relevant STEM exercises in school as well as an overall focus on female confidence, especially in the teenage years where statistics show confidence in girls tends to drop, we’ll go from gradual to rapid when it comes to closing the gap.
“Any time I’m at a cyber security conference and I’m training a group of people, I seek out the women in the audience, who are easy to find because there are usually only two or three. I make a beeline for them at the break and connect with them on social media because I would love to learn what they do and how they got into cyber security. Every woman I know in this field is that way — open about making every woman feel welcome. It is so important for women in male-dominated fields like this to support and encourage one another,” comments Joy Beland, senior cyber security education director at ConnectWise.
Joy continues, “I’ve also seen there are people in the industry who have identified the value of having women on the team. That includes lots of men who have been very supportive and inclusionary and that’s the key. If I walk into a room that has 11 men and I’m the 12th person, it’s never daunting to me because I’ve earned my spot there. But having men who understand how important it is for women to be in that room is essential.”
Diversity in technology: The playbook of best practice
Putting women’s confidence at the heart of company culture
Agata Nowakowska, AVP at Skillsoft, believes in instilling confidence in women about their ability. “I want women of all ages to feel confident about themselves, both personally and professionally. Women are often tougher on themselves and they don’t give themselves the recognition they truly deserve. Take looking for a new role as an example. Women will often apply for a new role only if they feel that they meet 95% of the job description, whereas men may apply for the role even if that percentage is much lower. My advice to women is simple – feel confident to apply for a new role, feel confident to ask for a promotion, feel confident to seek a pay rise.”
Agata adds, “The female mindset often leads us to believe we need to perfect in all areas of life, whether it’s being a super leader at work and a super wife or super mum at home. Ladies give yourself a break and don’t overthink. If you want something, trust yourself
and go for it!”
More female role models are leading the way, but shining light on their achievements will allow more women to follow in their footsteps, according to Leane Parsons, network projects team leader at Node4: “We’re seeing more female tech heroes starting to emerge on the scene, inspiring new generations to start a path in these roles and industries. With the changes to legislation allowing equal pay, equal rights, and the increasing visibility of female c-suite execs, I believe the industry is starting to look far more attractive to women.”
“Organisations have the responsibility to attract more women, which I strongly believe is tied to the company’s culture. Working environments that build their success on respecting diversity, giving equal opportunities for growth to all, and who trust their workforce for who they are, become, by definition, the ones where you find more women. Innovation, which is a central goal in technology environments, comes more naturally when people with different views and angles come together.”
Gender diversity continues to be a crucial issue that needs to be addressed in the tech industry. So, it’s role models such as these whose achievements should be highlighted, as they pave the way for more women making waves in the industry.