Sheila Flavell | FDM Group

I am passionate about supporting women in technology because I believe that successful women have a duty to send the elevator back down and help other women move up the ranks. This is what I try to do in my career today by encouraging, supporting and mentoring other women to achieve their ambitions.

I remember how difficult it was for me to progress and how amazing it felt as I climbed the ladder in so many male dominated industries. At FDM we launch the careers of many people and seeing them progress through their career (especially women) makes me happy.

A gender diverse workforce is incredibly valuable to business. Companies cannot expect to remain competitive in a global economy if they are not tapping into 50% of the potential workforce; therefore recruiting a gender diverse employee population isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do.

However, there is a clear lack of women in tech and the reality is that people cannot be what they cannot see. Therefore, I work closely with the FDM Female Champions and try to lead by example myself so that others have something to aspire to.

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SheCanCode

SheCanCode

SheCanCode

We are empowering women to enter and remain in tech.

Our network supports women in tech by:

1. Being the go-to women in tech blog. We have more than 30 content contributors globally that write commissioned articles to support women along their journeys in tech. Our blogs get on average 1,000+ views p/article.
2. We do personal 1-to-1 free career consultancy with women that request it in our network. We've advised more than 200 women personally on personal branding, career options, women networks to join, events to attend, courses to upskill and companies to consider working for.
3. We run events that host on average 90 people. Our events attempt to focus on technology, and be representative of women and minorities. E.g. MusicTech event saw 5 leading musictech founders and senior employees come together to discuss the importance of diversity in music tech, the wins, and the challenges the industry are facing. Other events are often informal to get women in tech talking about their careers, and we offer support. We also curate and advertise events from our ecosystem partners to enable women to find the best events to attend, regardless of whether we host them or not.
4. We consult with tech companies on diversity hiring and policies. We have spoken to more than 150 companies about what we're doing, given them 'low-hanging fruits' on how to increase the number of women in their firm and retain them; and we are currently building a product to help them further.
5. We are constantly researching women in tech, from academic journal articles to interviews and stories - we aim to uncover what women really want and how we can shape the tech industry and change perceptions to get there.
6. We have interviewed role models in tech and share their stories with our community.
7. We work with remote engineers who are driven by our value-proposition to build tools to solve problems for women in tech.

Achievements:

- More than 30 companies supporting our development and growth
- Speaker at TechConnect 2016, 2017 (Virgin Media's 2,000 person annual tech event)
- Speaker at Diversity in Technology, London 2017
- Speaker at SheHive, by SheLeadsAfrica 2017 (upcoming)

What makes us different?

As opposed to just being a network, we're building tools based on the data, knowledge and stories we've analysed to empower women and their careers in technology. We collaborate extensively with the broader ecosystem to ensure that we are giving women the full picture.. We have a remote team of more than 50 people globally that work to make this a success and as powerful as it can be.

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Natalia Jojic-Ferguson

Natalia Jojic-Ferguson | Worldpay

Natalia Jojic-Ferguson

I graduated at City University in Computer Systems Engineering in 1996. Since then, my working life has been within the latest technology.

I joined Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) the same year, as a member of command centre operations staff and then moved onto Enterprise Systems Management development.

I left Reuters in September 2000 and joined a small consultancy company (Elyzium Ltd), who were an IBM Premier partner as a consultant in Enterprise Systems Management.

After 4 years in Elyzium, I set up my own company (KryptonIT), where I've worked for companies such as: NASA JPL, Bank of America, BP, Visa, IBM (just to list some of them). I've written two IBM RedBooks in Enterprise Scheduling and I was also an IBM certified instructor for the same. I've also worked with technological partners with the likes of Invoque Systems (later AlarmPoint and now xMatters), where I wrote integration modules between different products.

After working at Worldpay as a contractor in 2014, I've joined them on a permanent basis in June 2015 as an Enterprise Systems Management Engineering lead, where I am at present.


Becky Plummer

Becky Plummer | Bloomberg LP

Becky Plummer

Becky Plummer is the software engineering team leader responsible for content collaboration applications for the Bloomberg Terminal and the Global Head of the Engineering Champions Program. Becky made a name for herself as a software engineer by creating the trade confirmation alerting system that was fully crash recoverable for the Bloomberg Fixed Income Electronic Trading platform. She created the Engineering Champions program in 2011 to empower developers to influence change and collaborate on improving the development environment tools. Finally, she has run both small scale implementation projects as well as cross engineering projects including hundreds of developers. She is a graduate of University of Maine and Columbia University with a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Joined Bloomberg LP in New York in 2006 and moved to London in 2014 to gain a global perspective.

Talks and news articles:

TEDx Compiègne: Prediction for 2050 : Innovation because of women
BBC: What if there were more women in tech?
Telegraph: Without more women in technology…
Huffington Post: Beyond Ada...

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Aparna Mahadevan

Inspirational Women: Aparna Mahadevan | Senior Solutions Architect in the Alexa Skills Team at Amazon

 

Aparna Mahadevan, is a Senior Solutions Architect in the Alexa Skills Team at Amazon.

Apama

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did just once, three years into my professional career, when I realised I wasn’t using my skills to my absolute best in the job I was doing at the time. The outcome of that exercise was my decision to do an MBA, which eventually opened up multiple avenues for me. Now, my activities at work revolve much more closely around my professional goals. That approach taught me to be receptive to the countless opportunities that exist in today’s world.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of the biggest challenges I faced so far was at the start of my career journey when I had to think about where I wanted to be in the future and how to get there. I had so many options to decide between and I didn’t have a framework to help give me clarity. So I decided to take advice from different people with different backgrounds who I had a lot of respect for. I listened carefully to their success or failure stories, wrote down what I thought my biggest assets were and what my goals were for my personal life.

Having put all of these together, I was able to narrow it down to a few options that I considered and made a final decision to do an MBA. Being open to different perspectives and relying on a framework helped me make a decision that was not just emotionally driven, but had some long-term thinking behind it.

The other challenge I faced was having a constant desire to manage all aspects of my life – be it my career, my classes, managing relationships and running a household - with perfection. I soon however realised that the need for perfection in all aspects of my life was taking a real emotional toll on me, so I approached women leaders I knew to get their help and advice, and I was surprised to see how many of them understood what I was going through. It really resonated with me! Now, I am more organised in both my personal and professional life.

Every morning, I decide the three most important tasks for the day that I want to execute perfectly, instead of splitting my energy and focus on every little aspect of my daily life. The little things in a day that don’t go perfectly now don’t fluster me as much as they used to.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

From my experience, I can say with confidence that no amount of preparation before taking on leadership roles and activities can make you the best leader. You only need the courage to take risks and responsibilities, and experience hones and shapes your leadership abilities.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I would decide based on two factors – what unique quality they each bring to the team, and which one of these two qualities completes the picture and makes the team more rounded.

How do you manage your own boss?

A core objective for my role is to help my boss by taking on a number of responsibilities on his behalf to ensure the team achieves its goals, so I work closely with him to understand the framework he’s set to achieve the team’s goals.

Not only do I seek assistance from my boss when handling a task or prioritising my work, but I also challenge him when I strongly believe it does not help deliver what we want to achieve. I am fortunate enough to have worked with unique bosses throughout my career, but the common thread with all of them has been that honesty is always appreciated and builds trust.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’ve experimented with different working styles and this one works best for me - I start my workday reading emails and writing down the list of all tasks on my plate for the day. I then prioritise tasks based on three categories – must dos, nice to dos and will not do. The last bucket is a conscious attempt to be an essentialist and internalise the decision to not over-indulge. Towards the end of the day, I assess my task completion rate and if any tasks need to be moved to the next day. On longer days, I attempt to make a mental note at the end to see what went well and what can be improved.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Identify what makes leaders in your organisation successful to better understand what success can also look like for you. Adopting and tailoring those qualities to your own personality, combined with having the right attitude and patience, I believe helps raise your own profile in your organisation.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes! I am the biggest believer in having a mentor, who can not only guide you in making big decision such as which career path to take; but also help in removing everyday hurdles such as efficiency and productivity. It is important to adopt a mentor that works best for you to suit your leadership style and abilities.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is an absolute must. It not only helps in knowing what the world is like outside of what you do, but also a chance for the world to know who you are. My three tips for networking are:

  1. Reach out to people and ask for help – most people love sharing their experiences and insights, and these always help at some point in life, if not immediately
  2. Be in touch regularly with your network – you will be amazed to see how you’ll get help in different points of life. Also, it’s not great when you only reach out to someone when you are in need of urgent help
  3. When networking, be prepared but also be yourself – the other person needs to know what you uniquely bring to the table and needs to remember you. They need to know about you as much as you know about them.
What does the future hold for you?

The future holds countless opportunities. Technology has been revolutionising different sectors and as a professional in tech, I cannot wait to be a part of the never-ending wave.

Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise us
  1. I trained for Indian classical singing for seven years but after that, I have not sung outside the bathroom in the last 10 years.
  2. I set up and ran a library with a small collection of books out of my friend’s place when I was 11 years old.
  3. I can speak five different Indian languages and read/write in three of them.

Charlotte Woffindin featured

Inspirational Women: Charlotte Woffindin | Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London)

 

Charlotte Woffindin, is a Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London).

Charlotte Amazon

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, no. I have always done things that interest me and that I enjoy – I think that is really important, otherwise the days just drag. I spent five years working for a big high-street bank before joining Amazon. Whilst there I “tried on” different roles in agricultural banking, strategy, and communications before finding I really enjoyed designing training curriculums. That’s how I got into Amazon and working with the tech community designing onboarding training for Amazon’s global SDE hires. I have loved every minute of it and learn something new every hour!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I love a challenge! I studied IT and web design at A-level then went on to major in business at university, so starting at Amazon was a huge challenge as the engineers I worked with appeared to speak a different language, and designing training programs where I knew nothing about the content really stretched me. But I found that asking questions was the way for me to find out more, and identify the people who could really help me. The people who first helped me three years ago are still helping me today – they just bring more engineers to the conversation!

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

Give it a go. I find that I surprise myself more than I surprise the people around me – they know what I’m capable of, more than I do. My advice would be to build a great network around you, find role models and watch what they do. Everything is new once, and until you try it out you’ll never know if you can do it. One of the greatest pleasures throughout my career is when I’m able to help someone reach their goal – whether it’s coaching them to deliver a great presentation, to become a great facilitator or to achieve a result they thought impossible. It’s a great thing to watch and be a part of.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Their passion and enthusiasm, and the way they earn trust. At Amazon, that is so important – earning trust opens so many doors, and can often be overlooked. Many of my successes here have been through having the right conversations with great people. When hiring at Amazon, we have fourteen Leadership Principles that help to guide how we work, how our leaders lead and how we all make decisions on behalf of our customers.

These principles aren’t just something we put up on a wall – we use them every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates.

Being someone who fulfils these principles is normally the deciding factor for hires.

How do you manage your own boss?

My boss is based in the US, so we don’t get much time to talk. I “manage” him by keeping them informed – regardless of how small a thing it is. I keep him in the know about wins, misses and things I’ve learnt. Especially when I’ve build a new relationship which could benefit the team in other ways.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My day usually starts with my cycling to work – it’s a great way to get the blood pumping, some calories burned and me focusing my head on what I need to do. Then I tackle my emails; as my team is mainly Seattle-based, most of my emails come through when I’m asleep. An hour of email-admin then I can know what needs to be done that day (that I might not have known about the day before) and continue working on my big projects. Towards the end of my day is when my team starts to come online, so it’s a few calls with them and state-side partners before I cycle the nine miles home.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Say yes to new opportunities. You are the greatest cheerleader for you and your career. Sometimes you will get lucky and someone will notice you, but most of the time it’s through being seen (and heard). I remember the first time I was asked to speak at an event, and the reason they asked me was because they had seen me doing the introductions at a conference the previous week.

I put my hand up to introduce the keynote and that was the start of something I do pretty regularly now. Saying yes, although scary, can be really powerful for opening up some great opportunities. So whether it’s speaking at new hire inductions, delivering training or working on a difficult project, say yes and don’t look back. You will regret the things you didn’t do more than they things you did!

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Absolutely! Although it’s usually pretty informal, I’ll ask for help and advice from people around me, and I also try and attend great training about coaching, speaking and other topics I’m interested in. When I’m at conferences I’ll try and speak with interesting people there, as it’s amazing who you meet and what you gain from meeting for coffee (or wine) after.

I find myself surrounded by amazing people all the time, and make the effort to go to events where there are leaders speaking or panels, even if it means I have to work a little later in the day.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?

Networking can be scary, but the secret is that most people feel the same way. My top tips would be: [1] go with a friend, it’s easier when you know someone and getting into the first conversation together is a great ice-breaker; [2] take a look at the attendee list before (if it’s available), map out who you want to talk to and have a couple of great questions ready and a short intro about you ready; and [3] join a conversation that is already underway, listen for a while and join in when you feel comfortable. Or if you are like me, stand by the bar – everyone grabs a drink and it’s amazing who you can start talking to there!

What does the future hold for you?

Who knows! I’m just about to start a new role in Amazon Web Services, so that should be a great learning curve and something different. I want to continue working with great people and challenging myself in new areas at Amazon. But as long as I am enjoying my job and continuing to learn, I could be doing anything!

Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise us!
  • I’m a classically trained singer and often asked to sing at weddings
  • I’ve had dinner inside the England Rugby dressing room and
  • I cycled the 100-mile Ride London challenge in seven hours 24 mins for Alzheimer’s Society this July!

Catherine Breslin featured

Inspirational Women: Catherine Breslin | Manager, Machine Learning at Amazon Alexa

 

Catherine Breslin, is the Manager of a team of machine learning scientists working on the speech and language technology behind Amazon Alexa (Cambridge, UK).

Catherine Amazon

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never sat down and planned out my career in depth, but I’ve always had some idea of my next step and how I should achieve it. I grew up being interested in computers and technology, and I chose to study Engineering at university. It was only in my final year there that I learned about the field of machine learning and I became interested in how we can teach computers to do complex tasks such as understanding speech and language.

I went on to do a masters and PhD on the topic of automatic speech recognition. Since then, I’ve been fortunate that the field has been growing rapidly and many different opportunities have come my way. At times, I’ve had to think hard about which direction to take, but have normally chosen the opportunity that has given me the most scope to learn new skills.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

It is great to be challenged, but it can be daunting and uncomfortable at times. I find the best way to deal with challenges is to prepare well – by reading as much as I can about new topics and talking to others who have faced similar issues. Then I break the larger problem down into smaller chunks that can be tackled one at a time. I do the same for all challenges, whether it’s something at work like tackling a new and complex technical problem, or something at home like working out how best to juggle family life.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I would hire them both! As machine learning is such a fast growing field with large potential, we struggle to find enough qualified candidates to fill our roles.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My day starts with a strong cup of coffee as I’m not a morning person! After the school run, I sit down at my desk to go over emails. Our daily team ‘standup’ meeting is also in the morning, where I catch up with the team and the status of our work.

We work closely with other teams in both the US and in the EU, and partnering with colleagues in multiple time-zones means that good communication is key.

Hence my workday often ends with a video call between different teams to keep our joint projects on track.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have had a number of great mentors who have helped me at different times in my career. I think that having someone to talk to and bounce ideas off who is outside of your immediate team can be very useful as they have a different perspective and are less influenced by the dynamics of your particular team. Outside of formal mentoring programs, I’m fortunate to know a great network of people to turn to who have a breadth of experience and lots of helpful advice.

What does the future hold for you?

Machine learning has a lot of potential to impact the world, and I think we are only just at the beginning of seeing the benefit it can bring. When I was growing up, the thought of being able to speak naturally to a device and have it respond was still the stuff of sci-fi films. But now, speech and language technology has advanced and is in products like Alexa, and used by a large number of people. Voice is the future and can fundamentally improve the way people will interact with technology.

We are still a long way off being able to converse with a computer in an entirely natural way, but the systems are getting smarter every day.


capgemini featured

Capgemini flexible working: Update

 

capgemini featuredIn a blog post last year, the CEO of our Applications Business, Paul Margetts reflected on our corporate culture around flexibility.

He said that whilst we were starting in a good place, with 61 per cent of our employees saying they felt they had flexibility around their personal circumstances, he wanted to see this improve to 100 per cent. We’ve worked hard on this over the last year. Internally, we focussed our efforts on empowering our people to work collaboratively to get a better balance between their work and personal lives. We re-shaped our Work Life Harmony policy, in recognition that whilst formal flexible working patterns are great, sometimes an informal arrangement can be just as powerful.

We encourage our employees to have conversations with their managers and teams to find ways of working which suit them, and the teams around them.

Speaking personally, I think I’ve got people in my circle at work who work pretty much every pattern going, from people like Sales Director Mary, who works full time, but always collaborates with her teams to make sure she can support her sons when they need her; to Andrew who starts and finishes early so that he can be home for his kids’ bath-time. Mary and Andrew both have informal arrangements in place, but there are others who have formal flexible working arrangements in place, like Lisa, who works term-time hours only, and Caroline who works four days a week. All of these individuals are client-facing, and recognised high performers, and “must-haves” for key projects – they are brilliant ambassadors for flexible working approaches which are right for the individuals and their teams.

We’ve made great progress in the last year, with a shift of seven percentage points, taking us to almost 70 per cent of our employees who feel they have flexibility around their personal circumstances.

We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, and we still want to do more. One of the areas where we really wanted to make a difference, was with our openness to a more flexible approach for new hires. We weren’t alone – the brilliant “Hire Me My Way” campaign recognises that this is a challenge in many areas of professional life, with new recruits rarely being offered the opportunity for flexibility which you might see as an existing employee (The Timewise Flexible Jobs Index states that “only 8.7 per cent of jobs paid £20,000 or more (full time equivalent) are advertised with part-time or flexible options”). So our Apps business, under Paul’s guidance, have taken another bold step.

All of our new roles are now advertised with the commitment that if you are the right person for the job, we will have a conversation with you about the way you want to work. We want to make sure that we find the right people to work in our teams, and we know that working full-time isn’t necessarily right for everyone. If you are the right person for a role with us, we will find the way of working which suits you.

To find out more, visit our careers pages.

About the author

Tricia Driver, Capgemini

As part of my role as our Capgemini Consulting Strategic Learning and Development Business Partner, I retain a strong focus on inclusion from my previous role as Capgemini's UK Talent Diversity and Inclusion Lead. I’m driven by ensuring that we attract, retain and develop the best possible talent from as broad a population as possible. We know that teams with a rich diversity of backgrounds and profiles are the ones which come up with cutting edge innovative solutions. We have a terrific offering for all our employees, and we want to make sure that message is out there in the market place for everyone to see. I believe that inclusion is about more than just the absence of exclusion. We have to make a proactive and concerted effort to ensure that everyone in our organisation feels completely free to be their real selves at work.


Women in Tech

Pioneering change for female leadership

 

Women in Tech
Just 24 per cent of respondents to a recent Skillsoft survey reported that they felt their organisations had a strategy in place to develop women leaders.

Whilst there may be unofficial women’s groups within companies, often programmes specifically designed for female development are not implemented. This seems a counterintuitive business strategy when research shows that getting more women into leadership positions can make a significant difference to the bottom line.

In 2012, Bloomberg published a study of 2,360 companies, conducted by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, which compared company financial results based on the makeup of leadership teams. It found that companies with a market capitalisation of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 per cent worldwide. DDI, a global human resources firm, also found that in the top 20 per cent of companies – in terms of financial performance – 37 per cent of their leaders were women. In the bottom 20 per cent, women comprised just 19 per cent of the leadership.

More than 9 out of 10 of respondents in Skillsoft’s recent survey agreed that there is a lack of women in leadership. Most companies have a lot of capable women who simply are not making it into leadership roles, and organisations cannot afford to underutilise this significant percentage of their workforce. The key question that needs to be answered is how to best use this untapped resource, which comprises almost half of the country’s total workforce.

Businesses need to ensure talent pipelines are realising the full potential of the female workforce. The best performing companies in this area are taking small, simple, yet effective steps to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions.

 Implementing change

 Tapping into this talent requires changes across the board. This includes changing behaviour, process and the culture within an organisation. Companies have had some success by fostering greater senior leader accountability, by becoming less biased in decision-making processes and by changing their cultures to be more inclusive. In reality, however, there is often a lot of talk and little action.

The 2016 McKinsey ‘Women in the Workplace’ report found that approximately 75 per cent of US CEOs felt gender diversity was a priority. But is this reflected within the organisations? When Skillsoft conducted primary research on the topic, 71 per cent of respondents felt that their organisations were not doing enough to address the lack of women in senior leadership roles.

While the intention to change is often present, when attempting to implement strategies, good intentions often meet a lack of will across an organisation. A variety of common factors contribute to the ineffectiveness of change efforts.

 Addressing the gender gap

HR leaders are often pressured to deliver results that demonstrate they are addressing the gender gap. They need to produce evidence that programmes are in place and projects are underway. Many efforts do in fact produce useful outcomes, but they often fall short of their full potential because they are not fully integrated into the organisation. When training is not consistent, widespread and fully integrated into the culture of an organisation, it can very easily turn into a check box activity.

Women’s leadership training has a much higher efficacy when integrated the whole organisation. Too often, a selected group of women are offered sporadic professional development opportunities, where they attend one or a few sessions without any specific follow-up, measurement of progress, or any attempt to link the programme to particular leadership skill gaps. Women return to their daily work environment, and due to lack of on-going reinforcement and environmental support required to cement any changes, the organisation as a whole fails to make any meaningful change.

 Identifying areas to change

Women often predominate in human resources and marketing but are less represented in operations, finance, R&D and other areas of the business. Some businesses do exceptionally well at talent development, but struggle with promotion. Others excel at helping women get into positions of power but face challenges in keeping them there. Identifying what the organisation already does well and where it needs to change enables the challenge to be broken down into more manageable aspects. These can be assessed, changed and measured for success against specific progress criteria.

Myriad changes have been identified as effective, including expanding the talent pipeline in recruitment, job diversity, and middle and senior leadership by broadening where the talent is identified. By identifying and changing the unconscious biases embedded in the decision-making processes around talent, mind-sets will open up and women are empowered to realise they are capable of moving into positions of leadership. Continued professional growth and development, including focused training with follow-up and implementation support, then helps ensure these benefits are sustained.

Starting small

Widespread, lasting changes are not easy to make. Large organisations are often successful at creating lasting change by starting the process with one team, in a single business unit or defined area of the organisation. They learn what works, and the effort can then be scaled into other areas of the organisation.

Businesses need to start small to provide an opportunity to experiment and create a comfortable pace of change. Commitment to company-wide leadership programmes that are relevant, time efficient and flexible is key. Leadership education must focus on key competencies required for career growth at all levels. To meet the time demands of all workers, education programs should be efficient and tailored to fit the experience level of each employee. Starting small creates built-in change agents for a wider rollout and means everyone can become comfortable with the pace of change. It also yields examples that can be shared organisation-wide to increase understanding and reduce resistance. Like any area of sustained change though, the development of women for leadership roles requires continuous, on-going education.

About the author

This article was provided by Tony Glass, VP and GM EMEA at Skillsoft.


Where are the role models? Why more women in tech is essential to the younger generation

 

Tech event
There’s a multitude of valuable careers for women in technology. Unfortunately, not enough women are embarking on them yet.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed that just 26 per cent of those working in the digital sector are women. And although there are government initiatives in the works to introduce greater gender diversity into tech roles, the industry must play a part for these initiatives to be a success.

In short, we need more female role models. And we need them now.

Here’s why. There’s currently a drive within schools to shake up the way children are taught about computing. The long-in-the-tooth ICT courses are being replaced by computer science GCSEs. This is great news, reflecting the changing way that we interact with computers, as well as the new skill sets needed to thrive in the digital economy. The only problem is that the uptake of the new qualification simply isn’t high enough.

As reported by the BBC in June, the British Computing Society revealed that the number studying for a computing qualification could halve by 2020. A major contributor to that decline is a lack of interest from girls. In fact, only 20 per cent of those who took the computer science exam last year were female. And that’s the battle we’re facing here. Girls don’t always see careers in technology as something suited to them. There is and will increasingly be such a huge reliance on tech across more sectors than ever seen before so we need to find a way to change that – and quickly.

As an industry, we want and need a talent pipeline filled with young women who are excited by the prospect of working with technology. To do this, we need to recognise and act upon the fact that there is something of an image problem we need to address. An important part of that is to move beyond the stereotypical image of the IT, engineering and technology worker being male. Another issue is to communicate the incredibly diverse range of roles which use technology.

Yes, there are female coders, and yes, we do want more, but just as important are the other jobs in technology and using technology that aren’t communicated or showcased as often; frequently because they are brand new roles.

Everything from marketing to consultancy and leadership to sales, from social innovation, to data science and creative roles, can all be found across the employment landscape.

Female voice

The onus is on businesses to create and highlight the female role models that will inspire the next generation of STEM workers. We need to increase the number of women in the industry but, at the same time, we also need to celebrate those who are already working in the sector. We must illustrate the variety of their roles and what their jobs actually entail, how they operate, and how tech roles have evolved across multiple sectors.

Businesses need to be doing more to find and showcase female spokespeople from within their companies. Crucially, it’s not just about broadcasting the views of women at the top (which we’re already so good at doing). These roles may not appeal or be realistic to every potential applicant.

We also need to start looking at how to showcase female spokespeople from every level within the business to demonstrate the wide variety of opportunities available in the industry.

Establishing female role models in this way will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will speak to those who already have the skills and are looking for opportunities. Sometimes, the issue can also be one of retention: ensuring that those with the talent come to our industry and stay there to develop themselves and their careers. When they see the possibilities of those who have already been successful within the industry, it could give them the extra motivation they need to seek wider, higher or different opportunities using their skills, knowledge and expertise – often across different vertical sectors.

Secondly, it will be helpful to those who are currently at school and considering what kind of career choices they could be making. Female role models, or females using STEM skills and showcasing how they could be applied in a variety of roles, help challenge the concepts of jobs for boys and jobs for girls, demonstrating how tech is a sector for all comers, with roles that are rewarding and attractive.

Diversity breeds success

Businesses that do this will help themselves both now and in the long term. There are many benefits to having a diverse workforce. Gender diversity guarantees a workforce with a varied skillset. It’s a workforce that is both productive and able to successfully engage with its diverse customer community. Statistics show that companies who encourage gender diversity within their management teams enjoy more than average growth and an increased return on equity.

Indeed, businesses should be at the heart of creating a more diverse technology sector. Not only does it help safeguard their individual companies for the future, it also helps nurture talent across the board. This means communicating with women who may want to join a fascinating industry. And who better to tell those stories than the women themselves?

About the author

This article was provided by Lynn Collier, COO UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems.