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

Why I believe women are leading the way in technology marketing

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

Article provided by Julie Cumberland, Head of Global Marketing, SmartLabs

One particular incident, many years ago, has coloured my career.

I was just getting started, working at a large data services business, which was part owned by one of the biggest names in IT, when the sales director marched in and called for his ‘fluffy bunny marketeers’. I hadn’t long left university, but even then, I inherently knew that was wrong.

Of course, things have changed, and although there is still some way to go, women are no longer merely ‘accepted’ as we once were. We are taking the lead and expecting to be able to, in both marketing and technology, and I’m seeing a lot of youngsters grasping the opportunities technology presents. There is no ‘fluff’ about the current generation of technology marketeers unless it's evident in their choice of apparel!

This change isn’t unique to tech, marketing, or even the two combined. There is a broader understanding that treating people based on gender rather than their skills and aptitude simply isn’t acceptable. But at the same time, women have realised how many opportunities are open to them – if they only choose to reach out and take them.

It helps to have allies, of course, and sadly, not all women are as helpful as they could be. One of the earliest blocks to my progress wasn’t the sales chief looking for his bunnies, but a female director. All testosterone and shoulder pads, she had co-opted masculinity’s most unattractive attributes, believing that was the only way she could get ahead. Looking back, I have some sympathy for her: it was the 1980s, after all, so maybe she felt she had no choice in order to compete in a male dominated field.

But then I compare her to my first ever manager in comms and PR. He was a man who encouraged every member of his team, male and female, to take risks, challenge assumptions – challenge him, even – and push at any boundary or limit that presented itself. He introduced me to a management style which today is known as ‘Servant Leadership’. Not to be confused with being a servant, the approach is to enable your team on the path to success with the guidance and support they need, rather than berating them for taking a wrong turn and waiting for them to fail. It is a philosophy I have adhered to ever since and one that has paid dividends in terms of my management style, optimising individual and team performance in the different organisations in which I have worked.

Perhaps that female director would have seen his approach as too feminine. What a lot of women didn’t realise back then was that feminine traits can be just as powerful as masculine ones. Women have strengths that men don’t – and should play to them while collaborating wholeheartedly with other team members. It is a more honest way of being, more comfortable and energising, and good for business, too. That is particularly true in marketing.

Women’s instinct is to nurture, to care for others and to build relationships. What could be more important than that? Relationships sit at the heart of the human experience – and should sit at the heart of business, too, as its only true purpose is to support our existence as humans. Work pays for the food we eat, the houses we live in and the families we raise. So, male or female, we are all in business to nurture and sustain the human race. If that is the aspect of daily life at which women traditionally excel, it is only logical that they do the same in its business equivalent: marketing. Business communication is all about developing relationships, some of which might last for a few days or weeks, while others span whole careers.  Ignoring the human need to connect is something technology and business do at their peril. Many customers are lost due to lack of attention and a poor engagement experience. Driving home that the myriad of software tools available to us today are simply that…. tools of the trade and not a replacement for a desired experience by the customer, is key to placing your business at the top of the league.

This is as true in marketing technology as it is in any other field – and, although technology still has some way to go, the tech companies for which I have worked, have at least been on the right path and championed change across the board and in the boardroom.

SmartLabs is particularly strong on promoting women in engineering roles, with a high number of female employees fulfilling senior technical roles. They are educated, experienced experts in their field and we actively want to see this continue as the norm, not simply a trend. How we encourage the broader business community to follow our lead is open to question. I don’t necessarily believe in positive discrimination in recruitment, as you risk bypassing some excellent candidates, but I do think we need to be asking how we can lift everyone up, together. And, if we have got a gap in the female sector, that is something to be worked on project-by-project, by consulting the women who are on the team, and acting on what they say.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities in technology marketing, but I have also been true to myself, known what I have wanted and worked out how to get it. I have never felt held back, but I credit that as much to my personality and style as I do to planning and strategy. If you keep head-butting a brick wall, you won’t necessarily break through – but search for an open door and you can walk straight through. That is the way I have always approached it, and that would be my advice to the next generation of female technology marketing executives.

At the same time, I would urge them to look out for and support their community. Be a champion of change, find other people within your organisation who can help you make that change happen, keep an open mind, question everything and, if there is an opportunity you want, push for it.

JFK spoke of asking “not what our country could do for us but what we could do for our country.” He was right, but only if you believe – as I do – that your country is more than just the lump of land you live on. It is the people you work with and your gender, too, your global village!

Julie CumberlandAbout the author

Julie has worked in the technology marketing sector for most of her career, beginning with IBM and Amdahl mainframe services and disaster recovery in the City, followed by high-performance computing working with customers in the academic sector, such as Stephen Hawking’s group at the University of Cambridge, and with University of Leicester, leading the way in the discovery of mobile payments, enabling the unbanked to make money work for them to improve living standards.

She is a huge fan of mentoring and has always coached teams to achieve more than they expected. On a personal level, she has worked with hundreds of individuals as a counsellor to empower them to deal with loss, addiction and to lead better lives.

Julie is also passionate about film making so the connection with SmartLabs means every day is a fresh challenge for delivering great content to viewers.

SmartLabs provides multi-screen, multi-networks video streaming solutions to more than 40 leading interactive TV solutions vendors and suppliers including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and LG. It is also a strategic partner with Google on its Widevine CAS/DRM solution enabling it to certify other 3rd party devices. In a market that is set to grow exponentially (the Video on Demand Market size was around USD 55 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow at 15% CAGR from 2020 to 2026), SmartLabs is growing, breaking into new markets and new geo territories.


Apply for the Women in Craft Diversity Program & win a chance to attend Craft Conference 2021 Online

Women in Craft Diversity Program

Apply for the Women in Craft Diversity Program, sponsored by Morgan Stanley and be in with a chance to attend Craft Conference 2021 Online for free.

Craft Conference passionately believes in encouraging outstanding female software engineers and promoting gender diversity that brings a powerful fresh dynamic to any company.

They are inviting you to take the next step of your own tech journey with them. Apply for the Women in Craft Diversity Program sponsored by Morgan Stanley, where ten lucky winners will have the chance to attend Craft Conference 2021 Online for free between June 2-4.

Deadline for application is 18 April 2021. Selected winners will be notified after the deadline.

Craft is an inclusive and professional conference about software craft, presenting which tools, methods and practices should be part of the toolbox of a modern developer and company. The event is serving as a compass on new technologies and trends where you can learn from top-notch international practitioners in our community.

To apply, complete the application form here to be one of the ten lucky women who get selected by Morgan Stanley and will have the chance to participate at Craft Conference 2021 for FREE!

Even better news that no matter what the result will be, all who decide to participate in the program will get a 40 per cent discount from the Regular Ticket price.


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

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


Beyond bias: Is it time to fall in love with AI systems again?

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft

A couple of years ago, AI seemed the ideal solution for remedying those temporary lapses in good judgement, unforced errors and gut instinct impulsiveness that are part and parcel of the human condition.

As AI adoption accelerated, it seemed as though high stakes decisions were increasingly being delegated to AI systems. Suddenly, AI algorithms were determining everything from someone’s suitability for a job role, to whether or not they’d be selected for a university course, or if their application for credit was accepted.

Before long, however, a growing awareness of bias in AI systems began to raise some disquieting concerns. The resulting soul searching led to heated debates about whether organisations using AI systems were actually trading fairness for consistency or comprising social justice in their pursuit of streamlined efficiencies.

Suddenly, it seemed like we had all fallen out of love with AI.

The problem with technology bias

AI systems are versatile, accurate, reliable, autonomic (self-correcting), fast and affordable. Which is why some 64% of today’s businesses now depend on them for productivity growth. But in the rush to take advantage of the benefits this technology confers, organisations have learned the hard way that it’s a risky business proposition to depend exclusively on AI systems if bias isn’t checked.

The problem is that AI applications can be just as unfair, prejudiced, or discriminatory as the humans who create them. An issue not helped by the fact that the development community is still, by and large, predominantly composed of white males. And when AI systems make mistakes, the scale and scope of their operation means the consequences impact a significant number of people.

Awareness is growing that the machine learning (ML) used to train AI systems represents a key entry point for bias. For example, the data sets selected for ML training can create an echo chamber that amplifies bias. Similarly, historical data used to train AI systems will reflect the prevalent thinking and cultural mores of an era.

With experience comes wisdom

AI systems have proved highly successful at tackling a variety of complex workplace and public safety challenges - whether that is handling hazardous situations using AI-guided robots to fight fires, disable bombs or clean up chemical skills. A more recent example is helping millions of people access digital banking services during the coronavirus pandemic.

To successfully harness the potential of AI, however, organisations will need to ensure that their AI systems do not repeat the mistakes of the past. In other words, applying the lessons learned about the disruptive impact of bias to achieve fairer and more equitable outcomes for all.

For example, back in 2015 Amazon was forced to ditch an automated AI recruitment screening tool that favoured men for technical jobs and penalised women. The in-house programme had been developed using data accumulated from CVs submitted over the past decade, which reflected the dominance of men across the tech industry. The firm now uses a much watered-down version of the recruiting engine to help with some rudimentary chores like culling duplicate candidate profiles from databases.

Restoring trust in algorithms and AI systems: the top steps to take

Delivering on the promise of AI starts with the creation of fairness metrics and measuring fairness at each step of the technology development process: design, coding, testing, feedback, analysis, reporting and risk mitigation.

This should include creating design models that test AI systems and challenge results, using approaches like counterfactual testing to ensure that outcomes can be repeated and explained. Performing side-by-side AI and human testing, using third party external judges to challenge the accuracy and possible results biases will also be crucial.

Re-aligning cultural thinking across the organisation is another mission-critical task. Alongside educating employees that driving out bias is everyone’s mandate, diversifying the organisation’s software development community will mitigate against the ‘group-think’ mentality that introduces bias into AI systems.

Falling in love with AI - again

Realising the opportunities offered by AI means that the way systems are developed, deployed, and used must be carefully managed to prevent the perpetuation of human or societal biases. That includes thinking carefully about the fairness of any underlying data attributes used, ensuring everyone has access to the tools and processes needed to counter unfair bias, and boosting the diversity of the AI community. On occasion that may include crowd-sourcing opinions from the widest number of interested participants to address unconscious bias and assure mass acceptance and uptake.

Understanding how bias in data works is a critical first step to controlling bias in AI systems. This is why some forward thinking organisations are utilising new tools to tackle bias. For example, LinkedIn is using LIFT, an Open Source toolkit, to identify bias in job search algorithms. It has now joined forces with IBM and Accenture to build toolkits that combat bias in business. Similarly, an app that enables rapid DNA testing of wastewater for COVID-19 is an example of an innovative AI system that can detect a coronavirus hotspot without any community bias. Once COVID-19 is detected, hospitals and first responders can gear up for an increased caseload.

Armed with the right tools, processes and determination to ensure fairness is a design characteristic built into every aspect of algorithm and AI system development, there’s every indication that the love affair with AI is set to flourish once again.

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftAbout the author

Agata Nowakowska is Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, where she leads the field operations, to include enterprise and small & mid-market, as well as channel sales/strategic alliances across Europe, Middle East and Africa.


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

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


'Leading in a Crisis' with Justine Lutterodt | She Talks Tech podcast

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Leading in a Crisis' with Justine Lutterodt

'Leading in a Crisis' with Justine Lutterodt | She Talks Tech podcast

Today we hear from from Fortune 500 coach and leadership expert Justine Lutterodt.

She will be discussing how leadership skills have been put to the test during the crisis of the last year – the pressure has been on, emotions have been high and it’s been easy to be overcome by fear.

If you want to find out more about Justine – 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 2020.

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 – and the first three episodes are now live!

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.


Tech role models featured

Why championing 'everyday' role models will help boost female STEM uptake

tech role models

A key part of my role at STEM Ambassadors is to champion the diversity of our everyday role models.

These are normal people, living a normal life doing a STEM job. If we want to ensure we boost the take up of STEM roles among girls we need make sure they see these jobs as achievable. We certainly need to move the narrative on from saying there aren’t any or enough girls doing STEM roles. In highlighting the problem - we can inadvertently have the opposite effect by making them think they need to be exceptional and discourage them from pursuing this path.

One of the beauties of STEM is that there isn’t one way to get there. STEM offers university routes, apprenticeship routes, on the job routes and these routes are open to people of all ages, at any time in their life. But it is a lot to get your head round. I’ve had nine jobs since leaving university, none of which I knew existed when I was at university, let alone when I was in school. So how can we expect a teacher who hasn’t worked or even applied for jobs in STEM to be able to fully convey to young people all the opportunities that STEM affords?

The great thing about highlighting everyday role models is that they show young people the realities of working in STEM. This includes the different pathways they can take and that just because you study physics or computer science, it does not necessarily mean you will only work as a physicist or a computer scientist. Look at my career. I’m an engineering graduate who has worked in education since I graduated. I have not worked directly in engineering but I can say with absolute certainty that I have used an engineering way of thinking in every role I have ever held. It taught me more than just the subject, it taught me problem solving, enquiry and creativity.

Shifting the narrative

I finished my degree in 2000 and having been offered a project job at the university I was also offered the chance to complete a PhD (part-time). I wanted to do a PhD about female engineers because there weren’t as many females as males and I wanted to understand why. However, after three years doing the degree I was already frustrated by the narrative which, in simplest form, was that there were no women in engineering and that wasn’t true. We may not have been abundant in numbers but there was a good group of us. Thus I aimed my PhD at those women that do study engineering at university and what we can learn from them, rather than focusing, again, on why they don’t.

This viewpoint has fuelled my entire career. If I am working with young people or teachers on engineering or STEM activities I don’t discuss the gender issue unless they specifically ask. I, and it’s a personal choice, prefer not to do girls only events because I feel it says that girls need extra support, or girls can’t do STEM with boys around. Plus, I think boys need to know it’s normal for girls to do these subjects too.

Motivations of girls

I get asked a lot about what steps you can take to motivate girls to be more interested in STEM. What can we do to make it more interesting for them. My personal view is that the focus should be how can we showcase the phenomenal variety of STEM to appeal to all young people. Focusing on gender means that you’re likely to rely on stereotypes and generalisations, which is what we’re trying to avoid in doing these STEM engagements. All girls want to help people, all boys like fast cars, these are far too generalised statements and are often not true. Instead, we should show young people the many different job roles in STEM, the many different applications of their school learning and the many different people that do these jobs. This approach will mean there is much more chance of finding the right hook for every young person.

It’s also not about one interaction and the jobs done. It’s about repeated interactions throughout the duration of a young person’s school years from a range of people. Showing them again and again how STEM is used helps to strengthen the idea of the purpose of STEM and the opportunities within it. It may not be needed for those young people that already love STEM or have a clear idea of what they want to do for a job. Instead we should think about the huge middle ground of those that aren’t sure, haven’t grown up surrounded by STEM people and for whom it is more of an unknown and therefore a risk. Not to mention those that find these subjects more difficult and will have to really work hard to do well in the subjects at school. They need regular motivation and regular encouragement and that can come from frequent STEM engagements throughout their school years.

Practical and exciting opportunities in STEM

STEM fits in to so many jobs and so many industries it’s really hard for even someone like me, to be able to list everything you can do with STEM knowledge and skills. But I can say for sure that STEM’s main purpose is to help us. To help humans, and animals and the Earth, to live better lives, in many, many ways. What new opportunities will there be in twenty or even ten years’ time as more and more STEM advancements are made? I think these are the unifying messages we should bring to the table to boost interest in STEM. By not fixating on gender we are more likely to achieve the outcome we want. Namely increasing the numbers of all young people, including girls, in studying STEM and becoming the next everyday heroes.

Dr Kerry BakerAbout the author

Dr. Kerry Baker is a leading authority on science communication and getting more girls studying STEM. As the Strategic Initiatives Lead at STEM Learning Kerry Baker supports cohesive working, collaborations, new initiatives and dissemination of good practice and success stories. She is an engineer by education and completed a PhD on why women study engineering. Her focus has been STEM education, outreach and promotion.

She is a passionate supporter of promoting STEM knowledge and skills because knowledge, understanding and manipulation of these subjects and skills will empower the next generation of scientists and engineers to solve the big issues the world is currently facing.

You can follow Kerry on Linkedin @drkerrybaker


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

How Ireland is improving gender diversity in its technology industry

By Laoise McCluskey –VP Europe Content, Consumer & Business Services at IDA Ireland

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company cultureTackling the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) industries has received international focus in recent years.

In February 2021, Secretary-General António Guterres, UN Chief, announced: “Advancing gender equality in science and technology is essential for building a better future.” In Ireland, this issue is proactively being addressed.

With one of the highest numbers of software developers per one million inhabitants in Europe, Ireland has one of the highest levels of female representation. According to the European State of Tech Report 2020, 32 percent of software developers in Ireland are women compared to an average of 30 percent in Europe. This is a promising figure that will hopefully increase and be reflected in other areas of industry thanks to Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills’ plans to make Ireland best in Europe in STEM by 2026 and to increase by 40% the number of females taking STEM subjects for Leaving Certificate.

In addition to government plans and funding, Ireland boasts several initiatives aimed at inspiring women to pursue STEM subjects in an engaging way, encourage them to remain working in industry, return after time off and help them progress to senior levels.

Attracting female talent

In Ireland, the government, industry and academia are interlinked in a collaborative environment.  Across the country, academic institutions are eager to produce graduates with the skills and calibre that industry needs to increase their students’ employability and industry readiness. In that context, Universities and Institutes of Technology in Ireland regularly engage with industry on syllabus content. Viewing technology as a pivotal area for economic growth, the government continually analyses the future of industry and ensures education can fulfil industry requirements too – Ireland’s first master’s course in AI was created in response to demand for AI skills.

This collaborative effort linking education and industry in Ireland extends to encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and empowering them to pursue scientific careers. By involving children and young adults in an engaging, welcoming way, Ireland’s numerous initiatives – including free coding and computer science workshops, women in STEM careers events and investigating the science behind global facts and issues – can help to open girls’ minds towards studying sciences at an advanced level. These programmes help young women to develop the self-belief that they can succeed in science or technology careers, so that they don’t close doors for themselves at such an early age.

Supporting women from non-scientific backgrounds who want to make the move into technology, is also critical. After all, if we have to wait for today’s teenagers to study and move up through the ranks to senior leadership, it will take much longer for the gender gap to close. Ireland offers excellent opportunities for professional women to upskill and cross-skill through Skillnet Ireland, Springboard and other programmes, in multiple areas relevant to technology. Combining both new and existing soft skills they have honed during their careers to date makes for a compelling competitor.

Retaining talent

After women have studied, developed skills throughout their career in the technology industry, how do you ensure they progress in their career or are able to return and develop following a gap in employment? So often, women only advance their careers to a certain point due to a variety of reasons including the opportunity to progress and care-giving commitments.

These issues come down in part to having an enabling leadership and culture. Leadership teams that aren’t representative of a current or future workforce, in the context of diversity, is unlikely to recognise all the challenges and supports needed to enable ongoing participation and progression – for example flexible hours, remote working, training and benefits. To attract and retain female talent in technology, increased promotion of women into leadership roles is needed so that women have appropriate representation, a supportive female culture and role models to pave the way for them to succeed.

The 30% Club Ireland, is helping this issue by promoting women’s representation in senior management and supporting female talent with a selection of programmes. Women Mean Business is another organisation that celebrates and publicises female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, connecting women and recognising their contribution to the Irish economy and society. While TechLifeIreland annually highlights female founders and investment into female led start-ups in Ireland – this year crossing the target of €100m in a single year.

It’s also important that women receive the support they need via mentoring to elevate their own careers. Ireland offers some excellent networking and mentoring opportunities for women working in technology, in addition to further training and returner programmes. Women ReBoot and Women Returners are brilliant examples of the initiatives available in Ireland that help develop women’s skills, competence and confidence to re-engage with technology businesses after a career break.

Towards a gender diverse future

Leadership is a key enabler to change, and organisational leadership should reflect its teammates, the communities in which it operates, and the customers they aim to serve and win. Everyone has a responsibility to strive for a more inclusive society and working environment. There is still a lot of progress that needs to be made to improve gender diversity, but with its multi-pronged approach to supporting businesswomen in STEM, Ireland is on the right course to supporting greater diversity and setting the right example.

About the author

Laoise McCluskeyLaoise is VP Europe & UK in IDA Ireland’s Content Consumer and Business Services Division.  IDA is the Irish government’s inward investment promotion agency with responsibility for attracting and developing foreign investment into Ireland. As VP for Europe & UK, Laoise oversees a client portfolio of more than 60 international companies with operations in Ireland; and has responsibility for driving new business development across the region. Prior to assuming her current role in January 2016, Laoise spent over 6 years managing corporate client relationships with key strategic IDA clients in technology, digital media & games from West Coast, US. Prior to that, Laoise spent 3 years managing key relationship with global business services clients.

 


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

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


Girls in tech, STEM

Showcasing technology’s creative side will empower the next generation of female leaders

Article by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

Girls in tech, STEMThe technology sector has made improvements in gender representation in recent decades.

There were 326,000 women working in IT roles across the UK in 2020, according to analysis from BCS, meaning that more women are making up the specialist IT workforce than ever seen previously. Yet despite years of progress towards workplace equality, women continue to be woefully underrepresented. A mere 19% of employees in the tech sector are women.

In fact, getting women into technology or STEM careers in the first place continues to be a challenge. According to the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, fewer than 1 in 5 computing and engineering technology students are female. These figures indicate that the industry still has a long way to go. Getting more women on STEM courses has been a hot topic in the technology industry for the best part of a decade, with public and private sector initiatives aiming to increase numbers. But, the industry, and the people in it, need to do more.

An open-minded approach to recruitment

All companies have core values that lie at the heart their business, but it’s important to continuously introduce fresh perspectives. If the tech sector is going to improve workplace representation, employers must ensure they give both male and female candidates equal opportunities. Also, if they are going to develop a diverse and modern workplace, they must embrace an open-minded approach when it comes to hiring. Rather than simply going through the motions and hiring the same types of candidates, employers should look to bring people from different backgrounds with a variety of different perspectives into the office.

Not only will this create a more inclusive workplace, but it will also drive innovation and creativity, leading to a greater chance of success. According to a McKinsey report, companies with more than 30% of female executives are more likely to outperform businesses with fewer women. Adopting an open-minded recruitment approach will also widen the talent pool for employers as it will encourage them to hire based on potential, rather than relying on proven experience. This approach subscribes to the belief that talent can come from anywhere, regardless of background.

It’s not just about STEM skills

Once an open-minded recruitment process has been implemented, tech companies will begin to feel the benefits of a workforce with a more varied set of skills. Traditionally, companies implementing STEM initiatives have often placed too much emphasis on maths-based skills, such as coding and programming. Whilst coding is still important, today’s technology has made it easier than it’s ever been. Polished teaching methods and universal access to development tools have made it much more accessible. On top of coding, the modern tech industry is crying out for empathetic and creative skills, such as user experience design and critical problem solving.

Creativity and problem solving have never been more crucial to technology than they are right now, with concepts like design thinking requiring us to empathise and understand the challenges faced by end users. Once you truly understand the end user’s perspective then you can design solutions to meet any challenges at hand which will undoubtedly require technology in some shape or form. However, if you start with the technology, then you can become constrained by it when solving complex challenges. By contrast, starting with the problem, leveraging strong domain business skills, communication skills and empathy can lead you to design truly innovative and market leading solutions.

Showcasing creative and design thinking, as opposed to traditional coding, will challenge the outdated stereotype of technology as the domain of the male coder. By dispelling the archaic narrative of a mathematical, male-orientated environment, young women will feel empowered to choose STEM subjects at school and embark upon careers within the technology sector. And by showcasing the creativity and collaboration within today’s technology industry, we can bury the stereotypes and inspire more women to enter the sector. Perhaps we should all be widely adopting the term ‘STEAM’ now to put an equal emphasis on the artistic skills needed for a career in technology.

It’s time for tech employers to take heed and address the gender divide that continues to persist within the industry. Adopting an open-minded approach to recruitment will create the platform for an inclusive workplace that incorporates a diverse set of perspectives. This will introduce a new, modern way of working that places empathetic skills at the forefront of technology. Only then can we begin to smash down the male-dominated stereotypes of what it means to succeed in the industry and pave the way for the next generation of female leaders.

About the author

Nerys Mutlow Nerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.


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

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


young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

Why a global crisis has made us all rethink wellness in tech

young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

By Kirsty Carter, chief of staff at cloud and technology services and solutions provider, Solutionize Global

Technology and people have consistently played a critical role in how a business operates – and whether it succeeds or fails.

For years leaders have been building teams that are equipped to be able to work side-by-side with advanced digital methods and smart machines.

But has the wellness surrounding this always been of the same paramount importance? Perhaps not for many organisations – until now. The wellbeing of staff and their workplace infrastructures have come to the fore during this pandemic as people continue to battle anxieties – and the complexities that come with working remotely and maintaining productivity during a devastating global health crisis.

Navigating the ability to ‘switch off’ has long been a question that many companies have tried to overcome – following the explosion of technology. With work-based apps such as email and messenger services at an employees’ fingertips, managing these whilst teams work remotely has presented HR and logistical nightmares for many enterprises.

But, the mass move to working from home has also delivered many positives. From getting to spend quality time with family, avoiding a lengthy commute and completing tasks with autonomy and flexibility, employees have felt empowered to take control of their roles, agile managers have helped their staff to adapt quickly to vast change and remain engaged.

However, with anything, there are always some downsides. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, location flexibility has led to 49 per cent of remote workers saying their biggest struggle is wellness-related. The reasons being that 22 per cent feel like they can’t unplug after work, 19 per cent are lonely and eight per cent struggle to stay motivated.

So, when enterprises across the globe are experiencing a critical need to be swift, adaptable and operationally robust, why do only 29% of HR leaders have a health and well-being strategy (2020 Mercer Talent Trends study) in place? At a time when businesses need leaders the most, much more can be done – and there are lessons to be learnt throughout.

There’s much more to wellness than mental health initiatives

Overall, employees need to feel safe in their workplace environment – regardless of location. They want to know their company trusts and values their input but also have access to gaining the skills that they need, in order to complete their projects remotely. Managers must be empathetic to everyone’s struggles, including their own, if they’re to get the best out of their teams.

So, how can this be achieved? Forward-thinking leaders find themselves at a critical turning point where they need to act quickly and gauge the level of systems and IT infrastructure their organisation currently has in place. They should be strongly positioned, understanding how each staff member’s setting maintains operational, cultural and mental wellness. And, wellbeing needs are imperative throughout it all – and entirely individual to each employee battling their own mental recovery from an unprecedented crisis.

Additionally, the C-suite must be agile and adaptable when addressing the flexible nature of what a ‘life after lockdown’ challenge looks like. Setting a firm return to work date is out of the circle of influence for most but we can present options for a staggered approach to meet every requirement. Again, it’s important to factor in how people are still feeling during this time – many of which (88% according to mental health provider Ginger’s recent survey) have experienced ‘moderate to extreme’ stress over the past four to six weeks impacted by uncontrollable matters such as financial worries, home schooling or the health of family and friends.

So, there is a commitment to be made from managers – something they can demonstrate by providing a safe, working environment and being empathetic to how employees must be feeling in real-time. And throughout all this, technology has a vital part to play in team wellness.

Effectively adapting now can positively impact business continuity

Utilising digital apps to provide mental health programmes – such as licensed counsellors on call – or mindfulness and stress management platforms can assist, alongside helpful resources people can consume in their own time. Managers should be savvy in their approach when combining tech and wellness each day.

From online training and upskilling opportunities to helping staff members focus on their own personal development and simply providing tools to control workflows and interact with colleagues – each element can play a vital role when used correctly.

And for many organisations, these practices may already have been in place and running smoothly, but what this global crisis has done is driven all enterprises to truly prioritise these methods – and give wellness the attention it deserves. It should never be a ‘phase’ or tick-box exercise either because it is Mental Health Awareness Week in May, for example. These processes should be rolled-out each and every single day.

Uniting a team has never been more important and it has perhaps forced the hands of many organisations to ‘get it right’. But leaders who commit to evolving their wellbeing programmes, maintain a mental health focus and meet technological demands can put themselves in a stronger position to positively impact their firm’s long-term health throughout – and beyond – this pandemic.

Kirsty Carter, chief of staff, Solutionize GlobalAbout Kirsty Carter

As chief of staff at cloud and technology professional and managed service provider, Solutionize Global, Kirsty’s role focuses on company culture, employee engagement and organisational growth. As well as leading on evolving the team’s in-house training, hiring, professional development and performance management structures, Kirsty acts as an advisor to Solutionize Global’s CEO, David Bentley. First joining the forward-thinking firm in 2019, Kirsty has enjoyed a 12-year, people-focused career and is passionate about investing in people, future-proofing learning and development and creating an efficient HR function to help scale the business.


Tech role models featured

Woman and tech - a catalyst year?

By Nicola Buckley, Executive Vice President, Park Place Technologies

Tech role models featuredAs the vaccination programme continues with pace and we finally feel the route out of the pandemic, it’s natural now to reflect on its monumental impact on society, long and short-term.

Hence International Women’s Day this year became a pre-established point to reflect on the state of progression of female rights in the workplace but with an extra-ordinary backdrop; tracking progress on closing gender gaps on working rights, pay disparities, unconscious bias, and lack of boardroom diversity.  The day, #IWD, actually originated over 100 years ago, and it is an interesting vantage point on how favourably women have positioned themselves to emerge working in Tech, post pandemic.

Slowing of momentum for gender disparity

Across industries, sadly the broader picture points to a slowing of momentum for gender disparity change as organisations focus instead on economic recovery as a priority. The World Economic Forum noted in its 2020 Gender Pay Gap report that it will take a further 99.5 years for females to reach parity with their male counterparts.  Recent stats published in the UK from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on the direct impact of the pandemic suggests that female progression overall has very much taken a backseat throughout 2020, with a far greater percentage of females being furloughed and/or having taken on additional childcare/home schooling responsibilities during the crisis.  Yet the Tech sector - long negatively associated with too high a ratio of male:female workforce – has seemingly bucked the trend and has continued to make strides with its female empowerment and STEM encouragement programs.

While we’re not claiming to have had the same impact as say frontline healthcare workers, in the early days of the pandemic, tech took a seismic shift in its own positive image reinforcement. This happened almost overnight as organisations used IT and digital enablement in a race to keep business processes functioning in the most extreme conditions. It was tech providers and IT departments that quickly morphed our entire working environments and operations. Intrinsically, IT moved from being perceived as fixers to technology enablers - with every IT department tasked and creating secure working from home capabilities in the midst of global lockdowns, staff shortages and equipment restrictions. Without IT, the internet, and collaborative working apps, businesses would have gone on to sustain the deepest long-term shutdown and economic fallout ever recorded. With IT sector now acknowledged as enablers and facilitators, will 2021 be the start of a new chapter when the job titles ‘techie’ and ‘engineer’ carry business-transformative positive images that both young girls and boys who are currently considering STEM subjects, aspire to become?

Flexible working

And moving forward, will females in tech also stand ready to be the benefactors of compulsory working from home orders of the past 14 months? After all, women in IT have been requesting better, flexible working from home options that would offer an improved work and family life balance since the 1970s.  In 2020, by default of the pandemic, that came to us all. Our homes were transformed into functioning office workplaces by day, family spaces by night. Our fixed working hours became immediately acceptable flexi-working hours as we added the pressures and timelines of home schooling into working days. Instead of being hastily silenced, pets, deliveries and children were accepted and commonplace in the backdrops of virtual meetings.

But without face-to-face interactions, would productivity levels drop working from home? In what amounts to one of the most interesting, unplanned social experiments of our time, it appears that in the tech sector at least, productivity and sales actually skyrocketed as teams became creatively empowered to keep in touch with customers, dynamically. Females quickly established workspaces and patterns using tech devices that were largely at-hand. We encouraged video communications to become the accepted meeting norm.

Opportunities

Established ongoing remote working also means that the world of career opportunities has opened up and females can, often for the first time, consider roles outside of their regional boundaries and outside of the corporate HQ hosting country, so long as there is some synchronization of time zones. For instance, at Park Place Technologies we have been able to open global positions outside of continents to encourage talented and suitable female remote workers to step forward. No longer do zip and postcodes dictate one of the key hiring criteria. Female talent is now truly an accessible global pool!

We know that changing perceptions continues to be a responsibility that every professional carries, regardless of sector, yet in IT at least, we acknowledge that unwittingly COVID-19 has set new positive benchmarks in the journey of female talent alignment and retention.


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

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

IWD #ChooseToChallenge100, Speakers (2)

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

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

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

ChooseToChallenge100 Collage

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

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

Watch some of our amazing women below:

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