The future of jobs; innovators in STEM & glass ceilings | WeAreTechWomen's take-aways from the 2019 WISE Conference

Written by Indigo Haze, Digital Marketing and Social Media Assistant at WeAreTheCity

Last week, the WeAreTechWomen team had the pleasure of attending the 2019 WISE Conference at the IET in London.

The conference was a full-packed day of debates, workshops and presentations on the future of working women in the technology industry. The speakers loaded each session with tips, tricks and research findings all delivered with a touch of humour. Here is a breakdown of what we learnt in the morning sessions.

Future Jobs and Women: Answers from the LinkedIn Platform

Lisa FinneganLisa Finnegan, Senior Director of HR, EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn, presented our first session, where she shared the findings of a recent study on the future of jobs and women. From their own data of 630 million users, 26 million companies, 60 thousand schools and 20 million active jobs, LinkedIn found that while the percentage of women in STEM careers is on the rise, there is still a distinct lack of women working in the computer sciences industry.

This is due to the stereotype that has followed the computer science industry since the early 1990s, of a single lonely soul working away at their computer, frantically typing away at their keyboard, in a damp and dark room, coding by themselves. This stereotype is not one that attracts women to the industry and in reality, it isn't like this anymore. Computer science, programming and coding can be an exciting and creative career path. Lisa commented that this is the image that the industry needs to project, which can be achieved by giving more visibility to female role models already working and succeeding in the industry. This should encourage girls to consider choosing computer sciences as a subject at university and as an inspiring and viable career path.

LinkedIn’s research also shows a lack of women in the AI space, making up 22 per cent of the workforce. A large proportion of these women are working as teachers, rather than in AI. Lisa talked about how for the future of AI we need to make diversity in the workforce the norm, as without it our AI will end up with the developers' unconscious bias. She gave the example of facial recognition software. If we teach the software using only the faces of white men, then the software will be great at telling the difference between this racial group, but the software wouldn’t be able to perform the same task when shown images of women of colour. However, this issue wouldn’t arise if we developed the software using the skills and considering the opinions of a diverse group of developers.

Across all job sectors, LinkedIn’s findings showed that ‘soft skills’ such as HR, marketing and people management are the most sort after by employers and that there are large differences between how men and women approach a job search. Where men are more likely to ask for help in the form of recommendations or mentorship, women are 20 per cent less likely to ask for any help. Women are also 16 per cent less likely to apply for roles than men and hiring managers are 13 per cent less likely to open a female LinkedIn profile over a man’s profile. However, once they’ve set their minds to apply for a role, women are 16 per cent more likely to be successful in landing their chosen position. Moving forward Lisa says we need to move the focus in schools away from general ICT and develop more programmes around computer sciences. We also need to take the focus away from general STEM and put more training and resources into AI and to ensuring women know about the opportunities available to them.

Fiona McDonnellMaking a Difference—How Women can be Innovators in STEM

Fiona McDonnell, from Amazon, presented our second session of the day. She shared Amazon’s research on the barriers and enablers of women’s careers in STEM environments and how women are becoming innovators. Fiona revealed that there is a 23 per cent representation of women in STEM and that only 15 per cent of these are in senior management positions. If we increased this by just ten per cent, the research suggested that this would generate an extra £3bn in business for the UK. Amazon found that nine out of the ten women they spoke with in the STEM industry are facing barriers in their career progression. 84 per cent of women listed confidence as their biggest barrier, along with 75 per cent pointing towards a male majority environment and 72 per cent pointing to a lack of recognition from senior management. Fiona also showed that there are language barriers in how women talk about being innovators and that new roles in the industry are being advertised using bias language that attracts men but puts off women from applying. Amazon has recognised that we need to have a supportive culture in place to ensure that the STEM skills women have are being utilized. The bottom line is that we need more diversity in the STEM industry, and that ‘diversity drives innovation.’

From this research, Amazon launched its Amazon Amplify programme, which aims to increase the recruitment and retention of women in technology. Through this programme, Amazon offers more bias training for their managers and they have changed their interview questions and panel to be as gender neutral as possible. They have also launched an interactive UK wide training programme along with a back to work programme to boost retention in engineering. They have also increased their funding for women innovator programmes, including offering a mentoring scheme and having a STEM workshops for their employees’ children.

Women and Science - Why plastic brains aren’t breaking through glass ceilings

Gina RipponGina Rippon, from the Aston Brain Centre at Aston University in Birmingham, presented our third session of the day.  She spoke about the findings in her book “The Gendered Brain.” Gina explained that scientific research into understanding the brain has held the old-fashioned view that because there are two genders, there must be two types of brains, the male and the female brain. This traditional view holds the belief that men are superior to women, and that women are not suitable to study or work in the STEM industry because they have the wrong skills set, being more empathetic whereas men are better at spatial cognition. They have the wrong temperament, in the sense that women are too often caught up in their emotions to make rational decisions, and that it does not interest women to learn about science. They derived this old-fashioned view from the status quo of society at the time. This opinion is still rampant in the scientific community today. This viewpoint has held women back in the scientific community for generations and is still creating barriers for women who want to chase a career in STEM, despite recent research showing that there is no significant difference between the brains of women and men.

In fact, research shows that the brain is malleable and changing. Social activity is the most important factor when looking at the changing brain, as we all need to find a connection with people that hold the same morals, support and believe in us. Gina expressed how our brains are shaped by the attitude, opinions and expectations of those around us. For women in STEM, this means that a lack of appreciation, direction and inclusion from senior managers and colleagues can inhibit their self-development at work, lower their self-confidence and wear down their motivation. She concluded that men and women need to work together to rule out gender bias in the scientific community and lift each other up to achieve our greatest potential. Which would help us make greater strides in our understanding of gender and open up more opportunities in STEM for women.

Discussion Panel

Following these sessions, we were introduced to Dr Hayaatun Sillem from the Royal Academy of Engineering hosting a discussion panel between Lisa Finnegan from LinkedIn, Fiona McDonnell from Amazon, Gina Rippon from Aston University and Poppy Gustafsson, the CEO of Darktrace. They discussed the gender pay gap and intersectionality in STEM, how women can cause disruption to the system and the future of jobs in STEM.

panel discussion, WISE conference

Poppy started the discussion on gender and intersectionality saying that ‘gender is irrelevant’ regarding hiring for roles in STEM, with 40 per cent of her workforce at Darktrace being made-up of women. Lisa added that LinkedIn recognises that there is a diverse range of women working in the industry that need the support of a community to achieve their potential and to feel valued in their sector. To help this, they have been introducing groups such as LGBT and ethnic minority networks that bring women together across the globe. Gina commented on how important groups like these are, as social inclusion is the most important factor in our self-esteem. She also noted that with the STEM academic industry there are still large barriers to women, as there is not the same level of demand for change in academia as there is in the business world. All members of the panel agreed that women have the power to change the system and that by banding together, we can cause enough disruption to demand change. However, they noted that this can be difficult for women in the workplace, depending on their position in the company and that if done incorrectly disruption to the system could, in fact, reinforce the bias that already exists.

The panel then moved on to discuss the future of jobs in STEM. Poppy started the debate saying it is unnecessary for women who want to work in the tech industry to have a background in STEM, as they often have transferable skills key to the industry. Lisa said that as 80 per cent of the 2030 workforce has already left full-time education, it is important to change the hiring process now. The language used in job descriptions needs changing as there is a gender bias in STEM job adverts, for example, labelling a job as having ‘heavy leadership’, deters women from applying. Lisa further mentioned that interviewing panels need changing, to ensure that there is a diverse range of interviewers in panels and that core skills should be at the forefront of employers’ requirements, rather than just a job title. Gina added that women are less likely to apply for internal promotions due to the male-majority culture. This is something that needs to change in order for us to move forward.

panel discussion, WISE conference

The panel then discussed the gender pay gap. Fiona started the conversation saying, if we want to close the gender pay gap in the STEM industry then we need to inspire more women to go into the sector. ‘Science is no longer just a bunsen burner on the table’, with subjects like computer sciences offering new career opportunities for women. Lisa added that LinkedIn is trying to end gender and social barriers in STEM by showing the future generation the importance of their parents’ work. They are doing this by allowing employees to bring their children into work and interact with technology innovatively, such as building their own LinkedIn profile out of Lego. To finish the discussion, all the women shared the key thing they wanted people to take away from the sessions. Gina wanted us to remember that our brains are flexible and that you can change your mind, Fiona wanted us to remain adaptable, Lisa wanted us to remember the importance of soft skills and their transferability in STEM and finally Poppy wanted us to drive out unconscious bias in the workplace.

Do you want more?

Do you want to know more about what we learnt in the afternoon sessions at the 2019 WISE Conference?

Keep your eyes peeled for our other articles on the event coming soon. You can find out more about WISE and the wonderful work they do here.

WeAreTechWomen & Jobbio featured

WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen launch new job board platform in partnership with Jobbio

WeAreTechWomen & Jobbio

WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen have partnered with Jobbio, to create a digital careers marketplace targeting their four million monthly visitors.

Dating back to 2014, the WeAreTheCity Jobs Board promotes career opportunities to their large and growing female demographic of 120,000 members. As more businesses focus on talent diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and create competitive advantage, this partnership will serve to further support businesses and boost their female pipeline in the technology, financial services, professional services and legal sectors.


Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director of WeAreTheCity said “I am extremely excited to begin our partnership with Jobbio."

"The new jobs board platform will enable us to connect our WeAreTechWomen members to companies who are serious about building their pipeline of female tech talent."

"Partnering with Jobbio on the new platform has improved the overall functionality and look of our previous platform."

"We now have the ability to feature more content and create dedicated pages for clients in order to promote their roles and tell their stories!"

"I am looking forward to WeAreTheCityJobs being the conduit between women in tech seeking a career change and firms who will not just recruit them, but who will actively support their career progression."

The job board platform launches today with a focus on jobs in the technology sector. This is to coincide with the launch of WeAreTheCity’s latest resource platform for women working in technology, Additional jobs across a multitude of sectors will be added over the coming weeks.

Screen grab for new job board

WeAreTheCity jobs launched with partners such as IBM, Oliver Wyman, Deloitte, C&C Search and DataArt. Clients joining the new job board platform over the coming weeks include Barclays, PwC, Net-A-Porter, Worldpay, Refinitiv, SAP and BNY Mellon, amongst others.

Stephen Quinn, CEO, Jobbio said “This partnership comes at a time when both companies have already established strong company branding platforms."

"At Jobbio we are passionate about the progression of women in the workplace."

"We have worked with WeAreTheCity for a number of years on initiatives such as the Rising Star Awards and our careers fair, Higher."

"Building the new jobs board platform together is a fantastic evolution of our partnership."

"The new platform will bring greater opportunities, such as the ability to distribute relevant client content, such as recruitment videos, staff interviews and articles, all of which have been proven to boost company job applications and enable candidates get a better understanding of company culture."

"Now, using WeAreTheCity’s multiple distribution channels (which include newsletters, job alerts and social media) companies will be able to promote open roles alongside their content, which attracts both job seekers and the passive market."

New partners Jobbio, are headquartered in Dublin, but also have an office in London. A careers marketplace and inbound hiring platform, Jobbio connects the best talent with the most innovative companies. The brand reaches a talent base of over 100 million people and is trusted by 6,000 companies globally. Jobbio will enable companies working with WeAreTheCity to gather applications, and then build a talent pool for immediate or future use.

The job board forms part of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen, which is predominantly visited by women, however we do encourage job applications from all genders.

To find your next open role, visit here.

To promote your open roles on WeAreTheCity Jobs or to take advantage of our free three month job promotion trial, please contact [email protected]


WeAreTechWomen announces its 2019 Conference - The Future World of Work | 22 November

Tech Women Conference

WeAreTechWomen, the technology arm of WeAreTheCity is hosting its fourth full day conference for female technologists on 22 November 2019 in central London.

This conference is aimed at women working in the tech sector who are looking to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their technology networks. The theme for this year’s conference is The Future World of Work and how innovation and disruption is driving change within the tech industry.

Our aim is to inspire attendees by delivering bitesize learning sessions for our audience. With the help of our amazing speakers and panellists, we will provide the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a broad range of technology topics as well as interact through panels, hands-on activities and workshops.

The conference will be attended by over 600+ women working in tech and is a 'must-attend' if you wish to drive your career, learn, network with your peers and be inspired.


Topics on our conference agenda include AI, cyber, data, ethics, innovation, digital, health tech, regulation, innovation, payments, cloud, transformation, tech mental health, learn to code in Python, robotics, plus more topics to be added.

Panels include innovation and AI, cyber, data and ethics, next generation disruptors as well as a panel with C-suite leaders who will be sharing their tips for career success.

There will be opportunities for delegates to network with other attendees and connect via Blendology’s state of the art tap and connect technology. Delegates will have the opportunity to shape their learning by choosing from 12 different electives sessions with leading experts and speakers. These electives cover all bases from technical, generalist, career and engineering.

The Future World of Work is kindly sponsored and supported by Amazon, BAE Systems, Barclays, EY, J.P. Morgan, Lloyds, PwC, Oliver Wyman, Santander Technology, and Worldpay.

WeAreTechWomen conference sponsors logos


Caroline Criado Perez
Image: Rachel Louise Brown

We are proud to be joined by Caroline Criado Perez OBE, Writer, Broadcaster and award winning feminist campaigner, Author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

Caroline Criado Perez is a writer, broadcaster and award-winning feminist campaigner. She is published across the major national media, and appears in both print and broadcast as a commentator on a wide range of topics.

Her first book, Do it Like a Woman, was published by Portobello in 2015. It was described as “a must-read” by the Sunday Independent and “rousing and immensely readable” by Good Housekeeping who selected it as their “best non-fiction”. Eleanor Marx hailed it in the New Statesman as “an extended and immersive piece of investigative journalism,” while Bridget Christie chose it as one of her books of the year in the Guardian, declaring that “young girls and women everywhere should have a copy.” Her second book, INVISIBLE WOMEN: exposing data bias in a world designed for men, is published in March 2019 by Chatto in the UK & Abrams in the US.

Caroline lives in London with her small excitable dog, Poppy, has a degree in English language and literature from the University of Oxford, and studied behavioural and feminist economics at the LSE. She was the 2013 recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year award, and was named OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015.

Other inspirational speakers include:

  • Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President, techUK, Chair, Digital Leaders board, Non-exec director at Rightmove, Costain and AO
  • Deborah O’Neill, Partner and UK Head of Digital, Oliver Wyman
  • Rob McCargow, Director of AI, PwC
  • Pippa Malmgrem, Founder, H Robotics, Chief Economist and former special assistant to US President, George.W.Bush
  • Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director, NCSC
  • Phillipa Winter, Chief Informatics Officer, Bolton NHS
  • Rachel Dunscombe, CEO, NHS Digital Academy /Visiting Professor Imperial College
  • Dr Jess Wade, Physicist, Imperial College, London
  • Megan Caywood, Global Head of Digital Strategy, Barclays
  • Sheridan Ash, Partner, TechSheCan lead, PwC
  • Meri Williams, CTO, Monzo Bank

Look out for more inspirational speakers being announced over the coming weeks.

We are also delighted to welcome back Kate Russell, Journalist, Tech Reporter and Author, BBC Click, as our conference host and facilitator.

WeAreTechWomen are proud to welcome a number of not for profit tech organisations and campaigners as conference partners. A full list of our supporting partners will be announced shortly.

Early bird tickets to The Future World of Work are £275.00 + VAT


Discover what happened at last year's WeAreTechWomen Conference below:

WeAreTechWomen Conference 2018 - Highlights from WeAreTheCity on Vimeo.

For corporate/education/charity ticket discounts, exhibition space or sponsorship opportunities, please email [email protected].

WeAreTechWomen logo featured

WeAreTheCity launches their brand-new dedicated women in tech website,

WeAreTechWomen with strapline

After many weeks of building and researching, we are proud to announce WeAreTheCity’s new Women in Tech website, WeAreTechWomen aims to provide visibility of resources for women working in technology who wish to progress their careers and achieve their true potential.

WeAreTechWomen provides:

Vanessa Vallely, Founder of WeAreTechWomen said “I have wanted to launch a website and platform for women in tech for number of years. The launch of is a natural evolution for WeAreTheCity given our passion to progress women in industry, and the success of our WeAreTechWomen conference and TechWomen100 awards."

"My vision was to provide a one stop shop of available resources for women working in tech who want to progress their careers. I wanted our platform to link in to lots of different organisations, not for profits and individuals who were all doing amazing things to progress the careers of women in tech. No platform existed that provided visibility of all women in tech resources in one single place, so we created it! I hope that our new website and platform hits the spot and eliminates hours of googling for female technologist who are seeking both inspiration and sign posting to organisations who can help them grow their careers. I am very excited to watch the site grow and look forward to engaging with future partners and our growing WeAreTechWomen community."

The site contains over 50 links to other organisations, all of which are doing phenomenal things to help women in tech thrive. It is an exciting time to be a female technologist as so many organisations are focused on achieving gender parity within the industry. We are very honoured to be able to feature all of these initiatives on one platform and would like to sincerely thank all of our partners and contributors for helping us to make the WeAreTechWomen platform a reality.

If there are other resources you would like to see featured on WeAreTechWomen, please let us know here. This is your site, and we want it to add value! We are also big believers in collaboration, if you are running a network or an event that is currently not on the site, please let us know. We are also open to partnering on events, publishing your tech blogs and helping you with your own women in tech initiatives - Drop us a line, we’d be happy to support you.

If you would like to be kept informed of new content, opportunities, networks and events being promoted on WeAreTechWomen, you can sign up to be a member of WeAreTechWomen here.

Help us spread the word!

If you like what we have built and believe that WeAreTechWomen may help another woman in tech, please feel free to share via your networks, communities and social media channels. We’d love to hear your thoughts, please drop us a tweet @watc_WeAreTech #WeAreTechWomen– we are very grateful your support.

For all WeAreTechWomen enquiries, please contact us on [email protected] or via contact on the website.


Tech Women Conference

Check out the website and amazing line up of sponsors and speakers here.

Jacqueline de Rojas featured

Inspirational Woman: Jacqueline de Rojas CBE | President, techUK

Jacqueline de Rojas
Image Credit: Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images

Jacqueline is the President of techUK and the President of the Digital Leaders board.

She sits as a Non-Executive Director on the board of UK technology business Rightmove plc; on the board of Costain plc, which is committed to solving the nation’s Infrastructure problems; and is also on the board of the online retailer AO World plc. An advisor to fast moving tech businesses and a business mentor at Merryck offering board and executive level coaching. She is the co-chair at the Institute of Coding, advises the board of Accelerate-Her and is especially delighted to lend her support to the Girlguiding Association for technology transformation. Passionate about diversity and inclusion which informs where she places her support.

In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly's Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence – Digital & Social and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. She was presented with the 2017 Catherine Variety award for Science and Technology and the 2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity. 2018 brought a nugget of acknowledgements including @womenoffuture Fifty #KindLeaders; 2018 @Inclusiveboards 100 BAME Leaders; 2018 Faces of Vibrant Digital Economy; 2018 @Computerweekly Most Influential People in UK IT.

Jacqueline was awarded CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen's New Year Honours list 2018.

Happily married to Roger Andrews, they have three children and a new baby grandson.

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

My background is as a trouble shooter to blue chip enterprise software companies.  I have had a thirty-year career as an executive in the software industry but these days I have a portfolio career wearing many different hats. Current plc roles include non-executive director positions at Rightmove, Costain and

I am also fortunate enough to be able to donate my time to industry bodies such as techUK as its president, Digital Leaders also as its president and to the Institute of Coding as co-chair alongside Professor Bernie Morley.

I believe in mentoring as a way to unlock potential and am a mentor at the Merryck Group, which focuses on mentoring the leadership teams of global organisations.

To my mind, there is no doubt that diversity can help to safeguard the future of our technology industry by creating a world that works for everyone, I also believe that diversity and inclusion creates more profitable outcomes and am passionate about the importance of boardroom equality and empowering young women to enter, remain and lead from the front in the digital sector.

On a personal note I was born in Folkestone in 1962 to a Chinese father and British mother. Their relationship was not one of equals and we moved away to Swindon where my mother raised my brother and I alone until she remarried some years later. We didn’t have much of anything, family life was not picture perfect by any means but if it taught me anything, it taught me resilience, to become self-sufficient and extremely resourceful. I personally found great solace in the structure and rewards of school life; To this day education and opportunity remain important to me as I have raised and guided our own children.

My husband is incredibly talented and creative. He came from the tech industry but retrained as a yoga teacher and encourages me to be consistent with my practice of yoga and meditation - that is where I get my balance and strength. We have three kids, a grandson, two dogs and a very happy balance of family life and love.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career aspiration was originally to be a newscaster for the BBC. However, as I returned from a degree in European Business from Germany in 1986, I needed to earn money reasonably quickly, so when I was offered a job by my brother-in-law to join his company as a recruitment consultant in a very young but burgeoning technology sector, I grasped it with both hands and very much enjoyed it. I stayed there for a couple of years and was invited to join my largest client, a technology company called Synon (AS/400 application development). They had an international operation that needed a German-speaking leader, so having graduated with a degree in European Business and lived in Germany for some time, the combination of my language and business skills made me invaluable to manage their partner channel internationally! Did I choose technology? I rather feel it chose me…

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I do recall a tricky moment when being introduced to one of my clients as the new managing director by one of my team. He had his back to me, and as he turned around with great excitement and anticipation only to be entirely disappointed when he saw me. He couldn’t stop himself exclaiming: “Oh my God, you’re a woman!” to which I replied with a smile on my face: “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise I needed a penis to make a decision! But let’s discuss that over lunch…” I have always found that humour has helped me to diffuse awkward scenarios and often use it to counter what could escalate into unnecessarily difficult outcomes.

I would say that the biggest challenge has been promoting the case for women to be viewed as equals in the workplace and being promoted based on performance. There is a toxic combination of unequal opportunity and unequal pay, which creates a downward spiral. Add to that the lack of affordable child care and inflexible working hours and the playing field is definitely stacked against women

Female representation on FTSE 100 boards has increased from 12.5% in 2011 to 23.5% in 2015 and is growing as a result of the data and recommendations emanating from the Hampton-Alexander Report. At the time of writing there are still companies in the FTSE 100 which do not yet have any women on their boards. So, whilst things are changing, you could argue that sexism is still holding back over 50% of the population from reaching the very top and that is not to mention all other minority groups that are severely under-represented in tech.

Given the slow increase in the diversity of the talent pool and the increasing use of algorithms that dictate whether you get that university place, that mortgage or even that job interview, we must strive to have minority voices in the design, testing and implementation teams when building our digital world. I believe we must ALWAYS take the opportunity to ask, “Where are the others?”

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been so many things to celebrate throughout my career. I have so many people in my life that I am grateful for and so much support to be thankful for. I rather think that being nominated for a Queen’s honour in 2018 was my major highlight.

I recall an official letter arriving on the doormat and as I sat with my husband going through the post (Yes, we still receive post!), he showed me a very serious-looking envelope, which I waved away and told him to open. I honestly wasn’t paying much attention as he opened the letter because I was busy focusing on the rest of the mail. And then as he paused and gasped, he said that I should read the letter….

At this point I went to my default position of ‘something terrible must have happened’. Roger had tears in his eyes, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it, so he did it for me. It was such a mind-blowing and unexpected moment as well as an enormous honour to be recognised for my work in the technology industry in promoting international trade. To be honest it only became real when we went to Buckingham Palace to receive my CBE in March 2018.

We had great fun getting ready for the occasion; new outfits, practising my curtsey and wondering who would bestow the honour that day. All the children were there – it was incredibly formal but also beautifully executed by the team at the palace and needless to say Prince William was charming, as you would expect a prince to be…

Jacqueline de Rojas

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

One of my life lessons came when crossing the chasm from manager to leader – I wish I had known earlier in my career that I didn’t need to be an alphazilla to make it. There are probably people out there who wished they hadn’t worked for me back then and I take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who found my leadership style aggressive! I guess I was trying to ‘fit in’ with the very male dominated culture that existed then and convinced myself that I had to behave like a man to make it.

Only when I realised that authentic leadership comes from knowing my values, sharing my vulnerabilities and creating space for others to be realise their potential could I transition into a leadership position where I felt the team could scale with infinite possibilities and where a culture existed of inclusion and tolerance.

That really set me free and I realise today that My job is simply to give them permission to be the best that they can be. And they rarely disappoint. Give people space to be amazing – they rarely disappoint.

It is something I often use when coaching others in leadership roles today. Values really matter and not all the great ideas come from the top!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career?

My top tip would be to go through a period of self-reflection. Early in my career, I was so swamped with trying to keep up with everybody else. I won’t deny that I suffered from imposter syndrome and self-doubt, all compounded by being a mother to a small child, being half-Chinese and a woman in a management position in the very male-dominated software industry. I needed to find the shortest route to success, and I realised that it was not going to be found by doing it the same way as everybody else. So, I asked myself a simple question: ‘What am I good at?’ And when I stripped it down to the basics, I realised that my core skill is that I am good at solving problems and more than that I have the ability to ‘spot friction’ in the system. So, with that in mind, I branded myself as a trouble-shooter to large enterprise software companies.  Once I had done that I never looked back. In fact, once LinkedIn became ‘a thing’ (Because, of course, the internet and the mobile phone did not exist for businesses until late in my career), I never looked for a job again. They came looking for me….

Top tip then would be: Know what your core skill is and brand yourself that way.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Isn’t it bizarre that, as Chairman Mao once said, ‘women hold up half the sky’ in so many ways; economically, domestically and emotionally? We are often seen as a source of strength and backbone under pressure and yet barriers still exist when it comes to opportunities in tech and especially in leadership.

Jacqueline de Rojas

The question is ‘what can we do about it?’ and I am afraid to say that there is probably no silver bullet here; the cavalry is simply not coming. So, it falls to each and every one of us to play our part.

There are so many initiatives which campion not only the cause of women but all forms of diversity and inclusion for underrepresented minorities in tech.

The Tech Talent Charter run by Debbie Forster who advocates precisely how companies can make diversity a priority, ColorInTech which promotes BAME inclusion in tech via research and learning, Founders4Schools founded by Sherry Coutu CBE and which supplies schools across the country with business mentors and role models (Please sign up as a mentor!), the WISE Campaign headed by Helen Wollaston which runs the PeopleLikeMe programme supported by the diversity and skills council at techUK chaired by Sarah Atkinson.

We are so blessed to have incredible momentum created by individuals who just wake up every morning wanting to equal the playing field and I honour the work done by Vanessa Vallelly OBE here at WATC alongside others like the Stemmettes run by Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Code First Girls run by Amali de Alwis MBE,  techmums by Sue Black OBE, the returners programme sponsored by Sheila Flavell COO at FDM, TechPixies by Joy Foster and to Jack Parsons who leads the way to improve the odds for young people every day. This is a small snapshot of the incredible work of what we refer to as the #Sisterhood and our amazing #Manbassadors in UK Tech.

I was privileged to meet the Dalai Lama once and he reminded me that ‘if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito’.

With that in mind, the question to ask is ‘are you a bystander or are you a participant?’

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Join hundreds of other companies in the UK and sign the Tech Talent Charter! Supported by government and advocating simple steps for companies to make a difference to a diverse workforce. Find out more here

Jacqueline de Rojas, Tech Talent Charter launch

There is currently only 15 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would ask us all to consider one simple question every time we are in a position of influence or challenge: ‘WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?’ If we ask this question at every meeting and every opportunity where it is clear that diversity and inclusion is missing, I am sure we can create momentum for change

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Probably the single thing that separates the UK tech sector from any other tech community on the world is the fact that we have an extremely strong and nurturing network that is actively looking to inspire, recruit and retain diverse talent into the industry.

There is no doubt that we stand on the shoulders of each other and I am grateful for all of the effort and resources within this network to help and support others become successful in their journeys. We are all role models whether we choose to be or not and I believe we lead by example in our sector to create opportunity for all.

The great thing about tech is that there are no barriers to entry so check out your local network via WATC for example, as an individual join Digital Leaders for access to networking and online learning and sharing, join techUK if you are an SME or a large tech business to ensure that your voice is heard when forming government policy, check out TechNations amazing online learning resources for entrepreneurs and start ups and check out the Institute of Coding for courses that can increase your learning in new areas of technology.

As the author of Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st century, Yuval Noah Harari says: ‘It is not the robots you should worry about, it is how you are going to reskill yourself every ten years or less…’

Lifelong learning is a personal responsibility it seems. I make a personal commitment to learn something new every year!

Also I love a good podcast!