Tara McGeehanTara McGeehan was appointed President of CGI’s UK operations in January 2018.

In May 2019, to capitalise on market synergies, the Australia Business Unit was added to the UK Operations, forming the UK and Australia Strategic Business Unit. As President, Tara leads a team that brings all of CGI’s end-to-end capabilities and industry and technology expertise to clients across these regions.

Tell us a bit about yourself

As President of CGI UK and Australia operations, I lead a team of over 5,500 professionals and consultants across two continents. Aware that I lead a multi-national and cultural workforce, I am passionate about diversity and encouraging young people and women to enter the technology industry. I enjoy contributing to our business as a thought leader and being part of a team which delivers on the most complex programmes.  I endeavour to model CGI values both internally and externally.

What are the biggest challenges facing young professionals in their careers today?

As we, optimistically might I say, near the end of the pandemic, it is clear that the digital economy will drive a lot of recovery. This is tech’s chance to lean in as a growth sector to drive young people and women into the industry and help businesses through to the other side. We have the opportunity to channel young people into the world of tech, particularly those who are struggling to find a fit for their degrees or qualifications and get their first job. The long-term career progression of our young professionals depends on it as we strive to make up for lost time, especially as for many, they may have only had a limited time in the office or none at all. I remember how important socialisation was during the early years of my career, and it was critical in fostering my approach to business and colleagues. Being in the office was an introduction to working in a generationally diverse environment and is where I learned to work and build relationships with people of different ages and backgrounds. Whilst we all hope that working fully remote is a temporary situation, it is pertinent to reflect on the affect this may have had on the mental health of young people in the long term. I believe it’s the duty of senior professionals to help young people make up for lost time in the workplace by diversifying and teaching all that we can.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievements to date include challenging the norm and pushing back against convention in regard to how women work in the technology sector. I’m also proud to have worked with the teams at CGI to initiate our own ethnicity pay gap report, which came about after talking to employees from minority backgrounds about how we could better support them and initiate change. Other initiatives I have overseen with the team have also helped to prevent bias and aim to increase inclusivity, such as encouraging people to include phonetics in their email signatures. To build on this, we are also looking into the development of a shadow board, which will be a diverse group of people discussing the same topics alongside the CGI board to see if they reach the same conclusions. This will give us a well-rounded perspective from people of all backgrounds to foster trust at all levels at CGI.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I believe that consistency and fairness have always been the cornerstone of success. I have been able to build successful working relationships by being reliable and assuming others will be reliable too. My belief is that you need to be consistent regardless of age, gender or schooling and you need to know that you will get the same answer regardless of who you are. To me, fairness needs to underpin everything; these are principles which I carry throughout both my personal and professional life.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

The digital economy, as I’ve mentioned, will act as a force to drive a lot of the nation’s recovery. An element of this will be the drive to funnel more talented women into the industry. You can see that in some ways, the pandemic has aided in the levelling out of the sector, giving flexibility to those who wanted to balance work and home life and reduce the role of presenteeism. With this at front of mind, the tech industry should be working to actively encourage and foster an environment where older women who want to get back to work after having a family want to join. After all, we know that flexible working is conducive to productivity – having a family isn’t a hindrance and should never be seen as one.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I believe companies can support progress and the careers of women by having complete transparency and objectivity. This is ultimately down to taking the time to listen to your employees. Prior to the pandemic, many women were put off by the idea of a career in tech, thinking it would involve longer days, or more travelling – all of which meant an encroachment on family life. Now there is no need to choose between being home for the family or doing a two-hour commute. I feel strongly that this accessibility to the workplace will reflect in the number of women putting themselves forward for promotion or entering the tech sector.

Currently, women make up just 17 per cent of the workforce in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Accountability will be vital to accelerate the pace of women in tech. As a sector we need to be having serious discussions around subjects like the gender pay gap, and encouraging businesses to be accountable is the only way we are going to progress. It’s unacceptable that the government said businesses don’t need to publish their 2020 results and this will not aid in diversifying our industry, especially post-pandemic.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Staying current is so important, so I always make sure I’m reading a book relevant to my field, listening to a podcast, or following websites. Although these are valuable, the most significant resource is networking. Women are notoriously poor at networking, so getting better at that would benefit us all. After all, knowing people means you’re more likely to get better opportunities. When I was first starting my career, I made sure to join local women’s networks. There are some great ones out there, either near you or relevant to your role that are worth joining.

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