Mind the (investment) gap

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, co-founder of the financial ed-tech platform aimed at women, Female Invest

mind-the-gap-ethnicity-pay-gap-featuredAll over the world, women are falling financially behind. They earn less, save less and are less likely to invest their money.

Are these trends the result of a lack of skill or ambition among women, or do other barriers persist?

The gender divide among private investors

In the UK, women significantly outnumber men in higher education. This is seen within nearly all degree subjects, and should in theory have led to a situation where women are improving their financial positions. This is supported by IFS research, which has found that around 80% of graduates will see their lifetime earnings improved by going to university, although it should be noted that men see more benefits than women.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different - and this is evident when it comes to investing. Women are falling behind. Only 23% of women actively invest their savings and men own the majority of the stock market.

The fact that women invest less than men inevitably raises the question: “Are men better investors?”. The answer to this question is a clear-cut “no”. Several studies conclude that women investing in stocks are better at it than men. This is seen in the UK, where a large study by Warwick Business School found that female investors achieve higher returns and are better at sticking to a long-term investing strategy.

Based on this data, British female investors appear to hold a significant amount of unlocked potential. This is the motivation behind our educational platform, Female Invest. Our goal is to close the financial gender gap by educating women on investing and personal finance. This work is rooted in the belief that most people can learn to invest their money – if they start by investing their time.

The concept has proven successful, and in less than two years, Female Invest has become Europe's largest financial educator for women. What we’ve quickly learnt is that the shortage of female investors is rooted in a lack of role models, confidence and engaging educational tools, rather than an absence of skills and interest.

Our mission is to provide women with the tools they need to make personal investments, bolstering their personal finances, but also to encourage more women to choose a career in finance, too.

The financial industry is still failing women

The lack of female investors is also seen in the British financial industry, where women in senior positions are a rare sight. In recent years, this topic has gained increasing attention from the media and the financial industry more broadly. However, there is still a long way to go. A recent report on women in financial services has shown that, although progress is being made, women are still significantly underrepresented in the financial industry - and that £700 million could be made by improving female representation and better serving female customers. This shows that the problem of unequal representation and participation in financial markets cannot be solved with good intentions alone.

Companies must acknowledge and directly address (un)conscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes. Allowing women to succeed in the financial industry should not only be done because it is the right thing to do. It should also be done, because research consistently shows that diversity fosters creativity and ignites productivity.

No easy solutions

There are no easy solutions to the lack of female representation and participation in financial markets - be that women working in the financial industry, or women making private investments. With that said, the fact remains that the current lack of female-led investments negatively impacts individuals, companies and society as a whole. Therefore, we should stop contemplating whether we can afford to spend more resources on improving female representation and participation in financial markets, and start contemplating whether we can afford not to. In the UK, the pool of highly educated and ambitious women is huge. So, what are we waiting for?

Anna-Sophie HartvigsenAbout the author

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen is a bestselling author, keynote speaker and entrepreneur on a mission to close the financial gender gap. She is listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list and has co-founded Female Invest, Europe's largest financial educator targeting women.



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.

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Is it acceptable for companies to send fake phishing emails to their employees?

Article by Sandrine FRÉMEAUX, professor at Audencia Business School and Yvan BAREL, professor at the University of Nantes

cyber securityOne of the recent news stories that caught our attention was that of US web provider GoDaddy who had to apologise to its employees after sending them an email promising a USD650 Christmas bonus and asking them to fill out a form with their personal details that turned out to be a computer security phishing test…

The development of remote working since the start of the epidemic has dramatically increased the risk of phishing attacks. HMRC detected a 73% rise in email phishing attacks from March to September in the UK.

The fight against phishing is certainly a serious issue, and it is vital that employees are aware of the risks of external attacks by offenders posing as colleagues in order to gain access to confidential information or disrupt systems.

But should management - with the help of IT teams - trick their employees to teach them a lesson about the risks of cyberattacks? Was GoDaddy (and so many others) right to test employees by sending them fake phishing emails in order to identify those who were most susceptible to scammers? The idea of this type of action is that once they have been caught out, these “feckless” employees should undertake mandatory cyber security training.

However, several studies have shown that this type of action is far from effective, and can even have harmful consequences.

Firstly, employees who were caught out in this way seemed just as likely, and sometimes even more likely, to be vulnerable to future cyberattacks. Secondly, these ‘guilty’ employees were likely to feel shame, resentment and a weakening of their confidence, and their commitment to the company and their productivity was adversely affected. Finally, it was perceived as a breach of trust by management, making it more likely that the employees would become passive and distrustful, even ignoring future management emails.

Moreover, these fake phishing emails can cover highly sensitive and vital subjects, for example, making employees believe that they must quickly sign up for a mandatory coronavirus screening campaign. It makes it even worse when the name of the sender used by the IT departments is that of the company’s own HR Department, whose function is to protect and help employees, not to trick them.

So why do some organisations choose to trick their employees in such a way? It is undoubtedly the result of a purely rational vision of risk – like vaccination. The employees are ‘inoculated’ with a phishing email, the rationale being that this action, like a harmless injection of virus, should lead to immunity. Or, because IT departments are afraid that in normal circumstances, the training they provide often has little effect, they decide to use shock tactics to jolt their employees out of a false sense of security.

It is above all a human story, a story of IT departments fearing that their training will be badly received and not understood. But the problem is that those employees who are caught risk being presented as naive, reckless or irresponsible, when they are more often the victims of a lack of education. And the responsibility for this clearly lies with IT departments.

By opting for this type of action, IT departments forget that many employees are in fact eager to be educated, to be helped, to be supported, and to know more about IT cyber security. And as a result, the tricked employees are less likely to see IT cyber security training as a positive step, but as a sanction or a threat.

Employees need to be supported by IT teams to protect themselves against cyberattacks. The gifts of time, attention, vigilance and information from IT departments are precious, and they are even more valuable when they can be received in a spontaneous manner. No matter how anxious management teams are to ensure the highest standards of resistance to cyberattack, they must completely resist the temptation to stigmatise staff. They should instead choose a dynamic of mutual aid and support, delivered without fear or coercion, allowing all employees to work efficiently and to feel safe at the same time.

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

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Mechanical Engineering featured

‘Crisis? What crisis?’ — How Middle Eastern women fell in love with STEM

Article by Eliza Cochrane

Mechanical EngineeringIn the Western world, and especially in the UK and the United States, a crisis looms in engineering recruitment.

The sector is struggling to attract talent altogether, a problem worsened by the fact that almost no women seem to want to train to be engineers. In the UK, a scant 11 per cent of engineers are female, despite women outnumbering men in the general population. The problem has been manifest since at least 2016, when Engineering UK unveiled the alarming recruitment figures in its ‘State of the Nation’ report.

But in what might come as a surprise to Western readers, this is not an issue in the Middle East. In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the STEM fields are dominated by women. In an almost reversal of the trend in the UK, nearly 70 per cent of all STEM university graduates in Iran are women.

Two civilisations, world’s apart

The Western world and the Middle East seem to be poles apart on the women/STEM issue. Which begs the question: what is the underlying reason behind such big differences?

Critics in the West will point to what they consider to be the paradox of extreme gender inequality. In the Middle East, they say, women have less personal freedoms and choices in what they do. Whereas on the other side, free to their own devices in liberal democracies, women tend to dominate subjects that are more people-orientated and less about ‘things’. Similar sentiments are echoed by Saadia Zahidi, author of the book ‘Fifty Million Rising’, who has said women in the Western world are freer to pursue alternatives and not worry about them paying less.

On the other hand, it is thought that the Middle East is not influenced by what some might consider to be harmful gender stereotypes. Sarah Peers of the Women’s Engineering Society in the UK is one voice who has spoken out about the pro-masculine ‘Old Boys Club’ culture that excludes and discourages Western women. In the West, young women are often told to pursue their passions. But if gender stereotypes are tantamount, this might incidentally lead to a young woman looking at the cultural expectations around her, instead of following what she thinks would be the right thing to do from a societal point of view.

On the other hand, the reason women tend to be encouraged into engineering in the Middle East and North Africa is because of the job security such a path provides. One popular Arabic TV show from the 1950s had a popular theme tune that Arab mothers reappropriated as a theme tune to their baby girls. The lyrics included lines such as: “And I will say ‘My girl has grown up, she will be an engineer/She’s her mother’s lovely girl’.” But also because, according to one engineering professor, Raja Ghozi, education systems are not so “flexible” and “quitting or changing a career direction for them is a failure, at least when they embark on their engineering education”.

Breaking the stereotypes

Rana Dajani, a Saudi national of Palestinian, Syrian and Jordanian heritage, and the first woman from the Persian Gulf to complete a PhD in biotechnology from Cambridge University, has stated that women in the Middle East “don’t feel intimidated” by liking science. She believes this is part of an innate drive amongst women to help progress and improve the conditions in society for all women.

There is one stereotype that stubbornly persists for women in the Middle East, at least according to Hoda Baytiyeh, and that is a lack of confidence when it comes to creativity and innovation. This may also be one of the reasons contributing to a lack of women in the workforce. Baytiyeh says that there is a stereotype that women struggle to turn “knowledge to product” under their own ingenuity, which is an image that should begin to fall away after the public successes of figures such as Rana Dajani.

Problems at home: female workplace participation in the Middle East

But despite the fact that Middle Eastern women seem to have no fear in pursuing a tech or engineering degree, such success does not necessarily translate into the wider world of work. Instead, and self-defeatingly, certain cultural, social, and family pressures can result in many women choosing to stay at home.

The result is that the Arab world has some of the lowest rates of female participation in work. In Iran things are not much better, with the female workforce averaging at around only 17 per cent. In the latter case, this may be a combination of both cultural pressures and the enforcement of several discriminatory laws and regulations that limit how women can operate at work. There are signs attitudes are changing, though. In 2013, Iranian president Rouhani voiced his objection to gender discrimination and promised to work towards a more “equal opportunity” society. The speed of which he has set about implementing this new vision has not awed anyone, but nevertheless, the rhetoric is there.

Women, STEM, and the Middle East of tomorrow

In the Middle East, there may be more conservative cultural values that act as barriers to women wanting to pursue STEM-related jobs, including engineering. But given that the tech industry is relatively new in the Arab and Middle Eastern world, there is no legacy — unlike in the West — of it being solely male-dominated. This means that, in the eyes of many young women graduates, technology is looked on as one of those areas that is full of opportunities, and where everything is possible. This is what makes engineering a very attractive pull for women in the Middle East.

In the meantime, we can expect Middle Eastern women to circumvent hostile workplace norms by leaving the structure and starting their own home-based tech companies, by leveraging through the internet to reach new markets. In fact, the Middle East already has a higher percentage of female-led or founded start-ups than Silicon Valley, with about 1 in 3 having some kind of female genesis.

Engineering is naturally a scientific and knowledge-based sector and will help to propel the Middle East into a plethora of knowledge-based economies. The really exciting thing is, this could also, by proxy, transform the Middle East in ways that will undoubtedly make it richer and more prosperous going forward.

Eliza CochraneAbout the author

Article by Eliza Cochrane of Akramatic Engineering, a sheet metal fabrication company based in London. She is apart of a tiny minority of workers in the UK’s engineering sector that happens to be female — and is working hard to change its image of an ‘Old Boys Club’.


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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Building a Bank within a Bank with Marieke Flament, Mettle - She Talks Tech Podcast

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Building a Bank within a Bank' with Marieke Flament, Mettle

Building a Bank within a Bank with Marieke Flament, Mettle - She Talks Tech Podcast

Today we hear from Marieke Flament - CEO of Mettle, a unique FinTech proposition as the app-based business account for small businesses, backed by NatWest.

She will be discussing her experience on building Mettle, the technology choices and ways of working to ensure focus is always on delivering features customers need and love.

You can find out more about and connect with Marieke on LinkedIn.


‘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.

teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber security

How to make it in the video games industry

teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber securityThe video games industry has experienced huge growth in the last year, particularly in the mobile games space. And it’s set to grow even more this year, with research by App Annie predicting that mobile games spending could grow by 20% in 2021.

This growth has already prompted a surge in applications from those hopeful of joining the industry, but what does it take to really make it in video games if you’re just starting out?

Aline Krebs, Game Artist for hyper casual mobile games developer, Voodoo, was encouraged by her parents, her father in particular, to follow a career path that she loves. For her, that was working with video games.

Aline shares her top tips on how to get into the video games industry, the challenges she faced on her own journey, and how to overcome them.

Follow industry trends and be curious about everything

Being on top of the biggest industry trends is vital in order to demonstrate your knowledge and value to potential employers. You should keep a keen eye on what the next big games will be, look at which ones were a success or a failure, and try to understand why.

And don’t forget to expand your industry research outside of your own personal interests. You might love mobile games above all else, but it’s extremely important to engage with AAA and indie titles so you’re well-informed on the biggest topics in the industry.

Inspiration can, and often does, come from outside the video games space too. Some of the best games that have ever been made have been inspired by other forms of entertainment such as board games, books, films and theatre, or even a personal hobby.

You can take any concept and make a video game from it, whether that’s playing as a slice of bread on a mission to be made into toast, controlling a goat with a penchant for destruction or turning the serious business of immigration into a game.

Make yourself visible on social media

It’s a no brainer to keep your LinkedIn profile updated from a professional perspective, but it’s surprising how many people neglect this and other social channels. By constantly maintaining and updating your social presence, including channels such as Twitter and Instagram, you will make sure you’re ready to send your portfolio to a potential employer or recruiter at a moment’s notice.

Think of your social channels like a live portfolio of your work. You don’t need to have thousands of followers, and sometimes all it takes is for just one person to see your work to change your life, but this won’t happen if you don’t make yourself visible and show off your skills.

Believe in yourself and ignore your inner saboteur

Impostor syndrome is experienced by millions across the world, including me, and something that women in particular face in tech specific industries. It can be challenging to fight, but it’s incredibly important as a woman in the industry to believe in yourself at all times.

When I was first trying to break into the industry, I was told that my experience with 2D and 3D graphics meant I was too much of a generalist, that I wasn’t good enough and required a specialism. It hurts when people tell you that you haven’t made the grade, but instead of dwelling on it and letting your inner saboteur take over, try to understand why they’ve said that and look at ways you can improve.

One of the best ways to fight against your inner saboteur is to focus on what makes you special, and boost yourself with positive affirmations. And don’t compare yourself to other people, because that’s a sure fire way to start the negative cycle all over again.

Always keep learning

The old adage that we’re always learning is true, and exceptionally so in the video games industry. Things move incredibly fast, so you need to make sure that you’re constantly developing your skills so that you don’t get left behind.

Nobody is a master of all trades, and you’re not expected to know everything when you’re just starting out, but prioritise learning as much as possible to give yourself a competitive edge. And just because you don’t have certain skills yet, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn them.

Don’t give up

The most important thing is to never give up. It took me several years to land a permanent role in the games industry, and there were multiple times where I felt like giving up. But I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry, so I kept pushing myself because I knew there was a job out there for me somewhere. Sometimes, you have to dig deep to find it and wait longer than you might want to. But it's not impossible, so don’t give up.

Aline KrebsAbout the author

Aline is a 2D/3D Game Artist for Voodoo Berlin, where she creates concept art and both in-game and production assets. With a passion for 3D environments and all things colourful, Aline has produced artwork for mobile games such as City of Love: Paris and Partouche Casino Games, alongside working as the solo artist for Steam and Switch game BAFL - Brakes Are For Losers. After being introduced to video games by her parents at a young age, Aline made the decision to enter the games industry as a teenager, teaching herself the skills she needed before securing a diploma in graphic design and attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

female data scientist, woman leading team

Why now is the time to get into data science

Boris Paillard, CEO, Le Wagon

female data scientist, woman leading teamDigitisation has affected virtually every company, in every sector and across every department. Processes are being automated, new insights into operations are being generated and new services are being created.

The improvements and efficiencies that this digitisation is generating are not simply a result of ‘better software’, but based on organisations’ ability to collate, analyse and manipulate massive volumes of data. The sheer scale of the data presents challenges as well as opportunities however.

Not only is it the case that the bigger the company, the bigger and more complex the data – it is also the case that the discipline of data science has not yet reached the well-documented, well-known and well-established processes and best-practices that we see in the software space. This is new ground for every organisation and the simple fact is that there is a lag on the skills education and training front when it comes to data science.

This is where we are seeing a shift in the ecosystem around data science. There is far greater understanding of the need to train people in how to apply data science skills to different departments, and how we can retrain people to meet the exploding demand for these skills.

One of the key issues now being addressed directly is the need for diversity in data science teams. Although there is explosive demand for data science skills, women occupy only a minority of these positions - in the UK, women represent less than 17% of the tech workforce.

Redressing this imbalance is crucial to building the value and validity of a field that is seeking to analyse and influence the lives of everyone. As such, it is a crucial moment for women to consider changing their career or to gain new skills that will help them make a bigger impact in their current role. There are huge opportunities, but it can also be somewhat boggling. For people that are interested in data science it’s important to understand that data science is a broad church.

My advice to people is that, there are lots of resources out there, but the best thing you can do is to start playing around with data, not only to experiment and get your head around the principles, but also to gain a better understanding of your own personal skills and objectives.

After that, there are a number of organisations you can work with to gain more formal education – including Udemy or Le Wagon and Imperial College London’s joint Imperial Data Science Intensive Course. But it is only by getting your hands dirty that you will find the right course and pathway into data science for you.

Boris PaillardAbout the author

After studying engineering and applied mathematics at Ecole Centrale Paris, Boris Paillard worked 3 years in investment banking. Passionate about tech & education, he quit his job to work on various tech products before founding Le Wagon to teach tech skills to creative people. For the past 7 years, he has been leading the development of Le Wagon's training programmes and platforms. To date, his teams have trained 10,000+ alumni in Web Development and Data Science across 41 cities, making Le Wagon the world’s leading coding bootcamp worldwide.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

The Importance of Female Role Models in STEM

Sophie DenhamSophie Denham is a Senior Engineering Manager in Technical Project Management for Shark Robotics. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunities her career in Design has given her, enabling her to work at world-leading companies and study abroad.

She puts much of this down to the incredible female role models she has been lucky to have around her. Here she discusses her experiences and why she jumped at the chance to get involved in SharkNinja’s WeLead programme, an innovative global support network for women across the company, as well as education and entry avenues into STEM through joint ventures with universities and schools.

For most of my childhood, I had my heart set on joining the Police Force, but also knew I wanted to go to University first. During secondary school, I studied Product Design and was fortunate enough to have a truly inspiring Product Design teacher, who had built the department up using the very latest technologies in 3D printing and had worked in the industry for years before turning to teaching. This meant I was exposed to what Product Design was, both as an industry and what it could mean as a career, whereas in most other subjects, it was difficult for me to perceive how they would be used in real life. I loved the ability to combine maths, physics and creativity to produce products that people actually wanted and needed, so felt this was the perfect degree for me. I studied BSc in Product Design at Brunel University - it was rigorous and demanding and I could genuinely see myself pursuing a career in design if it weren’t for my dream of joining the Police. Yet upon graduation, I didn’t even look at Police recruitment. By the end of those four years, I realised how much I had loved my course and the real insights I had given me into the worlds of design, engineering and technology.

So, I began my career as a Design Engineer with Dyson and following that, moved to Auckland to work for a medical company Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. Here I specialised in consumer research and front- end design, taking a leading role in running global clinical trials on an innovative new technology to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Across these two roles I was involved in designing technology leading to three patents, which is a great achievement for any designer. I then joined SharkNinja when I returned to the UK, first as a Design Engineer before transitioning into Technical Project Management.

After over two years working in the Ninja category, I left the company to pursue another interest, joining a small startup in London that makes hardware and software to empower young people to learn to code in a creative environment. Here, I learned a vast amount about software development, becoming a qualified Scrum Master as well as taking a leading role in restructuring the manufacturing division of the company.

Earlier this year, I then rejoined SharkNinja to begin an exciting new challenge within the Robots division, combining my experiences in hardware and software as Senior Engineering Manager, Technical Project Management. In this role, I am responsible for ensuring the products within this Robots category are delivered to the requirements set by both the consumers and the business, by ensuring collaboration and cohesion across the different teams within the global Robots division.

I am truly thankful for the opportunities my career in Design has given me, enabling me to work at world-leading companies and study abroad. Much of this I put down to the incredible role models I was fortunate enough to have in school, university and workplaces. As a woman in STEM, it is especially important to have these role models, yet shockingly, only 22% of students are able to name a famous female working in technology. Having spent much of my career being the only female within an engineering team, I am so grateful to the incredible support network of female mentors and colleagues who have guided me along the way. With their support; whether that has been highlighting when I’ve done something really well, or given me a gentle (or not so gentle) nudge when I have made errors in work or judgement, I have grown from being a timid, quiet member of the team to someone who feels confident speaking out. Without these incredible female role models, I fear I would still be the quiet mouse of the team, afraid to speak out when I have ideas.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to get involved in SharkNinja’s WeLead programme. This is an amazing initiative which provides a global support network for women across the company, as well as education and entry avenues into STEM through joint ventures with universities and schools. Naturally, this is something I wanted to be a part of; to connect with the wealth of talented, strong women at SharkNinja, both to offer my support to others and to continue to support myself.

SharkNinja has such an array of female talent and having the chance to expose that talent to girls and women who may not have considered a career in STEM is also hugely important to me. Throughout my life I have been passionate about exposing more school aged children, particularly girls, to our industry, by tutoring STEM subjects through to A-level and speaking in schools about what real jobs look like within STEM. WeLead gives me an incredible platform to continue this at SharkNinja.

The importance of female role models in STEM is unparalleled and I am so happy to be working for a company which recognises and actively promotes this. The future is bright for women in tech.

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

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three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversity

Now is the time to change the game for women in tech

three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversityThe past 12 months has challenged humanity in ways not seen since World War II. But with the devastation comes a wave of opportunity to solve problems that matter.

Today is the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and I want to share my thoughts on why we shouldn’t lose this historic moment to think about the future of women in tech, and why there’s never been a better time to spark a generational change.

Busting the myths that hold women back

While COVID-19 has impacted everyone, there’s no doubt it has hurt women the most. McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study found that women in the United States—especially women of colour—were more likely to have been laid off or furloughed in 2020, stalling their careers and jeopardising their financial security. But COVID-19 has also triggered a transformation, busting long-held myths that have traditionally held women back from taking on roles in the tech sector.

The first of those is the myth that where you live defines what you do. Before COVID-19, it sometimes felt like the tech sector was incredibly exclusive. You needed to live in places like San Francisco or Singapore or London to network with the right people and access enough tech roles to build a thriving career. Of course, only a certain class of people with certain lifestyles want or can afford to live in those cities. COVID-19 has triggered a huge uplift in remote working and it doesn’t look like the trend will reverse anytime soon. In fact, a Gartner study found that 74% of CFOs intend to make remote working permanent for some employees.

This trend has removed many of the geographical barriers to a tech career, which in turn means access to a larger and more diverse pool of candidates. It also applies to education. In the past, you had to go to a lecture hall or classroom to gain a qualification. Now we know that as long as you have internet access, you can dial in from anywhere in the world and learn in a virtual room. Where you live no longer defines your access to good jobs and education. This ultimately benefits women who don’t live in cities with tech hubs, or can’t physically attend classes at reputable education institutions.

The uplift in remote working has also busted the myth that managers need to see you to know you’re working. We busted this a long time ago at Xero, but it’s something that has continued to pervade the industry. Many companies still have a manufacturing mindset, where they believe that hours equals value. It’s that old notion that if a manager can see you sitting at your desk for eight hours a day, it must mean you’re producing work that’s valuable. It’s not only untrue, but also forces women—who are often caregivers and need flexible working arrangements—out of the tech industry.

Moving towards an outcomes mindset

If we ditch the manufacturing mindset, what we’re left with is an outcomes mindset. A workplace that values outcomes over hours. In 2020, our teams reported feeling more productive at work than normal (before COVID-19), and yet flexibility was far greater. We know you may have a sick child at home and need to work around their needs. Or maybe you need to take half an hour every afternoon to pick them up from school. Maybe you want to spend time on a personal hobby in the morning, and work a little later. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the outcomes you produce, not the hours you do.

COVID-19 has taught us that we can still achieve our goals, without having to take time off or negotiate a shorter working week (and it’s important to note that for many women, negotiating less paid hours does not necessarily mean they do less work than their colleagues, in either hours or outcomes). My hope is that other companies realise that remote and flexible working does not equate to lower productivity or reduced outcomes. And that women in tech approach their manager and get super clear on the outcomes they’re expected to deliver, rather than focus on the hours they work.

Solving the right tech problems

An outcomes mindset isn’t just about giving women in tech the flexibility to do the best work of their life. It’s also about bringing more women into the industry at all stages of their career (from new grads to experienced leaders), so we can think deeply about the kind of problems we want to solve. Technology impacts every aspect of society and almost every community across the globe, but we cannot possibly identify the most important problems that need to be solved if we don’t have a balanced and representative workforce.

The tech sector has made so many advancements in recent years, from space travel to electric cars. But the key players who decide where the money will be spent and what problems are solved are still a fairly homogenous bunch. It makes me wonder: what if they weren’t? What kind of problems could we identify and solve if we had a range of genders and ages and backgrounds making decisions at the highest levels? What if the advancements we’ve already made are just the tip of the iceberg?

With a more diverse workforce, maybe we could use technology to help women feel safer at night, or solve mental health issues, or bring people out of poverty and connect them to meaningful work. Maybe we could create new forms of community care, or solve the enduring challenge of having a career and caring for children. The possibilities are endless, and yet without equal participation in the workforce, the problems we solve are only ever going to help a small portion of the community. It’s time to make sure that women in tech have a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions being made.

Sparking curiosity about a tech career

So how do we bring more women into the tech sector? There’s no simple answer. But you can’t be what you can’t see. Early on in my career, someone asked me what women in tech influenced me, and I had to scratch my head to even think of one. Thankfully, there are a few more of us now. I’m proud that 50% of my product leadership team at Xero are women, and that we have programs in place to foster an inclusive and equitable workplace. It’s why Xero is included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for the second consecutive year. But all women in tech need a clear path in front of them and role models to follow.

The second obvious solution is education. Knowing what problems we should be solving is one thing, but we also need women to have the technical skills to be able to jump in and help us solve them. We are blessed to live in an age where there are a huge number of courses that women can take to upskill in tech (and I should note that when I talk about tech, I don’t just mean learning how to code. The breadth of roles available in tech is enormous—we need women doing everything from product design and research to data science and business insights).

Many of these courses are available online for free on sites like Coursera or Skillshare. And as long as you have access to the internet, you have an opportunity to join the tech sector. We need to show women the variety of career paths available to them in tech. We need to encourage them to upskill in those areas, and—importantly—we need to keep them in the workforce with diversity and inclusion policies, and flexible working arrangements. There has never been a better time to seize this opportunity, and make sure that we are challenging the status quo.

Talking to the women in your life

Tech will enable us to solve most of the challenges that the world currently faces. But if we don’t act now and get more women into the tech sector, the gender gap in tech will become irreversible in our lifetime. The McKinsey Global Institute once suggested that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global growth. But then COVID-19 hit, and in the US alone it has set working women back by more than three decades—to levels of labour force participation last seen in 1988.

So this UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I challenge you to have a conversation with the women in your life. Women of all ages and in all stages of their career. Women of all cultures and backgrounds. Women of all skills and abilities. Tell them about the possibilities that a career in tech offers—an opportunity to solve real problems and make a positive impact on people around the world. Because the more women that understand what’s possible, the more women we’ll have in tech to help us make the world a better place.

About the author

Anna Curzon is the Chief Product Officer of Xero, a global small business platform that has changed the game for its 2.45 million global small business subscribers. She has recently been appointed to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council, by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern.

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

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Why we need to encourage more girls into coding and STEM

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO and Founder, Cypher

Think Different. A great Apple ad campaign from 1997. The fact that we all think differently is at the very root of why girls - and everyone for that matter - should be encouraged to get into coding.

The reason we should encourage girls into coding is not just about feminism or equality, it’s not just about fairness or a ‘level playing field’, it’s not just about opening up glass ceilings and filling quotas. It’s far more important than that. It’s about solving problems for the future of our world.

Talking about the ‘female’ mind or ‘male’ mind is fraught with difficulty - so I’m not suggesting these are two different opposing gender-based options, but broadly painting a picture of a rich spectrum of the diversity of thought amongst individuals. A bit like we use ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ ways of thinking. It’s the combination of this diversity, facilitated through inclusivity, that leads to the ability to solve problems in new and unpredictable ways.

As a teacher I have observed children approaching tasks in different ways which reveal different mindsets. Early on in my experience of teaching children to learn to code, I taught a class of boys a lesson about making a space invaders game. The lesson taught concepts about coding and computational thinking. The boys picked up the concepts fast, were highly competitive, designed efficient invader killing programs and were totally goal orientated. Soon after I had the opportunity to teach the same lesson to a group of girls. I was fascinated by the alternative way of working that they displayed. This group took twice as long to complete the task. However, they were collaborative, discussed different options, considered the design and colour scheme of the game and even considered the wellbeing of the aliens - providing ways for them to get food. They completed the task differently.

This got me thinking about the value of different approaches to problem solving. And also the very evident fact that there are less women working in technology than men. Women make up just 17%  of IT specialists in the UK. While the concept of computer science was invented by a woman, once it was turned into an academic subject to fit into an educational system designed largely around how boys learn, it lost it’s connection with the ‘poetic science’ displayed by Ada Lovelace’s mind. Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician working with Charles Babbage in around 1843, first developed the idea that computers had the capability to go beyond mere number-crunching.

The benefit of learning computational thinking, the core concepts behind developing code and algorithms, is that it gives students the tools to both think around problems and promotes the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem. Thinking computationally isn’t just about the questions you answer, but about the questions you ask. What I might call a male approach might be to set the question ‘What is 2x2?’ We can all do that - 4. But what if we ask the question, ‘How do you make 4?’ Immediately the mind expands and starts thinking of different angles. How about  8÷2, 1+1+1+1, 22, 60÷15, √16……there are so many ways. With different people working together - different genders, different heritages, different social backgrounds - the approaches are instantly diversified. And women tend to bring together a range of approaches rather than stick to a straightforward path.

In my own career I have an example where my approach, bringing together two different principles, led to a new and exciting solution. With my background in both computer science and architecture, I have developed the code to create a space planning app to improve office space usage. It was also the result of a great partnership with my husband, Bruce. By putting together two types of algorithms, a particle based system and a graphical based system, I was able to create algorithms to solve the space problems faster. Bruce, interestingly, says that’s something he would never have done and credits my ‘female mind’ as being able to think in a more lateral, pick’n’mix way. When it came to getting the algorithms patented however, he was the one to drive that process through and get it registered. Teamwork.

So how have we managed to put off so many girls going into computer science? Just 9% of female graduates in 2018 studied a core Stem subject - science, technology, engineering and maths. Some girls are keen on computing and I’m the last one to stereotype anyone into a particular role. I was both the president of the Computer Science club at high school - and the Cheerleaders. I love gaming. But I love other things too. I’m a Mom, and I like being in charge of how my home is, what the kids do and getting to know their teachers and the other school Moms. It’s my choice to take on that role in our marriage (as well as being CTO of our company). We just don’t make computer science sound that attractive to most girls. What’s the point? How does it relate to me? I read an Instagram post only yesterday from a woman who’d just got a house to herself after being brought up with three brothers - doesn’t this just paint a picture of what life can be like for some girls?

“There has always been noise, there has always been things everywhere that were the possessions of others, that weren’t for me, and I wasn’t to touch…amps, wires, guitars, drum kits, video games and televisions that I was never interested in but wasn’t ever allowed to use anyway - the year PlayStation came out was really shit, just saying.”

It’s not encouraging!

Things have to change. Everyone needs to get to understand technology better. The 98% of people who don’t want to be computer programmers have to have an elevated level of understanding of technology to be able to function in today’s and especially tomorrow’s world. An understanding of how computing works, what computational thinking is, how algorithms work - takes away the fear of technology. Technophobia is only overcome when you have a go, you discover it’s not so clever, it’s just about giving a machine a few instructions. And wow, those instructions can make a real difference.

By broadening the understanding of technology we can also help increase the numbers of women working in and understanding technology. When I spoke at a conference for International Women’s Day last year I was impressed by the recognition of the breadth of what ‘women in tech’ means. The marketing team was proud to stand up and say, “We are women in tech’. No, they aren’t labelled CTO but they do run the Facebook campaigns and understand the algorithms, they do run the website, they do analyse the data from all the technological interactions with customers.

How do we encourage girls into coding and STEM? By creating environments that welcome women. By appreciating that not everyone thinks the same and that there are many ways to peel an orange. By showing that they can tap into their creativity when learning computational thinking. That it can help their creativity. I set up my company, Cypher, to inspire children to learn the language of the future - code. From the outset, I wanted to make it as girl friendly as possible. The whole premise of Cypher is that we teach through creative themes - we want to catch a kid’s imagination and curiosity with subjects that mean something to them - whatever their gender. Our themes range from exploring marine ecology and conservation, to a virtual world tour meeting robots and building pyramids, to making magic, to fashion shows and composing music. And whatever the theme, we connect it to technology, learning to code and developing computational thinking. STEM by stealth if you like. The greater the range of children we can excite about coding now, the greater the diversity of thinking and problem solving that will be in the next generation of leaders, designers, thinkers - bringing new and surprising solutions to the problems we face in the future. As we say at Cypher, getting the next generation future ready.

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO CypherAbout the author

Elizabeth Tweedale is a computer scientist, has a master’s degree in architecture, has written six books for children explaining different coding languages and is the Founder and CEO of Cypher – an edtech startup inspiring children aged 5 to 12+ to learn and apply the language of coding through creative and interactive camps and clubs. She’s also a mother of three young digital natives.

While working for Foster & Partners’ Specialist Modelling Group in 2013, she spotted the educational potential of coding. She explains: “My team used computer coding to design buildings, including the Apple Campus and the Gherkin. I saw many colleagues teaching themselves how to code and hitting stumbling blocks because they didn’t have a basic understanding of computational thinking and had never learned how easily code fits together.”

Her experience sparked a question. Shouldn’t we be teaching our young children how to code? And so she set up a company to do just that.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

Embracing the culture of evolving technology

By Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME adviceAt the start of 2020, little did we know the disruption that would take place in the business world.

We’ve had to adopt strategies for employees to work remotely, support mission-critical business systems, and enable customers to continue to successfully conduct business. There’s a palpable need to adopt and build cultures that rapidly embrace technological change. And that will change everything.

We’ll see an evolution of business models due to this period in time. Organisations that have thrived through the pandemic may not be operating solely in a digital business model, but all successful businesses will have a strong digital culture in common. That future needs to be faced moving forward. Businesses need to start thinking about how to create and implement a long-term digital business model, and there are plenty of new tools to help make that possible.

Three to five years ago—and really up until the pandemic—tech companies were riding the wave of a growing market. The wave has broken, and now we need to adapt, adjust, and do more with less. The big winners will likely be startups and smaller companies that were born digitally enabled or companies unafraid to change and adapt to our new realities. The losers will try to return to the old ways and find themselves swiftly left behind in the new normal.

It all comes from the top

Instead of moving into the future in fear, leaders need to think about all of this as opportunity. In order to rapidly adopt new technologies that will enable future business success, leaders need to embrace, drive, and support change throughout the organisation. This requires three essential elements.

First, leaders need to evaluate technologies as they emerge to determine which solutions address their business model, needs, and challenges. Because of the pace of technological change, what may be impactful today could easily be replaced by something far better in a year. But don’t let your big-picture vision be undermined by the newest sparkly tool. See holistically and understand the results you’re truly seeking from a tech solution.

Second, leaders need to build teams that are nimble and flexible enough to adapt to rapid change and provide them with the tools to develop skills and learn new technologies as they come to market. Change is often scary for employees—they don’t want to find themselves left behind as technologies evolve. They need to be supported with opportunities to learn. They need to get hands-on experience and build new skills to stay relevant and create career paths through your business. Invest in your employees as part of your tech investment, and in turn they’ll enable your business. You’ll never regret it.

Third, it’s important to admit when something has failed and be unafraid to change course. Continuing to drive a strategy or technology implementation that isn’t working or having the expected business impact doesn’t make any sense. Employees can see it. And they’ll have more respect for leaders who admit that something isn’t working and can reset. O’Reilly is about to undertake a major software rearchitecture that requires the hands and minds of all our developers, taking them away from new feature development while they complete the work. It’s a bold and expensive step, but we’re not afraid to admit something isn’t working, change course, and make the corrections needed to help ensure long-term success. Our employees get it and support it.

Start by building the right foundations

It’s becoming increasingly clear that systems architecture, clean and readily accessible data, and the cloud are enabling technologies that organisations need to focus on. With these layers in place, businesses can more successfully add new technologies that enable productivity, enhance digital connectivity to customers, and provide effective support for remote employees. These technologies also pave the way for broader adoption of artificial intelligence, whether it's increasing productivity by augmenting employees in their day-to-day roles, predicting customer behaviours, or enabling new and engaging customer experiences.

When it comes to the cloud, cost reduction will be a big driver of adoption—and that impetus to lower cost is going to have a huge impact on innovation. Investing in a multi-cloud strategy may also help businesses against potential disruption in the market, and it’s an approach many should consider in the current competitive environment. New capabilities are being enabled in the cloud each day. Make sure as a leader you stay on top of what’s being made possible.

Some of the biggest innovations happen after times of crisis; it’s been proven time and time again. Right now, we’re undergoing a huge reset, and that presents an opportunity for any company with the capacity and drive to think ahead.

AI and cloud adoption are definitely growing at a strong rate—it’s an area in which O’Reilly has done a lot of research. Our recent AI Adoption in the Enterprise 2020 report found that the vast majority of organisations (85%) are evaluating AI or already using it in production, and more than half of these folks identify as “mature adopters.” For these innovators, their focus is on supervised learning for ML. On the cloud side, 25% of those we surveyed reported that their organisations were planning to move applications fully into the cloud in the next year, and 17% of those from organisations with more than 10,000 employees reported they’ve already made the move.

The new normal

This new normal has taken a lot of us by surprise. And we all know it’s impossible for any company to get it all right from the first go. But by focusing on leading through change, supporting employees, and placing the right bets, companies will have a greater chance at successfully navigating this period of disruption and setting their business up for future success.

About the author

Laura Baldwin began working with O’Reilly Media in October 2001. She became the company’s first President in March 2011 and is currently responsible for O’Reilly’s businesses worldwide. Prior to O’Reilly, she was a consultant to the publishing industry through BMR Associates, and managed several large consulting engagements across all genres of publishing and media.

She attributes much of her success to the all-girls high school she attended, where she was taught that leadership is available to anyone who demonstrates initiative and drive regardless of their gender. She brings that philosophy to O’Reilly, where she helped to create a diversity scholarship program and continues to advocate for an inclusive and open workforce.

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