Science

The truth about women in science and engineering

 

Elrica Degirmen, is a second year physics student at the University of Leeds. Here she provides her account of being a woman in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

scienceSomehow, I stumbled upon an article on the WeAreTheCity’s website where they reported that the IET has complained that only nine per cent of the engineering workforce are women.

It is not that difficult to browse through the internet to see the supposed reasons as to why the figure is seen to be so low. However, I think the issue runs deeper than women are put off from having a career in engineering or because there is a lack of female role models in the industry. In fact, I think it has nothing to do with that.

I am currently a physics undergraduate and I personally want to work in the fusion sector one day, be it in plasma physics, fusion materials or nuclear engineering. It is a multi-disciplinary field and I wanted to study physics for the solid foundation that I believed would help me enter into one of these three pathways into the future, irrespective of what I eventually decide in the end. As someone who has already had undergraduate research experience in national laboratories, I fail to accept the notion that the sector is not welcoming to women. This assumption that the scientific and engineering industries are off-putting to women is lacking in evidence and arguably counter-productive as it reinforces impressionable teenagers that STEM industries are sexist, when they are not.

I have a possible explanation as to the low rates of women in engineering. The normal way for one to obtain experience is to apply for engineering internships. It should be mentioned that an accredited engineering degree gives you the specific skills and knowledge that allows you to be chartered – providing you eventually fulfill all the academic requirements. Many summer internships stipulate that you must be studying an engineering subject, which automatically closes off potential applicants who may have the ambition and attitude to succeed in an engineering career, but just happened to have studied another STEM subject at eighteen. It is far harder to be chartered as an engineer if you studied a different subject at the age of eighteen.

I am aware that the Institute of Physics provides its own pathway to be chartered in engineering if you have studied physics, but even so, one has to get into the engineering industry in the first place. Thus, how does a science graduate compete with someone who already has studied engineering in the first place? The answer it seems, is pretty difficult. There are no obvious or even formalised schemes for those who are studying quantitative-heavy degrees to pursue an engineering career.

Engineering is worse compared to other sciences in terms of the proportion of women studying it. If women do not choose to study engineering, they are almost closing off their options later in life to be chartered as an engineer. Even if one decides to pursue postgraduate studies in engineering where their science qualifications are accepted, then there is the issue of finances. Engineering programmes are relatively more expensive to run, and the £10k loan recently introduced by the government can only go so far. Perhaps more funding should be directed for postgraduate engineering courses that allow science graduates to “convert”.

I feel that the profession closes off potential people, irrespective of gender, who may want to have a career in engineering, but just happened to have studied physics or computer science or even mathematics as their undergraduate degree.

I personally do not subscribe to identity politics, and I do not care about the proportions of women in whatever industry so long as the best people are working in the jobs. However, I feel it is a major distortion of the reality to suggest that women do not want to work in engineering. Even if people decide later on to pursue an engineering career, they find that it is too late because of the choices that they made whilst applying for university during school.

Perhaps it is the case that that there is a lack of awareness of what engineering is, or the value of studying engineering at university. Even so, I do not think that specific efforts to increase uptake from pupils to study engineering deals with the specific issue of many students whereby they later decide they want to do engineering.

I know that I will find it much harder to get into engineering (if I choose that as my desired career path). Not because I am female, but because I just happen to have studied physics as opposed to engineering at eighteen. Considering that only a relatively small percentage of women even take up engineering in the first place, I am shocked that the figure is as high as 9% personally as for a wide variety of factors not all those who study engineering will go on to pursue an engineering career.

In my opinion, if you are going to complain about the lack of women in the industry, you have to understand the real reasons why the statistics are as they are, rather than assuming it is owing to false claims of sexism or misogyny. Competition for a restricted number of engineering internships (which for many people is the first step to enter an engineering career) is already competitive by those who have studied engineering. The reality is that it is difficult for anyone, but if women do not make the right A-level choices at sixteen, then greatly hinder their chances of studying science and engineering at eighteen. I think it would help if there were a wider variety of routes for young people to enter engineering. I appreciate the need for vocational training schemes such as apprenticeships, and I fully support it but even then, you have to decide early on to pursue this. There seems to be only one academic route, in other words choosing to study engineering at university during sixth form.

I think that the IET, and other professional engineering institutions, should develop alternative routes for chartership for those who have not studied engineering but have studied a scientific subject. School outreach programmes are not enough, and talking about the perceived sexism in these industries is counter-productive.

 

Save

Save


Hayley-Sudbury-featured

Inspirational Woman: Hayley Sudbury | Founder & CEO, WERKIN

 

 Hayley Sudbury

As an openly out LGBT+ female tech entrepreneur, Hayley supports professional LGBT+ communities through WERKIN’s CSR programmes, and sponsorship and support of Lesbians Who Tech.

The technology developed at WERKIN allows more LGBT+ professionals to be visible and supported in their careers. Externally, Hayley is committed to creating a fundamental shift for the female, LGBT+ and BAME talent pipeline and uses her technology to support mentoring programmes for a number of LGBT+ organisations, including Lesbian and Bisexual professional women, and OUTstanding. Her company is a UK partner of Lesbians Who Tech, providing support by hosting and sponsoring the London Summer Party. She is also an active mentor in the Stemettes programme, currently mentoring a female BAME undergrad computer science student.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Hayley Sudbury, founder and CEO of WERKIN, the company I built with my cofounder to bring tech-enabled sponsorship to global organisations. I founded WERKIN after a career in finance. Though I enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of that career, I saw an opportunity to use technology to make industries like finance more inclusive, particularly in senior positions. Of course, if I had chosen a different path, I'd be a professional jazz musician, the track I started out on!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I've just had major pivots and have been open to the universe and throwing myself into opportunities as they come. In high school, I wanted to become an architect or professional musician. I met with my careers counselor and took a test that said I should be a counselor. I grew up in a family business so it wasn't so radical that I would follow the path of an entrepreneur. I made a conscious decision to move into large corporates early on in my career to have some big corporate experience in my journey, starting in the energies sector and then finance.

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

I've had several roles that required me to be extremely resourceful to deal with trouble areas. It's about recognising what you can do in a particular situation and who you can influence about what's happening and make changes.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Unconscious bias. That's the key to change, dealing with people's biases and building understanding. I don't think I am in control of that.

How do you think companies and individuals could be more inclusive?

At the end of the day, it's about getting people signed up to create an environment where people feel truly comfortable about bringing their wholes selves to work. It's important to encourage everyone to embrace that. The way you work needs to be inclusive if you're going to create an environment for everyone. One easy way for companies to do this is by joining the INvolve network. They’ve worked with our teams to help harness LGBT+, ethnic minority and female talent and foster inclusive cultures. We’re working to drive a positive change in the workplace.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is key to your professional and your life journey. How you work, how you live, the people who guide you along the way. It's not just about formal mentors, it's the sponsors who raise your visibility. We are looking to democratise mentoring and sponsorship. Not everyone has the time or know-how to be a mentor, we want to help more people to have that experience. I am an active mentor. I am still being actively mentored myself by technology veterans who have been there and done it.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My current company. I am actually doing something that I love. I have my cofounder that I love working with. We are commited to this change and now product and market fit together to make it happen. The time has aligned with more attention being paid to help companies be better versions of themselves. Companies are open to change behaviour which makes a difference to individuals' careers.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Help global companies change the mix. We have focused in the UK, but now we are looking to the US and are hoping to scale our company globally. We are scaling up our London-based company. We also want to enjoy the ride and have fun doing it. The journey is the reward. That is absolutely how I feel about what we are doing.


Michelle Dickinson featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM) | Award-winning nano-scientist, co-founder, Nanogirl Labs & author

 

Michelle DickinsonDr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM) is a passionate researcher and teacher with a love of science and engineering.

Author of No 8 Recharged and The Kitchen Science Cookbook, Michelle has made it her life mission to make science and engineering accessible for all.

Her background in Biomedical and Materials Engineering have combined her interests to give her a unique insight into how nature and technology can learn from each other for scientific developments.

Currently you can find her as founder and Director of the social enterprise Nanogirl Labs Ltd, she is also an honorary academic in Engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Awarded Member of New Zealand Order of Merit Michelle was winner of the Women of Influence award for science and innovation in 2016, was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership in 2015 and was winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014.

Michelle strongly believes that science should be open, transparent and a topic of conversation over the dinner table, not just the lab bench, and her vision is to create positive role models in the world that our children can aspire to be like.

With this belief she is passionate about creating new ways for the public to interact with science including her television appearances, live Theatre Science Shows, science comedy podcast “Stupid Questions For Scientists” and science communication videos.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m currently the co-founder of Nanogirl Labs, a social enterprise designed to empower young people to increase their confidence around science and engineering.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, from the moment I sat down with a careers advisor at school I’ve always had a plan – yet I don’t think I’ve ever followed that plan in my actual career.  Instead I’ve taken opportunities that have come up, many of which I didn’t even know existed when I was writing my plan.

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

Being a woman in engineering has often meant that I am the only female in the room, and career wise that has felt lonely and like I was always having to prove myself.  It’s taken me a long time to believe in my own abilities and my confidence has been thanks to great mentors who have helped me to believe in myself more.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Imposter syndrome – for some reason many women struggle with it and it prevents them from applying for promotions at work or bringing up issues when engaging in a team.  If we could teach women about what it was and how to work on some of the challenges that can hold them back I think we would see much more diversity in senior leadership.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

I think we need to break down some of the stereotypes around what jobs in science and technology are like.  It’s not all hard-hats and greasy overalls but instead the field is full of oppurtunities where women get to be creators not just consumers of new technology.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring and being mentored is so important.  I love mentoring others and helping young women to figure out what their strengths are while opening as many doors as I can for them using my networks.  Being mentored has helped me to focus on my own goals and use the lessons learned by others more established in their careers to gain a different perspective on things.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Quitting the stability of working as an academic for a university and setting up my own company.  Our STEM programs are taught in 5 different languages around the world and it’s amazing to see how building an organisation that provides positive female role models can break down some of the barriers that prevent young people from pursuing technical careers.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m launching my new book The Kitchen Science Cookbook, which presents science in a recipe book to try and show people that science is everywhere and can be done with ingredients commonly found in the kitchen.  I hope that by bringing science home to the kitchen it will help parents to learn together with their children as they go on a science journey of discovery and curiosity.


Dr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM) – prize winning nanotechnologist, researcher and educator – has made it her life mission to make science and engineering accessible for all. Her new book The Kitchen Science Cookbook is packed full of fun ‘recipes’, each teaching an important scientific principle in a format that is perfect for parents and children to enjoy together.

Available on Amazon.  Find out more at https://uk.kitchensciencecookbook.com/


Computer-Programmer

You don't ask, you don't get | Why coding isn't just 'business for boys'

By Melissa McKendry, Vice President, Implementation Services for Retail Banking and Fraud,  ACI Worldwide

I have been working in IT for over 20 years and to be honest, until a few years ago, the issue of gender has never been at the forefront of my mind.

Dealing with complex IT issues for our banking and merchant clients has always been ‘business for the boys’ and I am used to being one of a small handful of women in male-dominated teams. I have hardly encountered any biases in what was and in many ways still is a male dominated industry but I think playing football helped with integrating in with a largely male population!

However, in recent years I have become more aware of the lack of women in our industry, especially since becoming site leader of our European head office in Watford. The payments and fintech industry is growing globally and offers fantastic career opportunities for young men and women. In years to come the industry will need many more skilled software engineers, computer programmers and data scientists.

However, historically, society has put more emphasis on boys when it comes to math and science subjects. Figures show that in 2017 less than 30 percent of computer scientists were women and that the percentage is on the decline. There is a societal mindset that needs to be changed for a significant impact to take place. Along with educating young girls about professions in STEM, our society and the parents of young girls need to be educated on the importance of including women in such professions.

That’s why a few years ago, ACI launched its Coding for Girls Initiative. The free, one-day camps offer crash courses in computer programming, including HTML, CSS and Java and are designed to introduce girls from year 7 to 9 to the world of technology and careers in high-tech professions. We have run such camps at various of our US sites, and this year we launched the initiative in the UK.

Unconscious Bias is often the point where challenges start

That said, there are fundamental differences between men and women and the way we operate in the workplace. I have found that when applying for a job, men are more inclined to raise the topic of compensation than women.  Men tend to promote themselves more broadly across job skills while women are often more critical of their skills and abilities.

Unconscious bias is often the point where challenges start, but as society changes and is becoming more aware of such biases, as we debate these issues more honestly and openly, these bias barriers will shift and hopefully cease to exist.

Lessons learnt

Some of the main lessons I have learnt during my career and the advice I would like to give others, just starting out include:

  • You don’t ask you don’t get.
  • You can learn a lot of working with men and women, we are very all different individuals so take the time to observe, learn and progress.
  • Keep in contact with colleagues and other people you meet along the way, networking is one of your biggest assets as a human.
  • Treat people as you like to be treated.
  • Be honest with yourself in what you want out of your role and career.
  • Tell people what you are aiming for and this will bring the opportunities.  The only role I have applied for within ACI is the role I took when first started at ACI in 1997, since then opportunities have been presented to me by making my aspirations known or asking for an opportunity.
  • Ensure you have solid work/life balance, it is tough but critical to your happiness

Diversity is crucial in today’s economy

Promoting equal opportunity, diversity and inclusiveness have been on top of my agenda, especially since becoming site leader at our Watford office. At ACI, women sit on our Board of Directors and Executive Leadership Team and hold senior roles across the organization, whether as software engineers, sales executives or product developers. We actively promote dialogue about issues such as gender diversity and inclusion, and we provide mentorship and sponsorship to help women with their career progression. I truly believe that diversity and inclusiveness are not just buzzwords but are crucial to the success of our company.

About the author

Melissa Mckendry is vice president of retail banking implementation services at ACI, having held numerous different roles within the organisation over the past 20 years. One of Melissa’s most notable contributions to ACI, beyond leading implementation services, is being an advocate for diversity and inclusiveness. Melissa has been vocal in addressing these issues and was instrumental in bringing ACI’s Coding for Girls Camp to the UK.


Sophia-Cooper-featured

#lifegoals | Meet Sophia Chambers, a software engineer & young mum proving you can have it all

 

Sophia Cooper

Sophia Chambers, 28, is a Software Engineer at Sky Betting and Gaming.

At 24, Chambers started her degree in Software Engineeirng BENG at Sheffield Hallam University.

Here she describes how she juggles motherhood with work, how she began her career in technology and what keeps her motivated.

Tell me about your young family, how was the change becoming a mum?

What isn’t challenging about becoming a mum? Lol! I have three children in total – five, nine and ten years old.

What challenges did you face practically?

The lack of sleep was probably the hardest thing to deal with! With that, the time management – making sure everyone’s where they need to be with everything they need. Whether that’s making sure each child has their PE kit on their PE day, homework or even extra curriculum activities. Between three, this can become quite a challenge, I believe I’ve truly ‘mastered’ the art of multi-tasking, ha ha, well at least I like to think so!

What challenges did you face emotionally?

Sometimes, I think working parents all get the “guilt” feeling. Putting your children into after school, breakfast or even holiday clubs – sometimes can be quite difficult. I think most parents experience the ongoing circle – you want to work to provide your children with great experiences, but you also want to stay at home and spend more time with them – it’s an ongoing circle of events – the realistic key to this is balancing the two worlds – between work and family.

What challenges did you face inspirationally?

You have to learn to balance the work – family lifestyle. Sometimes, this really can be such a challenge. Ambition to do well in your career, can sometimes make you push back on family time and vice versa. I’ve always had high ambition and a want to progress well in my career, to achieve highly, but sometimes you need to be realistic.

How did you come to decide tech was for you?

From the age of 12, I began teaching myself how to code simple websites using HTML and CSS – even at this stage, it became addictive! I had a keen interest in graphic design and created a small site that provided things like wallpapers, profile layouts etc for users to download. I then went more into the programming world, experimenting with PHP and Javascript – producing small websites for local business’ and family members.

How do you make time to study and balance the needs of the young ‘uns?

My interest in tech, developed into a degree and a career. I’m very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to work from home. I don’t actually know how I would function without the flexible work opportunity that Sky Bet provides. As a Software Engineer and a mum, if one of my children is sick or if there’s a school play etc, I don’t need to worry about not being present or being there – because I can. I can work my hours from home and be there for my children when they need me, it really is invaluable.

What did other people say? Were they supportive?  

It was very “50/50” – some were supportive, some not. I found it most difficult within my first year at university, there was around 4 girls in total, the rest male. Which made it slightly harder to enjoy the degree at first, on top of which, it was even more difficult being a parent. I couldn’t really socialise like others within my year and I wasn’t highly interested in games etc, which made bonding difficult. Thankfully, I had a few people including my Dad, Husband and Grandma that were super supportive throughout which pushed me into continuing with a subject that I loved.

Did you ever have self-doubts?

All the time. Literally, ALL THE TIME. It’s a case of “you are your worst enemy”.  I think one of my worst traits is the lack of confidence.

What kept you motivated?

I genuinely LOVE to achieve – in fact it’s probably an addiction! I enjoy hard work and I enjoy the sense of achieving a goal – completing an ambition. I suppose, I’m a bit of a “weirdo” – I have to be doing something all the time – even on holiday. But through it all the main motivation is the ability to provide my family with opportunities and a good life. On a selfish level, it’s to turn back the years in 40 years’ time (hopefully lol) and be proud of the career I achieved, with the steps it took to get there. Ultimately however, I am very fortunate as I genuinely LOVE the job that I do, being a Software Engineer within a company with such great culture and co-workers barely makes it feel like work at all!

What drove you to take the first step into tech?

Pure interest. Genuinely pure interest. I began curious with how websites and the internet worked (I know, sad right?), which was quite difficult growing up as my interests never seemed to align with those my friends had and I began to feel as though I was different.

Now though I love that I am able to support and inspire those who felt the same as me and support them with their journeys into tech related careers.

Were you ever worried it wasn’t the right decision?

Risking my previous career in Dental, to go back to university to finally start my Software engineering career always had its risks. “Was I going to be good enough?”, “What if I fail? “, “What if I don’t gain employment through the degree?” – I think all these thoughts are pretty standard.

What would you say to other women about managing their life choices?

You have to be in a career that makes you happy, if you’re in a career that you enjoy it makes life so much easier to balance. It doesn’t matter what the sector or job role is, as long as you’re happy you will always achieve – if you’re in a career that you enjoy, you’ll never have to work again. The opinions of our social peers does not matter so much when we get older, so take that risk, go back and do what you enjoy! YOLO!


Charlotte Knill

Why study digital forensics?

 

Charlotte Knill, aged 23, is an Information Security Consultant and Forensic Analyst for Security Risk Management Ltd in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here she shares why she decided to study digital forensics.

Firstly, it might be easier if I explained why I chose it.

5070799393

It wasn’t until around the age of 18/19 I decided I wanted to take myself down the digital forensics path. I came across this field because I started seeing it become more common in the news that criminals were being caught out by digital evidence. I found it really interesting that when the police were attending crime scenes, they weren’t only seizing physical evidence they could see (weapons or DNA), they were also seizing devices where they would be examined for evidence.

The difference between physical evidence and digital evidence is that you can see one but not the other. You can’t tell just by looking at a mobile phone what evidence is on it – I am a naturally nosey and curious person, so this field of study was definitely for me! I was more interested in the evidence “you can’t see” and wanted to be able to use my curiosity to find answers. I wanted to search through phones for texts, computers for documents, emails, internet history etc. Basically, just be nosey!

I was able to put my passion for being nosey and curious into practice during my placement year in a real digital forensic environment. Working on real criminal cases affecting real victims – there was no better feeling than my curiosity helping to solve crimes and remove criminals from the streets.

So, that was why I chose it……..But digital forensics doesn’t stop there.

You also have data breaches that affect companies worldwide every single day. Part of my job now is to find out how company websites were breached, identify malicious code that hackers have placed onto their websites and see if any card details have been stolen. That could happen to me, you, your friends and family at any point – being part of what prevents these breaches from occurring/helping companies become safer in the large cyber world we all live in is a rewarding feeling.

Identifying things like malicious code or retrieving deleted texts, images or documents etc. are done so through the use of specialist software. There are many different types of software out there but the ones you will hear about the most will be:

1. EnCase
2. Forensic Tool Kit (FTK)
3. Internet Evidence Finder (IEF)
4. Cellebrite (Mobile Phones)

Digital Forensics is a field where you learn new things every day. If you go into a Digital Forensics job, don’t feel like you have to know EVERYTHING because you don’t….you can’t – it’s impossible to know everything because of the new devices, software and technology being created all the time. The cyber security industry as a whole operates on the basis of people sharing thoughts and ideas – it couldn’t operate without this.

So, if you like the idea of:

• Someone telling you “it’s deleted and you won’t get it back” and proving them wrong by retrieving deleted things using special software
• Removing criminals from the streets
• Stopping a crime before it has happened and saving potential victims from harm
• Preventing companies becoming victims of serious data breaches that could affect you or everyone around you at any time
• Helping companies stay safe from breaches
• Learning new things every day
• Sharing thoughts and ideas to help those around you stay as many steps ahead of cyber criminals as possible

You really should consider digital forensics!

TIP:

Autopsy is a great tool to download and experiment with (free and legal!) – http://www.sleuthkit.org/autopsy/ – memory sticks are ideal for experimenting with. Try placing word documents on at first and then deleting some (but remember to note down what is on the memory stick and what has been deleted, this is also great practice for taking notes as digital forensic investigators need to take down lots of notes during an investigation).

Another tip: Don’t throw away any old laptops – you could practice taking out the hard drive and plugging that into Autopsy.

If you get stuck, I would recommend using YouTube because you can follow videos in your own time and actually see what is happening. I used YouTube a lot to help me learn how to remove hard drives from many different laptops.

About Charlotte Knill

At the beginning of July this year, I graduated from the University of Sunderland with a first class honours degree in Computer Forensics with Sandwich Year. My sandwich year/placement year was spent with Northumbria Police in their Hit-tech Crime Unit. Before I graduated, I was offered a job with Security Risk Management Ltd as an Information Security Support Consultant and Forensic Analyst where I help to identify how company websites have been hacked and personal details have been stolen. Initially, this was part-time while I finished off my University studies and then moved into a full-time role once my studies were completed.

I have recently set up a blog to help encourage women into cyber security by sharing my journey into the industry and my fun stories from within it.

Social Media Links:

LinkedIn

Twitter


Sally Napper

Inspirational Woman: Sally Napper | Head of Security Assistance, International SOS & Control Risks

 

Sally Napper

As Head of Security Assistance for International SOS and Control Risks, Sally Napper is responsible for driving and continually enhancing the delivery of market-leading security advice and assistance in support of our customers’ business travel and operations.

Sally also plays a key role in managing security crises globally.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

As the global Head of Security Assistance at International SOS and Control Risks I oversee a team of security experts who work 24/7 with our 26 Assistance Centres and network of providers all over the world to provide security advice and assistance in support of our clients’ mobile workforce and overseas operations. On any given day you will find us supporting our clients in many different ways from advising travellers on specific risks they may face in a new environment to helping managers respond to security-related crises.

Before joining International SOS, I worked for the Australian government for more than 10 years.  I spent most of that time working in a civilian operational support role for the Australian military, including on deployment to Iraq and during military exercises in the Pacific. My background is in international relations, a degree choice that stemmed from my desire to travel for work. I think I can confidently say that I got what I wanted, and perhaps a little more.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, no, I have never actively planned my career. Instead I took every opportunity as it came along and then worked really hard to try and succeed in every single one. Fortunately for me this approach has led to an incredibly interesting and diverse career so far. I’m lucky to have had some incredible opportunities to grow my career, including my deployment to Iraq; the honour of representing my country at the Australian embassy in Washington DC; and the chance to join the incredible team at International SOS and Control Risks.

Being open to these chances – each varied and equally exciting – has led me to where I am today. I always recommend leaping at any opportunity that comes your way and then working really hard to make the most of every chance to grow. Even if it doesn’t work out, there will always be something you can learn about a job or about yourself. Plenty of new opportunities will lie around the corner if you work hard.

You were deployed to Baghdad for 6 months – how did this come about? What did you learn from this experience?

Quite early in my career my boss at the time walked past my desk one day and asked if I wanted to go to Baghdad. Looking back I probably wasn’t the exact fit for the role. They wanted someone with more experience and a military background but I had proven willing to work hard. I was invested in supporting the military so they took a risk. Fortunately it worked out and became one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career. It certainly set me up for my role today, which involves helping our clients tackle similarly challenging work environments.

Working in a male dominated sector, like security, I’ve had to learn how make myself heard. Something that can be especially challenging when you’re one of the only women in the room. Those who work with me will know that I’m generally not the first to speak. I often find my skill lies in taking the time to listen and choosing the best moment to share my opinion in a clear and considered way. I’m unsure how much of this approach is because I’m a woman and how much is because I’m an introvert, but, in a world where people can be highly opinionated and loud, the quiet voices can be very powerful. Sometimes as a woman it takes a little longer to be taken seriously but if you’re good at what you do, it won’t take long to have a voice.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am currently working on completing my MBA. Combined with my unusual, and at times crazy, work schedule (I take an average of 1-2 long haul flights a month), this can prove a bit challenging. I remember once being in Papua New Guinea, standing on top of a Jeep to try and get enough signal to send an assignment back to my university in Australia! I love a challenge and certainly got one when I decided to work towards my MBA.

What would you say is your coping mechanism?

A good work life balance is a challenge for anyone, me included! Fortunately I love my job, which makes it much easier to sustain the high tempo. I have great empathy for working parents. I don’t have children myself and can’t imagine juggling deadlines and family commitments. I try to be supportive of my colleagues in more challenging situations than me. I am fortunate to have an amazing husband, and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without his support. I really appreciate the fact that he’s often willing to accompany me on a business trip at a moment’s notice. While this might sound glamorous, and I never thought I would say this, but travel can get tiring at times.

I am also a certified yoga instructor, and try to do at least 10-15 minutes of yoga or other form of exercise per day no matter where I am. It helps me to clear my head and let my creativity flow. I don’t know many people in the security industry or in International SOS who don’t exercise on a really regular basis – it’s such a good stress relief.

What advice do you have for women who would like to follow a similar path to you?

My advice to women is to be yourself. There can be a lot of pressure on women to behave like men, particularly in business, or to behave like other women who have gone before them (to wear certain clothes, take certain roles etc). While I appreciate the amazing efforts of women who have paved the way for female careers in security, I never listened when anyone said there was only one path. I’ve been myself and I’ve worked really hard at every opportunity I‘ve been given. From my experience I can guarantee that if you work hard you will ultimately be recognised, and if you do it with integrity, the success will be even sweeter.


Giustina Mizzoni featured

Inspirational Woman: Giustina Mizzoni | Executive Director, CoderDojo; & Director, Raspberry Pi Foundation

 

Giustina MizzoniGiustina has led the CoderDojo Foundation for more than two years.

She joined CoderDojo in January 2013 as its first employee, having previously managed the Irish operations of Dogpatch Labs, a co-working space for startup technology companies.

In her role as Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, she is responsible for overseeing its programmes, operations, and global growth. She led CoderDojo’s merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation in May 2017, creating one of the largest sustained global efforts to help young people learn computing and digital making. Giustina holds an MSc in Management (Innovation in Social Enterprise) from Dublin City University, and an MA in International Politics and Human Rights from City University London.

Giustina Mizzoni is also a Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation,a UK-based charity, leading CoderDojo. CoderDojo is part of the Raspberry Pi family and is a worldwide network of free, volunteer-led coding clubs for children and teenagers. The mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In 2019, the Raspberry Pi Foundation aims to raise £4.25 million to pursue its educational initiatives including online coding projects, free coding clubs, and volunteer support. They are only able to do this important work thanks to the generous support of our partners.

Please contact amie@raspberrypi.org to get involved.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role

My name is Giustina Mizzoni, I’m the Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, and we are part of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation. We are an Irish-founded, global movement of free, informal computer clubs for young people aged 7 to 17. Across the globe, we have 1,914 clubs.

I’ve worked with CoderDojo for the past five years. I initially joined as the organisation’s first employee in 2013. I became Executive Director two years ago, and last year I oversaw our merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I sit on the wider partnership team and play a key role in raising funds to support our work and that of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, my career has been shaped by opportunities that have arisen. I’ve always been ambitious, so I’ve assessed opportunities as they’ve come up to determine what impact or learning I felt I could gain. From a young age I’ve always known that I wanted to be in a leadership position, so that has always been a guiding principle.

Initially I completed an MA in International Politics and Human Rights, but after voluntary work with an international non-profit, I found the bureaucracy frustrating. I moved home and took a (very!) brief job in financial services. From there, an opportunity came up to become the first Operations/Office Manager of a new American VC–backed co-working space. That role exposed me to the technology sector, and I was surrounded by fast-growing innovative start-ups. The environment appealed to me, and I haven’t really left the technology sector since.

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

I have faced various challenges in my career so far. In my role as Operations Manager, I was the only woman in the co-working space with more than 30 men — it was an interesting dynamic, and I think it set me up very well. The majority of the challenges I’ve faced have been internal. I reached a leadership position at a relatively young age, so I often felt like an imposter in board meetings or similar situation. Experience has helped me overcome this, although I still have brief moments where I doubt myself.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Normalisation of flexible working arrangements.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

I strongly believe that there are societal perceptions of what STEM is or means. Many people think it’s for men, or that you need to be a nerd or genius, or even that it’s isolating, that you are coding for hours on end on your laptop etc. Frankly, none of these preconceptions are true. To overcome this, we need to help every young girl, their parents, and their teachers understand the importance and relevance of technology. I recently heard a story of how a CoderDojo volunteer phoned an all-girls school to ask whether they could let their students know about the coding club the volunteer had set up nearby. The principal said she didn’t think it was something that would be of interest to her students, as they all wanted to be nurses and teachers... Here is a principal of a school with over 300 girls aged 12 to 18, who is blatantly reinforcing gendered roles and choosing not to share a free learning opportunity with their students.

Last year, we launched the CoderDojo Girls Initiative. Our goal is to achieve gender parity in the CoderDojo movement. We’ve identified best practices for increasing the number of girls in clubs, and we are working on a trial to measure the effectiveness of different interventions, such as the presence of female volunteers and the language used to describe club activities. I firmly believe that everyone has a role to play to achieve parity of men and women in STEM.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is incredibly important, but so is sponsorship where you have people in organisations who actively advocate for you. My mum has been a constant mentor in my life. She's an Executive Coach, so it's helpful that she is incredibly talented at it. She's helped me navigate difficult situations and I’ve learnt so much from her. And I’ve mentored and supported friends and colleagues throughout specific challenges or changes over the years.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Last year we merged with Raspberry Pi. It was a huge change for the CoderDojo team, and we went from being 10 people to growing to 17 and now being part of a 100-person organisation. We learnt so much from the process, and I enjoyed it immensely!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m expecting my first child in the new year. I’ve no doubt that continuing my career, which requires me to travel frequently, while being a new mother will be challenging.


Shakar Jafari featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Shakardokht Jafari | Founder & CTO, Trueinvivo Limited

 

Shakar was born in Afghanistan, but she and her family were forced to move following the outbreak of war and loss of their home when she was just six years old.

After six months of travelling, they arrived in Iran as refugees. It was here that Shakar discovered her passion for nuclear physics, radiation and the science behind its medical applications.

This passion was truly put to the test when Shakar’s father was diagnosed with cancer. During the months before his death, Shakar promised him that she would try to make a difference to the lives of other people with his condition. Shakar is now the Founder and CTO of Trueinvivo Limited, which with support from Innovate UK has developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

In addition to securing her first - and quickly second - investors, in 2017 Shakar expanded her team with four new members. In January 2018 Shakar received a prestigious Womens award from the Afghanistan government and a recent meeting with a director could lead to a film biopic.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Dr. Shakardokht Jafari, I’m originally from Afghanistan but I now live in Surrey with my husband and two daughters.  When I was just 6 years old we were forced to leave Afghanistan after war broke out, after fleeing we arrived in Iran as refugees and it’s here that I discovered my passion for nuclear physics. After studying in Iran I travelled to the UK and it’s here – at Surrey University - that I did my PhD. I now work as a clinical scientist in the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Associate Tutor and visiting researcher at the Surrey University, but I’ve also started to commercialise the outcome of my PhD research; TRUEinvivo Ltd. It’s through TRUEinvivo Ltd. that I’ve developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I planned my career, but more interesting things and challenges have occurred along the way and I have changed my path many times!

For example, I’ve always been passionate about science, but I only really started thinking about applying my knowledge to cancer care after my father became ill. You never know what will motivate you to change your course; it could be success, or sadness, or wanting to make a difference to the lives of others.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Thinking about my answer to this question I have to pause, to consider which of the many, many challenges that I’ve encountered should be explained?! I think the most significant ones are those connected to the getting to, studying and settling in the UK, especially coming from Afghanistan. Of course, financial difficulties and the constant challenge of achieving a workable balance between family life and work, are high up the list.

How has Innovate UK helped your journey?

Innovate UK contributed vital funding support towards TRUEinvivo Ltd, the mentorship and marketing support they’ve provided have also helped us gain broader recognition and know how to take the next step. After Innovate UK’s support, quickly followed by a second investment in 2017, I was able to expand my team with four new members.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would provide free child care in the workplace. Even in Afghanistan there is free kindergarten in the workplace, so women can return to their careers very quickly. They can visit their children and breastfeed during tea breaks and lunch times, which is so convenient.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business/ become an entrepreneur?

Just do it! And, get a good mentor. A good mentor will not only point you in the direction of the next step, but they can inspire you to take it, too.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without doubt, staring to turn my PhD into a something that will have a real impact.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is to make our business fully functioning and, ultimately, to take the technology I’ve developed to market. This could seriously improve quality of life and the treatment of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.


If you’re a female entrepreneur or innovator and want to find out more about Innovate UK’s Women In Innovation competitions then please visit  https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/204/overview for more information.


Nintendo 1980s Tech

Too few women in tech? Blame 1980s marketing!

 

nintendo, 1980 tech

Women are rightfully reclaiming their role in the technology sector

Often, the technology industry is held up as one of the very worst for gender diversity, yet it has not always been as male dominated as it is today – in fact, from the 1940s, women led major developments in programming and software development. In 1984, 37% of computer-science majors were women; at the time coding was a considered a rote skill – like typing – and considered more suited to women.

Today, technology is ubiquitous – at home or at the office – often based on consumers pushing for it. Gaming is arguably the main driver fulfilling Bill Gate’s vision for a computer in every home and it is largely, but not deliberately, responsible for the gender skew we see in tech more broadly.

Tech started out gender neutral

In the late 70s and early 80s, as home gaming hit the market, games were gender neutral. Figuring out noughts and crosses or the digitisation of Pong drove the industry – not shoot ‘em ups. In fact, one of the biggest selling personal games ever, in its day, was developed and co-written by a remarkable woman, Lori Cole for Sierra – the Quest for Glory series. So, what went wrong? In a nutshell; marketing happened.

In the early days of consoles and hand-helds (think Asteroid, Avalon, Tetris) the industry almost drowned in low quality, disappointing games but people still wanted to be a part of it. At its peak, the revenues for video games in the US sat at USD 3.2 billion in 1983. By 1985, revenues fell a whopping 97% to approximately USD 100 million. Nintendo stepped in and saved the industry with a quality guarantee, but suddenly marketing appeared in an industry that didn’t know who was buying and playing its games. It hadn’t really been terribly important until then.

Game Boys, not Game Kids

Marketing is about identifying and understanding a target market and, in those days, for reasons not entirely clear, consoles became boy toys and gaming – along with everything else computer software related – evolved with that in mind. Nintendo’s industry saving solution was called a Game Boy. The industry’s male focus for marketing became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Today, only one in four computing jobs is held by a woman. Programming isn't a male or female skill and remembering this is essential to address the tech industry’s widening skills gap. It’s possible that the advent of the smartphone and the plethora of non-gendered games will help attract women back into the industry they helped build. It has exploded – the ability for everyone to have a powerful computer in their pocket, or purse, means technology is everywhere and we want it to work for women. So they should most definitely be in the business, whether its hardware, software or some other aspect.

What companies can do

Of course, these days the tech world is not just about coding: while females need to be encouraged to study more technology-based subjects, there are many things companies can do to attract and retain women. Jobsite was part of a large study last year to explore how we can close the skills gap in the UK, and encouraging women is one key option. It brings other benefits too, including much sought-after diversity of opinion and thought. After all, women are around half of the population, so products, services and solutions need to be designed to include them as well.

More women are entering the tech world and, whilst it may be slower than ideal, there is a definite increase. Just over 30 per cent of female respondents in a Computer Weekly survey last year had been in a tech job for less than five years, compared to 19 per cent of men. In the more experienced part of the IT workforce, 70 per cent of men have been in tech for 10 years or more, compared with just 45 per cent of women. If women can be retained in the sector, this is a positive rebalancing.

Hard & soft skills

Sometimes firms focus too much on technical skills when hiring staff, without considering what other skills are needed for tech roles. Often, as the tech industry has grown, people who could be trained to fill a role are overlooked in favour of the few people who have the specific skills needed to walk straight in, which has led not only to a gender gap, but also a skill one.

Not only are employers often failing to consider soft skills, but many also still suffer from an unconscious bias, making them more likely to hire people who are like them, leaving out the diverse applicants, be it women, older candidates or other less-represented groups.

Retaining women

Once women have joined, it is not enough for companies to sit back and think they have achieved diversity. This is not the full picture and without changes, women will leave the sector.

Women in technology tend to leave the field within ten years and this is often because they feel unsupported to make other life decisions, like having children. If companies have a clearly articulated retraining policy for women in highly technical roles, like coding, they are more likely to return to work after a break to have children. We found that women valued remote working (76 per cent) and career progression opportunities (72 per cent) as key workplace benefits, for example.

Remote working goes a long way to putting an end to the “Dilbert Era” perception of the IT workplace and an increasing number of entrepreneurial tech companies are making the field more attractive to a broader range of people.

The workplace has changed, but there is a clear historical precedent for women doing exceptionally well in technology and bringing them back into the fold solves many challenges for UK businesses. Tech firms that act upon the growing skills shortage by hiring from a more diverse pool of candidates will likely reap the many rewards, leaving those that don’t paying over the odds for the remaining ‘traditional’ applicants left in contention.

Nick GoldAbout the author

Nick Gold is CEO of Jobsite.

Nick joined Jobsite in December 2014 as Chief Executive Officer.

Since 2016 Nick is COO for StepStone UK with overall responsibility for the sales and customer service organisation in the UK market.

Before joining the StepStone Group, Nick held management roles at Sage and Lexis Nexis. He was a member of the management team at Emailvision (now SmartFocus) as the company grew to become one of the world’s largest Email Service Providers in a very competitive market.

Nick holds an undergraduate degree in Management from Liverpool and an MSc in International Business from UMIST.