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.


Calling all engineers! Can you help in the fight against COVID-19?

coronavirus, Royal Academy of Engineering, COVID-19

Calling all engineers!

With each day that passes, the severity of the coronavirus outbreak increases, as the issues extend beyond health concerns, impacting stock markets around the world and the way businesses operate.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has recognised the critical role that engineers can play in managing the impact of the pandemic, and is asking its Fellows, awardees and partners to use their combined engineering expertise and UK and global networks to help identify solutions, organisations and contacts that could help governments address challenges and assist the public health response.

There is an immediate need for ventilator manufacture, but The Royal Academy of Engineering are encouraging innovation and ideas across all areas, including healthcare systems, critical infrastructure, business management and supply chain.

The Academy is supporting the following calls for assistance:

  • The UK government’s urgent call for assistance from engineering and manufacturing organisations around the UK to help boost the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK to support the National Health Service in its response to COVID-19
  • The Frontier Tech Hub’s urgent call to emerging markets for Rapidly Manufactured Ventilation Systems, inviting applications for an existing, proven technology that can be rapidly adapted to be built in the UK. The winning technology will be adapted for manufacture and use in the UK by a team at UCL’s Institute for Healthcare Engineering with GDI Hub, and will receive a licensing fee
  • In addition, there are other key areas where the engineering community may be able to provide new approaches to specific challenges through technological developments. The Academy is calling on its Fellows, awardees and partners to help accelerate innovations, provide relevant policy advice and establish communications and engagement channels for people to share experiences and knowledge with governments and other organisations.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has identified the below specific requests as a great way to offer your expertise:

If you don't feel able to respond to the specific requests, there are still ways that you as an engineering professional can help with the effort to address the coronavirus, so please do get in touch with The Royal Academy of Engineering.


100 female engineers, mathematicians and scientists gather at Houses of Parliament

BCS Women at Houses of ParliamentOver 100 female engineers, mathematicians and scientists from across the UK recently gathered for an event at the Houses of Parliament.

The World Engineer Reception was hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP and Chi Onwurah MP to celebrate women in engineering and the contribution they make. The event also aimed to discuss ways that the UK can attract and retain more women in the sector.

11 senior women from BCS The Chartered Institute for IT attended the event.

Gillian Arnold, Chair of BCSWomen and one of the attendees said: “Encouraging diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is vital for the UK. In the technology profession, women account for just 16% of the workforce. Women are prolific users of technology, we need them to also be involved in its development and deployment to ensure that tomorrow's technical solutions include innovations by (and for) women users.

“Also, employers need to be able to recruit from the widest pool of available talent,  so we really need to make sure that girls and women realise that there are fantastic career options available to them in STEM, and that employers realise that, as Jeremy Corbyn MP, said last night, 'Women can do anything they put their minds to' “.

Chi Onwurah MP, a Chartered Electrical Engineer, was present at the event and told attendees how 25 years after starting out on her career as an engineer the proportion of women engineers remained exactly the same. Onwurah said the challenge of gender stereotyping still needs to be tackled.

At the event she called for all tech companies to adopt a Women in Tech Charter, similar to a Women in Finance Charter.


TeenTech holds event to inspire next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers

Over 500 year 8 and year 9 students descended on London’s Olympic Park for the TeenTech City event this week.TeenTech week

200 scientists, technologists and engineers gathered to showcase the rich and fulfilling careers available in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Challenges were set for the students by organisations such as Barclays, BBC, Cisco, National Grid, Atkins, JVC and Samsung.

Speaking at the event, founder of TeenTech, Maggie Philbin said: “There’s a huge amount of young talent all over the UK, and yet a generation still sits in the classroom convinced subjects like maths and physics are irrelevant. TeenTech City captures the imagination of those who at one time would have dismissed a career in science – allowing them to walk away with a real understanding of how they can make a difference to the world of tomorrow.

“We owe a huge amount to the brilliant companies and universities who came together to make today an outstanding catalyst – helping students see how creative and exciting this contemporary industry can be."

Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, sponsors of the TeenTech City Event, said: “The capital is really leading the way when it comes to digital innovation, and in particular, financial technology. There are currently more FinTech employees in London and the southeast than the whole of California.

“To maintain our global position as the leading financial centre, it is vital to develop and maintain a high-skilled workforce. Events like this really help educate young people about careers in the technology and science sectors and hopefully inspire them to become the innovators of tomorrow.”

Ms Feione Cooper Art & Design Teacher at The Urswick School said: “Our school first participated in TeenTech in 2011 and ever since we have never looked back. STEM workshops are an opportunity to push the boundaries and create new initiatives in an explorative and exciting way – and the students leave thinking of different ways they can execute ideas collectively.”

The students were surveyed when they arrived at the event, with 57% saying they would consider a career in engineering. At the end of the event this figure had rose to 71%. Only seven per cent said they were considering an apprenticeship after school.