Tech Returners Launches in London

New Tech Returner Programme to launch in London

Tech Returners Launches in London

Tech Returners, an organisation focused on empowering careers back into technology, is bringing its successful returner programme to London starting in August. 

Tech Returners an organisation focused on empowering careers back into technology is bringing its successful returner programme to London starting in August 2020.

The programme called Your Return to Tech provides skilled tech professionals returning to industry accessible opportunities to refresh their skills and reignite their career but it doesn’t stop at learning and development, the organisation works closely with businesses who recognise the value of industry returners and who are passionate about creating diversity and inclusivity in their teams to provide an innovative tech talent solution.

The eight-week programme recognises the need from businesses growing their teams to bring tech talent to the market quickly and with the skills in place to hit the ground running in mid-senior level technical roles. The entirely remote learning experience boasts a curriculum which includes refreshing existing tech skills, front end frameworks ‘React’ (Hooks, Context, API) alongside Cloud technologies (AWS tooling), delivered alongside platform engineering skills such as infrastructure as code CI/CD and monitoring.

Uniquely the programme will connect with businesses looking to hire from the programme who will provide live briefs for our returners to work on throughout the 8 week period. Interested businesses can sponsor places on the course at a cost of just £4,500 per returner making it an affordable and competitive option versus traditional recruitment agency fees.

It’s a model which has proved successful in the North West of England, since 2017 the organisation has empowered more than 50 returners into mid-senior level technical careers with businesses like AutoTrader, Booking.com, Lloyds Banking Group, ANS and Infinity Works and has worked exclusively with the BBC in Manchester and London respectively, 88% of those returners were women.

The programme is open to anyone returning to a technical career or who have a technical qualification and who have taken a career break from tech for six years or less. Individuals interested in applying for the programme can learn more at https://www.techreturners.com/programmes/your-return-to-tech

Speaking about the programme CEO Beckie Taylor said, “We’ve seen some amazing returners come through our ranks as a result of our work in the North but we know there are so many more out there and with our remote learning model, location need no longer be a barrier to talent."

"Working with London based businesses was the next natural move for us, we know the returner market is there and we’re here to deliver the talent to forward-thinking businesses who are focused on diversity and  taking a fresh approach to tech talent”

Businesses interested in learning more about sponsoring the programme can do so here https://www.techreturners.com/sponsorship/your-return-to-tech and are also invited to sign up to join a free information event on Thursday 9th  July https://share.hsforms.com/1nDOXcLuyRo-ufJoPJbGOkw2g8p6


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Tech Future Female Leaders Programme featured

Applications are now open for Tech Returners' Tech Future Female Leaders

Tech Future Female Leaders Programme

Just five per cent of senior roles in tech are held by women, that’s probably not a surprising statistic to most people but it’s one that Tech Returners CEO Beckie Taylor is passionate about changing and so she set out to develop a programme which would work with women in technology to develop the skills they needed to progress in their careers and inspire others to do the same. 

The lack of diversity and missing skills in the tech industry is a reality and Beckie found she was consistently asked:

“How do I hire more women into tech leadership roles?”

There is no magic answer, but rather it’s about fresh thinking, about creating environments where women in tech teams can develop themselves for success and inspire others to do the same and so in 2018, the Tech Future Female Leaders programme was born.

A four part programme focused on understanding and building an individuals’ own unique journey into leadership, identifying natural strengths and how to communicate effectively.  Building confidence and empowering individuals to develop a personal brand internally and externally alongside building technical leadership for themselves and their teams, all of which are underpinned by creating and developing a support network to aid ongoing development.

Since then the programme has worked with more than 40 female technology leaders from globally recognised organisations committed to developing their talent and is focused delivering real results with graduates from the programme going on to win industry awards and speak at events and conferences and even taking to the stage at TEDx. In 2019 the programme has developed to provide an ‘in house’ offering working with businesses like The Co-Op to deliver the programme across entire teams.

How to get involved

Tech Future Female Leaders works with business to invest in their talent and to create a business where people develop and grow, assisting your retention efforts and helping your business attract new talent. The programme is open to individuals either as part of their training provision from their employer or self-funded and to businesses looking to develop teams or groups of individuals in the house.

The next cohort kicks off January 2020, to learn more and apply please click here.


women-in-STEM-featured

Five hacks for women to get ahead in STEM

women in STEM
Image provided by Shutterstock

It’s a no-brainer: it has been reported that closing the gender gap in STEM fields would mean an increase in EU GDP per capita by 2.2 to 3.0 per cent in 2050.

The World Economic Forum 2019 confirms that despite women making up most of the young university graduates each year, they are drastically underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and Computer Science. When ethnicity is included, the numbers are even less encouraging. The share of science and engineering degrees is even smaller for Black and Hispanic women, and their pay gap larger. On average, boards in the information technology industry are made of only 12 per cent women. This is a clear missed opportunity!

Some of the reasons why women leave these fields are isolation, lack of effective critical feedback and mentoring, lack of support or inappropriate interactions, a clear pay gap, lack of flexible job structures to integrate life and work, lack of role models they can relate to and at times the loss of self-confidence.

Here are some hacks you can implement to get ahead in STEM, which I have gained from my own experience in Technology but also from empowering fellow women for the past 17 years in over 80 countries as an executive coach:

Stick with your passion

If you found your passion in STEM, stick with it. You belong there and your contribution to science, technology, engineering or mathematics is unique and can only come from you. Don’t shy away from sharing it and taking risks, you are where you are meant to be.

Make difference an advantage

Sometimes you may be the only woman in the room but being different can be an asset. You may be the only one that can see the specific problem from a certain angle or perspective. Your unique viewpoint may be exactly what is needed to solve the problem - Make standing out your advantage.

Test the rules

Sometimes the “rules” are not really rules, they are just a set of traditional processes. If they don’t serve you, try testing their flexibility - re-shape them and re-engineer them. You will be surprised how often you can redefine them and how many of them were not really rules, just habits or old, outdated paradigms.

Failure is not the end - only further information

See failure as GPS coordinates. When they don’t get you to where you want to go, you should re-calibrate your coordinates and try again, rather than getting frustrated that you didn’t get there the first time. Failure is just further information that gets you closer to your target.

Be your number one fan

If you don’t believe in your own value, why should anyone do so? Believe in your own ideas - you are worth hiring, listening to and you are a smart contributor. When you are able to express your idea with conviction and enthusiasm, the chances that the rest of your team/leaders will share your enthusiasm is far higher.

Don’t miss critical feedback

Select 2-3 people who are key in your field, who you trust and support your success. Ask them “what do I need to do more of / less of to be a better _____ (fill in then blank with your career path). Try to pose these questions regularly both to yourself and others. You may not like to hear what they have to say, but you should still listen. You can decide how/if you will integrate their advice, but you will always be in a better position for knowing it. These simple, but crucial, questions will always help you move forward for the rest of what I wish is a brilliant career in STEM.

The world needs the talent and ideas of women in STEM if we want to fully embrace the digital revolution!

Gabriela MuellerAbout the author

Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an energetic, empowering Coach and Professional Speaker. Prior to becoming an Executive Coach, she was an IT consultant for 12 years in the corporate world, working for some of the largest blue-chips companies. Her work reaches over 80 countries, helps thousands of women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs. She is the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM (£14.99, Panoma Press) which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.


group-of-diverse-women-looking-at-camera-featured

Women - tech needs you!

group of diverse women looking at camera

Article provided by Svenja de Vos, Chief Technology Officer, Leaseweb

Last month marked Women’s History Month, a time to look back and commemorate how far women have come throughout history and to celebrate their accomplishments.

For a long time, I have struggled with whether I should write something about this subject as it can be considered “controversial” to some. Nevertheless, in conjunction with the month, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the long-standing debate and advocate for more women in tech.

If we as women cannot express our enthusiasm for a career in the industry, how can we expect more women to be involved? As the staggering talent gap shows, the technology industry is in desperate need of workers with the right knowledge and skills.

Although tech companies from around the world say they are making every effort to increase the number of female employees, only 17 to 30 per cent of actual tech jobs at some of the biggest companies, including Netflix, Amazon, Uber and Apple are held by women. There is no clear explanation for this problem. The fact remains that the number of women in tech is still lagging behind. This is not to say that women have something better to add than men. Rather, there is simply too few people with relevant knowledge and skills in the sector.

It’s (not) a man’s world

In order to keep a balanced range of talent in the sector, we must all do our best to secure the interest of people considering a career in the field. It is of the utmost importance that we remind younger generations that tech is not just reserved for the geeks among us. That’s why it is key to expose children to the basics of coding through their education. Coding and programming require a certain level of accuracy, are used to secure our daily lives and provide solutions for many of today’s biggest problems – children should be prepared to further this field.

In addition to making young people more enthusiastic about tech, it is important we teach them that women are successful in the scientific realm. At the moment, being a female manager in the tech world is considered “abnormal.” When I tell people that I am the CTO of a hosting company, I typically receive one of two reactions:

  1. They assume I am not technically skilled
  2. They express their admiration and pretend I am very special

Neither reaction is ideal, and I personally find them truly upsetting.

On the other hand, I can understand where these responses come from. Even from an early age, we have all been told that boys have more talent for STEM subjects than girls. Think about it, how often have you heard that boys are better at math and girls are better in English? Beyond that, boys traditionally play with cars, LEGOS and robots, while girls are expected to play with dolls. These societally ingrained images of male and female stick with people for their entire life, impacting every industry and the direction that young men and women take when it comes to their careers. Therefore, it is not very surprising that girls ultimately opt out of the STEM subjects.

Forging the pathway to the future

Let’s face it: if we change the perspective of those involved in the tech industry gradually, we will change the world. Tech is synonymous with the future, one that is in the hands of those who are ready to embrace this digital world. It’s a future in which digital transformation ensures that every industry will soon play in the tech space.

Don’t you think it seems a lot more convenient to not exclude half of the workforce in advance? 

Don’t get me wrong, in my ideal world, women do not have an edge on men. I am not advocating for special treatment or the adoption of a women’s quota. Instead, I am pleading for skilled labor in every industry, but particularly tech. In order to keep the U.S. economy growing, we can’t just come to the table with only the male half of the population.

As we look toward the future, let’s all think about what we can do in this next year and beyond for young people, perhaps girls in particular, to get them excited about a technical education or career. The ultimate goal is to prepare ourselves for a better future and we need everyone to make that possible.


women-looking-at-phones-tech-featured

How to make tech more accessible for all?

Women looking at their phones

Article provided by Rebecca Rae-Evans, co-founder of Tech For Good Live

From banking to food shopping, many of our day-to-day tasks can now be completed online and generally this digital-by-default society is making people’s lives easier and more efficient.

In fact, a third of people have become so accustomed to accessing online services 24/7, from anywhere in the world, that they would feel “cut off” and “lost” without the Internet.

However, as it stands, there are still many people with varying abilities and conditions - from blindness to autism or dementia – that cannot use digital services due to poor design practices and confusing jargon. They are therefore ‘disabled’ by these platforms; as they are unable to access the information they require.

Despite some positive, inclusive design work being carried out across a variety of sectors, such as Network Rail’s implementation of a new accessible app, a recent Ofcom report suggests disabled individuals are being left behind by technology on the whole. This is due to deployment of alienating language and design features.

So what can be done to make the UK’s online services accessible to all?

  • Cater for those with physical or motor impairments – these online services need to minimise the amount of typing required from users. Also, they should make clickable interactive elements large without demanding precision, and design platforms with mobile and touch screen in mind.
  • Be mindful of visually impaired individuals – businesses should ensure websites use a readable font size and a combination of colour, shapes and text, while ensuring to publish all information on web pages as opposed to other document types such as PDFs.
  • Accommodate for autistic users – companies must use day-to-day language – avoiding figures of speech and idioms. They should create a simple colour scheme and make sure layouts are consistent and uncluttered.
  • Adapt services for customers that are hard of hearing – businesses must provide access to subtitles or transcripts to accompany videos, break up content with sub-headings, images and video and avoid complex layouts and menus.

People with ranging abilities should also be invited to take part in usability sessions throughout the design process. This will help businesses to assess how effective certain features are and will highlight areas that need to be improved or removed altogether.

Going forward, if businesses take these changes into consideration when developing their online presence and start implementing them as soon as possible, we can expect to see a dramatic improvement in digital inclusivity across the board.


Computer Programmer

Defeating the fear factor for women in tech

 

Computer Programmer

Daniela Aramu, Head of User Experience at Thomsons Online Benefits

There are some popular and entrenched beliefs when it comes to technology:

  1. Technology is always right. If something goes wrong, it is the fault of the user
  2. Technology aptitude is the result of innate talent rather application

These beliefs are incredibly unhelpful, building a sense of trepidation among those approaching computer science and related subjects. While this could be felt universally, it is especially dangerous for women who are already battling gender stereotypes when it comes to building careers in technology.

I myself have been subject to these fears. My first real experience of technology came when I was 16 and my brother headed off to university leaving his computer. I took the opportunity to experiment and was immediately captivated by the way you could manipulate the screen with the click of a button. My explorations eventually led to me destroying his hard drive – a terrible mistake that left me too terrified to touch a computer for some time.

It wasn’t until I finished my degree in psychology and started looking at Masters courses outside of Italy that I noticed a course entitled HCI and Ergonomics, with the subtext being, “It isn’t your fault but the computer’s”. You can imagine my relief – finally someone telling me I wasn’t to blame!

I signed-up and the rest was history. I learnt the importance of design; its influence on how people engage with technology. I learnt that a well-considered, logical user journey was the difference between trusting a product – and the entity behind it – and being frustrated by it.

I pursued a career in technology in the end, but I might have got there a lot sooner if my brother’s computer had been better designed – and I hadn’t been so convinced that I lacked the aptitude to navigate it.

Progressing through my career, I began to realise the influence of these two deterrents, and I became more and more determined not to let other women be put off a career in technology for the same reasons.

I’m lucky that I love my job and spend every day propagating good design principles. By making technology more accessible, logical and empathetic towards its users, I reduce the likelihood that negative experiences with technology will undermine confidence when engaging with it.

While improving technology engagements universally will help reduce the fear people often feel when approaching technology, more needs to be done to get them thinking that a career in tech is a viable option.

This takes me back to my second entrenched belief, that people are somehow born with an aptitude for technology or not. This is simply not the case. Success in computer science, like any other science, depends on applying yourself and putting in the hours. However, women are unlikely to do this if they have been told from a young age (explicitly or implicitly) that a career in technology isn’t for them. We need to stop encouraging girls to conform to stereotypical gendered roles, and encourage them to follow their passions.

Families play a fundamental role in addressing this problem. Parents need to make supportive, unbiased choices for their children and be clear that it’s hard work and determination that will help them achieve their goals – not innate “talent”. Schools, universities, employers and government also need to engage in a coordinated effort to propagate this message. We need more women to talk about their careers in tech, the challenges they’ve encountered and how hard work and self-belief has been critical in over-coming these. It is only by busting the mythology surrounding the profession and making women that work in it visible that we’ll encourage the next generation of tech leaders.

Daniela AramuAbout the author

As Head of User Experience at Thomsons Online Benefits, Daniela oversees the entire design process for the company’s proprietary platform – from conception, to user research and implementation – while managing stakeholders at all levels across Europe, Asia and North America.


Women in Tech

Raising the 15 per cent | Encouraging women into tech

women in tech
L-R: Estee Woods, Liz Cook, Lucie Hyve, Crendal Kear, Liz Matthews, Sophia Zheng

International Women’s Day is something that WeAreThe City fully supports.

This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, promoting the fact that a balanced world is a better world. However, not all industries are good advocates for gender balance in the workplace. The STEM industry is an example of this – it’s often seen as a being very male-dominated, which can actually discourage women from applying to jobs. In fact, women make up 50 per cent of the UK workforce, but less than 15 per cent in STEM jobs.

With this in mind, WeAreTheCity spoke with eight IT professionals – all of whom are women – to get their thoughts on why gender balance and diversity in the workplace is important, and their advice for other women as to how they can get into the tech industry too.

Breaking through gender barriers in the workplace

One of the biggest hurdles the STEM industry faces is the stereotype that already surrounds it when it comes to gender. As Estee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint points out, “as a sector devoted to innovation and connectivity, the technology industry is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in the workplace. Yet, as recently as 2016, 43 per cent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all.”

It’s a shame that this has become the norm for STEM, and as Lucie Sadler, Content Manager at Hyve Managed Hosting comments, these “age-old stereotypes about the industry do not reflect the fast-paced, progressive nature of technology, and this needs to change.”

“This year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter reinforces the need for diversity in our industry,” Sadler continues. “IT companies must strive to be fully inclusive, and this change must come from within. Diverse teams work better, bring different perspectives to the table and make employees challenge their own thinking. And that’s a really good thing.”

This notion of diversity is something that Liz Matthews, Head of Community and Education at Mango Solutions agrees with. “Companies are investing in data-driven digital transformation more than ever before and the diversity of roles available in advanced analytics and data science is certainly increasing,” Matthews says.

With this in mind, Liz Cook, People Director at Six Degrees’ advice for the industry, is to make sure that organisations have a “balanced, inclusive workplace that celebrates and enables everyone’s brilliance.” Cook also goes on to mention that it’s important for businesses to “challenge outdated stereotypes and engage people in promoting gender-balance and driving a better working world.”

Encouraging the next generation towards STEM careers 

“I think there are two main reasons women aren’t working in technology – a lack of role models, and the perceived culture in IT,” believes Kate Gawron, Senior Database Consultant at Node4. “Young kids learn their entire world from what they see, ‘girls like pink and unicorns, boys like blue and cars’,” Gawron continues. “By the time girls come to do their GCSEs and commit to a career path it’s too late, they’ve already been convinced that IT isn’t for them.”

Gawron has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to addressing the association of STEM with men. ”I’d never planned to become a Database Administrator,” she shares, “but it turns out I’m more than suited to the job. I believe it’s important to have the confidence in yourself to stick to what is important to you, and more often than not another amazing opportunity will open up.”

This is a subject that Jeannie Barry, Director of Technology Enablement at ConnectWise is also passionate about. “Young girls today need people surrounding them who can help to boost their confidence and inspire them to dream big and follow through on those dreams,” Barry says. “With social media all around us, girls are comparing themselves to other girls, causing a lot of self-doubt and lowering self-worth. We need to make sure we’re constantly providing opportunities to grow their confidence and ensure they are focused on their own journey and not trying to be like someone else.”

Encouraging the next generation into choosing STEM as a career path is something that almost everyone agrees as being the first step in solving this imbalance of gender in the industry. “Tech is very male dominated, which can be overwhelming for women considering careers in the sector,” points out Crendal Kear, VP Sales Operations at Exabeam. “People want to work with others that relate to their experiences and the challenges that they face.”

“At a young age, girls need to see that there are more and more women with successful careers, who balance careers and families,” she continues. “As a society, we must encourage and empower girls to say yes to an opportunity and embrace it.”

Finally, Sophia Zheng, Product Manager at Bitglass shares her experience from school, and the fact that she believes the root of the gender gap in the technology industry to have stemmed from there. “I remember being chosen for a gifted and talented ‘Maths Enrichment’ class, and at one point, I was the only girl,” she says. “At ten years old, I didn’t want to be the only girl in the class and, because of that, I didn’t really want to be there at all. I wasn’t the only girl because the school was trying to push out girls, it was simply about how well you performed in maths class and on standardised testing, and I guess not a lot of girls qualified.”

“I think that if the class had been open to everyone who was interested it would have fostered more growth for a wider range of students,” Zheng concludes. “I think that having the option is better than not having one at all. It could have a long-term impact on seeing more girls interested in STEM subjects from a younger age.”

There’s certainly a long way to go until the gender equality in the STEM industry is balanced, but the awareness that International Women’s Day brings can go a long way towards tackling it. It’s important that businesses are aware of the diversity, and that they do all they can to ensure a balanced working environment.


woman-on-computer

Why an IT career is perfect for women

woman on computer

By Stephanie Rowe

The tech sector is certainly majority-male.

According to The Guardian, just 27 per cent of employees in the UK digital industry are women. And the imbalance starts young, with only 16 per cent of computer science students being female.

Though it is unclear why young women shun tech careers, it may be down to misconceptions about the industry. Women might deem the work too difficult, technical or boring. Or they might enjoy the work, but simply don’t want to enter a male-dominated industry.

Whatever the reason for female disinterest in tech, it’s important to remember that this career is ideal for women! Read on to discover why you should consider a career in this exciting, fast-moving and highly rewarding industry.

The salaries are superb!

If there’s one reason to start an IT career, it’s the salaries. Software developers in the UK start off on £20k and can earn £70k or more with experience. Technical architects have an amazing starting salary of £40k, and non-technical roles like the IT project manager can earn up to £70k.

According to Reed, six of 2018’s highest paying jobs were in tech. At the very top are architects. Security and cloud architects can earn up to £98,000 and Java architects can earn up to £85,000. These jobs require you to design and create the ‘architecture’ of an organisation’s cybersecurity solutions, cloud storage or Java applications.

The salaries are good because IT staff need a strong skillset. They are being paid for their technical expertise, which is gained through their education and professional experience. Many are degree educated and possess a few industry-standard qualifications too. Another reason is demand. As our world becomes increasingly tech-dependent, the need for specialists in all areas of IT is rising.

We’ve been in IT since the 1800s

Women have been involved in tech since 1840, when Ada Lovelace (Lord Byron’s daughter) wrote the first computer program. In the 1920s, Edith Clarke patented the first graphical calculator. In fact, women were heavily involved in programming, data and codebreaking throughout the 1900s, being responsible for the first NASA programs and breaking code at Bletchley Park.

In the early days of IT, society had a somewhat better view of female computing abilities. Women were seen to have well-developed typing skills and made less mistakes. The decline in female IT professionals started in the 1980s, perhaps due to negative media stereotypes of computer geeks, and the rise of male dot-com success stories like Steve Jobs.

However, women are still very active in the sector and have been hugely successful. Without Susan Kare and Adele Goldberg, Apple’s computers and graphics wouldn’t look as good as they do. Marissa Mayer was the CEO of Yahoo for many years, and Susan Wojcicki is currently CEO at YouTube. All these women prove that there is also a place for you in the tech industry!

Women have the talent

Think women can’t do technical work? Think again! In 2016, The Guardian examined 3 million pieces of code submitted to GitHub, an open source software community. They found that the code written by women received a roughly 4 per cent higher rating than code written by men. So not only can women do the work, we can also do it well.

Women are also talented in other areas. We have naturally good interpersonal skills, being able to read body language, build relationships, listen and collaborate much easier than men. As more IT companies start delivering projects using agile methods, the need for techies with good social skills will increase, as such methods emphasise the importance of teamwork.

Summary

Whilst it is true that women are a minority in tech, it’s time to shatter the stereotypes and stop being scared to get involved! IT careers are exciting - you could be working on the next blockbuster video game, keeping an organisation safe from hackers or writing a programme that saves lives.

The salaries are awesome, and tech isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. This is a job for life and you can shape it to suit you. Want to be a contractor? Sure! Want to fit work around childcare? Well, working from home is common in this sector.

The UK tech sector is currently having a skills crisis. As a result, there are lots of jobs out there that need to be filled. Take advantage and push your career in a new direction now!

Stephanie RoweAbout the author

Stephanie is the Content Manager at Knowledge Train. She writes articles, ebooks, website copy and manages the company’s social media platforms. Since leaving university in 2011, she has had articles and content published both online and in print. Her favourite topics are careers, skills, and the workplace.


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Effective approaches to mentoring women in tech

 

women being mentored by tech role model featured

Advice by BrightHR Head of Digital Experience, Anneka Burrett

An issue facing women in the tech industry today is the lack of good mentorship programmes.

This can be seen as a hindrance to their career growth. Although workplace conditions for women have come a long way, there’s still much progress to be made.

A women’s mentorship programme within a company can give all female employees the opportunity to offer or accept mentorship. This allows mentors to pass down the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years. It also allows mentees to learn new skills from women in leadership positions.

Issues facing women in tech

Women are still facing numerous problems in the workplace and most of all in the tech industry. Some of the issues women are currently facing include;

  • Wage and gender inequality – The gender pay gap has always been a topic of interest and attempts are being made to close the gap. Tech is another male dominated sector and women working in IT positions report gender inequality at a higher rate. 43% of women working in the industry report that their male counterparts are paid more without reason.
  • Work-life balance – Working mothers still go through the process of juggling their work and children because of a lack of flexible working options. 14 per cent of women working in tech report that there is a lack of a work and life balance.
  • Gender bias – According to a 2017 survey, 90 per cent of women working in tech say that they have experienced gender bias at some point in their career. Some employers are guilty of judging their employees on the gender rather than their professional qualifications. Women often report of employees doubting their abilities to address and resolve technical issues. Some women are being asked about their marital or parental status at job interviews.
  • Exclusion – Women are a big minority group in the tech industry. A survey by a charter dedicated to improving diversity in the tech industry found that only 17 per cent of tech workers in the UK are female.

Benefits of mentoring

There are countless advantages of mentoring, for the mentor, the mentee and for their employers.

  • Benefits to Mentors - Mentoring gives you the opportunity to give back, share your experiences and skills. It can also help to energise your career if you’re feeling stuck or in a rut. Passing on your knowledge to someone at a lower level can help you to realise why you initially wanted to work in that role.
  • Benefit to mentees - Mentoring increases self-confidence and personal satisfaction which can do wonders for your motivation and productivity. It also educates you on how to accept feedback. Receiving feedback on your communications, technical abilities or management skill can be hard should be taken on board.
  • Benefits to businesses - Businesses that encourage mentoring shows other employees within the company that they are willing to invest in their staff. While it shows company value, it also promotes loyalty as employees feel more valued which in turn contributes to reducing retention. It also promotes cooperation between employees across all levels.

Approaches to mentoring

  • Don’t be shy: In order to be noticed by potential mentors, you need to do something noteworthy. We should be confident enough in our abilities to speak up when we have something valuable to say. Or to ask to be on the best projects or the ones with growth opportunities.
  • Constructive criticism: No one appreciates criticism, but if it can help you improve or learn new skills then it’s worth it. In order to make the most of mentoring, you should admit that there are things that you don’t know but wish to. Asking questions like ‘what can I improve on?’ show your eagerness for feedback improves your skills.

Women in STEM

Calling all women - why the tech industry needs you

women in STEM
Image via Shutterstock

By Jennifer Nelson, senior director of software engineering, Rocket Software

Jennifer Nelson, senior director of software engineering at Rocket Software, calls on more women to step up, share their stories and lead - or join - grassroots movements to attract more girls and women into the sector.

I realise that not all women would relish in the environment that led to my career in technology. To help fund my university education, I joined the United States Air Force, and was the only woman in a male-dominated world from very early on. When it was time to leave the military, I needed a job with the flexibility to allow me to finish my university degree. I found a DB2 database administrator job and a friend of a friend’s mum offered to teach me, despite my complete lack of experience.

I loved it! Learning what commands to enter to advance from one screen to the next made me feel like I was solving mysteries on a daily basis. I felt privileged to be in a lucrative field with carte blanche access to business-critical data. I hardly noticed that I was often the only woman in the room because I knew I was blessed to be working in supportive organisations. And while they may not have been completely gender blind, I didn’t feel discriminated against. I learned very quickly that if I worked hard and proved myself, I would go far. Of course, not everyone has that experience, so I feel very lucky to have avoided the so-called ‘bro culture’ that permeates a lot of companies.

A love of problem solving

My first foray into technology was through this world of unlocking mainframes and problem solving. Even as my career has progressed over the years, it is this love of creatively finding answers that still excites me and keeps me working in the industry. And it is this experience that I talk to girls and women about the most - encouraging them to give the technology industry a try. It is a message that we all need to ‘get out there’ more.

As an extension of my role at Rocket, I do a lot of grassroots outreach to encourage girls and women to pursue careers in the technology sector, and I often find myself coming across several misconceptions. The biggest misunderstanding is that working in technology means sitting at a desk in a dark corner and writing code all day. Don’t get me wrong: I applaud the initiatives that schools and technology companies are pushing to get girls, and young people in general, coding. But an unintended consequence of this good work has led to the industry communicating a very narrow view of what a career in technology means. This often results in the exact opposite of what they are trying to achieve!

Instead of attracting more girls to work in tech, focusing on just software engineering as a career path can turn them off of technology, especially if they struggle with coding or their skillset is not a perfect fit from the start. And many girls and women also worry that working in technology will lead to a solitary job far away from the careers that many of their friends are pursuing.

Technology companies need to expand the discussions around career options in technology. Non-IT companies, such as Tesco and Barclay’s, have massive IT shops with many technology-related careers on offer. Therefore, the industry needs to work with educators to do more to demonstrate the diversity of tech jobs across different industries. We need to convey that tech jobs abound in so many different companies, and that working in technology is not just about programming and software engineering. We need to communicate that tech opportunities are much broader, like software application testing, technical documentation writing, programme and project management, and IT infrastructure – all of which require a wide range of skills.

Girls I speak to tend to start paying much more attention when I talk about how technology companies are crying out to work with women with a wide variety of skills. An inclination toward mathematics definitely helps, but creative thinkers and fellow lovers of problem solving can find a role in technology suitable for them.  And these are not just one-off jobs, but substantial career opportunities with scope to advance, grow and lead. For example, detail-orientated women with a keen eye for meeting deadlines make great project managers. Or women who love to write task-related or instructive material can develop amazing careers as technical writers. Both of these positions exist in abundance in the tech industry.

Leading by example

Speaking of leading, communicating the diversity of technology careers on offer will fall on deaf ears if it comes from the wrong people. Many tech companies are taking it upon themselves to set up events and clubs aimed at attracting girls and women to the industry. In my view, for these to succeed they not only need to show off all the industry has to offer, but they also need to be initiated and led by women.

Even with the best intentions in the world, an event focused on women in technology led by men will appear disingenuous. Men, of course, need to be part of the conversation and involved, but women should be leading this.

Since I joined Rocket, the company has made a concerted effort to attract more women by providing good career progression, mentors, and leadership opportunities. While I know that not all companies take this approach, I know many that do. So why is it that I still find myself as the only woman on a panel of speakers at many industry events? Or for that matter, one of the few in attendance at a conference at all.

There are definitely politics at work here that companies need to look at around travel budgets, leadership roles and diversity in general. Those issues aside, a key challenge that we can address more immediately is giving all of those women already in tech more of a voice. A platform. I know of a lot of ‘bad ass’ women in tech who never talk about the work they do, who never get out there and showcase their accomplishments. Do we think our contributions are not worth noting? Are we quieter in our professional lives than we are in social settings?

Spreading the word

It’s not always natural for women to ‘blow their own trumpet’, but if you are a female IT professional, now is the time to make yourself heard! Now is the time to draw attention to your success, to your careers, to your future goals and aspirations. Because there’s never been a better time for getting involved in the IT industry as a woman.

There are numerous ways to make your voice heard as a woman in the industry. For example, creating a social media campaign and attracting followers to support women in tech, applying to speak at a conference, getting involved in local organisations or even starting your own! The latter sounds like a daunting task, but never to be one to ask people to do what I’m not prepared to do myself – I’ve done this! When Rocket’s CEO said he wanted to attract more girls into technology and women to work for us, myself and a few other women started a women-in-tech group at Rocket Software.

Girls need to hear from women about working in technology – they need to see first-hand the diversity of career options to choose from, not just take a company’s words for it. They need to hear our stories about our journeys and how to lead and inspire teams – and also how they can make their careers work for them. If you’re not one for standing up in front of thousands, don’t worry: this movement needs to be one of local, grassroots efforts. Start a local organisation, speak at your daughter’s or niece’s Brownie, Guide or Scout groups to share your stories about the challenges you face working in technology, about what excites you, about what keeps you going to work each day.

The technology industry as a whole is desperate to attract more women and to diversify the workforce. This benefits not just employees, but companies as well because a diverse workforce brings diverse thoughts and ideas that result in stronger businesses. And the more top talent a company attracts, the stronger it’s production, innovation, and revenue. Let’s face it, tech jobs as a whole serve a large set of industries that require a broad spectrum of talent. Young girls and women may not understand how their skills fit into the tech world beyond writing code.

So if you’re a woman in an IT role, regardless of the industry you serve, spread the word.