International Women’s Day 2019 marks the celebration of women all across the globe. This year’s campaign theme is #balanceforbetter - ‘A balanced world is a better world.’ As we see the day bursting with social campaigns, activities and events, we take a look at the importance of women in the world of tech.
There is no doubt that there is still a vast gender gap in the tech industry. According to a study by PwC, only 15% of employees working in STEM roles in the UK are female.
So, why is there such a lack of women in the tech industry? Children's rights activist Marian Wright Edleman, makes a great insight: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ When girls and women face such male dominated industries, they can be completely dissuaded from considering a career in that space. But women have made such a huge impact in tech and computer programming from the very beginning - women whose stories have been hidden in the background until more recent years (read our previous article on the history of women in tech).
The good news is that we are starting to see a big change in recent years. There has been a surge of activity around encouraging women to enter tech roles. Around the UK and beyond, organisations such as #techmums, Girls Who Code and DevelopHer UK are equipping women with the digital skills, confidence and the opportunities to break into the space. The reason behind the efforts are broad, but the reality is that diverse teams perform better. “Individuals from different genders, races, backgrounds and experiences bring different perspectives that can lead to innovative solutions,” says the World Economic Forum.
We spoke Suzanne Holtham (SQL Developer at Shawbrook Bank), about her experience working as a woman in the world of tech and recruitment.
What have you noticed about women in tech during your years of work?
“Over time, I’ve seen women progress into senior management roles and most recently seen women at the board level as IT directors in a company I have worked at. However, I’ve always had positive female role models in IT such as Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of lastminte.com in the early 2000s during the dot com boom. What has increased over time is the variety of different roles available as tech has evolved and specialisation has followed. I’ve chosen to pursue specialisation rather than progression to management and have found this rewarding to be recognised as an expert in my field.”
Why did you choose this career path?
“My father was an IT consultant and bought me a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K one Christmas as a child. He had me typing in programs from the manual on Christmas day. My best friend also received the same and, together, we used to write games in Basic. The girls’ school I attended did not offer IT subjects at A-level at the time. Being good at science subjects, I very nearly went into engineering, but at the last minute I decided to follow my heart and pursued a career in what I enjoyed in my spare time. I went on to study Computer Science at Brunel University which included industrial placements, and made the transition to a full time career in IT as a natural progression.”
What advice you would give your younger self?
“Don’t be disheartened if certain opportunities don’t work out, when this has happened to me the new path has led to something even better working out in the long run.”
Nandip Aulak is the Head of Marketing at Montash and is a strong advocate for women’s equality. We asked her to share her thoughts:
“Do we need to see a rise in the number of women in tech? Yes of course we do, and that is across all industries. It is such a big issue with less than 7% of tech positions in Europe filled by women. We are aware that we play a part in delivering a pipeline of both men and women for the roles we work for. The advice we give to our clients is to consciously create that job description so that it targets both men and women. Sounds simple but it is a key part of the process.
I have worked in marketing and tech for 15 years and the advice I would give to women joining the world of work is not to be afraid to ask questions. Work on stretch projects and upskill where you can, as tech is an ever-changing industry. Also, mentors are important. My mentors are a mix of men and women, who are all equally important to me, and they help me grow as an individual. Most importantly, don’t imitate the men around you to fit in. Be you, show your feminine side - empathy and nurturing are key skills that are imperative in any organisation.”
So, the tech gender gap may be far wider than it should be but we are definitely moving in the right direction. We know that a more diverse workforce makes for an exciting future, and the women in the Montash team will continue to champion working in the industry and encourage others to join them in the space.