networking featured

How to network as a tech woman

Article by Helene Panzarino, Associate Director, Centre for Digital Banking and Finance, The London Institute of Banking & Finance

networking featuredIt may not come as too much of a surprise that good networking skills are important in any career.

Word spreads between like-minded people who are connected, including news, the latest thinking, the best events and upcoming jobs and opportunities.

Networking is particularly important for women working in traditionally male-dominated industries – like computing, technology, science, engineering and banking and finance. Fintech is a good example. According to Innovate Finance, “Women represent just 29% of the fintech workforce, 17% of senior fintech roles and of the $1.7 billion that flowed into UK fintech firms in 2018, only 3% went to firms with a female founder.”

Those successful fintech men are well networked and, as a consequence, may be the first to hear of new opportunities. Women need to break into those networks – and also create our own – but how do we make it happen?

How to start networking

First of all, don’t panic! You don’t have to spend your weekends golfing (unless, like me, you want to!) And if you’re nervous about networking, you’re not the first.

Start by thinking about your ambitions. What do you want your next career move to be? If you’re not sure, ask yourself which parts of your work interest you the most. What avenues do you want to explore? Networking is a great way of working out what your next move might be.

Next you need to find the people and organisations that will help you explore – who will answer your questions – or who you might want to work for in the future. They might even be people who inspire you – whose career paths are a bit like the career you’d like. And anyone who can help you innovate and learn is worth connecting with.

Find out about networking opportunities and events

Thank goodness for all those amazing women who developed computer science in previous centuries! Because of technology, networking has never been easier.

So you have sites like MeetUp, which is like a listings service where you can search for events around the subjects that interest you. Meetup also hosts groups like Be Equal which was set up to diversify the tech space. They run events and webinar sessions.

Working Out Loud is a completely different way of networking. The idea is you connect with like-minded people online and work on a project together. So, in their words, “You invest in relationships by making contributions over time, including your work and experiences that you make visible.” If you’re nervous about attending events where you don’t know anyone, this is a great way to start.

Most professional institutions offer a programme of events, including The London Institute of Banking & Finance where I’m an Associate Director of the Centre for Digital Banking and Finance

In the fintech space, there are many events running on every day of the week in all parts of the country, including some aimed at women. As well as making some great contacts and being inspired by successful women, women’s networks offer a space and a platform to discuss issues that are specific to women. They can also be great for helping you develop a support structure. Have a look online for events because most of the newsletters you subscribe to, or sites like F6S, publicise monthly or weekly event notices.

So once you’ve worked out what kind of event you want to go to, the next step is to book your place – and don’t forget to put some business cards in your bag before you go! May seem old school to some of you, but it’s still nice to have a tangible reminder to give and receive.

At the event

Many people are anxious about networking and hate the ‘small talk’, but the thing is, the more you go to networking events, the less frightening it becomes.

Most of the events you go to will be interesting in any case, and if you go to a talk or seminar, then you have something to talk about when it comes to the ‘small talk’. Networking is really just about asking questions and getting to know people. If you think of it in those terms, it’s like any other social event. And you will meet people you like. You may even start to enjoy it – especially as your network grows and you start to recognise familiar faces.

Making the most of social media

It goes without saying that LinkedIn is a great networking tool but are you using it as effectively as you could be?

There are some obvious things about LinkedIn that any ‘how to make the most of LinkedIn’ blog will tell you – from updating your profile regularly to following the right people and organisations. Join professional groups and make sure you interact with people, by contributing to conversations. Share posts, but only when they’re relevant to your work or interests.

Remember, it’s not about selling yourself, but sharing your thoughts on a work-related matter or area of interest. That can give you real visibility.

Nurture the relationships

Once you’ve connected with someone, be sure to follow up. For example, if you get talking to someone at an event, connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards. (Include a message when you invite them to your network.)

Once you’re networked, the next time you need advice, you can go ahead and ask for it. You might offer to buy someone coffee. People can always say ‘no’, and you haven’t lost anything. Chances are though, they will be happy to give you ten minutes of their time. Remember, they were once in your situation too.

Helene PanzarinoAbout the author

Helene is a former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech.

She is a mentor and advisor who has helped over 15,000 of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) understand, prepare for, and access funding options at all stages of their business growth.

Helene is an adviser to a number of fintechs, including Yovo, a fourth generation utility token business, and Biid, a digital identity platform based in Spain.

In 2016, her book – Business Funding for Dummies – was published by Wiley and she was named a Top 10 Influencer in SME Funding in 2016. She has also contributed to The Entrepreneurs’ Network (TEN), The Parliamentary Rose Report on Female Funding in FinTech and The Scale Up Summit on Female Founders Raising Post-Seed Finance.


Game On: Why we need to mentor female talent in gaming

Female Gamers

Robin Milton is the Pathway Manager for Games at Access Creative College, where she is responsible for nurturing the next generation of gaming talent. Here she discusses the critical role mentoring plays in attracting and retaining women in the industry.

If it hadn’t been for the support of my mentors, I wouldn’t be working in the gaming industry today.

Back in 2010, I attended an open day at Norwich University of the Arts. By pure chance I sat in on a seminar by Marie-Claire Isaaman, who talked about her course in Games Art and Design. She described games as being not only entertainment products but an opportunity to open people’s minds, a vehicle for education, mindfulness and vast worlds for storytelling. Up until that point I had never seriously considered games as a serious career option, but from that moment onwards,I was hooked and decided to apply.

Ask anyone to describe a typical person working in the gaming industry and they will most likely paint a picture of someone who is young, male, and started playing games before they could walk. When you think of a typical gamer, that description would fit the same bill. Yet 46% of all gamers are women and with more 40-year-old women playing games than 18-year-old men it's clear we need to ensure we are developing games for this important audience.

The industry can only thrive if it is made up of individuals who have different backgrounds and life experiences. Games creators need to be representative of the people who play them. An example of where a company has not considered their audience effectively would be the Apple Health app debacle, where the app claimed to be able to track ‘every one of your health needs’, but critically missed out a feature for tracking menstrual cycles. I feel this shows the dangers of not having a diverse production team – you can only make a strong product if the development team come from all walks of life.

The industry has a perception problem. Too many people believe in the caricature of a gamer or game developer, too many assume that only hard-core games fanatics work in the industry and are therefore put off. Issues like #Gamergate haven’t helped matters, but the industry has come a long way. Gaming has so much to offer – not just in terms of the design and development functions, but the back-office functions – lawyers, marketeers, HR representatives are all viable career options.

So how can we address this challenge? Mentoring plays a crucial role in helping to tackle the perception problem, and it’s most effective when it starts at the grass roots. We need to attract more people into the industry from a young age and reassure parents that their children can have a viable career in the gaming industry. That’s why I go to events, schools, hold talks and run workshops and after school clubs with young adults – to challenge perceptions of the industry and to show the huge potential that a career in the games industry has to offer – whatever your gender, nationality or background.

However an exclusively grass roots approach is not enough to make meaningful change. Awareness of the career-change opportunities for those currently working in other industries are not highlighted. People assume there is some bizarre form of an ‘entry exam’ for anyone looking to work in industry even if they have decades of relevant experience in another sector. We need to make sure we retain good people once they’ve joined the industry. A good mentor is someone who can show you not just what you can do now, but what you can achieve in five or ten years’ time. Someone who can give you that big picture perspective so that you can really understand where your career might go and what you can achieve. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from the guidance of people like Marie Claire – as well as that of many other incredible mentors and tutors throughout my career. They have given me the confidence to pursue my goals and their support has been invaluable in helping me get to where I am today.

In the UK, the games industry is bigger than Hollywood at £4.5bn – it makes more money than the music and film industries combined. If we don’t encourage and support women into the industry, then I believe we are at risk of jeopardising its future. By mentoring women and encouraging them to pursue long term and meaningful careers in gaming, we can positively contribute to its ongoing success.

Robin MiltonAbout the author

Robin is an incredibly passionate advocate for the growth of the games industry. She has recently been shortlisted for MCV’s Mentor of the Year award as well as the Progression Advocate award by Gamedev Heroes for her work encouraging young people to consider careers in the industry. As well as her role at Access Creative College, Robin helps organise the regional community group, Norfolk Game Developers. She is also a UK Women in Games Ambassador, to support women and girls in understanding the games industry and the opportunities within it. In addition, Robin has previously worked with the Norwich Games Festival and travels the world as a regular speaker at leading events for both the NUA and UEA, talking about her experience in the industry. Above all, Robin is all about bringing aspirations, ideas and people together via the common denominator of a love of computer games.


Why a “big bang” moment is key to getting girls into tech

Article by Sinead O'Donnell is Director Human Resources at Raytheon UK

Girls in techLots of children will remember a “big bang” moment from their youth, when the world exploded into excitement, chock-full of possibilities.

That moment might be sparked by a shared experience, a new moment of learning or – in my case – a gift that spoke to a new world of technology.

Even now, I distinctly remember unwrapping my Sinclair Spectrum 48K computer, complete with a full suite of games and a manual the size of a telephone book.

I was just 10 years old at the time, and although it was a big unwieldy thing, it felt like the stuff of dreams. Whilst my siblings and friends were desperate to play the games, I was desperate to grasp how it all worked.

From the outside, it all seemed so mysterious, but there was clearly some wonderful technology at play here. And if I could understand it, who knows what it could do or what could happen? It was a lot for me to contemplate but it helped that I had some wonderful people around me to help ask the right questions.

I had a fabulous maths teacher at the all-girls grammar school I attended. She encouraged her students to think outside the box and to apply maths in our everyday lives. She also introduced a GCSE in Computers to the school, and I was therefore able to study for that and a Computer Science A-level.

The strong support and encouragement at school meant that I was not aware that tech was often considered a “masculine” profession. But I was one of just seven women on my Computer Science course at university – out of 70!

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Spectrum computer represented my first steps towards a lifelong love of technology and a career that has revolved around those early questions: How does it work? Can I understand it? What if I did this?

These questions played a vital role in my former role as a software engineer and are still relevant as I lead human resources for Raytheon UK. Even in a role that is ostensibly less technical, I’m still using the same engineering and development mindset. That might mean understanding how and where to add value, or agreeing requirements up front, and making sure to support creativity within the framework of what the deliverables should be.

We’re always looking to continually improve our HR offering and being an engineer has undoubtedly helped me to have a better understanding of how HR adds value across our organisation and the defence sector more broadly. But do many other girls and women understand that a background in technology or software development can take you beyond the obvious tech jobs like coding?

The variety of careers available to women who have a background in STEM is hardly obvious. Ultimately you can’t be what you can’t see. Although I was oblivious as a child and young adult about the gender divide in technology, it became obvious that I was in a minority when I undertook an industrial placement during my third year of university.

After a month of being treated differently on the placement- being asked, for example, to undertake more administrative tasks than my peers- I explained to my boss that the status quo was failing to teach me anything of value and could leave me unable to either to complete my degree and or become employable in my chosen field. It might sound extreme but this approach paid off– my boss became a great mentor and helped me learn how to navigate office politics.

In HR, a key part of my role is to enable entry points into STEM for women later in their careers. I have taken on as a personal challenge to ensure that we are giving a new generation of female talent a sturdy leg up. We need to mentor the next generation of women in tech by reaching out, sharing our experiences and offering networking opportunities. We must challenge unconscious bias where we see it.

I'm proud to be the executive sponsor of Raytheon Women's Network. Open to all employees – male or female – we work to address common issues in the workplace and to encourage greater equality, not only tech, but in all roles.

I hope these efforts will help broaden the tech talent pipeline. Because we don’t just need more women in tech, we want more women with technical mindsets in other roles too. Let’s strive to spark those “big bang” moments in the next generation of young girls.

Sinead O'DonnellAbout the author

Sinead read Computer Science at the University of Ulster, before spending over a decade working in software engineering.

In 2007, she transitioned into a more HR focused role. Today, she is the UK Director of HR at defence and cybersecurity firm Raytheon.


On Wednesday 22 January, Raytheon will be sponsoring the inaugural ADS Women in Aerospace and Defence Summit, as part of its commitment to promoting greater diversity within the sector.


Award winners at the TechWomen100 Awards

TechWomen100 Awards 2019: In Pictures

WeAreTechWomen celebrated the winners of their 2019 TechWomen100 awards on 23 January, at a prestigious ceremony at the iconic Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, London.

Over winners, sponsors, judges and guests celebrated and enjoyed a three-course meal and champagne reception to toast the TechWomen100 finalists’ achievements. The evening was facilitated by Julia Streets, Founder, Streets Consulting and attendees were welcomed by Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director, WeAreTheCity; headline sponsors, Karin Rossi, J.P. Morgan; and our education partners, Professor Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science & Technology Evangelist, Speaker & Author and Professor Gordon Love, Durham University.

Kicking off the proceedings and inspiring the guests, Vallely said, “Let tonight’s awards be the platform you all spring from, to achieve more, to get your promotions, to help others thrive and be a beacon of light in the tech industry.”

Representatives of each of the award’s sponsors then invited winners to the stage, to collect their awards. Speakers praised the emerging talent within the room and called out for more women to put themselves forward for tech roles.

View the photos from the night below:


If you know an inspiring woman in tech then nominate them for a 2019 Rising Star Award in Digital, Technology or Science & Engineering!

Find out more about the awards here.

 

 


Career change, Building a career featured

Building a career from the service desk

Claire Harris is an infrastructure engineer at managed service provider Fordway in Godalming. Here she explains how she’s built a successful career in IT based on practical skills rather than academic qualifications.

Career change, Building a career featuredI love the sense of achievement when something goes wrong and you fix it.

It’s a skill you only learn by actually going to a machine and working things out for yourself. This may seem daunting at first, but as long as you’re systematic, you’ll be fine - just make a note of the changes as you make them so you can always roll them back. It will also speed things up the next time you come across the same problem!

My career path may not have been the conventional one but I think it’s given me a much more solid base of knowledge than if I’d done things a different way.

My initial interest was encouraged by my Dad, who works in IT for a large telecoms company. Although he’s Cyber Security Design and Transition Manager so isn’t hands-on with the technical aspects, I could see that IT was an interesting area to work in. I wasn’t very academic, but after obtaining Level 3 qualifications in English and Maths I took a five-month course at the Zenos Academy in Basingstoke which really developed my love for IT. I found that I preferred software to hardware, as I enjoy the maintenance and configuration aspects. However, I can take computers apart if I need to.

My first IT role was at Fujitsu, working for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). I was the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for users, which meant logging whatever problems they had and solving them. This gave me a brilliant foundation in understanding the day to day issues that arise and which prevent people doing their job. I then moved to the Atomic Weapons Establishment, where I progressed from the service desk to a technical engineer role, where I was managing other people. I really enjoyed working in a team and training colleagues. After similar roles at Bauer Media and at multi-channel home shopping retailer Ideal Shipping Direct, I joined Fordway last year as an infrastructure engineer in their service operations team.

Although the technical aspects of my role here are similar to what I’ve done before, in other ways it’s very different. Fordway is a managed service provider, so whereas in the past I’ve been solving problems for my colleagues, I’m now supporting our customers. My work is primarily proactive rather than reactive. On a typical day I could be handling anything from running regular disaster recovery tests to rolling out applications and carrying out server updates. I recently moved Fordway’s SMTP server from Windows to Linux as part of a major upgrade of our infrastructure. It’s a great place to work, as they provide plenty of training and you’re encouraged to gain certifications from the major vendors such as Microsoft and Citrix.

You don’t find many women in IT, but it’s a great career choice for anyone who likes problem-solving and has a logical approach. One of the big advantages of it being a largely male environment is that there’s no bitchiness! You still find people who look at you as though you don’t know as much as them, but it’s a nice environment to work in and there are lots of opportunities, so you can go far.

My tip is to always begin at the service desk, whether you are just starting out in IT or coming in at a third line level. Being on the service desk gives you valuable knowledge about the company’s unique systems and customers and a greater understanding of the business. I have found in the past that it is extremely helpful, especially if you work with a ticketing system, as you must understand the basics before you can delve deeper into the systems. I love the sense of achievement when something goes wrong and you’re able to fix it.

My family still call me if they have IT problems at home, such as a mouse not working. My mum even called me from work one day to ask me to sort out a problem there! I had to explain that I couldn’t just log onto her company’s IT system, but I ended up talking to their IT team to help them find a solution. I just can’t resist a challenge.

About the author

Claire Harris is an infrastructure engineer in the service operations team at managed service provider Fordway Solutions. She works with Fordway’s customers to ensure that their systems are kept up to date, from rolling out applications to carrying out disaster recovery tests. Claire took an IT course at the Zenos Academy and has used her technical and problem-solving skills to develop her career from first line support through roles as a technical field engineer and infrastructure analyst to her current post.


Bringing a fresh perspective to tech

Women codingCarolyn Crandall, Chief Deception Officer at Attivo Networks

At first glance, cybersecurity can seem like a lonely profession for women, with female practitioners almost always greatly outnumbered by their male colleagues.

Research from IBM found that women make up just 11 percent of the security industry; even fewer (as little as one percent) are in a leadership role. Yet, cybersecurity is also an exciting, fast-paced career that can be hugely rewarding for anyone with a passion for technology, regardless of gender.

One myth I can dispel right away is that to get into cybersecurity you first have to be some sort of coding expert. This is not always the case. In cybersecurity, there are many different and important roles to occupy, which rely on a wide range of skills. From product management, risk management, testing, problem solving, sales & marketing to budgeting and more. This industry thrives on its diversity of experience, education, and background.

Learning and experience

A good way to get started is by taking a course, applying for an internship, or an entry-level position to obtain foundational qualifications and certifications. Not only does this allow you to develop your knowledge-base and skill set, it also shows your willingness to learn new things. Even with baseline experience, it’s still important to always continue to learn and stay current on new technology and ways to address modern challenges. I recommend seeking out managers who present opportunities for long-term career progression and understand the importance of providing continuous learning for their employees. For example, with my recent college graduate hires, I have created a learning environment that encourages them to ask questions and try out new things. I also urge them to sign up for training classes and engage with the many training resources that are made available online.

Something else that helps within this space is to stay on top of the latest trends, technologies, and news. Educate yourself about what is going on in the cybersecurity community, so as you continue to develop in your career and in your day-to-day skills on the job, you also maintain a high level understanding of the market and allow it to inform your professional decision-making .Personally, I strive to read any significant security stories in the news. An awareness of what’s going on is essential if you want to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Another piece of advice is to try new and different workplaces to experience what it’s like to work for both large and small organizations. A larger company will have well-defined roles that you can learn within and the budget and infrastructure to expose you to a wide range of interesting projects and life lessons. Working for a small business, by contrast, will have less definition to how a role needs to be done, teaches you to take on more responsibility and to make tighter budgets stretch as far as they can go.

Getting the job

In my experience, women are every bit as suited to cybersecurity as men. However, over the years, I’ve also noticed a distinct difference in their approach, especially when it comes to landing a job or career advancement. Men tend to be good at exuding confidence about a role even if they are not entirely qualified. By comparison, women can tend to be more conservative and prefer to successfully master every detail before committing to take on a new responsibility. I would strongly encourage women not to let the lack of a “checked box” hold you back. Hardly is there ever a perfect candidate that can do it all. It’s much more important to present yourself as someone who is very capable and is willing to learn what they don’t know. I will often bet on the “athlete” with a hunger for success over someone who has simply done the job before.

In this industry, you may find yourself going head to head against exceptional individuals with exhaustive security experience or military backgrounds. And, admittedly, it can be very intimidating to compete with or to participate in projects with these seasoned professionals. I encourage you to take a deep breath and believe in your abilities. If you know your stuff, walk the walk, talk the talk, and do it with the swagger that you have earned. Although you may encounter some jerks, you will find most people to be welcoming to women in the field and will appreciate what you bring to the table, both today, as you learn more, and as you grow stronger in your capabilities.

Regardless of where you are in your career, take the time to build a reputation for yourself, internally and externally, as an expert and a recognized authority in your field. This means demonstrating knowledge and experience to your colleagues and sharing insights with industry peers. Blogging, contributing to articles, and commenting on posts can all be excellent ways for establishing a name for yourself. Speaking at conferences can also be a great way to share your insights and for networking purposes.

Encouraging more women into tech

Women entering into cybersecurity with their fresh perspectives have so many things they can offer the industry. A different point of view or approach can be extremely beneficial when it comes to driving innovation, reducing risk, and delivering on a new product or service.

Both men and women need to make sure that women joining cybersecurity don’t end up feeling isolated, unsupported, or alone. We collectively need to create strong support networks and help each other out more. This can be as simple as socializing so that you get to know your female colleagues, mentoring other women, or even joining online groups of like-minded people to learn how they cope with similar circumstances to your own.

The tech industry has a lot to offer women, and women have a lot to offer the tech industry.  By being welcoming and supportive, we can attract incredible talent and be a better workforce to show for it. That’s why I would not hesitate to encourage any women thinking about a career in cybersecurity to go for it.

Carolyn Crandall About the author

Carolyn is a technology executive with over 25 years of experience in building emerging technology markets in security, networking, and storage industries. She has a demonstrated track record of successfully taking companies from pre-IPO through to multi-billion-dollar sales and has held leadership positions at Cisco, Juniper Networks, Nimble Storage, Riverbed, and Seagate. Carolyn is recognized as a global thought leader on technology trends and for building strategies that connect technology with customers to solve difficult information technology challenges. Her current focus is on breach risk mitigation by teaching organizations how to shift from a prevention-based security infrastructure to one of an active security defense based on the adoption of deception-based cyberwarfare.


Tribeni Chougule

TechWomen100: What happened next for Tribeni Chougule

Tribeni Chougule

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

 

Now in their third year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Tribeni Chougule, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

Tribeni started her career as a Graduate Trainee Engineer in Tata Technologies, Pune, India where she was trained as an SAP Technical Consultant.

She enjoyed programming and was able to land a new job on the basis of her 4.5 months of strong technical expertise into India’s top 3 IT companies –Wipro. In her 11 years career in Wipro, Tribeni’ s roles graduated from Technical Consultant to Technical Lead to Project Lead to Project Manager and Program Manager and she also moved permanently from India to UK. Tribeni then joined Infosys where she project managed their first SAP Global Trade Management implementation for a procurement division of one of the largest telecom companies. In 2013, Tribeni joined Visa as Technical Project Manager and transformed internal IT teams from waterfall to agile model of delivery and enabled the various teams to work in the digital propositions of the organisation. This included training design and implementation, tools and process change and being an Agile coach to Scrum Masters as well as to Scrum Teams. After undertaking various  key and complex programmes and projects during the and post-merger of Visa Europe and Visa Inc, Tribeni headed the Technology team in the London Innovation Centre. Tribeni is currently the Head of Change Management in Finance Europe.

Tribeni is also the co-chair of  Visa’s Women in Technology Europe network, Enactus Business Advisor and a Cherie Blair foundation women in business mentor. She is pursuing her executive MBA from WBS, London.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

I was delighted to have made it to the shortlist and didn’t think that I would anyway make it to the winning list. The day of the result, when I saw my name in the list, I just couldn’t believe that I had won. I was emotional and ecstatic. I found it hard to believe and rechecked  a couple of times to be sure that I was reading correctly.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

2019 turned out to be a fabulous year from a career perspective. The biggest gain for me from this award was self-confidence and belief. All of a sudden, I was willing to take action  that erstwhile I did not believe I could do. The year saw me get a promotion at work, become a member of techUK Skills and Diversity Council and a Cherie Blair Foundation Mentor for Women in Business. I  felt extremely grateful with the best wishes and support that came my way from friends , family, colleagues, and my LinkedIn network and every single note or email that I received was invaluable. Thanks to a WeAreTheCity MBA newsletter and event, I applied for an executive MBA with WBS(London). I was successful and have embarked upon this long-time dream since September.  The appreciation at my workplace on this win  was also tremendous. I got mentioned in our Europe CEO’s newsletter and an article was published on our global intranet on me and my thoughts on Diversity and Inclusion.  The award has also made a difference to how I and my opinion is perceived.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

If someone has nominated you, then remove self-doubts that you do not deserve it. If they are willing to share with you why they nominated you, have the conversation and understand what is it that you are doing that stands you apart. Review your achievements and answer the questions authentically and savour the process. Even if you do not land up winning, to be shortlisted or even be nominated is a great achievement and you should be proud of that.

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

My top three tips are as follows:

  • It is important to have self-confidence and self-belief. If there’s something that you would like to do, you should go for it and  remember that the worst outcome is that you will not get the opportunity, but you still have what you currently have.
  • Build self-awareness, I have started that journey fairly late and still developing, but one of the big things that I have learnt is identifying my own self-limiting barriers and overcome them.
  • Do ensure to have mentors and I recommend more than one. More idea,  if you can also get a sponsor as that will make a difference to your career.

encouraging girls in to tech, STEM featured

Inspiring women for a career in engineering

encouraging girls in to tech, STEMAs a female engineer, I am part of a minority group.

A miniscule five per cent of practicing engineers in the UK are women, and only 22 per cent of 16-18-year-old girls say they would consider a career in engineering. In the UK we also have the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30 per cent each1.

Why is this the case? My theory is by the time a child turns four, it has already been instilled in them which jobs are for men and which are for women, and society inadvertently reinforces these socially constructed identities due to its own lack of understanding and preconceptions.

But when did Britain decide that women should not aspire to be engineers and help to change the world? And worse still, who thought up the ludicrous notion that women would not make good engineers?

The women of Great Britain have already proven that they can be outstanding engineers and run this country single handedly. Just 70 years ago, when the men left to fight in the Second World War, women went into factories and did the work of talented engineers more than competently.

Sadly, at the end of the war when the men returned, everyone went back to their so called “traditional roles”.

The field of engineering loses so many talented women to so-called “caring professions” because they want “to make a difference,” but making a difference is actually the bread and butter of engineering, and in today’s world is vitally important for the future.

The Engineering UK 2019 report reveals that while girls are underrepresented in STEM subjects at both GCSE and A‘Level, they tend to outperform boys in examinations at both levels of study.

This shows women should be engineers!

As we continue to live through difficult financial times, there are many other pressing problems that threaten our quality of life, such as global warming, the depletion of natural resources and challenges to health - to mention just a few. Engineers and scientists are the only people who can halt the destruction of our planet, so what better way to show you care and make a difference than to become an engineer

In 2017, the annual shortfall of the right engineering skills in the UK was between 25,500 (level 3) and up to 60,000 (over level 4 skills). The reality is that we need to at least double the number of UK based university engineering students for the UK to remain a power hub.

In my current role as President and Chief Executive of the New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMITE), we are committed to making engineering more accessible for everyone and are aiming for gender balance in our student body.

We will also be making entry more accessible with students only needing to demonstrate competence of Maths and Physics at GCSE and not A ‘Level.

We want students who want to be creative, to design, work as a team and be part of an exciting future. By working on ‘real-life’ engineering challenges rather than sitting in lectures, our future students will be providing real solutions for our partner companies including Heineken and Avara Foods.

I hope I, as a Professor of Engineering, will inspire a future generation of Amy Johnsons and Caroline Hasletts to help make a difference and change our world.

Elena Rodriguez-FalconAbout the author

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon FIET, PFHEA, FCMI

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon is President and Chief Executive at the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering. Before that Elena was Professor of Engineering at Sheffield University whilst leading various strategic priorities. Elena has received numerous awards for her work on education and diversity and is Principal Fellow at the HEA and Fellow of the IET and CMI.

 


female data scientist, woman leading team

Women in tech: How to progress to the c-suite

female data scientist, woman leading teamAli Palmer, Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim, offers 5 top tips for female tech leaders looking to secure a c-suite position 

In 2017, PwC published their Women in Tech report. It found only 5% of leadership positions in the UK technology industry were held by women – a statistic that is unlikely to have changed much in the past three years.

For female technology professionals in senior management positions, it can mean having no female peers to turn to for support, suffering from a lack of role models and reporting into all male leadership teams. In short, the woeful underrepresentation of fellow leaders means breaking into the c-suite will be an uphill battle.

It is however, far from being unachievable. With the right approach, c-suite positions can be attained. Here are 5 key practices that successful female technology leaders use to progress their careers:

1. Join professional networks

Building relationships with technology leaders and influencers is a key step in generating career opportunities and developing your own knowledge of what is a rapidly evolving industry. This could be anything from a technology forum to a CIO network. It’s a simple move that will not only build your profile within the industry but will also lead to you becoming recognised within your own organisation as someone who works at bringing external relationships into the business. Make the effort to maintain this network and continuously make a note of who you do and do not know; your next opportunity could be one conversation away.

2. Break into workplace networks

As a senior manager in the technology industry, you’ll be working alongside, and managing, some highly technical individuals. If you’re a non-technical manager, then you’ll need to bridge the technical/non-technical divide that can often exist between management and the front-line. It’s a lesson in resilience made that much more difficult by the gender divide you’re likely to come up against. However, in overcoming this obstacle you will be able to break into the informal groups around the business and get key individuals on your side. This is an important step; securing the respect of the right people will make your transition to the top that much easier.

3. Work with a mentor

A mentor or executive coach is a guiding hand; there to steer you in the right direction and help you progress to the next stage of your career. Their position affords them an objective and more accurate perception of the colleagues and contacts around you; a perception they will share with you. It means they can connect you with the right people and point out colleagues you need to build relationships with, who you shouldn’t build relationships with and who you might need to manage differently. If you’re struggling to find your voice or contribute in senior management meetings, then a mentor that works in the same company can be a critical boost of confidence. They will also have their own networks and personal contacts and as a result will open doors to other opportunities.

4. Become a female role model

If you’re a senior female figure in a technology company then it’s likely you’ll quickly become a role model for other women in the organisation, and possibly the wider industry. This should be embraced; by supporting your female colleagues you will build your own relationships and gain a better understanding of the business you’re working in. Whenever you meet someone new, you should be thinking, “who do I know that it would be good for you to know?” Helping others build connections in this way is one of the best methods of building your own network as people tend to remember those who have created an opportunity for them. What’s more, when it comes to the technology industry there can often be an environment of isolation for female employees which only increases at the senior leadership level. Many successful female leaders have overcome this by championing women in the workplace, leading female leadership programmes and creating female only career groups.

5. Have a voice at the table

Senior management meetings are where you want to be recognised by your peers for the quality of your ideas and your vision for the company. However, you might be one of the only women in the room, putting you at risk of being outspoken by your male counterparts. It’s a challenge that can be overcome with preparation, ensuring you come armed with an opinion for at least one of the points on the agenda and that you’ve done enough prior research to offer an intelligent contribution. You should also cultivate your allies carefully; build a relationship with a fellow senior manager who you know will ask for your opinion or provide support for an idea you have.

In an industry dominated by men, career progression for women is a journey littered with hurdles. However, by adopting these practices, the transition to the c-suite can be made that much more possible. Yet the future of women in technology depends on more than just individuals; it requires an industry-wide effort to address the gender imbalance by encouraging more women to work in technology, championing women in the workplace and supporting more females to take on senior leadership roles.

Ali PalmerAbout the author

Ali Palmer is a Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim – the UK’s largest interim executive headhunting firm. Ali works with tech industry giants including Avanade, Smiths Detection, Colt Technology Services and Nominet UK to place senior leaders across the c-suite and senior management levels.

Ali previously worked in retail banking, specialising in fund and risk management. Prior to joining Odgers Interim, she was a Vice President of a large European Investment Bank. Ali is just as successful outside of the working environment, being the Chairman of her school’s Old Girls’ Society and has recently been appointed as a School Governor at St. Paul’s Boys School.


Women in Engineering: How Can We Make The Sector More Inclusive?

Women In EngineeringIn 2016, Engineering UK released its ‘State of the Nation’ report, which highlighted a severe recruitment crisis in the engineering sector.

More people are leaving than entering. And while the estimates vary by quite a large margin — from between 69,000 and 186,000 — what is certain is that the current flow of 46,000 apprentices and undergraduate students is nowhere near enough to fit the demand.

For some time, the UK has leaned heavily on human capital from Eastern Europe. But rising wages back home, and uncertainty over Brexit, has weakened this EU labour force.

In order to solve this crisis, it seems more important than ever for the UK to tap into its abundant pool of natural resources. I am of course talking about women, who actually outnumber men in the British Isles.

UK engineering is woefully failing the female workforce

Britain, historically and now, is a hugely successful country. In many instances, it has been the British who have introduced to the world radical and key new ideas in the name of ‘progress’. Which makes it all the more remarkable (and strange) that the UK lags behind so many other countries when it comes to equality in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

The UK has the lowest proportion of women in engineering out of any European country at 11 per cent. Indeed, even many North African countries, such as Algeria and Tunisia, have greater gender parity, and far to the East, India and Malaysia also welcome more women into their ranks than the UK does.

What are the reasons for this disparity? Many theories have been proffered. Some blame the UK government’s previous arms-length relationships with business (which is now changing thanks to the requirement of gender-pay gap reporting); to the cultural differences abroad (for example, some scholars will argue that women are less likely to choose engineering when they have more personal freedoms).

The most popular cause of the problem, however, is thought to be a cultural one; and a particularly Anglo one. That includes the United States, too.

Is culture really the problem?

As mentioned above, as little as 11 per cent of the engineering workforce is female. That means 89 per cent of engineers are male — despite women making up 51 per cent of the population. This is a slight increase for women of 2 per cent over the past two years, which is almost statically slow. Currently, it is estimated that 14 per cent of women are taking STEM subjects at A-level or higher. So things are improving, but what’s been holding women back?

Sarah Peers of the Women’s Engineering Society thinks stereotyping, and an outdated, pro-masculine work structure may be to blame. According to Peers, this problem could be rectified men were given more time off for child-centric duties, such as child-rearing, and not just women. Traditionally, major roles, such as that of CEOs, have not been kind to expecting mothers, or newly mothers, who cannot be available twenty-four hours a day, unlike a male colleague — a disadvantage that, in recent times, has come to be identified as sort of mothering ‘penalty’.

Peers also thinks there is a disconnect between the well-intentioned campaigns from the HR and PR world, meaning their messages are not permeating into the company hierarchies above.

A manifest part of the culture could also lie in the way we broach the topic of engineering to our girls, of which we could look abroad for some positive solutions. For example, the president of Ashesi University in Ghana has achieved an almost 50-50 split in men and women on its computer science programme. One way the University did this was, it claimed, by reframing engineering to mean talking about problem-solving, and how engineering can help to improve the lives of others and the environment.

It has long been suspected that women have subtle innate differences that favour people, whereas men traditionally have favoured ‘things’. Talking about engineering as a way to help people, even by proxy, seems to resonate more with the minority sex.

Are we creating a welcome environment for women?

There is another issue that we may not be entirely comfortable talking about — that is, if men have essentially “shut the door” to female colleagues, either with subconscious biases, or plain old sexism.

It is not unusual for a female engineer to find herself almost alone in her world of work. There may never be a queue for the women’s toilet, and understandably, there is a lack of like-minded individuals to talk to.

This lack of a female presence can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, men might wonder, if there are almost no other women present — then what are these few women even doing here? This can conjure up prejudices or harmful stereotypes that can undervalue, undermine, and overlook female colleagues.

In fact, in one study, 40 per cent of female engineers thought they weren’t treated equally in the workplace. And 60 per cent said they thought male engineers got an easier ride and progressed further.

Perhaps more shockingly, 63 per cent said they had overheard or experienced sexism directed towards them. One engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, posted on Reddit that her male colleagues would inappropriately touch her, and even talk about her sexually when she was in the room.

Old habits die hard and are passed along from one generation to another, but they can be altered. Echoing Sarah Peers, another challenge would be to educate all engineers of the dangers of stereotyping, for a better and more understanding workplace.

Encouraging girls in the school

If one key discovery has been uncovered in the march for engineering gender-parity in recent years, it is that you have to inspire children young.

This goes for girls and boys, of course, but even from very early on, societal structures can send mixed messages about what girls can and cannot do, and what they are expected to do.

It all starts with reframing the study of engineering to that it encourages girls, too. Previously, local campaigns have targeted teenage girls at 16, or when they are doing their A-levels, but it needs to start much earlier. Some campaign groups are employing women engineer role models to give talks to children eight years of age. One organisation, Early Years Engineer, even talks to girls as young as three.

At the moment though, something needs to be done about the presentation of the sciences altogether, for all disciplines; for boys and girls. Just under 1 hour and 30 minutes of science is dedicated to scientific studies in primary school, which is, of course, woeful and needs to change immediately.

The benefits of gender parity in engineering, and the economy at large

To reiterate again how large the gender divide is, consider this shocking fact: there are more CEOs in corporate America named ‘James’ than there are women CEOs altogether.

If there is anyone still hesitant about opening up the engineering world to more women — even despite the current crisis in recruitment —  then perhaps they might want to consider the economic benefits.

It has been found that companies with women on the board perform 54 per cent better than without, which suggests that gender-parity does benefit from some diverse thinking in the upper echelons.

And a World Bank study in May 2018 reckoned that gender pay equality would enrich the global economy by £120 trillion. Currently, it is believed that the inequalities in gender pay, enrolment, and visibility, might even be sucking the UK of as much as 14 per cent of its wealth. A McKinsey report also found that, once women make up a third of a business’s board room members, a trickle-down effect warms the rest of the working culture to women — and there is a financial boost in this instance, too.

One final word…

We should not shy away from doing all that we can to make engineering a welcoming place for women. But we must also not ‘overcorrect’ and alienate men. That could be a ticking time-bomb for the future. We must ‘socially’ engineer a comfortable balance between the gender lines, and open up the sector for everyone, no matter their identity and background.

This article was written by Jayne Fielding of Weldwide, an architectural steel and structural engineering company based in London.