black woman working on computer in the hallway, diversity, SysAdmin Day

Embracing more females within cybersecurity

black woman working on computer in the hallway, diversity, SysAdmin Dayblack woman working on computer in the hallway, diversity, SysAdmin Day

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the cybersecurity industry has continued to accelerate, and has no indication of slowing down anytime soon.

With new and innovative methods of hacking affecting businesses of all kinds, the number of cyber attacks is also increasing. A report by DCMS showed that the UK’s cyber security industry is now worth an estimated £8.3 billion – but why do we still see a lack of female representatives for an industry so high in demand?

The industry predominantly remains male-dominated, and this lack of diversity, in turn, means less available talent to help keep up with the rise in mounting cyber threats. Women currently represent about 20% of people working in the field of cybersecurity, says Gartner. Andrea Babbs, Head of Sales UK & Ireland at VIPRE Security, outlines how attracting and embracing more females, and providing equal opportunities within the workplace, is significant for the future of the cybersecurity industry.

Male Dominated Subjects

Even at the very beginning of a ‘tech’ based career pathway, a woman’s success is already limited.  Females make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math subjects (STEM), and are systematically tracked away from these subjects throughout their learning, and pushed towards written and creative arts, narrowing their training and potential positions to go into these fields later in life.

STEM subjects are traditionally considered as masculine by many. All too often, teachers and parents may steer girls away from pursuing such areas – with females making up just 26% of STEM graduates in 2019. Additionally, there is a need for more female STEM teachers, as young girls may feel that they cannot be what they can’t see.Because less women study and work in STEM, these fields tend to create exclusionary male-dominated cultures that are not inclusive of, or appealing to women.

Barriers into the cybersecurity industry already exist, such as often requiring a minimum of two years of experience for entry level positions. This proposes the question, how do you get those two years without being offered an opportunity to gain the necessary skills or lessons? This requirement leads to talented, tech-savvy young women entering non-tech sectors, further enhancing the pattern of fewer women in cyber security, as well as technology as a whole, even if they have trained in that subject.

Additionally, females who have been successful in entering the industry often receive different treatment compared to males who work in technology, and can occasionally be mistaken for having a less ‘dominant’ role. Another VIPRE colleague, Angela, who has been a Support Engineer at VIPRE for over ten years is still asked to put people through to an engineer on the phone – as it is perceived that as a woman, she can’t be one herself, despite having over a decade of experience. These stereotypes can therefore discourage young women from entering the field and diminish the accomplishments and self esteem of those already in it.

Obstacles and Challenges 

From engineers to analysts, consultants and technologists, the roles are unlimited in cybersecurity. It is clear for women entering the industry that the profession is not limited to just one type of job, and requires a range of skill sets, most of which can now be done remotely  – which has been heightened due to COVID-19.

However, research demonstrates that 66% of women reported that there is no path of progression for them in their career at their current tech companies, suggesting the very reason why women tend to end up in the more ‘customer facing’ roles, such as marketing, sales or customer support. How can females continue to advance once they have a foot in the door into more technical or product focused roles?

Despite girls outperforming boys across a range of STEM subjects, including maths and science, the  presumption remains that women are not equipped to take on ‘complex’ tasks and roles. To support this, research reveals those who attend an ‘all-girls’ school and see their female peers also participating in technology subjects, therefore do not have lower-esteem when pursuing that industry, and are in a learning environment free from gender stereotyping, unconscious bias and social pressure. And even if a female is successful within these areas, we continue to see a lack of women represented in senior leadership roles on boards, as CEOs and in STEM careers. We need to dispel the myths that women cannot take on ‘tech-heavy’ jobs.

Maternity leave or taking a break to raise a family is another challenge women face later on in their career. Employers might question the gap in their CV when they eventually want to return to work after taking a break from such a demanding industry to start and raise a family. A recent study shows that three in five professional women return to lower paid or lower-skilled jobs following their career breaks.  Additionally, the challenges faced by women returning to the workplace costs the UK an estimated £1.7 billion a year in lost economic output.

“It’s almost considered career suicide to leave,” explains the former senior director of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, Claudia Galvan. These women find it “almost impossible to go back to work, or if they do go back to work, they have to take totally different jobs from what their career was, a demotion, of course pay cuts — and that’s if they get the opportunity to get back into the workforce.”

Based on my personal experience at a previous employer, whilst it was agreed that I could work fewer days a week after returning from maternity leave, this arguably caused more problems. The ‘compromise’ that was reached was that I could work four days but I still needed to have the same target as people in the same position who worked five days a week. They also reduced my pay by 20% inline with the four day week, and actually created a more stressful environment as I found myself working longer hours over the four days.

Everyone is the target. So why not get everyone involved? 

To ensure that women gain equal footing in stereotypically male-dominated industries, there is an often-overlooked factor – men need equality too. Businesses need to offer the same level of paternity leave and support to men as they do women when it comes to looking after a family. This then leads to the need for flexibility within working hours for school runs, for example, as it needs to be understood that men have children too, and women are not always the number one caregiver. For example, my husband received more questions about taking time off if our child was unwell than I ever did. He was constantly asked of my whereabouts as if it was my sole responsibility to look after our child, not both of us. Ultimately, the debate here is not just that there needs to be more women in cybersecurity and technology, but that workforces must have diversity within them.

Having a diverse workforce allows there to be a balance of input, more creativity, new perspectives and fresh ideas. From different learning paths, to ways of approaching problems, and bringing in wider viewpoints, women bring an array of different skills, attributes and experience to cybersecurity roles. Working in an industry like cybersecurity where everyone is impacted and everyone is a target – we need everyone to be involved in developing solutions which work to solve the problem. This is not just limited  to gender, but also includes age, culture, race and religion. To truly mitigate the risk of cybercrime, we need a solution relevant to all the people impacted by the problem.

Taking Action 

To begin with, whether this is from a younger age during school studies or university courses, offering varied entry pathways into the industry, or making it easier to return after a break, women must be encouraged into the field of cybersecurity. These hurdles into the sector have to be addressed.

Each business has a part to play when it comes to ensuring that their organisation meets the requirements of all of their employees. From remote or hybrid working, reduced hours or adequate maternity and paternity support, working hours should be more flexible to suit the needs of the employee.

A “return to work scheme” would greatly benefit women if companies were to implement them. This can help those who have had a break from the industry get back into work – and this doesn’t necessarily mean limiting them to roles such as customer support, sales and marketing. HR teams must also do better when it comes to job descriptions, ensuring they appeal to a wider audience, offer flexibility and that the recruitment pool is as diverse as can be.

Setting up the Cyber Security Skill strategy, the government has started taking action. Businesses themselves have also started to enforce programmes to support those with gaps in their CV’s and are eager to return to their careers, such as the Ziff Davis’s Restart Programme. This programme is committed  to those who have a gap in their experience and are keen to return to their careers, providing them with an employment opportunity which emphasises growth and training, helping professionals return to the workforce. When businesses step up and take matters into their own hands, it provides more available paths into the industry for everyone.

Creating a Gender-Balanced Cyber Workforce 

The cybersecurity industry remains an attractive and lucrative career path, but more should be done to direct female students in the right way to pursue a job role within STEM and to support those who are returning to work.

There is more of a need than ever before for more diverse teams, as cybersecurity threats become more varied. Becoming part of a gender-balanced cyber workforce is an efficient way to avoid unconscious bias and build a range of solutions to complex problems.

Whilst the latest government initiatives and courses to attract diverse talent, and better the UK’s security and technology sectors is a great start, the only way to progress is more investment and emphasis on STEM as a career path. This will encourage both males and females, who are treated equally and can see themselves reflected in their senior management teams.

Andrea BabbsAbout the author

Andrea Babbs has worked in the IT Industry for over 20 years. During that time she has worked for IT Security Vendors and Resellers dealing with email, endpoint and web security. Andrea is currently Country Manager and Head of Sales for VIPRE Security Limited, where she manages the UK and Irish business. Andrea’s length of experience in the industry means she has seen the threat landscape change from simple viruses and spam to the sophisticated, zero-day, polymorphic threats of today. However, she recognises that in attacks of all types, humans are the last line of defence, meaning they need awareness and effective tools to help them prevent little mistakes with big consequences.


Jacqui Bury

How I’m gaining confidence at work after sharing my disability story 

Jacqui BuryFor International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Jacqui Bury from the Digital Recruitment team at DWP Digital shares her experience and highlights the importance of the day.

Being dyslexic is challenging and I have to work in different ways and find it that little bit harder to achieve what I need to achieve.

I didn’t tell my family, friends or employer about my dyslexia for a long time as I was so embarrassed and at first I didn’t know or understand what it was. Sad, I know, and it really is not my fault. I did not want people to treat me differently or to think that I wasn’t able.

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. The condition stems from differences in parts of the brain that process language. Dyslexics have excellent thinking skills in the areas of conceptualization, reason, imagination, and abstraction. Dyslexia comes in many different forms and I know that I am lucky as my dyslexia is not as bad as some peoples who have a lot more difficulty than me.

You can learn more about dyslexia here: What is dyslexia? – Kelli Sandman-Hurley – YouTube

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses

Being Dyslexic I benefit from understanding my own individual learning style and pattern of strengths and weaknesses. That way, I can study and work in a way which is most likely to be successful. I have strategies appropriate to my learning style.

I have always been a very confident person and hate to let people think, just because my brain processes things differently, that I am not able to do what people without the disability can do.

How my dyslexia affect’s me

When I’m reading I’m great with the first few words, but after than all the letters and words start to move. This can be very challenging. However, on a positive, I do get to read a few words before it goes this way, I see this as a positive as at least it’s not like it with every word.

Another way dyslexia affects me is when information is read out, it takes a little longer for me, compared to others to digest and understand. This is because information is slower to get to the other side of my brain which means I can miss some information.

When things are verbally explained and shown to me at the same time this really makes a massive difference as I can pick things up so much easier.

One of the other things I struggle with is spelling. I can spell, however again the dyslexia can confuse me and sometimes I even struggle with basic words. This can be frustrating, again I have to just try and see the positive side.

My day-to-day challenges

One of my biggest challenges is not being fast enough, and others noticing this, this makes me self-conscious. Also, not understanding what is being asked, this frustrates me as I know I am able, however the dyslexia stop me, so I can take a little longer to understand something that other people will take.

I currently use Read Write Gold (RWG) which is a fantastic tool and this really helps me to do my job daily. There are so many tools I can use with the RWG, the main ones I use include the reading tools, it can read when I am typing, this is fantastic as I hear each word as I type so I know if I’ve typed an incorrect word. I can also use it to read all my messages in everything I use, for example: emails, internet, excel, words docs.

Throughout my life I have struggled with my perceptions of people thinking I am thick and not able, and this affected my confidence. I had counselling to support me on how to share my difficulty in telling people I am dyslexic. I found this difficult as I was embarrassed, and I did not want people to think I could not do my job. Or when I was with my friends, for them to think she is thick, tough I know, however this is how it makes me feel.

I used to cover up my condition and use excuses by saying things, such as I haven’t got my glasses with me, or I’d just hide away in the back in case someone said can you read this to me.

The counsellor was fantastic and gave me coping strategies to help me deal with sharing my difficulty with people. One of the first tasks she gave me was how to share that I’m dyslexic with my colleagues at work. Again, this was hard as I’m aware of people judging me on it. I did share my condition with my colleagues in a team meeting and all of them were great and very supportive apart from one person. Not bad for a team of 12.

I’m proud to say that now I have addressed the issue of telling people my life is definitely so much better.

DWP Digital really does let me be me and I’m proud to work here, I feel supported as an individual with a disability and my colleagues really try to be inclusive to each other, which again does make me proud.

Once I know what I am doing, I strive on giving my best, I feel this is a massive strength of mine. I’m gaining more confidence, for example I recently spoke at a management team meeting. There was over 100 people on the call, which was scary however it was great to share my story and a big step for me – I even put my camera on. The support messages I received were amazing and made me feel good.

I can honestly say now, I am no longer embarrassed and it’s a great place to be. Just being my lovely self.

If you’re interested in working in a team where everyone is valued, have a look at the current career opportunities on the DWP Digital Careers site.


Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

Women supporting women: New vendor-client mentorship programme aims to boost diversity

Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

Co-authored by Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat

It’s no secret that women are hugely underrepresented in the tech industry.

According to a study, two of the biggest barriers for women are a lack of mentors and female role models within the industry.

This ongoing diversity problem can often leave some women in tech feeling isolated, undervalued or like imposters.

That’s why it’s important we branch out and support other women, allow them to feel heard, valued and enabled to reach their career goals.

Here, Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, discuss collaboration can empower women through a new vendor-client mentorship programme.

Taking back the reigns

Due to disruption caused by COVID-19, which impacted the way we lived and worked, studies revealed years of hard work to fight gender equality in the workplace could be reversed if no action was taken.

At the height of the pandemic – when the social side of work was disrupted – Softcat decided to launch a new vendor-client mentorship programme with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to create a safe space where women could meet, share and learn.

In March 2021, a week-long campaign was launched for International Women’s Day, consisting of a panel session of senior leaders from both organisations.

Following the campaign’s success, the Mentorship Circles programme launched in June 2021 to provide a place for women in predominately junior to mid-level positions to network, share their challenges and support one another.

Collaboration accelerates diversity and inclusion

According to a previous study, the key to embedding impactful diversity and inclusion programmes is having a collaborative approach across all levels of an organisation.

And by merging with a vendor, who equally understand the importance of gender equality and championing women’s voices in the tech sector, Softcat has created three streams where women across both organisations are encouraged to host sessions, build peer to peer relationships, have meaningful conversations, gain insight, share best practices, and learn from external individuals with a different perspective.

The first stream focuses on ‘Building confidence & building your brand’ where women learn how to nurture self-confidence, discuss credibility and visibility to develop their career, build their brand based on values, skills and passions, and share ideas around best strategies and techniques.

Meanwhile, the second is all about work-life balance, where female employees can discuss the importance of balance and how to manage it, talk through challenges balancing career and home life, navigate demands and responsibilities and inspire others to achieve a better work-life balance.

Finally, the third stream is specifically designed for women in technical roles. With such an underrepresentation for women in tech roles, this creates a safe space for individuals to discuss current trends, encourage each other to progress and develop, consider new ways of making technical roles more attractive to women and discuss the challenges they face in a male-dominated industry.

It means so much more than looking at mentorship schemes internally., Collaborating with external vendors adds another element to it and organisation’s need to be looking at ways to refresh their efforts for diversity and inclusion.

A study found that half of the employees believe their company could improve their efforts, while another revealed that some even look at how senior managers focus on it.

By collaborating, individuals can benefit from fresh perspectives on similar experiences that others have had in different settings, which is valuable for growth and progression.

Championing females to overcome imposter syndrome

Unfortunately, it’s still fairly common for women to experience imposter syndrome, particularly those in mid-junior level roles.

However, while this seems unfair to those who are hard at work in workplaces making key changes for gender diversity and inclusion, the harsh reality is that there’s still only just over eight percent of women who are CEOs at fortune 500 companies, despite this number rising.

To tackle the issue, Softcat and HPE’s Mentoring Circles space looks to champion female employees at whatever level of their career, giving junior-mid level roles a chance to talk to those in senior positions.

Plus, there is scope to create more streams for females in apprenticeship positions and senior-level employees to share expert opinions on topics across multiple circle sessions.

Through careful mentorship, Softcat hopes to aid employees across both organisations find their voice and value within the company and give them the confidence to progress further up the career ladder.

If women support women, women in the tech sector have the chance to thrive in an otherwise underrepresented industry.

About the authors

Ellie TindsleyEllie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat PLC

Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, is an active part of Softcat’s community networks, including Supporting Women in Business and Softcat’s Pride network. Ellie has worked in the Manchester office for nearly 5 years, and believes diversity of thought is a super power which everyone holds.

Anushka DaviesAnushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion at Softcat PLC

Anushka is Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity at Softcat plc. Anushka joined Softcat with a Maths and Computing degree to go into IT Sales. 11 years ago Anushka moved into an L&D role, as Softcat began their journey in opening regional offices to drive the need for talent and support customers nationally. She has run an L&D function of 11 people who are truly focused on ensuring that a learning culture is adopted in all parts of the organisation.

Anushka now as Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity looks after leadership programmes whilst looking after succession planning and is responsible for overall employee engagement ensuring that employees are happy at work. She also works on all things Diversity and Inclusion related and mental health. Over the last 18 months a huge amount of focus has been paid on ensuring we can remove the stigma associated to mental health in the workplace. Softcat signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge in January 2018.


'Move Slow and Fix Things? Responsible Tech in a Disruptive Era' with Dr Kate Devlin, King's College London

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Move Slow and Fix Things? Responsible Tech in a Disruptive Era' with Dr Kate Devlin, King's College London

'Move Slow and Fix Things? Responsible Tech in a Disruptive Era' with Dr Kate Devlin, King's College London

Today we hear from Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College London, Kate Devlin.

In a world that rewards fast innovation Kate intends to explore how we can remain responsible.

With discussions on ethical development, biases in the tech industry and the power of transparency, Kate exposes the risks of speaking out and considers where women in the tech industry can go to seek change.

If you want to find out more about Kate – you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

LISTEN HERE

‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2021.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.

Discover more from our
She Talks Tech podcast

LISTEN HERE

Vacancy Spotlight: Head of Development, Six

Six Agency logo

Six are looking for a driven Head of Development to inspire and lead our brilliant team of developers across a range of challenging enterprise-level digital products and web projects. Our clients include bp Target Neutral, Castrol, and S&P.

Technology plays a key role across Six’s services. As a leader at Six, you will work closely with our Head of UX, Creative Director, and Client Partners to drive our growth strategy across digital as well as inspiring innovation across the business. You will also be expected to play an active part on the Leadership Team, influencing how our agency and our clients advance using digital technology.

Salary: up to £75,000 DOE
Responsible to: Partner
Location: Bristol (future expectations of 2 days a week in office)
Type: Perm (potential flexibility for this role to work across less than 5 days a week)
Starting date: ASAP

At Six, we believe that brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. What does that mean in practice? Well, for us, it means our employee experience is the number one priority. We want to give our team the space and support to do the best work of their lives – which works out great for our clients too.

That’s where you come in. We’re looking for a Head of Development who will assume responsibility for our development team, overseeing projects of variable scale and scope. The Head of Development at Six will be self-motivated as well as pro-active, ambitious to grow the role and confident in leading the conversation with Clients when it comes to software development and technology.

You’ll have experience in building complex consumer facing digital products and internal facing website and online applications, with the ability to work in a fast-paced environment both as an individual contributor and a technical lead. You have preferably served in a senior leadership position, responsible for building and leading high performing development teams.

ROLE REQUIREMENTS:

Core responsibilities include:

  • Quality in-house development: Overseeing all in-house development, including process, tooling, workflow and documentation. Setting the bar on coding standards and testing process to maintain quality of digital build work. Strive to reduce technical debt wherever possible.
  • Planning and specification: Working closely with management and UX teams to produce technical specifications for new digital products and services. Driving conversations with client IT teams to devise integration, testing and deployment strategies.
  • Leadership: Developing skills and expertise within the development team in order to achieve their personal growth goals and business objectives.
  • New business: Forging relationships with partners outside of the business to branch into new technology and digital opportunities.
  • Making strategic decisions on which technologies to use and invest in.
  • Maintaining security processes and protocol, such as developer on/off boarding, data and password policy, deployment workflow and disaster recovery plans. Overarching responsibility for flagging risks and any security updates.
  • Managing and advising on IT infrastructure such as hosting and domains
  • Helping developers upskill and achieve their own goals via personal growth plans and training
  • Leading by example, getting hands-on with coding and code reviews

WHAT YOU’LL GET FROM SIX

Unleash your strengths:

Our goal is to transform brands into experiences that deliver loyal customers, happier employees and a business ready for the future. You’ll be an integral part of that. That’s why we use all our strength to help you nurture your own experience – inspiring you to think differently and empowering you to do the best work of your career. We do this by offering you three freedoms:

  • Freedom to own – to take responsibility and think on your feet
  • Freedom to grow – to take on new ideas, new perspectives and new challenges
  • Freedom to wow – to show clients, customers and the world your talent

Everyone at Six enjoys:

  • Rest up with 25 days’ holiday, excluding Bank Holidays
  • Enjoy the festivities with Christmas closure & take a day off for your birthday, on us
  • Company pension scheme (5%) and access to financial advice
  • Virtual lunchtime yoga classes, Cycle scheme and Active Teams membership
  • Dedicated social committee to keep us all happy and connected with remote working
  • Lunch and learn sessions – an opportunity to keep us looking up
  • Training budget and continuous personal development plan – based on your strengths
  • Broaden your horizons at Six, with all the great online industry events that we encourage you to take part in
  • Annual profit share scheme
  • We’re also looking forward to being together under one roof again in our open plan office in a converted chapel, based in the heart of Clifton, Bristol.

Think differently: We inspire brands through strategy, design and technology

We’ve been mastering our craft for twenty-five years, and over that time we’ve built an exciting client list that ranges from the local to global. Through it all, we’re proud to be independent, in business, in creativity and in spirit. We’ve worked hard to create a working environment which is both exciting and sociable, and if you think you could be a good fit, we would love to hear from you.

Six is an inclusive employer that values diversity in its workforce. We encourage applications from all individuals without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or age.

FIND OUT MORE & APPLY

Virtual Holiday Celebration Drinks - WeAreTechWomen

Join WeAreTechWomen for our 2021 Virtual Holiday Party on 16 December!

Virtual Holiday Celebration Drinks - WeAreTechWomen

WeAreTechWomen would like to invite you our 2021 Virtual Holiday Party!

Join us in our virtual networking world for a drink at the bar, a dance on the dance floor, and a catch-up in the lounge.

We hope you can join us to catch up with friends and colleagues, and also make new connections. There is no awkwardness of breaking in to a conversation in our virtual world, you can just rock up to anyone on the platform and say hello.

Our final virtual networking session of 2021 takes place on 16 December from 12:30pm to 1:30pm.

How does virtual networking work?

Join us as we walk through the global networking platform, how it works, and some of the amazing features on offer.

What are you waiting for? Register below to book your space

REGISTER HERE

Supporting and developing women at disguise through allyship

Diversity

Article provided by Fernando Kufer, disguise

Becoming a male ally for women in the workplace does not have to be triggered by extreme events like misogynistic comments or biased hiring decisions.

Research shows that people do not need to wait for something severe to happen in order to be an effective ally.

The presence of a gender equality ally reduces anticipated feelings of isolation while simultaneously increasing support and respect. Through communicating that we care about gender equality and our commitment to acting as  allies  for our female colleagues, we aim to boost women’s feelings of inclusion in male-dominated spaces.

At disguise, our mission is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for both our end customers, but also the people that make up our growing and diverse workforce.

We are a global visual storytelling technology company that, for the past 20 years, has been powering the world’s most spectacular live events – from concert tours to theatre shows and video installations. More recently, with the sudden halt in live events, our business focus has pivoted to extended reality and virtual production – where we are reinventing modern filmmaking, broadcasts and virtual events while laying the building blocks of the metaverse.

As we work towards lowering the barrier of entry to virtual production and making it easier for everyone to use our workflow to realise their creative vision, we share the same ethos in our people strategy. We strive to create an environment where everyone belongs and can do their best work every day.

Creating a space where women feel valued

When I became CEO of disguise six years ago, my aim was to not fall into the common tendency for tech companies to be male dominated in their workforce, leadership and way of thinking. I wanted to create possibilities through diversity and inclusion, because true progress can only be achieved with a healthy balance of perspectives and backgrounds.. I made sure to communicate these values clearly to the rest of my team and was incredibly fortunate to bring on board our Chief People Officer Lorna Bains who, in the past three years, has led the way in making disguise a nurturing and supportive workplace for women.

Due to the increasing global demand for our technology, our workforce has grown from a company of 55 at the start of 2018, to a total of 200 today. During this time, Lorna and her team were also able to attract more women to our growing team, especially into leadership roles, going from a 24% female workforce to 40% today, with women taking up two of our executive-level positions, six in senior management positions and three in regional management positions.

This year, Lorna’s team has also launched a suite of inclusion policies focusing on developing and supporting all individuals at disguise. These include policies supporting women with menopause and any employee who undergoes fertility treatment.

Our employees can also take up to 50 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave which enables both parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.

Mentoring and building the next generation of women in tech

Being an ally also means mentoring young or emerging talent  exploring  their true potential. A number of our senior leaders are mentors to junior team members, challenging and championing them to step out of their comfort zone to build new skill sets or even explore cross-departmental working. Just one such example involves a young woman who joined us a year ago as an Inside Sales rep, who, as a result of mentoring and fast-track development within our commercial team, will now be moving to Australia to help set up our new Australia and New Zealand entity as a Regional Sales Manager.

Our Chief Commercial Officer, Tom Rockhill, has also partnered with Rise, an award-winning global advocacy membership organisation supporting gender diversity across the media technology sector, on external mentorship opportunities for aspiring young women in the sector. He even shared his experience and learnings in a webinar we co-hosted with Rise on International Women’s Day this year.

This year we also created internship opportunities for young people who wouldn’t have necessarily considered a career in tech, with a deliberate focus on appealing to women and those from the BAME community. These efforts have created a pipeline for future tech talent, while also supporting young people affected by poor employment prospects. This is the first iteration of internship programmes offered by disguise and forms a key part of our CSR plan by giving back to the community, whilst also helping build the future generation of tech talent.

Belonging is one of our core values at disguise. I am incredibly proud to have a number of inspiring leaders on my team that are committed to making everyone feel welcome here.


Opening the door to a career in technology with the Kickstart Scheme

Tech Interview Featured

Article provided by Jashmin Gurung, Business Development Executive, Comtec Enterprises

Despite a career in tech being a promising one full of opportunities, employers are crying out for knowledgeable, skilled hires as the ever-present skills gap continues to widen.

If that skills gap continues to widen, it’s highly likely that in a few years there will be hundreds if not thousands of exciting tech-related positions available with nobody able to take them.

But if we know the jobs are there, why aren’t more of us taking them? For many of us, if we didn’t decide on pursuing a tech career in our school years and then into university and beyond, it can be overwhelming to consider switching careers at a later stage. For others, it may be a question of confidence.

This is particularly true for women, who are often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers at an early age. Because fewer women enter these fields, they have become viewed as masculine environments, creating fewer role models to encourage women to take the dive in the first place. Fast forward to today, and it’s easy to see why that cycle has been so hard to break. But we are breaking it.

One of the ways we’re breaking this cycle is by accepting that the traditional path to a career in tech isn’t the only path. Whether you’re 15 or 51, you don’t need a degree to prove your worth – you just need to find an opportunity to get your foot in the door.

For me, this came via the UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme, an initiative designed to help young people like myself find hands-on career opportunities with UK businesses. In return, employers can discover raw talent that they can train to fill their specific skills gaps – a true win-win. At the end of the placement, Kickstarters (as we’ve dubbed ourselves) will either be offered a permanent role or will walk away with an experience they would have otherwise struggled to get. Experience that will go a long way when it comes to applying for jobs in tech in the future.

Rather than studying, reading or theorising what a role in tech could offer me, the Kickstart Scheme gave me the chance to experience it from the get-go, learning, doing and receiving invaluable hands-on experience every day. I have Comtec Enterprises to thank for that experience.

Comtec is an award-winning IT provider, with offices in Reigate and Basingstoke, that works with some of the biggest tech vendors in the world to deliver everything from data centres to desktops for its customers – and just about everything else in between. Their team includes decades of experience when it comes to designing and installing IT environments, making it the perfect stomping ground for someone like me to begin their tech career.

The team at Comtec are all about development, hence their eagerness to tap into the Kickstart Scheme. I’m one of 45 Kickstarters brought on board over the course of the pandemic, a huge amount of hires that saw Comtec named the official ambassador of the scheme by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Not only have I landed a role I couldn’t have dreamed of applying for only a year ago, but I’ve also done so with an employer that’s invested in my future. Alongside my hands-on training, I had access to the Comtec training academy, where I received a personalised development plan, had one-to-one mentoring, and received everything I needed – from books to online resources – to broaden my knowledge.

It all sounds a little too good to be true, but I promise you that isn’t the case. If you’re like me, you’re ambitious, and you know you’ve got what it takes, but you’re not sure where to start without going back to square one, I urge you to consider an alternative route to tech.

See what government schemes are running, what public or private apprenticeship opportunities are out there, and sniff out those businesses that you want to work with, that also want to invest in your development.

Doing so just might transform your career forever.


Cheryl Griffin featured

Inspirational Woman: Cheryl Griffin | Author & Creator, AlphaBetty NFT Project

Cheryl GriffinCheryl Griffin is a self-published author of two children’s books and the creator of the first family focused NFT project.

In 2019, Cheryl released her first book, ‘The Seagull Finds His Talent.’ In 2021, she released her second book ‘AlphaBetty Doodles’ which aims to help 3-6 year olds learn the alphabet in a colourful style. Cheryl created the illustration in her second book herself which has gone on to become the first NFT project aimed at young people and first timers on the blockchain.

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

When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be an author. However, I think it can be easy to lose track of those dreams when you get into the real world. When I started a family, I opted for more stability and chose a permanent role in banking.

I’m now working for the NHS but that creative passion for writing has stayed with me and it’s what led me to self-publish two children’s books for early learners – ‘The Seagull Finds His Talent’ and ‘AlphaBetty Doodles’. 

I grew up reading ‘Miffy’ books and drew on that inspiration with my AlphaBetty Doodles character, who I believe can be a big name up there with the likes of Miffy and Hello Kitty, especially after the AlphaBetty character has become the first family focused NFT project.

I quickly realised I’d hit on a niche in the market that appealed to first time buyers who were nervous about stepping into NFTs. Parents can use AlphaBetty to teach their children some of the basic principles of NFT as well as buy them a physical book to read.

The aim was to create an NFT collection that could help to increase the profile of the AlphaBetty brand and raise money for educational charities in the process.

After launching the NFT project, the collection quickly sold out and there are now over 3,500 owners of Betties, including some famous celebrities and influencers; the community have all been incredibly supportive and believe in the vision. But, more importantly it’s enabled me to donate money to charities very close to my heart.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Well, I’ve always been creatively driven. I’ve had the idea for both books in my head for over 10 years ever since I used to tell the story of the seagull to my children. So, the plan was always there and I believe my commitment to making it happen shows a positive message for my children – it’s something for them to aspire to.

It has only been recently, with lockdowns and a little more time on my hands with my children being older, that I decided to make my dream of becoming an author a reality.

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

I found getting published and marketing my work the biggest challenges. I decided to go down the self-publishing route and received positive feedback from this but of course that can be challenging and requires a lot of time.

It’s still a goal to get the book professionally published so it can fulfil the mainstream potential and I hope that introducing AlphaBetty Doodles into the NFT market will help me reach that wider audience.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Making such big donations to charity – in a short space of time the AlphaBetty NFT project has raised over £100,000 for educational charities such as Donor’s Choice and Gamers Outreach, a charity that makes video games available and easy to manage in hospitals. We also donated to my children’s old primary school, which is close to my heart, so that has definitely been a highlight.  This was only made possible by selling out the 10k AlphaBetty collection and there’s much more to come.

The positive feedback I’ve had from parents and children that love the character is also a big achievement. It’s heart-warming to hear and great to know that my creation has had an impact on other people’s lives. Helping children to engage with learning in a fun way is my motivation because it’s a special thing to be able to achieve.

Recently I even saw children dress up as AlphaBetty Doodles for Halloween!

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

Perseverance is key.  It’s all about pushing through and tackling obstacles along the way to be able achieve your end goals. This can range from your own creative doubts, time management or rejection. You must be strong within yourself to face adversity, and this can be where many tell themselves it’s too difficult and give up.

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

Never give up, persevere, keep learning and be open to all possibilities.

In technology, particularly with NFT, it is a steep learning curve. Technology is always changing at a rapid pace, so it is important to keep up to date with the ever changing environment. If you don’t you can feel like you’re getting left behind very quickly.

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

The tech world, particularly in the NFT space, is heavily male dominated and because of this there may be the perception that women aren’t as capable, or that it is difficult for them to further their career as much as men can in the tech industry. However, I hope that as more women enter the tech space, people will realise that gender isn’t important, and it will become a much more inclusive industry to work in.

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

Ensure women are provided with equal opportunities and encourage more female senior positions. Companies must encourage diversity and create an inclusive culture. Women of all ages and backgrounds should be able to feel confident and welcome to show what they can bring into tech roles.

There are currently only 17 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?

Make technology more accessible to girls from a very early age. We’ve seen LEGO and Barbie introduce dolls and figures that dispel the myth that STEM is just for boys. I’d love to see more of that.

Both parents and teachers have a role to play in changing the narrative. Girls from a young age need to understand that they can be equally qualified and skilled to work in a tech role and they can offer a lot of value to the sector.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Currently women only make up 15% of crypto users but as more artists enter the NFT industry, communities such as Women of Crypto Art have created a space for females to come together and share their ideas, which is fantastic to see. I think it is important to have that positive encouragement from other women and to build each other up.

Networking events such as the NFT event held in New York last month are also a great way for women in tech to connect and gain advice.


female data scientist, woman leading team

From Canada to Cameroon - Women who shape technology innovation shape the world around us

female data scientist, woman leading team

Article by Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, Converge

The past few years has seen a spike in the emergence of women in technology and leadership who are fronting a new paradigm where innovation addresses many of the world’s chief concerns.

They are driving the agenda to a new generation of disruption and technology.

I witness this all the time as Director of Converge, Scotland’s national company creation programme for our university network, when last year our three main Converge award categories saw triumphs for women founders.

It came as no surprise there was a female ‘clean sweep’. Up to that point, every year we had witnessed an increase in women applying to the Converge programme, coming forward with some truly inspiring ideas and in fairness, this surge of applicants from a strong female academic cohort was hardly unique. Around the world we witness daily how female entrepreneurship and innovation has surged and making a profound difference in so many different walks of life.

The drive, ambition, and focus are the qualities that have kept innovation rolling at a seemingly invincible pace and are managing to now quell any criticism of an industry that had a perceived lack of diversity that was once synonymous and pervasive.

Today, some of the global technology industry’s most influential roles are held by women across the tech spectrum – entrepreneurs, corporate executives, investors, and policy makers.

However,the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women in business, as highlighted by many reports, the latest of which is attributed to Professor Norin Arshed, Chair of Entrepreneurship and Associate Dean of Research in the School of Business at the University of Dundee.

This report, focused on Scotland’s female business owners, found that the challenges women entrepreneurs faced were amplified during the pandemic. These focussed around the historically reported barriers for women entrepreneurs (access to finance, lack of specific support, lion share of childcare and elderly care) which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Despite quick advances in tech platforms, networking is still done best face to face and this is an aspect where women tend to excel. Therefore, the lack of social interactions we all experienced in the last 20 months has been more strongly felt by women.

From a Converge point of view, this was reflected in a slowdown in female applications for our 2021 programme with several who participated having to juggle multiple priorities. We adapted our offering to online and on demand training sessions and spent an incredible amount of time brokering relationships between our participants and the entrepreneurial support community.

We won’t stop here. Converge will continue to tap into the global richness and exceptional skills of female-led and inspired innovation that sits within Scotland’s world-class Universities. We will get back on track for gender balance and equality in business.

Female entrepreneurs who apply to join the Converge programme come to Scotland to study from every corner of the globe. Their innovations and ingenuity have created businesses that are tackling head-on, some of the world’s greatest challenges – particularly around areas such as the climate emergency. All of them work towards a common goal of having the potential to transform people’s lives and the planet around us.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, ConvergeAbout the author

Claudia Cavalluzzo is Director of Converge – the only programme of its kind that brings together academic entrepreneurs from every university in Scotland. Its mission is to empower people to take their future into their own hands. This is done  by providing intensive business training – tailored to academic entrepreneurs – a dynamic and supportive network and one to one guidance for staff, students and graduates. More details at www.convergechallenge.com