Women in technology must speak out, you can’t be what you can’t see

Growing up, a career in technology never crossed my mind. No one suggested it and I had very little exposure to computing.

I loved languages, and chose to major in Russian at university, thinking that perhaps I might want to be an interpreter. But instead, my first job was as a change management consultant working on global ERP implementations. I was effectively working in an industry I hadn’t even considered before.

I was able to use my Russian, but I quickly discovered that I also loved the technology I was working with – so I became an SAP specialist. Coding was not at all as I’d imagined – I really enjoyed it.

Eventually, I moved into sales and onwards to running businesses.

>See also: The women in IT issue is not going away, says Salesforce

Getting into technology turned out to be the golden ticket for me, but it was something I stumbled upon. As a young woman I had no idea of the range of options available in the industry, making it a classic example of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

Sadly, I think that girls still don’t know the opportunities that technology can offer them, and that’s why I take being a role model so seriously. I truly believe all women working in technology today should speak out so that the women of tomorrow understand the challenge, the opportunity and the growth that technology careers offer.

Since the birth of my daughter I’ve become even more passionate about this concept, because I really don’t want her to grow up without knowing everything that’s available to her and the incredible opportunities that technology offers no matter what your skill set. I don’t want her to see technology as something boys do. That would be simply replicating the experience I had – and I know we can do better to make this a reality for every little girl.

Events like the Information Age’s Women in IT Awards offer a really important celebration of the great things that can be achieved by women in this industry. It enables us to showcase women at all stages of their IT careers and helps a wider range of girls to picture themselves in a computing-related career as a result.

And the more we celebrate publicly these accomplishments, the closer we come to achieving that critical mass of women that changes the ‘boys club’ perception of the industry.

I strongly believe that events like these also foster networks and mentorships. Having strong mentors at every stage of my career has really helped me meet and overcome challenges. My mentors – both male and female – encourage me to improve and stay motivated, and I enjoy passing their lessons on to those I mentor now. This is a chain of success and is also a critical factor in helping women in our business fulfill their potential.

Of course, increasing the number of women in the technology industry is only one part of the equation. We also need to encourage more of them to grow into leadership roles within the industry and beyond. Recent research from O2 showed that over half of women working in IT (59%) believe there still aren’t enough female senior leaders in their company, yet many women would like to step up to these roles.

And these are young women with big dreams. According to the survey, nearly half of them (45%) dream of being the CEO or on the board of a company. This is fantastic news since tech companies with women on their management teams are proven to have a 34% higher return on investment than those without – it’s a win-win for everyone.

However, as the O2 research highlights, many women feel they lack the confidence to push for promotion. This is where those already in leadership positions come in. We have an opportunity to speak out about our careers, show what is possible and provide practical advice as a mentor, encouraging every woman in the industry to successfully push their careers and their dreams forward.

This last point is essentially the reason that I am so excited to be a finalist in the ‘Business Leader of the Year’ category at the Women in IT Awards – it’s an amazing and unique platform to speak out and encourage more women to join and stay with our industry. It’s an industry that I’ve found can offer fulfilling careers for men and women, and I hope my daughter, and her friends, get the opportunity to fulfil their dreams as well.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...