Why we should celebrate every woman in tech – from engineers, developers & beyond

Article by Tomomi Menjo, Community Program Manager, PlusPlus

The phrase ‘Women in Tech’ tends to conjure the image of engineers and developers – but it’s so much more than that.

The sector is full of incredible, dynamic and intelligent women working at every level – and each one deserves respect, admiration and support. To be a woman in tech is to be part of a diverse network, one that is inclusive and collaborative, yet it can often feel isolating – especially as the only experience popularised is that of the female engineer.

Women working in engineering, programming and development are vital, as are the women in tech who operate in non-engineering and non-development roles – from marketing and executive assistants to admin and non-technical project managers. Each of these roles are essential and crucial in building an effective tech eco-system.

I was recently given the opportunity to share my personal experience of being a woman in tech, and found myself hesitating because I’m not an engineer. This made me realise that there is a real need for non-engineering women in the sector to share their stories too. I recognise and see the challenges faced by female engineers in society, from gender biases to the pay gap – there’s no denying that things must change. We need more encouragement for women to enter the engineering pathway, as well as better advancement opportunities, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that other tech roles exist.

Our skill sets are all unique and women who are not engineers should still feel proud of their contributions to the tech sector and be given opportunities to share their experiences. This is increasingly important if we want to see real transformation in the sector and encourage young women to consider education and jobs in tech. The attention given to female engineering roles, often sidelining the many other roles that make up, can be daunting to a young woman entering the world of work who may be a perfect addition to the tech sector but unaware of how their skillset will shine in an area like marketing or sales.

I feel that there is a lack of respect and opportunities for operational roles and supportive roles in tech, despite being essential and clear examples of women who work, often tirelessly, in tech. Women in these roles deserve more credit, as well as the chance to shout about their achievements and ability. It’s also important to understand the history of sexism that surrounds the roles of secretaries and assistants, as well as how these jobs have been portrayed in the media. Despite the narratives linked to them, these  roles are a necessity for tech companies to drive success.

For all women in tech, especially those who are feeling isolated in their experience, there is so much value in becoming part of a community of mentors and supporters. Having worked at a Women’s Startup Lab, and currently running TechKnowCon, I know first-hand the benefits in having a support group of women that I can reach out to for professional advice and support. We often hear about finding ‘your people’ in life, and this is as important in our careers. It is a real comfort to know there are like-minded women with similar experiences in my chosen sector whom I can tap on the shoulder and seek advice from. We are all constantly learning, and having a community within which this is prioritised has been a great help in my career, and in building relationships in the tech sector.

But women can’t do it alone – it is equally as important for men in tech to speak up about the importance of these non-engineering, yet vital, roles in tech. Women working in this sector are already working hard to secure jobs and opportunities to share their success stories but the fact is that the tech workforce is around 70% male. The more voices talking about non-engineering roles, and their essential role in keeping tech progressing and evolving, the quicker we can make change.

So, how do we make this change, and recognise the importance of every role in tech? Mentorship and coaching programmes, in addition to advancement support, help open up the conversation and allow women in tech to flourish. Having specific programs dedicated to women is also important, recognising that they are often working against challenging circumstances to become a part of the sector in the first place, so giving them an opportunity to share their successes and worries with those who have similar experiences.

As women in tech, we all have a responsibility to make this a sector that is open, supportive and nurturing of the incredible talent within it.

Business Woman in tech. Stronger together, Happy women or girls standing together , girls, power, strong, strength, feminism Feminine, woman empowerment, vector illustration.

Celebrating and championing women in the technology sector – it’s what our future generations deserve

Business Woman in tech. Stronger together, Happy women or girls standing together , girls, power, strong, strength, feminism Feminine, woman empowerment, vector illustration.By Krista Griggs Head of Financial Services and Insurance at Fujitsu UK & Ireland

From work to online banking and keeping in touch with friends and family to booking a gym class, technology impacts every aspect of our life, every day.

Yet, despite the universal usage, the industry is still dominated by white men, with only 19% of the tech workforce made up of female directors.

Considering that organisations with gender diverse leadership teams outperform those without, this must change. It makes business sense for UK employers to reach greater gender diversity levels across the organisations, but especially at the top. The reason? Because half of the users of technology – whether it’s a social media, banking app, laptop, phone – are women. Technology is a fundamental part of life, so women must have a say in its evolution so that its innovation and evolution is unbiased.

The benefits of a diverse workforce

Working in the tech sector, specifically the financial services and insurance industry, I know how competitive the market is, and a particular trend we’re seeing is that consumers are increasingly demanding more personalised services. This is where the benefits of a balanced workforce come into fruition, as diverse teams enable banks and insurers to be much more cognisant of the needs of their customers, with strategies and decisions reflecting the communities they serve. In fact, businesses that have diverse teams see a direct positive impact on profits.

At Fujitsu, since being in the first 1% of UK organisations to publish our gender pay gap in 2017, we have achieved a 34% reduction in the gap and 50% of our UK leadership team is female. As a result, we’re seeing consistent higher engagement scores – showing that creating a working culture that is better for women, is for the betterment of everyone.

Another opportunity a balanced workforce brings is the ability to accelerate innovation. Tackling the skill gap will help ease the war on talent. Now, it’s vital that female candidates, whether it be through apprenticeships or graduate schemes are championed to join an organisation, as it will help them accelerate innovation. Similarly, empowering women to upskill within the business is also another way for talent to come to the forefront and flourish. It’s crucial that a wider demographic is utilised to combat this gap, and subsequently, it will give organisations a competitive advantage.

So if there is to be real progress in the industry, it’s key we champion female leaders such as Alison Rose at NatWest and Anne Boden at Starling. Not only are they leading some of the world’s most successful businesses, but they’re also bringing different perspectives and reframing stereotypes. In fact, the power of these women being spotlighted can drive real change, here’s how.

Change the narrative

Although women in leadership positions within the tech industry are admired, they’re often described as ‘firsts’ or ‘only’s’. Therefore, if we continue to raise their profiles – along with other women of various seniority in the industry – it will begin to remove the ‘othering’ connotation and subtly shift the narrative. From here, it will position them as leaders of equal standing to their male counterparts. In turn, the tech industry can entice an entirely new generation of women to follow in their footsteps, showcasing that they can have long and fulfilling careers.

This is particularly important given that we’re seeing the younger generation seeking out purpose in their careers and it’s often female leaders who can champion the social value that technology can bring to society. So, showcasing impactful initiatives from female leaders is crucial in onboarding the new generation, and in turn, ridding any future gender imbalances. For example, at Fujitsu we host ‘Our Girls Days’. These are a fun way to encourage STEM activities for 7-11 year-olds and introduce them to current STEM female leaders. And in a digital age, it could be providing a virtual event, such as inspirational talks from female role models to female students as a way to celebrate the UN International Girls in ICT Day.

Accelerate championing women

Celebrating women in the tech industry is vital if we are to break current bias and unconscious biases that are present in our society. Bias is part of human nature – we frame our decisions based on our experience, our culture, and the stories we tell ourselves. This is well illustrated in the book “invisible women” which highlights that our society is framed from the male perspective and is further exasperated by the small 5% increase of female C-suite executives in corporate business environments between 2016 and 2021. That means, if we’re to change perspectives and how organisations make decisions, it’s critical that we’re having open and honest discussions – it’s what will uncover an awareness that may otherwise be lacking. Only then can we reach a considered and inclusive approach, with the outcome not only impacting the internal business operations but society at large.

Looking forward, we still have a lot of work to do if we’re to strive for a balanced workforce, but my advice to women looking to start their career is to be ambitious, learn and grow at every step, be unafraid to make mistakes, uncover what success means to you and don’t worry about what other people think. Your strength is in what sets you apart. And, if you’re looking to address any gaps in your knowledge or experience, build a strong network of trusted people who can help and support you. If you have a positive attitude, you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help you succeed. One thing is for sure, you will always have an ally in me.