On the eve of International Women’s Day 2023 we are being the change we want to see. Here we talk to 20 women in tech about gender parity, developing a career in IT and STEM and smashing that glass ceiling.

  1. Gender parity… but not in my lifetime!

Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Business and Wholesale, Virgin Media O2 kicks off with a challenging stat: “It is estimated that it will take another 132 years for the global gender gap to close. As a mother of two girls and a woman in leadership, this figure motivates me to effect change… For the brilliant women I work with. For my daughters. And for the future generations of women to come.

“This International Women’s Day should serve as a reminder for businesses to set goals and drive real progress to #EmbraceEquity, from increasing representation for women in leadership and decision-making roles to investing in mentorship and support resources. Let’s continue to drive the change that we want to see.”

  1. You don’t have to be technical (to be a woman in tech)

CIO of Endava Helena Nimmo speaks on the need to look beyond STEM: “In 2023 we still seem to be stuck in this loop of limitations when it comes to getting women into technology. Just look at the figures: in the UK there’s only eight female chief executives in the FTSE 100 and 15 female CFOs. In the US it’s much the same, with 43 female chief execs in the S&P 500 and 78 CFOs, and only 27% of CIOs in the Fortune 500 are female.

“To combat this, attention has in recent years turned to bringing women up into technology through the STEM path. But this is misguided; like many others, I myself fell into technology – I did not come from a STEM background at all! I studied economics and business at university and came into the industry with that knowledge. As an industry, we’ve forgotten is there are many other paths to come into technology, and many other skillsets that add value to the roles.

“Personally, I feel strongly about having women in in tech roles across levels. Beyond the obvious reasons, a key element is that we create technology for users. Women make up half the global population, which half of our users are female. Not having that representation within the business does a disservice to the solutions we’re able to offer as an industry. Technology is only as good as the people driving it forward and I’d encourage business leaders to think through this lens on this year’s International Women’s Day.”

  1. Don’t look for tech qualifications, look for transferable skills

Natalie Cramp, CEO of data consultancy Profusion on bridging the STEM gap: “The first step is to start really listening to women in the industry. There’s plenty of talk about diversity, but in many instances the conversation is dominated by men. I know more often than not their intentions are good, but change will only happen if they stop talking for a moment and listen to what women who actually experience the industry say needs to happen.

“There’s a huge amount of gatekeeping in the tech industry. Many hiring decisions are biased towards particular technical qualifications, backgrounds or coding languages. Tech founders should hire for transferable skills and teach the tech or data knowledge required. We’ve taken this approach at Profusion and now women make up the majority of our senior team – something that is very rare in the data industry. Also, we offer part-time roles, women do the majority of the childcare statistically and often don’t move roles because they worry they can’t secure part-time or job share arrangements elsewhere – offer this from the start and it will set you apart from competitors.

“Ultimately the tech industry can play a much bigger role in tackling one of the root causes of under-representation – the lack of women studying STEM. The stats haven’t changed enough in the past few years, so it’s clear more must be done. Research shows gender stereotypes are formed as young as seven, the net result seems to be that when young girls get to secondary school many are locked into a path that precludes a huge number of career choices. The tech industry can and should help break this cycle by educating young people, teachers and parents on all the possibilities and benefits of STEM careers, addressing stereotypes and providing work inspiration and experience opportunities.”

  1. Curate a culture of equality for everyone

Lydia Kothmeier, Vice President of Operations at enterprise tech Storyblok on curating a culture of equality: “It’s really important that businesses, especially those involved in tech, go beyond viewing gender equality and the wider diversity mandate as just another corporate box to be ticked. The reality is that it’s much bigger than that. It’s about breaking age-old biases and barriers and creating a place where every single person – be it male or female – feels equally valued, included and heard. For example, it doesn’t matter if we have a part-time or full-time team member or a person who will be on maternity leave for a while. We want to give them the chance to grow at Storyblok, involve them in interesting projects and ensure they are part of our story. Everyone is welcome to come up with suggestions, take over responsibilities or lead a team.

“For us, the right attitude and experience is much more important than working hours. Excitement, passion and curiosity isn’t something that can be quantified by figures or charts but must be lived and breathed from the top down. If your team senses a lack of authenticity, it’s likely that they will be less inclined to get on board and the impact of even the most comprehensive diversity strategy will fall to the wayside. In this way, it’s about curating a culture of equality that is not just part of your corporate strategy but deeply ingrained in your entire brand philosophy.”

  1. Change the talent pool where you fish!

Sarah Gilchriest, President of Circus Street, on how upskilling can support a more diverse workforce: “Creating a more gender diverse workplace is both a moral and commercial imperative. Having a plurality of experiences and backgrounds creates more points of view, positions and ways of thinking. But it can be easier said than done.

“Companies that lack diversity more often than not suffer from institutional problems that prevent underrepresented groups applying for roles, being hired or developing into more senior leadership roles. Research indicates that unconscious bias can play a major role. People either hire or promote new team members that are like themselves or have perceptions of particular groups that lead them to believe they would not be suited for a particular role. Many business leaders also argue that diversity is inextricably linked to the skills gap – there simply aren’t enough people from underrepresented groups embarking on careers in areas such as development or data science to help representation.

“Breaking these cycles requires a more proactive approach from businesses. Businesses simply can’t wait for the skills gap to close by itself nor can they assume that hiring and promotion practices will change without intervention. So how can organisations take a big step forward and help to close any gender gap? One answer can be found in developing an upskilling program. Businesses cultivate the talent they already have and hire more diverse team members with a view to developing their skill sets in a way that is relevant to both your business and their aspirations and abilities.”

  1. Apprenticeships change diversity, inclusion… and lives

Destiny O’Shaughnessy, Business & Integration Architecture Specialist at Accenture, who graduated from her apprenticeship in July 2022: “I was lucky enough to have attended Accenture’s open day, during which they talked us through what they were looking for during the process. This helped, but if you don’t have that opportunity then reach out and ask the hiring team at that company.

“Within my application I had was required to demonstrate my willingness to learn and my passion for technology, as recruiters want to know that you are passionate about what you are looking to learn. I had to ensure my statements were all backed up with relevant examples; one particular method I used was the STAR technique. I also had to highlight my soft skills, such as customer service, to show that I can engage with people and gain the clients’ trust from a sales perspective.

“Earning a place as an apprentice isn’t about your specific subjects or grades; it’s more about having a strong interest in the role, your experience and your soft skills. In an interview, you should always be yourself, show your passion and believe in yourself!”

  1. Beware the unconscious bias

Grete Ling, Head of Growth at marketing and analytics platform App Radar, on what tech companies can do to support the careers of women: “Having a diverse team is really important – that includes different genders, nationalities, skill-sets and personality traits. It drives innovation by providing a huge range of views and experiences. People tackle problems from different angles and that ultimately helps a company perform.

“Tech companies need to be aware of how their unconscious biases can hold back women or other underrepresented groups. It may be that their recruitment practices make hiring people from different backgrounds much harder or their company culture prevents underrepresented groups from progressing in their careers. The key is to treat everyone equally. To not assume things based on someone’s background and to create a company culture that is open and inclusive. To that end, I think all companies should focus on investing in developing their people, professionally and emotionally. Self-analysis and mental health are more important than ever. This applies to everybody, not just women.”

  1. Life begins at 40 (or 50 or 60+)

Maria A Pereda, strategic partnerships lead at alternative funding provider, Capchase on attracting women later in life: “Companies need to be mindful of unconscious biases and create a working culture where this is in check. Create a culture where opportunities are given based on true impact on the business and not based on who has the loudest voice.

“We also need to see more opportunities for women later in their careers, such as returning mothers, to retrain and reskill themselves into tech. It’s important that people realise it’s never too late. Just like myself, entering tech slightly later in my career, there’s always an opportunity to diversify, upskill or even reskill.”

  1. Wannacry made her wanna learn more about tech!

Jude Kelzi, Cyber Security Apprentice at Thales says: “Believe it or not, I started out wanting to be a vet! But a career in technology was always on my mind as my Dad works as Software Architect. I wasn’t aware of cyber security as an industry, and that a career in this area was a possibility; I went to an all-girls school and it wasn’t commonly talked about. However, amidst the WannaCry attacks on the NHS, we had someone come into our school to give a talk – from that point on I was very intrigued and wanted to explore the subject further.

“At the time there wasn’t anything for beginners in this industry, but I found out about a competition called ‘CyberStart’ that involves partaking in cyber-related challenges and puzzles that increase in complexity as you progress. I’ve taken part for three years in a row, making it to the final stage in all three. I recommend looking out for opportunities like this, as well as considering apprenticeships if you’re starting your career. It’s a great alternative route to get into a STEM career; it’s a more practical programme so you can get hands-on experience in the business whilst also studying for professional qualifications.”

  1. Know who your friends are (and make more!)

Elizabeth Seward, Head of Space Strategy at BAE Systems on networking and encouragement: “To put it simply, find your friends. In work life this is called networking but really it is getting to know people from different places, making friends and staying in touch so you can bring the best out of each other. It’s something which resonates through careers from early on, starting at school and then through work or university, you’ll meet people who are interested in the same things as you and by working together you can all move forwards. When they require it, help them out and make sure to stay in touch, that way when you need help you’ll have a community of people you trust to ask.”

What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women and girls into your field?

“It comes back to normalisation of what we see in our everyday lives, it needs to be seen as ordinary to study and have a career in STEM subjects. We’ve come a long way since I was at school and this has enabled a lot of talented women to have important STEM roles but there is still sometimes a view that science and engineering is for boys and that’s just not true.  It’s so much fun working in STEM particularly for me in Space at a time where our eyes are fixed on new horizons and new possibilities, we just need to make sure those eyes represent all of us to the fullest extent because everyone should be able to do it if they want to.”

  1. Be true to yourself

Billie Sequeira, a former apprentice, engineering technician and now Sustainability Executive at BAE Systems says: “If you love STEM, there’s something for you. In Engineering alone, there are a huge range of opportunities and subject fields to work within, and I truly believe there is something for everyone. Recognise and pursue your passions, and be your authentic self throughout. There are resources that can help you find your niche: careers advisors, recruitment teams, Google! We need more women, and people from diverse backgrounds, in STEM. Don’t be afraid to look past the stereotypes and be a part of the change.”

How do we encourage more women and girls into STEM?

“The approach to encouraging women and girls should be different. For girls, we need to see more representation and role models at an early age. The images I saw at school of Engineers, Mathematicians, Scientists etc. were all of white men. You don’t need to explicitly hear, “STEM is for boys” to create the perception that these subjects are for boys/men. As the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. Increasing visibility of women in STEM, mentoring and championing women role models, alongside greater access to work experience opportunities, internships and taster days will help. In my experience, I was stuck on what career path to take but seeing the work environment and products in real life during a Taster Week at BAE Systems was what solidified my choice that Engineering was the best career path for me.

“For women who may have worked in other fields, stressing the value of transferrable skills is important. STEM relies on a number of skills, and many of these are used in other areas of work: problem solving, creativity, critical and analytical thinking, teamwork, and more. Greater flexibility and maintaining a work/life balance is increasingly important to women and men alike; allowing employees the flexibility and time to spend with their family and friends or those with disabilities/illnesses some time to rest is important, and ultimately leads to a happier, more diverse workforce.

“Much work goes into recruiting women and girls into STEM, but it’s important to focus on creating and ensuring an inclusive environment so they remain working in STEM too. Ensuring women and girls continue to be happy, supported and fulfilled in their STEM roles by supporting people from a range of backgrounds will maintain progression and help to improve the gender stereotypes naturally, through word of mouth.”

  1. Flexibility is the key to a better (more inclusive) workforce

Sarah Solerti, Senior Tech Engineer at RM talks about equity in practice: “As a Mum, equity is all about having the opportunity to do what I want in my home life – raising children – while being offered the same opportunities as everybody else at work. And we can’t be blind to the fact that the hurdles to achieving this are much more prominent for men than women. Historically, the lion share of childcare is placed on women, meaning they need to stay at home more than men, or it’s simply assumed they should stay at home – both of which can have a negative effect. I can say that, from experience, the technology sector in particular tends to be dominated by men – making it a really intimidating space.

“But there are things that organisations can do to combat those mental and physical blockers for women. For instance, it’s crucial that organisations offer flexibility in days and hours worked to make job roles suitable for women – or men – with children. Translating that to equity means representing the underrepresented. The topic of flexibility needs to be a constant. Women need to be as equally present in the workforce, and in senior positions too, no matter whether that makes them present in the office 9 to 5. This offers a diversity of perspectives that’s important in any business, because ultimately, the people we’re selling to, working with or for will be diverse too.

“And it’s good for general morale. When women can succeed in their careers, this boosts morale amongst women that are just starting out in their careers. They have someone to look up to and it makes the workplace feel less intimidating. And flexibility is important because we also need to make space for more female role models. As it stands, if you ask someone about some of the most impressionable keynotes from business leaders, they’ll name Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. The more we work towards greater equity and flexibility, the faster we’ll create more business and tech female inspirations for younger females to look up to – and that can only have a positive impact.”

  1. Equal pay would be a great start!

Ayshea Robertson, People & Culture Director at Zen Internet looks at opportunity and pay: “Addressing the lack of female representation in STEM careers requires efforts on multiple fronts – whether it’s initiatives like Step into Tech programmes such as the ones we run at Zen, or mentoring schemes for young women in schools. Essentially, we need to make career advice and support more easily accessible, which can open opportunities for young women to explore what a career in IT could be like.

“Changing how tech is taught in schools is another crucial factor if we’re to close the tech industry gender gap. Many tech companies and large employers already have close working relationships with further education establishments, and this is something that should be encouraged to provide a means of sharing real-life advice and experiences.

“As well as these early interventions, there is also a great deal that technology employers themselves can be doing. Re-designing roles so they are more suited to retaining female talent and don’t have unconscious bias in them can be effective. Retention also comes from creating spaces for support, discussion and mentoring. Network support groups such as our Women in Tech network at Zen, can help people feel comfortable in sharing and addressing specific issues they may be facing. They can also provide a means to start acting as a collective and apply pressure to create changes in areas like the gender pay gap.”

  1. A career in tech isn’t just for men

Nicole Neumarker, CTO at WorkForce Software believes tech needs an image change“The technology industry has been acknowledged for many years as male-dominated. When we think of a modern-day technologist, many of us picture men as the dominant gender in software engineering – but this is simply not the case. One of the main barriers in making the industry more attractive is breaking the stigma that STEM is exclusively for those who specialise in mathematics or technology. Women are often alienated from a career in STEM early on because they are unaware of the gradation of skills, pathways and jobs available that don’t require a master’s degree in computing.

“Women can’t be what they can’t see, and this needs more attention if we are to make the industry more attractive. People forget that technology has layers. Yes, the software developers of the tech world are vital, but so are the problem-solving skills, design skills and ability to spot unmet needs that can lead to technology breakthroughs and innovations. Moving forward, businesses need to open up the STEM umbrella and provide women and minority groups with training programmes and opportunities to broaden their understanding of what a career in STEM has to offer.

  1. Open up the c-suite: women need to be at all levels

Megan Oxman, Interim President, Digital Wallets at Paysafe says: “To foster an open and diverse organisation, I believe it’s critical that women are represented at all levels. To achieve this, we must focus on retaining female talent and supporting their advancement. Research shows that the “broken rung” is helping women achieve their first step into management (per a Women in the Workforce report by McKinsey), for every 100 men promoted past entry level in the US, only 87 women are promoted). We also know that offering workplace flexibility (especially in a post-COVID world) is critical to attract and retain women: the McKinsey report notes 49% of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company, compared to 34% of men leaders.”

What significance does International Women’s Day have for you?

“IWD provides a great opportunity to look back and see how far we’ve come. Recall that in the US and in most places in Europe, women only achieved the right to vote about 100 years ago! It’s a great time to reflect on what female leaders have accomplished, not only in business but also in sciences, arts, and government. IWD also helps garner attention on how much further we need to go to achieve a gender equal world and the steps our society can take to achieve it.”

  1. Make flexibility the backbone of retention

Chi Eun, EVP & Chief of Staff and Executive Sponsor of Women@Paysafe says: “I think it is really important for companies to create a culture where challenges can be discussed openly. Women (and men) need to be given a space where these informal discussions can take place, along with a formal mentoring programme that supports their career development. This will allow them to also identify ‘hard’ policy changes ranging from maternity/carer leave to working time flexibility, etc. And of course, they also need to feel empowered to recommend these changes. In order for that to be possible, it requires strong sponsorship from the top leadership.”

What significance does International Women’s Day have for you?

“International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to collectively reflect on the amazing progress we have made but also to recognise how much more there is to be done for us to get to true equality and inclusion at all stages of our careers in different environments. It is also a day to learn from other people/companies about what they are doing to improve equity at work. And, lastly, International Women’s Day should inspire us not to get complacent, thinking what we are doing is enough, and instead motivate us to continue looking for ways to progress.”

  1. Make recruiting practices less biased

Elena Dimova, VP HR Bulgaria and Operations & Technology at Paysafe says it starts with HR: “Through better flexibility and transparent internal HR processes. I also think that a well-defined career path is important for the development of female leaders. It is crucial that companies make sure that they give equal opportunities to the various represented groups and continuously revise HR practices so that everyone has an equal chance for a career progression.”

Are there any prominent women that inspire you and why?

“I have regular contact with Paysafe colleagues and I admire how they deal with the challenges they face on a daily basis and the way they balance work and personal life. Apart from this, I closely follow the political career of Angela Merkel, I find her a truly phenomenal woman.”

  1. Making careers better for our daughters’ daughters

Alisa Barber, SVP, Lead Generation at Paysafe talks about equality for future generations: “I love celebrating International Women’s Day. This special day celebrates how far we’ve come, and highlights that more progress is needed. My three daughters can dream of careers that my mother’s generation couldn’t have even imagined – so many more choices!”

How can companies better support women in the workplace and in their career progression?

“One of the most effective ways companies can support women in the workplace is through mentorship and coaching. It’s important for everyone to have someone to turn to for career advice, but especially for women. Women learning from women is key. Personally, my mentors have been men. I am very grateful for that help throughout my career, but I think today, more than ever before, women need female mentors to help them navigate today’s challenging business environment. Secondly, we need to actively champion and celebrate women that are making an impact. Championing women will inspire other women, whose work and creativity will then have positive impacts on Paysafe as a company and community.”

  1. There is still so much work to do to achieve equality

Diana Gutierrez, Head of Financial Planning & Analysis at Paysafe, Latin America shares her role models: “There are many prominent women who inspire me, including Christine Lagarde, Sheryl Sandberg, and Norma Piña among many other women who do amazing things but lack notoriety. These women have all broken down barriers and achieved great success in their respective fields, while also advocating for gender equality and social justice. Their resilience, intelligence, and dedication to making the world a better place are qualities that I admire in my own career and life.”

What do you see as the greatest barrier to entry for women in fintech?

“The greatest barrier to entry for women in fintech is likely the same as it is in many other male-dominated industries: a lack of representation and visibility. When women do not see themselves reflected in leadership positions or in the wider industry, it can be difficult to imagine themselves pursuing careers in fintech. Additionally, unconscious bias and systemic barriers can make it more challenging for women to be recognised and valued for their contributions in the workplace. Companies and industry organisations must actively work to promote gender diversity and inclusion in order to break down these barriers and create a more equitable and inclusive fintech industry.”

  1. We’ve come a long way, let’s celebrate our achievements!

Erica Anderson, VP Marketing & Product, Income Access sums up IWD: “For me, International Women’s Day is a time for the celebration and remembrance of women. These women can be those that we know personally, inspirational like activists, leaders and philanthropists, but also the everyday woman. It is really a time to remember how far we have come from just over a hundred years ago when women couldn’t vote in Canada but also to remember how far women still have to go. I personally remember attending a high-school seminar given by a prominent Canadian feminist where she said to us that ‘every person should be a feminist, not because women are better than men but that every woman should have the equal rights of a man.” There are so many areas in the world where this is still not the case even in my own country, there still exists a gender pay gap with the average woman making 90 cents to the dollar that the average man makes. These are still issues that, as women and as people in this world, we need to remember and make efforts to remedy.”