Women working with computer for design and coding program

For many women, being part of the tech industry has provided successful and rewarding careers.

March 8th 2021 marks International Women’s Day, and the tech industry is one that has taken, and is continuing to take, great steps in breaking through gender boundaries. That being said, the latest Pipeline’s Women Count 2020 report shows that out of the FTSE top 350 companies, only 14 are led by women, and 15 per cent of companies have no female executives at all.

Evidently, the industry still has a great way to go before it can be seen as providing equal opportunities for both men and women. So, what was it like for some of the women who have made a career in what is seen as a predominantly male industry? In part one of this series, female tech leaders comment on their experience of becoming leaders in the tech and cyber security space, and the obstacles that they have had to overcome:

Patricia Prince TaggartPatricia Prince Taggart, General Counsel, Digital.ai

“When I started my career, most of the industry was male dominated. I made the move from private practice into technology because I believe that technology is an equaliser. Technology should be accessible to everyone, not matter their gender, race, or sexual preference.

When I started, there were fewer women in leadership positions than there are today. There are still not enough women in leadership roles, but it is certainly better than when I started my own career. I was a sports fan so in order to fit in, I talked about football, and I played golf with the men I interacted with at work. I was often the only woman at the leadership table proving that I understood the business and not just the contracts.

The advice I give to women I mentor is, don’t undersell your capabilities or your personal brand. When mentoring women at career crossroads who are doubting themselves, I often say that no man ever says he isn’t qualified for the project, next role or promotion. So ask for the job, take the job, and worry less about how it fits into your future; get the experience and prove your value.

My daughter has chosen a profession in tech and I am proud that she has done so. I hope she will not face the limitations I faced because it wouldn’t occur to her to “get along”. I hope she will continue to demand fairness in pay, access to promotions, and equal treatment. If not, she’ll find a company that does value diversity. She will not stay at an organisation that doesn’t value diversity. I admire that.”

Justine SeibkeJustine Seibke, Product Marketing Specialist and Cybersecurity Researcher at Skurio:

“I got my first tech job in 1989 as a programmer. I’ve spent a lifetime working in leading-edge tech and some of the companies and people I’ve encountered have been amazing. I PM’d an integrated Broadband solution, which was the first to go live globally, and was in the room in Cannes the first time a 3G phone was activated with software.

But, I’ve also experienced the frustration of doing the same job for less money than male colleagues on multiple occasions, and been passed over for promotion because employers couldn’t see past my family commitments. I took seven week’s maternity leave with my eldest so that I didn’t lose a promotion and took a 62 per cent pay cut when I returned to work after my youngest. And, yes I’ve had #metoo moments too. I’ve spent the last 2.5 years in Cyber and proud to say I see change happening daily – 50 per cent of our hires this year so far have been women! I hope and pray this generation of girls (all varieties) experience the highs I have, without the lows, and implore the NCSC to pressure Gillian Keegan to reverse the decision to relax penalties on gender pay gap reporting this year.

At Skurio, we are proud to have women in leadership positions in product and software development as well as threat intelligence and business development; reflecting our deep-rooted diversity ethos.  We are optimistic that the changes to working practices, adopted across the industry as a result of the pandemic, will help businesses to fill the skills gap and improve representation for women and minorities in cyber in the future.”

Maya GershonMaya Gershon, CRO at Vade Secure:

“I started my career at a very young age. I always knew I wanted to go to the intelligence services in the army and for that I knew I had to be exceptionally good. I was identified at 16 years old and selected from tens of thousands of applicants to the cyber unit in the Israel army, which is when I fell in love with this industry. The time I spent in the army, changed my life and opened a new and fascinating world for me and gave me a real meaning and purpose.

Unfortunately, to be successful as a woman in tech, women need to be at least twice as good as men. In addition to their job, they also need to fight the prejudice that women are not techy enough. And they need to prove that they are techy enough and very often, they are being tested. When I just started, I was a pre-sale engineer, and whenever I used to come to meetings with a salesman, the technical questions were always referred to the men when I was actually the one responding to them, every single time…

My advice for women looking to enter the tech industry is to know that you need and can be exceptionally good. Unfortunately, right now, women need to fight a prejudice that women are not techy enough or not knowledgeable enough. I recommend women to keep on studying all the time, be curious, investigate trends, learn from startups, learn from corporates, learn from failures, learn from success, just keep on learning, all the time.”

Stepping into the future

Evidently, attitudes towards women in the tech industry have got to change. The 21st century offers a plethora of opportunities, equality and diversity and there is no reason why the tech industry cannot be a community that is welcoming to all who wish to add to, and enhance it, no matter their gender.

In part two, we look ahead to what is on offer to women looking to break into the industry and have a career that is just as rewarding, and just as successful as the women presented above.

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