female leader, women leading the way featured

The importance of female leadership within cybersecurity

female leader, women leading the way

I am Anna Chung, Principal Researcher at Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks’ global threat intelligence team.

For International Women’s Day, I am sharing my thoughts on the importance of women leadership and employment within cybersecurity through personal anecdotes, as well as advice  for other women interested in joining  the technology and cyber industries.

My day-to-day role at Unit 42 requires me to evaluate the global cyberthreat landscape and provide intelligence assessments to enable customers to make strategic decisions. I spend a lot of time as a threat hunter and dark web expert researching new malicious tools, tactics, and procedures discovered by the international security community. My job not only involves tracking the latest threats and attacks, but also understanding cybercriminals’ motivations and methods to then assist      organisations to be better protected and prepared. This will allow business leaders to prioritise their actions, time, and resources. My cybersecurity career spans across fraud in financial technology fields and network security – there is some crossover, but they are fundamentally different, the solutions and strategies are quite diverse.

It might seem very scientific and technical at first, but there is so much more to a career in cybersecurity. Many people associate it with mathematics, coding, and engineering. However, this can lead to the assumption that there are high entry requirements. Now I, for one, was awful at maths during high school and had once received 50 out of 100 in a national entrance exam but I was still able to pursue a career in information security.

Do not be afraid to challenge yourself and stereotypes – pick your own obstacles to overcome.  By doing so, we can move one step forward in making workplaces and society as a whole more inclusive and diverse.  At the same time, it is also so important  to engage with others, ask questions, learn, and celebrate diversity. Stay openminded and take the first step in making yourself part of the changes you want to see in the world.

When I offer advice to women who want to enter this industry or further their cybersecurity career, I  share my experiences, insights, and professional networks with them, so they are well equipped in navigating  through their career progression. They will know how to handle situations better and what  to do next to realise their dreams, goals, and to reach their desired  destination. There is no ‘right way’ to achieving your dreams. I recommend picking the challenges that interest you, rather than those that are imposed on you – remember to always take time out to be kind to yourself.

As a mentor, I see one of my main coaching goals as empowering young women to respect all elements of the cybersecurity industry to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses, because we all have our own attributes as individuals – that is what makes us unique.

To me, a career in cybersecurity develops appreciation for a niche combination of technical abuse and malicious human behaviours. It is both an exciting and demanding role as a very wide range of skills and knowledge are required, which are then harnessed for good purposes.

Anna ChungAbout the author

Anna Chung is a Principal Researcher at Unit 42, the global threat intelligence team at Palo Alto Networks.



Women in engineering, International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day: Insights from 11 top female engineers

Women in engineering, International Women in Engineering Day

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day and this year’s theme of engineering heros, we have collated the thoughts of a number of female engineers across the tech industry.

Here they share their thoughts on the challenges they’ve faced, their advice for other women and what they hope to see in the future.

Elizabeth Irzarry, Engineering Manager, Glovo:

“This year’s International Women in Engineering Day, and its theme of engineering heroes serves to both highlight the achievements of women in the space and encourage the next generation of female talent.

“At Glovo, we’re creating a culture that is diverse and ultimately accessible for everyone. This includes championing our female engineers. By doing this we hope to encourage more women to join our growing tech hubs in Spain and Poland and be a core part of scaling our engineering teams worldwide.

“Without more female role models, young women continue to view a career in STEM as one dominated by men, so this International Women in Engineering Day let’s continue to break down the status quo and empower more women to start their engineering career.”

Xiaojue Fu, Senior Data Engineer in Data & Business Intelligence, Airwallex:

“Being a woman in engineering can be challenging - there is still a view among some people that our technical skills aren't as good. But this is not the case, and young women shouldn’t be discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM. I’ve learnt that by diving into my responsibilities and demonstrating my capabilities as an engineer shows others around me I am more than qualified.

"Personally, I would love to see more women in engineering. You work on truly interesting and innovative projects. My advice to young women is, if you want to pursue a career in engineering, act on it! Don't be afraid of testing the barriers. Be confident in your own skills - challenging stereotypes in a male-dominated sector is something we must continue to encourage and bring more talented women into the field.

"At Airwallex, we’re surrounded by an extremely motivated, talented young team. This year’s theme of ‘engineering heroes’ resonates well with me. I am constantly inspired and energised by the people, and it is these people that are the true heroes and who drive me to always want to do my best.”

Areeba Yusaf, Software Engineer at Cervest:

“The more women and people from different backgrounds that enter a career in STEM, the more our field will benefit. If I could give someone considering going into engineering one piece of advice, it’d be: don’t let anyone hold you back because of your gender - your ideas and input are important and valuable!

“I'm currently helping build the world's first AI-powered Climate Intelligence platform. What I love most about my job is the creativity: I need lots of it to solve problems and build our products. Our team is truly multidisciplinary, spanning climate science, data science and advanced computing. Together, we’re helping make the world better manage the risks of climate change. The diversity of our team makes our work easier, and more fun, too. That’s why we’re celebrating this year’s International Women in Engineering Day.”

V Brennan, Regional Lead Engineering EMEA at Slack:

“The benefits of flexible working have become clear for all industries in the past year. Yet research conducted by our consortium, Future Forum, found that there has been a disproportionate burden on working mothers as they often have to juggle work with caregiving. As a mother first and engineering leader second, flexibility is key to my performance, both personally and professionally. Therefore, the message is clear: business leaders need to do more to give employees autonomy over their time and promote a healthy work-life balance.

“For me, flexible working has eradicated a three-hour commute and allowed me to take my children to school and exercise daily—I get to take care of them and myself. Embracing hybrid working and tools that enable asynchronous work levels the playing field for everyone, shifting the focus from time ‘present’ to quality and outcomes. I’ve always worked remotely at Slack, which meant that sometimes I couldn’t participate in important, in-person initiatives. Now in a remote-first world, I can be involved in major projects without sacrificing family time or work-life balance. This International Women in Engineering Day, leaders must encourage and implement a flexible culture where all employees can thrive. Championing flexibility will create an empowering and inclusive environment built for the new world of hybrid work.”

International Women in Engineering Day banner

Monica Jianu, Senior Software Engineer at Healx:

“International Women in Engineering Day is an opportunity to recognise and champion women in engineering and allied professions. As it stands, less than 13 per cent of all engineers in the UK are women, so this serves as a day to encourage and inspire young women to pursue careers in the industry.

“Although we’re seeing more girls take core-STEM subjects at GCSE and a larger proportion of women enrolling on undergraduate courses in such subjects, there is still a long way to go; more must be done to raise awareness of the disparities in STEM and break them down.

“While my background was in computer science, I was fortunate enough to undertake an industrial placement in a multi-disciplinary scientific environment during my degree. From this experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in this space, working alongside scientists to solve real-world problems, often (but not always!) using technology. So for those women and girls thinking about progressing in the STEM field, go for it and seize the opportunity; and for leaders in these workplaces, ensure you have an inclusive and representative work environment, or risk missing out on the next generation of talent.”

Kadi Laidoja, Lead Engineer at Pipedrive:

“Recent data reveals inclusive and diverse companies are 70% more likely to lead and capture new markets. The more diverse the company, the more great ideas and business opportunities the team can potentially come up with. On International Women in Engineering Day, we have an opportunity to celebrate one aspect of diversity - female representation in the engineering profession - highlighting the benefits of women and girls pursuing a career in this field, and how to do it!

“As Lead Engineer at Pipedrive, I am fortunate enough to work with a team of like-minded individuals on complex, challenging and rewarding projects that make a difference to the world. There’s something for everyone in engineering - no matter where your interest lies. For those thinking of pursuing a career in engineering or an allied profession, I would recommend you take the time to explore your passions and let your strengths guide you on your career path. This way you will always maximize your full potential and have an enjoyable and fulfilling career.”

Lisa Sheridan, Engineer at Envoy:

“According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. Worse still, in the UK, fewer than 13% of all engineers are women. What are the reasons for this disparity, and the gender imbalance within the engineering sector? Lots of theories have been proffered, but one of the main causes is culture. “Engineering and allied professions are frequently perceived as ‘male-dominated fields’ and women attempting to pursue a career or progress in engineering can fall victim to unconscious bias or sexism from peers. While old habits die hard, they can and must be altered.

“At Envoy, we actively challenge the status quo and our approach to diversity and inclusion. Instead of treating diverse talent as a separate talent pool, myself and the team look at it for what it truly is - attracting and retaining the best talent possible. Actively looking inward at why we hire, promote and retain employees, ensures we avoid unconscious or conscious bias. Enabling us to focus on what matters - working in a profession that challenges and interests us, and focusing on our own abilities and what we can achieve in our career. The future of work is continually changing, but those organisations that don’t focus on creating an inclusive and diverse workforce risk losing talent and being left behind.”

Bella Kazwell, Engineering Manager at Asana:

“Engineering is a problem-solving career with limitless opportunities to learn and grow - we have the opportunity to make a real difference by designing, maintaining, and improving aspects of our day-to-day lives. At Asana we’re doing that for the world of work: We’re building a tool to help companies of all sizes work across industries collaborate as effortlessly as possible. From global enterprises to nonprofit organizations, it’s empowering to know that the work we’re doing on the engineering team helps teams stay connected, aligned and on track.

“While most people use software on a regular basis, its makers remain largely white and male, making it close to impossible to ensure that products are built with a truly global audience in mind. In fact, both in the US and the UK, 13% or less of all engineers are women – a worrying statistic and one that needs addressing quickly. On International Women in Engineering Day, I want to take the opportunity to celebrate this field and its ability to solve real-world problems, and hopefully inspire girls and women to follow suit and take up a career in engineering or an allied profession.

“In addition, imposter syndrome is on the rise, with 62 per cent of global knowledge workers having experienced it last year, a statistic that rises to  73% among women in the UK. For business leaders, to attract and retain brilliant female engineers, it’s vital to cultivate an inclusive environment to support our women in engineering, from providing coaching benefits and mentorship at every career stage.”

Charlene Marini, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Pelion:

“I grew up in a supportive family environment where engineering and computers were central to discussions and activities. Pursuing a career in engineering was a natural path. Through childhood, I was not always an eager participant in the latest project. I sometimes went off track (turning a computer board soldering project into a jewelry-making project in one instance). But over time, I found the problem solving and challenging nature of engineering to be highly motivating. Tackling a problem and producing a tangible working product as a result, be it code or a machine or other, was, and is, extremely rewarding.

“Being a female engineer is not without its challenges. I have appreciated the supportive and vibrant environment of colleagues and mentors. Technologists care about progress and impact; we all have that in common and it creates a like-minded community ready to tackle anything.

“The next generation of female engineers has an amazing opportunity to enable purpose driven technological innovation with impactful outcomes for individual and societal wellbeing. Combining engineering skills with core scientific disciplines is shifting focus from areas like communications and semiconductors to solutions that can combat climate change, transformational medical diagnosis and therapy, and enable increased natural resource efficiency.”

Bee Hayes-Thakore, Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Kigen:

“I was drawn to engineering with a particular fascination with all things aeronautical, spending my idle hours around the airfields that were close to my grandmother’s home in India. My curiosity led to many warranties becoming void, which helped me appreciate that engineering was a great way to find solutions to problems through our understanding of physics and the natural world. This was in the days of hand-writing BASIC and LOGO command programs and having to wait in line to test and verify them on scarce early school computers. I’m glad that these experiences have enabled me to apply my engineering skills across aerospace, robotics and computing.

“Today technology is woven into the fabric of our lives and engineers’ work has life-changing ramifications on our collective future. The advent of machine learning, the ability to harness data, technology that shapes efficient and greener smart cities are all areas for the next generation of female engineers: I say ‘Dare mighty things!’. Let’s also not forget the many examples that have been highlighted recently showing that more female engineers result in better user-focused and bias-corrected products across all sectors.”

Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek, SolarWinds:

“After more than 10 years in IT, I still love being part of it. IT is a space of innovation, learning, surprises, creation, and challenges. Just as everyone likes to describe their local weather: if you don’t like it, wait a minute. It’s interesting, and opportunities are abundant if you look. Like most things in life, it’s better with diversity of ideas, thoughts, and opinions. There’s no right path to tech or through tech. You can go the college/university route, the certification route, or just gain experience on the job like I did. If you’re considering tech, know that there are more opportunities than ever before – especially with the ongoing digital transformation and considerations for remote workers because of the pandemic. If you get bored, burnt out, or tired of doing something in tech, learn something new and look for an opportunity to use your new skills. If you enjoy learning, as I do, and the challenge that comes with an industry that is always changing, join us as we need more female representation.”

Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Engineering studentsWhat does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

For some time now, there has been a bit of a disconnect between how universities and engineering companies — and even the world at large — view the ideal engineering graduate.

According to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, nearly 3 out of 4 businesses are worried about the practical, work-related skills of graduated students — and if they are able enough to enter into the work. The concern here being, that engineering graduates have plenty of academic knowledge, but in a way that doesn’t really translate well outside of educational institutions.

For engineers, this is yet another concern to be added to the pile. There is already a massive recruitment shortage in engineering. The last thing the sector needs is a skills shortage in the few who do apply.

Read the full piece here

The importance of women in STEM, post-pandemic

Although working from home has been a positive experience in the sense of boosting productivity and enhancing work life balance, several studies have shown that female employees have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

For example, many female parents have been left feeling completely exhausted, having to juggle work with caring responsibilities such as homeschooling. According to a study from the Office for National Statistics, more women reported that home schooling was having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with 53 percent struggling compared to 45 per cent of men.

Read the full article


woman with a megaphone shouting to get her voice heard, female leader

Getting your voice heard in the tech industry | Stories of women leaders

woman with a megaphone shouting to get her voice heard, female leader

Becoming a future female tech leader is something that more women and girls should consider as a serious career choice.

However, according to a recent survey by Kaspersky, 38 per cent of women working in the IT and tech sector were wary to enter the industry due to a lack of female representation, which is still very much prevalent in the present day.

The women in part two of this series discuss why they were compelled to join an industry, and discuss what future women of the tech industry can do to become a leader and be part of an ever evolving, and ever changing community.

Prutha ParikhPrutha Parikh, Sr. Manager, Security Research, SpiderLabs at Trustwave

“From personal experience, I had minimal resources at my disposal when I first got a job in cybersecurity 15 years back. The number and type of resources available to anyone wanting to get started in cybersecurity, women in particular, has evolved in recent years. A lot of organisations have started highlighting women achievers in order to motivate and inspire more girls. The number of opportunities for the women workforce in security has also recently grown. There are definitely more options today than there were, say ten years back, and there is more awareness to attract and build a more diverse workforce. In terms of where it is heading, I am hopeful that the industry strives to achieve gender parity not just for entry-level roles but also for executive and leadership positions.

My best advice I would give young women looking to enter cybersecurity is to have passion towards security, or willingness to explore security and technology. However, networking events have helped me quite a bit over the past few years. For the past six years, I have been attending Girl Geek X talks when time permits. Girl Geek X is mainly technology-oriented, but there are great talks from companies that focus on product security and application security. Once every few months, there will be a security-focused talk which I have personally found useful. Girl Geek X events are free to attend for everyone, at least during COVID times, and even before that, the cost was nominal.

Finding local networking chapters in your area like Girl Geek, that focus on helping women would be a good place to start. Women in Cybersecurity is another great resource, particularly for students and even for women looking to start or advance their careers in cybersecurity. And finally, I would recommend following influential women leaders on social media platforms to get insights, stories of struggles and advice that they have shared to get to where they are.”

Joani Green

Joani Green, Senior Incident Response Consultant, F-Secure

“I started my career out in Johannesburg in the travel & tourism industry but, after some introspection, I realised I needed to make a career change to a field that made me feel more alive. I applied to the vacant “operations administrator position” at an information security company, then known as MWR InfoSecurity (later acquired by F-Secure where I currently work).

In the interview I was honest that my long-term goal was to ‘do something technical’. I enrolled in a part time Bachelor of Science degree in Informatics. After two years, I had learnt a lot as part of my degree studies and had gained some great mentors who guided me along the way. I internally applied to the company’s Security Consultant internship while working in the operations role and in that placement, I worked very hard, spending every possible moment trying to figure things out, suffering from insane imposter syndrome and dizzying anxiety. But I pushed through and it paid off; after the internship they offered me a role as an associate consultant in the security consultancy. I’ve since worked my way into leading F-Secure’s UK Incident Response team in London where I specialise in corporate incident response and digital forensics.

I am very blessed in that I work for an organisation that has never made me feel any differently for being a woman. I’ve been given the same opportunities and I’ve been held to the same high standards, and I have always appreciated that. I do however, appreciate that this isn’t necessarily true across the broader industry and urge any women to remember that what is important, is your hunger for knowledge and your drive to succeed in figuring things out and solving new problems in novel ways. Don’t ever give in to the inner voices of doubt.”

Kay Baines Kay Baines, Operations Security Manager at A&O IT Group

“I have always been interested in technology and found Red Teams and Ethical Hacking to be interesting/challenging and very logical. It has always been an industry that I wanted to be a part of, but I was unaware that there are other roles apart from penetration testing and code development. As I had no qualifications in the field and didn’t know anyone, I thought that it was something I would never be involved in. I was previously working in a support role for the sales/commercial department when a position opened up and I was able to fully transition into Operations Support Manager. I was surprised by how easy the move was!

I know many women have faced prejudices throughout their career however I, very positively, cannot say that I have faced any. In fact, I’ve had quite the opposite experience as all the people I have worked with have gone out of their way to help me understand the industry, all of the terminologies etc., and have also given me advice on how I can better my career.

For women looking to start a career in tech or cyber, the best advice I can give is, be confident and don’t let the lack of women put you off.  It’s likely there are more women in Cyber Security than you might realise. And in terms of the industry in general, there are certainly more women coming into Cyber Security and they are being welcomed. It is still a male dominant industry but if you have the skills to succeed then now is the time to put those skills to the test.”

Celebrating future women leaders

Looking ahead, we can only hope that the tech industry continues to make great leaps in creating careers where people do not have to ‘prove’ themselves against stereotypes, and can succeed due to the value, experience and skills they bring to a company. With more tech organisations hiring women and championing female tech leaders, we should expect future female leadership stories to show how they felt compelled to join the industry because they felt like they could and should be there- and we should envisage future diversity reports to show more equal figures and, hopefully, a rise in female leadership roles.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.

female data scientist, woman leading team

The world needs more data scientists

female data scientist, woman leading team

Dr Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara

Data science is often referred to as a ‘dark art’.

As a data scientist myself, I don’t think the field is that mystifying. But for those outside of the profession, there is some lack of awareness of what a data scientist actually does, and what pursuing a career in the field entails.

This can be a real problem – because today, data makes the world go around.

Most companies, regardless of industry, are seeking new ways to leverage the vast amounts of data at their fingertips as a tool to drive efficiencies and transform their business model. But like any tool, data is only useful if it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. It’s easy to forget that digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology.

The talent deficit 

The UK has been struggling with a skills shortage for some time now. As digital transformation influences every sector, businesses are turning to experts who can help them harness their data. Companies are on the hunt for data engineers, machine learning engineers and data scientists. One study found that in the UK, the demand for people with specialist data skills has more than tripled over the past five years, while another projected the data scientist role will account for 28 per cent of all digital jobs by next year.

It’s a case of supply and demand – but unfortunately, many companies are encountering a sparse talent pool to recruit from. Some estimates even suggest that Europe needs around 346,000 more people trained in data science by 2020. That’s a big gap to fill – and it’s only going to get wider unless the industry takes action.

The data landscape is getting increasingly complex – how much data we’re generating, the types of data and how we’re storing it is changing. To put this in perspective: I’m working on a project right now that uses a petabyte of data. I’m able to work with this huge amount of data because today we have the infrastructure to store it, process it and apply machine learning models. Rewind to the 80s and it would have cost around $600 billion just to store that much data.

Now that we have the tools to work with such large data sets, we’re able to leverage data in exciting new ways. However, this also means we need more people capable of doing so. Considering that IDC forecasts a massive 163 zettabytes of data will be generated by businesses every year by 2025, it’s no wonder UK businesses are worried about a deficit in data specialists.

So, how do we mitigate an impending skills shortage? Well, a good place to start is by changing perceptions of what a data scientist actually is and what they do.

Demystifying the ‘dark arts’

I’ve been a data scientist in Hitachi Vantara’s Solution Engineering team for over two years now. When people ask me what I do, the answer may not be what they expect. My role is to understand the business challenges of our customers, consider potential analytical approaches to solving these challenges and prototype solutions by using advanced analytics, machine learning and deep learning techniques.

In short, I leverage data and mathematical techniques to solve business problems. It’s an exciting field to work in – and can have a significant real-world impact.

As an example, consider the UK rail system. It’s one of the busiest in the world, ferrying thousands of people from point A to B every single day. When you’re a passenger, you probably don’t think about the intricate and nuanced system that keeps your train running. That is, until something goes wrong. Like when a train door gets jammed and is prevented from leaving the station on time. One seemingly minor fault can have a huge knock-on effect further down the line, causing delays and disruption for thousands of passengers.

That’s one real-world problem that I’m trying to help to solve right now. Leveraging data collected from thousands of sensors on the trains themselves and working directly with rail engineers, as a data scientist on the project I bridge the gap between engineering and mathematics, uncovering insights that can drive efficiencies and reduce delays.

Diversity matters

Hopefully now you’ll think of a data scientist as more than just someone who sits behind a computer screen doing equations all day! But the tech sector needs to work hard to build a more inclusive environment where young people – regardless of their background, gender or race – consider data science as an attractive career option.

At Hitachi Vantara, we run a data science internship programme in our London office for talented and intellectually curious young people from diverse backgrounds. Our interns roll up their sleeves and get stuck into analytical projects. They are an important part of the team and their opinions matter. We challenge them to think creatively, asking them to leverage publicly available data to uncover insights into real-world problems – like using data from the Department of Transport to think up new ways to reduce carbon emissions from private and commercial vehicles in the UK. It’s not just a fun thought-experiment – it’s an accurate glimpse into the life of a data scientist.

Data science is a diverse, interesting and constantly evolving field – so it needs people who can think differently, bring new ideas and offer fresh perspectives. If we’re going to tackle the skills shortage, the industry must hold the door open for people from all walks of life.

Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist, Hitachi VantaraAbout the author

Anya Rumyantseva is a Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara. Anya received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Southampton and BS/MS degree in Physics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Anya is also a fellow of the Nippon Foundation (Japan). Her PhD thesis was focused on using IoT data obtained from marine robotic systems for improving our understanding of phytoplankton blooms and their impact on the global climate. At Hitachi Vantara, Anya is working on projects that use advanced analysis and machine learning techniques to improve business operations in the railway, manufacturing and other industries traditional for Hitachi group. 

#ChooseToChallenge100 campaign reaches over 70,000 individuals for Women’s History Month

IWD #ChooseToChallenge100, Speakers (2)

This year for International Women’s Day, we launched our #ChooseToChallenge100 campaign, asking 100 women and the public to share their stories as to how and why they choose to challenge for gender equality. 

Since the start of March, we’ve shared the stories of over 150 amazing women, from CEOs, to Founders, to Campaigners and Politicians! Through our social media channels and via shares from our supporters, we have been able to share these messages of challenge with over 70,000 individuals. Through the campaign, we have elevated the voices of so many incredible women who choose to challenge every day to see us treated fairly in regards to racial discrimination, bias, stereotypes, domestic violence, ageism, sexism, women’s health and the portrayal of women in the media.

Our campaign includes stories of challenge from June Sarpong OBE, TV Presenter, Diversity Expert & Award-Winning Author; Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President, techUK; Professor Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science & Technology Evangelist; Amali de Alwis MBE, UK Managing Director, Microsoft for Startups; June Angelides MBE, Early Stage Investor, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Advocate for the Rights of Working Mothers; Debbie Forster MBE, CEO, Tech Talent Charter; Mivy James, Digital Transformation Director, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence; and Sheree Atcheson, Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leader.

ChooseToChallenge100 Collage

The entire team at WeAreTheCity would like to thank everyone of the amazing women who took part in the campaign, and you, for watching and sharing these messages across your social media channels and within your organisations. You helped to amplify and raise awareness of so many issues women face on a daily basis, we are truly grateful for your comments, shares and support.

For us, the journey continues as every day is International Women’s Day – 24/7, 365 days a year. We will not stop challenging and using our platform and voice to support those who campaign for equality every day. To all of you, please keep up your own challenges, whatever they may be. It is only by our collective efforts and the support of our male allies that we will one day live in a world that we all wish to see.

Watch some of our amazing women below:

June Sarpong OBE | TV Presenter, Diversity Expert & Award-Winning Author
Andrea McLean | Broadcaster, Author & Co-Founder, This Girl Is On Fire
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE | President, techUK
Professor Sue Black OBE | Professor of Computer Science & Technology Evangelist
Debbie Forster MBE | CEO, Tech Talent Charter
June Angelides MBE | Early Stage Investor, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Advocate for the Rights of Working Mothers
Sheree Atcheson | Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leader
Amali de Alwis MBE | UK Managing Director, Microsoft for Startups

Galentine's Day, group of happy, diverse womenGalentine's Day, group of happy, diverse women

CDW UK Celebrates International Women’s Day and #ChoosetoChallenge

Article by Grace Mee - Vice President of Operations and Business Transformation

Galentine's Day, group of happy, diverse womenGalentine's Day, group of happy, diverse womenAs with any day dedicated to diversity, equality and inclusion, International Women’s Day is incredibly valuable. Of course, it’s a celebration of women and everything they do, but the day also creates space for discussion, thought generation and awareness.

The energy created by a moment like International Women’s Day is infectious and inspiring and should be felt across the whole year. I want all our coworkers to know the value of their voice, their perspectives, and their experiences to our success.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #ChooseToChallenge, resonates with me when I look back at my career so far. I learned early on that not speaking up only slowed me down and that not offering an opinion, only to silently disagree with the final decision being made – was counter-productive.

I made a conscious decision to challenge myself in making sure my voice was heard and I realised that – as often the only woman in a room of men – I almost always had a different perspective or angle that helped as we made business decisions.

Over time, I’ve settled on four key rules to guide my career and – as everyone who works with me knows – I’ll share them with anyone who will listen:

  • Failure is necessary
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • If you’ve got something to say, say it
  • Being different is an advantage

For me, these are great rules to live by for a career in tech, an industry that I’ve always found incredibly fulfilling to work in. With its rapid pace of change, there’s always a way to regenerate, innovate and move forward – and that keeps it exciting. At CDW UK, we know it’s our desire to continuously improve that sets us apart.

I think this spirit comes through below, where I’m proud to share a sample of our coworkers’ thoughts on what International Women’s Day and #ChooseToChallenge means to them. These responses make me feel truly inspired by our Community and excited by the possibilities of what we can achieve together.

Choose to Challenge

“#ChooseToChallenge means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m all too aware that when things feel slightly uneasy you can misplace those feelings with believing you’re taking the wrong path or approach. However, I can now look back and recognise those moments for what they were. I now choose to challenge myself in those moments and in so doing so, I’ve been able to elevate my thoughts to a higher level, go through development changes and grow in my beliefs.”

Jessica Whellams – Head of CDW Community

“Challenge and collaboration promote innovation and inclusivity. #ChooseToChallenge means not settling for ‘it’s always been that way.’ It’s standing up and showing up. It’s about developing courage. Seeing women succeed in business encourages and empowers girls and women to pursue their careers.”

Fay Dixon – L&D Business Partner

“I believe we excel when we leave our comfort zones and for that reason #ChooseToChallenge for me is about pushing yourself, adapting, learning and being ready for change.”

Iman Mohamed - Sales Administrator, Sales Operations

“There is a famous saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. I believe that change must come from within, and people in the tech sector need to speak up and take steps to make our industry more diverse and inclusive. Where inequality exists, it must be challenged.”

Susan Cotton – Head of Brand Marketing

“For me #ChooseToChallenge means ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.’”

Guy Smith – Head of Technology Solutions

Celebrate role models

“Girls in education need to be inspired to take STEM subjects. One way to do this is by showing them strong female role models in the industry so they can feel confident that a career in technology can be for them. CDW promotes mentorship programmes which I am lucky to have benefitted from by having an inspiring female leader who is supporting me to progress and develop in my role.”

Hayley Doyle – Customer Advocacy & Communications Manager

“More women in business and doing well creates a virtuous circle to promote even more diversity, providing role models and inspiration. From a purely personal perspective I’d love to see more role models for my daughters in both tech and finance. Everyone has a role to play in advocating diversity, this is an active choice we all make every day.”

Malcolm Pape – VP & UK CFO

Build supportive communities

Represent everyone

“In an industry that has been historically male-dominated, it is crucial that representation is reflective of the general population. This includes gender diversity, as well as cultural, racial, age, religious, ability, and orientation diversity – as an industry, we can achieve so much more if we are comprised of individuals from a variety of backgrounds.”

Flannery Devine Gibbons – Category Lead, Cloud

“Due to being considered a Generation Z baby, growing up I was always taught ‘You can be anything you want to be’. This was told to all regardless of gender, if you set your mind to something you can do it. I believe this is the best advice I was given as it always taught me to not look at anyone as any different to me, whether that be gender or ethnicity, if you put your mind to something you can achieve it and that applies to ALL.”

Lucy Ager – Internal Project Administrator

Grace MeeAbout the author

Grace is Vice President, Operations and Business Transformation UK & International and uses her 20 years' experience to lead CDW's supply and sales operations, professional and managed services, compliance, coworker services and community departments. Grace maintains a strong focus on client experience and business productivity, specialising in executive leadership strategy, business transformation, acquisition integration and people strategies.

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.  

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

female data scientist, woman leading team

International Women's Day 2021: The UK tech brand encouraging women to take centre stage in the Middle East

female data scientist, woman leading team

As a UK tech company operating its business in the MENA region, WOLF (The World’s Online Festival) believes passionately in the advancement and celebration of women.

Half of the business’ senior staff in the Middle East are female and overall, it  employs more women than men in its Middle East operations – something the team are very proud of given that less than 10% of the Middle East’s tech workforce is female.

This International Women’s Day WOLF wants to put the spotlight on MENA women and celebrate the contribution that women and girls in the region are making in the fields of technology, STEM, innovation, and entrepreneurship - despite facing conventional beliefs, societal pressures and inequality challenges.

In the first virtual event of its kind, WOLF is launching a festival for its users based in MENA that is dedicated to showcasing women’s talents.

WOLF is an audio entertainment social network, which allows users to chat, entertain, and perform on a stage. The app takes the magic of real-world festivals and brings it to the online world - uniting people with a sense of fun, entertainment and belonging.

The brand has seen particular success in the Middle East (where it launched originally as Palringo in 2006) and has thrived with users, notably for women, who have built communities and made long-term friendships on the app, based on shared interests.

The business prides itself on being a platform where women in this area of the world can find their voice, and express themselves freely, creatively and artistically. To mark International Women’s Day, WOLF is celebrating its passion for equality and actively encouraging women in the region to take centre stage – literally.

The festival, which launches on 8 March, invites female talent from categories that range from poetry right through to comedy and motivational speaking.

Two of WOLF’s senior female leaders, Sundos Othman and Doua Aqel have been instrumental in bringing the idea to fruition. Both women have grown up in the Middle East and throughout their professional lives, have faced difficult gender challenges when trying to secure their place at the (boardroom) table.

Doua says: “Carving out a career in tech while growing up in Jordan, hasn’t always been easy. But, at WOLF, I am judged for my talents, skills and expertise – not my gender. I am part of a team which is actively encouraging and opening up opportunities to women who live in an environment where expressing personality and talent isn’t always encouraged and embraced.

“It helps that the WOLF platform is audio not video, and as such it means the performers are in a comfortable environment, without feeling self-conscious or exposed in any way. This is solely about talent and what women want to express with other people. Being able to socialise and entertain in this way is something that resonates with others on the platform that live in this part of the world.”

The registration to audition opened last month and WOLF has received over 350 entries from talent all over the region. The semi-finalists will be announced on 13 March when a voting system will open. On 17 March, the finalists will be announced with the festival culminating on 20 March with the final.

Sundos concludes: “WOLF is a platform where women can try new things out and explore the self-discovery of their talents and personal confidence. The idea behind the festival is to provide  an opportunity for women to unleash their talents.

“This initiative demonstrates the strides that are being made in celebrating women in this part of the world and it’s fantastic to be part of it.”

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

'Choose To Challenge'

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

Article by Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, Converge

Whilst our minds are busy with concepts like furlough and home schooling, it’s still important that we take a moment to celebrate women around the world, their achievements, raise awareness about gender equality, and challenge the status quo. 

At Converge, challenging is all we do. In fact, many still call us ‘Converge Challenge’, our original name when we launched back in 2011. We’ve tried to migrate to our new name, Converge, but with limited success.

Back then, we set to challenge Scottish Universities and their rate of research and idea commercialisation. In the last 10 years, the sector has massively improved its commercial outputs and can now count on a much more entrepreneurial mind-set amongst its staff and students. Scotland now rates fairly high in the University Spin-out ranking, as reported in the latest Beurhust’s Spotlight on Spin-outs.

It is not yet time to rest on our laurels though. Albeit many Universities have now become engines of innovation and company creation, making huge contributions to the economy, the process is far from perfect.

Too few female founders still come to the fore, in fact according to that very same report, in the UK only 20% of University spin-outs count at least one female founder and only 13% of total equity raised by spin-outs is secured by female founded spin-outs.

Too many talented women are put off or knocked down by the culture that surrounds investment, business growth and the idea that if you want to be an entrepreneur then you cannot be anything else and you should dedicate every waking moment to it. We know the reality is rather different, however. You can choose to be an entrepreneur, and also a mother, a father, a caring son or daughter and even have another job to sustain your family whilst your business takes off. There isn’t just one way to be entrepreneurial and we need to challenge this stereotype.

Over the last 10 years, we have substantially increased the number of female participants into our company creation programme, reaching 50:50 balance in 2019.

Last year, all top prizes were awarded to female-led or co-led businesses. This was achieved in tandem with announcing a special prize for the most promising female entrepreneur, the Rose Award (sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland and supported by their CEO, Alison Rose). And we are not the only ones, far from it.

Companies around the world have made public statements about their gender policies, disclosed gender pay gaps and adapted their investment processes to guarantee a fare share of the funding is distributed to female-founded businesses.

The current pandemic unfortunately might take us back more than 10 years.

Women have been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 crisis, having had to go back to be the main children’s or elderlies’ carers. Economic sectors led by women have been decimated by the economic crisis. All the progress we were making risks being wiped off in just 12 months.

We cannot allow this to happen.

So, this year, I choose to challenge our behaviour, our perception, our ability to accept that women’s equality is a fair price to pay in this crisis.

I choose to challenge myself and my own conscious and unconscious bias, and to challenge others’ judgment criteria.

I choose to be the one who always brings up the question of Diversity & Inclusion, even at the risk of sounding like a broken record.

Converge is lucky to be part of the journey of so many inspirational female founders from different walks of life: from bench scientists to creative talents, our environment is a constant source of inspiration and marvel.

As we continue our efforts in the commercialisation arena and work together to contribute to the economic recovery, we should not forget our guiding principles of equality, fairness and inclusion.

About the author

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, ConvergeClaudia Cavalluzzo is Director of Converge, Scotland’s largest academic company creation and pioneering entrepreneurship development and enterprise programme for staff, students and recent graduates from Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.  

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Building a career in tech | Stories of women leaders

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.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.

women in tech, soft skills featured

How should we champion women in tech?

Article by Daisy Pledge, Account Director at Grammatik Agency

women in tech, soft skillsOn International Women’s Day, I find myself revisiting the ongoing neverending global debate around how to increase the number of women in tech.

Within Tech PR, the numbers of women are substantially higher than other areas of tech. Perhaps we’re leading the way in how we approach hiring but in general it is not the marketing and PR teams that struggle to hire women - it’s the more technical roles that are lacking women. But how can companies make a change?

The argument against quotas

I was staunchly against quotas for a long time believing we deserved our place and should be rewarded on merit of our work ethic, successes and prowess. I was in the camp that thought along the same lines as this Guardian article - if we used quotas the same women would be hired. The jobs would either go to women already known to the tech industry - there’s no limit on how many board roles a single person can fill - or to token women hired above their station and experience in a move to deliberately overwhelm and burn them out so it can be proven - women don’t belong here. And I strongly believed quotas that forced companies to hire women was not equality.

The government tried to introduce “suggestions” over quotas. First there was the Davies Review, introduced in 2011, which, by the end of the five year review, succeeded in increasing the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards from 12.5% to 26.1% and on FTSE 250 boards from 7.8% to 19.6%. There was also a dramatic reduction in all-male boards from 152 in 2011 to no all-male boards in the FTSE 100 and only 15 in the FTSE 250. It’s great they achieved their goals through voluntary action, but I don’t remember the nation being made up of 25% women and 75% men.

We move on to the next voluntary action the government led. The Hampton-Alexander review, which launched in 2016, recently achieved its goal to increase female representation to 33% of board positions at FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 firms by the end of 2020. The number of female directors at FTSE-100 firms has increased by 50%, with women holding more than a third of boardroom roles in the FTSE 250.

The argument for quotas

Whilst seeing progress happen without quotas is positive, as a woman working in Tech PR I don’t think they go far enough in terms of percentage goals or businesses being asked to change. I thought, perhaps naively, that if we helped promote enough women in tech roles, making sure they were speaking at events, talking about the lack of representation on a regular basis to their peers, that change might actually happen. Like PwC’s report on women in tech, I thought increasing the visibility of role models would increase the number of women looking to enter those careers. But does any of this work without quotas?

In a way yes - as mentioned above female representation in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 boards has increased but what about further down the line? And what about the wider areas of diversity than women? For example, in February 2021 it was revealed there are no Black chairmen, Chief Executive Officers or Chief Financial Officers in the FTSE 100.

CJ Bedford, an associate director at Grant Thorton said, “Quotas drive a particular set of behaviours and, inherently, there has to be some kind of positive discrimination in order to enable the change required.” But haven’t women been positively discriminated against since forever? And that’s not really what quotas mean - it’s clear that when we leave businesses, and the tech world, to do what they want only suggesting they increase diversity, they do very little to nothing.

How many industry events have you gone to where the panels have been 100% (probably white) men? How many times have you sat through sessions where senior industry professionals say things like “change needs to happen” or “we need to look at inspiring young girls at school” with almost no actual action taken?

Perhaps the change that needs to happen is the mindset around quotas followed by their introduction across every aspect of diversity - quotas that reflect the diverse makeup of a particular country and its regions, including quotas on women and men.

As a Tech PR on International Women’s Day, let’s ask ourselves how we can help make a change. Let’s teach men to be allies, let’s work on how we’re attracting and retaining women, let’s acknowledge our own bias and address it. There are many examples in those articles of ways to increase women in tech and I urge you all to read, learn and act.

Daisy PledgeAbout the author

Daisy is a PR professional, having worked across the TV, advertising, branding and technology sectors for over six years. Prior to joining Grammatik, Daisy launched an AR event tech app whilst consulting on PR and marketing for various agencies, companies and individuals.

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.  

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube