Cloud computing

Article provided by Lori MacVittie, Principal Threat Evangelist, F5 Networks

Although 2019 was a landmark year for women in tech, with government data revealing over one million women in the UK now work in STEM-related sectors, there is no room for complacency.

As a proportion of the tech workforce, women make up a meagre 16 per cent – a stat that hasn’t moved in the last decade. In fact, in 2019 it dropped 1,500 places from the previous year.

While the wheels are in motion to facilitate greater tech diversity across the world (with varying levels of success), there are still misconceptions about the industry’s ability to support female talent and produce role models in leadership positions. Everyone needs to do more to change that, particularly as we face worldwide shortages in disciplines like security and cloud computing.

Beating the bias

I’m lucky that I come from the Midwest of the US. The area is full of insurance companies and programming jobs with strong female representation. This includes my own mother, who worked as a programmer in the 70s. It just seemed to be part of our culture to have women in these kinds of positions. Fortunately, I haven’t come across many substantial career roadblocks based on my gender.

That being said, like so many other women, I’ve experienced gender-driven bias throughout my career. I’ve dealt with long-standing, ubiquitous issues. This includes male colleagues who won’t take direction from a woman, and dealing with people being taken aback when they realise – lo and behold – that I, and other women in the industry, actually know what we’re talking about! It’s not unusual after speaking at an event to be approached by people who are shocked at my ability to deliver an educational and insightful talk.

We can’t let bias bring us down or stop us from working to achieve our goals. It’s something we must overcome together as an industry, and as a society.

Welcome to the cloud!

It’s important to remember that tech is the fastest-growing industry and there are so many areas within the sector where women can flourish – some more easily than others.

For example, cloud computing has boomed in the last decade. Coincidental or not, its rise was accompanied by a significant drive to support women ‘in cloud’. In fact, cloud as a technology is often credited for democratising the resources needed for women to become entrepreneurs. Anecdotally, I think that the cloud industry has definitely been less challenging to establish credibility in than other technological industries.

That being said, I don’t see the range of opportunities being any different, except within the start-up space. Here, for example, cloud can make it easier to drive an idea to fruition, thanks to the wide range of options it offers. In fact, we’ve seen a recent explosion of women-led start-ups based in (and on) the cloud because of this.

The adoption of cloud-based solutions in the workplace has also meant that it’s easier to balance work and life. The tools you need to work with are accessible from anywhere, even at home. This alone can alleviate stress on women who struggle with work-life balance.

Wherever you go in tech, in the current climate, it’s likely that you’ll end up in a male-dominated environment. If that makes you uncomfortable, then that’s OK. Help and support is there. Make sure you find a mentor early on, or friend who you can share experiences with and lean on. In addition, it is useful to find a business or educational body that will provide the right support to help you lead a successful career.

As an industry, it’s also important that we address a widespread tendency to dismiss women in technology that aren’t in a hands-on role. We need to support and promote all women – irrespective of job title or function.

Whoever you are, whatever you wear, or whatever personality you have, is irrelevant. There’s a role for you in tech. Be bold, be yourself and don’t be put off. If we want change, we need to be the forerunners!

Lori MacVittieAbout the author

Lori MacVittie has been working at F5 for just under 14 years. Having started out as a marketing manager, she has worked her way up to becoming Principal Technical Evangelist in the Office of the CTO.

During her career, Lori has been an application developer, system engineer, consultant, writer, author, strategist, and evangelist. Her specialities include: application development, application integration, application infrastructure, application delivery, application security, cloud, SDN, and DevOps.

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