Men in Black

The new Men in Black film has just hit the big screens, with a recent premier on 14th June.

You may be familiar with the original story from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ days – the Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. And this addition to the franchise is no different; in this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organisation.

However, there is a slight twist – this remake is the first time one of the Men in Black has been a woman, Tessa Johnson.  In the spirit of girl power and promoting more women to get involved in their passions, a variety of tech professionals have come together to share their journeys into the tech industry, discuss how to thrive in the industry and the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.

Liz CookLiz Cook, People Director at Six Degrees on how outdated stereotypes are being challenged:

“Working for a technology company, I am constantly inspired by the women I engage with across the business on a daily basis. I was recently privileged enough to present an award at the Women in IT Awards in London, and being in a room with so many brilliant women really drove home the great strides we have made in making technology a more diverse, more balanced industry.

I can see things changing for the better, with various initiatives helping to challenge outdated stereotypes and engage people in promoting gender-balance and driving a better working world.”

Estee WoodsEstee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint, looks at the importance of innovation:

“As a sector devoted to innovation and connectivity, the technology industry is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in the workplace. Yet, as recently as 2016, 43 per cent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all. As we celebrate the trailblazers of gender equality and women’s rights, we should also reflect on the differing and valuable perspectives that diverse voices bring to the table. We encourage everyone to celebrate the strong women in their lives, personally and professionally, and to empower the women in their organisations. Today, we encourage women in tech to own their voices, to value their intellect and skills.”

Joanna HuJoanna Hu, Principal Data Scientist at Exabeam, celebrates the many strengths of women and the perspectives they bring to technology:

“It’s important to remember that women bring a unique voice to the table, are naturally good at handling interpersonal relationships and help create a harmonious work environment. They should know their worth and not be afraid of advancing. Our communities and companies need diversity in leadership roles to succeed because every person’s individual background also brings a new perspective to the table that can drive the bottom line, culture and overall success of the business.”

Krishna Subramanian 1Krishna Subramanian, Founder, President and COO at Komprise, believes gender shouldn’t matter:

“Striving for a balanced workforce not only fosters gender equality, but it makes good business sense. Half our population is female, more than half of college students are female, so why should we not hire more of these talented individuals into the workplace? Not hiring women makes a business less competitive, because they are not tapping into a vital segment of the talent stream.

It’s essential to focus on hiring the best person for the job regardless of their gender – we have women in key roles across our company. For example, our first engineering hire was a woman, and we have women in key leadership roles across engineering, marketing and sales/channels.”

Bob DavisBob Davis, CMO at Plutora, assesses the power of differences in the workplace:

“Differences in the workplace can be a really good thing – the capabilities of people don’t vary because of their gender, but because of who they are.”

“I believe the goal for any business should be to get people to understand that diversity is critical to their success; you will be far more successful if you operate under the notion that differences are powerful.”

Lucie SadlerLucie Sadler, Content Manager at Hyve Managed Hosting weighs in on why women should be encouraged into tech roles:

“Women make up 50 per cent of the UK workforce, but less than 15 per cent in STEM jobs.”

Projects that encourage women into STEM careers, coding workshops such as Codebar and Girls Who Code, and mentoring programmes are all fantastic initiatives that nurture women into pursuing careers in technology.”

Caroline Seymour 1Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto, contemplates the need for greater diversity:

“Data compiled by Evia showed that last year less that 20 per cent of technology roles in the US were held by women. Shockingly it also found that women now hold a lower share of computer science jobs than in 1980.  

While companies have become more sensitive to the gender gap in the industry over time, there is still so much more to be done to change the industry’s culture to close this gap and encourage more women into high tech careers. I believe that, fundamentally, this culture shift needs to start in school – we need to do more to mentor girls and encourage them to study STEM subjects.”

Tara O'Sullivan 1Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft, considers how unconscious bias is affecting the gender gap in tech:

“The struggle to ensure a more diverse workforce comes in many forms – from gender to ethnic background. The bottom line is that diverse teams make better decisions – this is a proven fact.  They provide much needed differences in opinion, and having a more diverse team avoids the problem of ‘group think’.  

The challenge is we’re still dealing with a huge amount of bias in the workplace – both conscious and unconscious.  We need to treat these two areas separately. Conscious bias is easier to deal with. We can name-and-shame when it rears its ugly head, all while backing this up with facts and figures.  

Unconscious bias is harder to address, and will take longer to eradicate.  Often it’s still hidden, and those holding it are completely unaware.  Studies show that for many people in this situation, when their unconscious bias is demonstrated to them, they hate it – they fall apart at seeing their own prejudice looking back at them.  

The solution? When unconscious bias is identified in an individual, we need to address it across the entire team.  This makes it ‘palatable’ on an individual basis, and allows us to make the required changes.

At the end of the day there’s no excuse. Diversity in the workplace is a social norm, and just like wearing clothes, we need to treat it as such.”

Karina Marks, Data Science Consultant at Mango Solutions, encourages young women to develop a career in advanced analytics and data science:

“I work with a surprisingly high proportion of female data scientists, but can still find myself the only female in a meeting. I have never seen this as a disadvantage though because I have faith in my own abilities and what I can achieve, regardless of my gender. For me, passion and persistence has really paid off, and I am so lucky that the organisation I work for has helped support my journey and helped me to develop my skills and gain an understanding of the analytics industry. My advice for young women keen to develop a career in advanced analytics and data science is to invest in continuous learning and development, share your work build and your community, and develop a laser focus on value.”

Eulalia FloEulalia Flo, Country Manager at Commvault, champions a balanced workforce to reduce stereotypes:

“Gender bias, for both men and women, is more frequent in less diversified working teams. Having a balanced workplace helps reduce stereotypes, and encourages richer decision making, especially in the world of technology. Many companies and senior leaders want to attract talent, and being more aware of gender bias, are now better prepared not to cling to clichés and stereotypes.

As in any other industry, I would encourage women to know their own strengths and to not be shy. You should be open minded, ready to learn new things and be challenged often by new developments that present both opportunities and threats.”

Svenja de VosSvenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb, advises why girls should be encouraged into tech careers:

“It’s vital to get more women into the tech industry but I believe that if more women are to enter the tech sector, we need to start young, showing girls that tech can be fun.

“Being a female CTO today still makes me a bit of a unicorn. And, despite my background and position, some still assume I don’t have technical knowledge. And the worst part is that I find myself getting used to these comments. But my team respects me because of my technical expertise, not simply because of my title or in spite of my gender, and this is always how it should be.”

Sophia ZhengSophia Zheng, Product Manager at Bitglass, appreciates the support of her colleagues:

“In school, kids are immature and they don’t know what lasting impact words like, “she can’t because she is a girl”, might have.

I have been lucky that in the workplace, it doesn’t feel like it is that imbalanced.

There is still an imbalance, but the way people treat you can have a big impact and make all the difference.”

Jeannie BarryJeannie Barry, Director of Technology Enablement at ConnectWise, agrees that young girls need people who can help inspire them to dream big:

“With social media all around us, girls are comparing themselves to other girls, causing a lot of self-doubt and lowering self-worth.  We need to make sure we’re constantly providing opportunities to grow their confidence and ensure they are focused on their own journey and not trying to be like someone else.

“Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and Karlie Kloss, model and entrepreneur who started Kode with Klossy, are inspiring women to have an interest in technology.  They understand how important it is to get girls interested at a young age and help them build confidence in coding and engineering.  It’s awesome that they are inspiring women to have an interest in technology and to be proud of how smart they really are – I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.”

Kanthi PrasadKanthi Prasad, VP of Engineering at WhiteHat Security is an advocate for mentors:

“The gender gap in the technology industry still exists. When I started working I did not expect equality, but instead started with the assumption that I have to try to work harder than people around me in order to gain equal footing. Nobody can stand up for you better than yourself, so learn how and when to verbalise what you need. Don’t be the one who gets easily offended by things around you.

That does not mean it is easy, but choose to concentrate on the long-term outcome than the short-term pain. The right mentor or sponsor can support and guide you through even the most difficult situations. Make time for the women in your organisation to support, mentor and appreciate each other as much as possible.”

Kate GawronKate Gawron, Senior Database Consultant at Node4, believes the main challenges facing women considering a career in technology are a lack of role models, and the perceived culture in IT:

“My advice is not to be afraid to say no to a job offer if it doesn’t suit you and your life. I’d never planned to become a Database Administrator, but it turns out I’m more than suited to the job. I believe it’s important to have the confidence in yourself to stick to what is important to you, and more often than not another amazing opportunity will open up.”