diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

International Women’s Day: The importance of allyship in gender diversity

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesArticle by Joanne Gilhooley, chief marketing officer at Adarma

This week marked International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness against bias and for championing action to drive meaningful change to create a fairer, more equal world. 

While there has been much progress in some respects, women are still vastly underrepresented in the technology industry, particularly among senior leadership teams. Women still only make up less than a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce.

Research also shows that women are still promoted at a far lower rate than their male counterparts; this may be why women are not attracted to the industry in the first place. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. This could account for the lack of women in leadership roles.

So, where are organisations going wrong in addressing gender diversity? Well first, it’s important to not think of gender equality as a female issue, it’s a social, moral and economic issue. It’s also a major problem for an industry that is facing an ongoing digital skills crisis, which is making it increasingly difficult for employers to fill roles. In turn, this is leading to the overburdening of already strained teams. One study puts the global cybersecurity talent shortage at more than 4 million people.

A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion (11%) could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion (26%), could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.

Moreover, research shows that diverse teams perform better and are more innovative. Leaders across all industries recognise that a diverse workforce is good for business.

In short, there is an urgency to attract more women to the profession and, more importantly, an imperative to retain them. Women are unlikely to join or stay in a career that chronically undervalues them, or where they feel there are too few gender equality allies.

To do this will require a shift in how business leaders, organisation influencers, and we all think about the issue – it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a topic siloed off to HR.

Encourage allyship through company culture

Although there are no quick fixes to these challenges of gender equality, there are steps companies can and should take.

Changing company culture is a good first step. Work culture deeply influences organisational leadership style, how people interact with their colleagues, how people feel overall in their role and their sentiment towards the company.

Women’s day-to-day experiences are heavily influenced by their interactions with managers and co-workers.

Crafting a company culture that fully leverages and promotes the benefits of diversity will go a long way to addressing the issue. Women, and all employees, should feel comfortable bringing their ideas, perspective, and experiences to the table.

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If both men and women have workplace psychological safety, they will be more likely to call out unfair practices, behaviour that diminishes women and be more supportive of their co-workers. This will benefit DEI and positively influence the experiences of women in the workplace.

If an employer can achieve this type of work environment, everyone will feel happier in their jobs and more connected to their co-workers and more likely to be a gender ally.

Allyship from more senior colleagues, both male and female, can make an enormous difference. Senior leaders within the business need to fully and publicly support gender equality and actively participate in training and events related to DEI. This will strongly signal the organisation’s commitment to doing more to boost DEI.

Doing this will help infuse this type of culture into the organisation much more quickly and encourage strong buy-in from employees who will see the benefits in modelling this behaviour.

Engage men in the gender inclusion programmes

Gender equality must be everyone’s responsibility. It cannot be driven by women alone. Men must be included and engaged in the dialogue so that they can play their role in the solution. Everyone needs to be empowered to be a gender diversity supporter.

Evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programmes, 96% of organisations see progress. This is compared to only 30% of organisations where men are not engaged.

According to McKinsey & LeanIn’s latest Women in the Workplace Report, men account for 79% of the C-suite and 93% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. With such influence in senior roles, men are well positioned to become powerful gender allies, which would help speed up progress and make changes more sustainable.

Aside from making the workplace a fairer and positive environment, men also benefit when they champion gender equality on a personal level. One study found that men who were more likely to act as allies to women reported proportionately higher levels of personal growth and were more likely to say they acquired skills that made them better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.

At Adarma we are proactively working to build this type of inclusive culture where everyone feels empowered to speak-up, share their ideas, recognised for their work, and valued as an individual.

Although we have more work to do in terms of gender diversity, we are supporting and sponsoring initiatives, such as the ‘Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security’ programme, to provide training to women wishing to progress in their career into senior leadership roles.

We have also reviewed our hiring language to ensure we are making careers into cybersecurity more accessible for everyone.

Our flexible working policy ensures that our people are empowered to manage their work life balance and are not excluded from being part of our team.

“Inclusion without diversity cannot exist. The balance of women in cybersecurity, especially in leadership positions, needs to change. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen first-hand that the best ideas and solutions come from more diverse teams; whether that’s in the boardroom or in day-to-day interactions with customers, partners and communities.

“It’s vital that we attract and retain more women into the cybersecurity industry, and, more importantly, we develop those that are already here. It’s critical that businesses sponsor initiatives that support women at work and provide training, but also take proactive steps to drive a company culture that removes bias and improves everyone’s daily work experiences.” – John Maynard, CEO at Adarma.

 Learn more about what we are doing to build a more balanced and representative workplace.

Joanne GilhooleyAbout the author

Before joining Adarma, I was most recently Director of Marketing for Microsoft in the UK, responsible for defining and supporting Microsoft’s commercial and consumer business’. With over 15 years cybersecurity experience and prior to my role at Microsoft, I led teams delivering sales training and enablement, global product marketing and CxO executive marketing at HP (HPE/DXC Technology). I was also Marketing Director at Vistorm, prior to it being acquired by HP. I am passionate about cybersecurity and helping to make the digital world safe and accessible for all. Outside of work I love the outdoor life and can often be seen trying to ride my horse ‘Buffy” around the Chiltern Hills!

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

She Talks Tech podcast on 'Fight, Flight and Unconscious Bias' with Mairi McHaffie, 800x600

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Fight, Flight and Unconscious Bias' with Mairi McHaffie

She Talks Tech podcast on 'Fight, Flight and Unconscious Bias' with Mairi McHaffie, square

Today we hear from Mairi McHaffie – a Personal Impact Expert & CEO of ‘Scene Change Creative Consultants’.

She tells us that if you have a brain – you have bias – and that our brains instinctively categorise people using quickly observed criteria. It’s part of our “fight or flight” chimp brain that has been useful since our primitive days to allow us to differentiate between friend or foe.

The disadvantage of this is that it can lead us to make assumptions and decisions about others based on those biases. This result is a tendency to rely on stereotypes, even if we consciously disapprove of them.

If you want to find out more about Mairi – you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

LISTEN HERE

‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2022.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 21 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.

Listen to more episodes of She Talks Tech here


Smiling man and woman standing on weighing dishes of balance scale. Concept of gender equality at work or in business, equal rights for both sexes. Colorful vector illustration in flat cartoon style.

International Women's Day: Driving gender equality within STEM roles

Article provided by Vaishali Phatak, Technical Learning Service Head & Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Tech Mahindra

The rapid ascension of the global technology sector is one of the biggest success stories of the century.

McKinsey estimates that the sector is expected to top $300bn within five years as service providers break new ground in cybersecurity, AI and enterprise tech for an ever-expanding global audience. It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for everyone in the sector.

It brings me great pleasure and a sense of personal pride that this success has been driven with women at the helm in leading roles. The gender gap in the global IT firms is closing quickly; as per Deloitte Global, the large global technology firms will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. At Tech, Mahindra, we’ve improved the gender diversity ratio by 5% in the last two quarters.

We know that optimising the capabilities and leveraging the strengths of a diverse workforce – including by gender – will serve as a strategic differentiator. Look no further than MarketPsych’s study; companies that embraced diversity grew almost 3% faster than those that did not. Equally, a study by Built found that diverse companies generate 19% more revenue, are 15% more likely to exceed median industry profits.

As Tech Mahindra’s Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, I am developing and implementing long-term D&I roadmaps that focus on gender, generations, sexual orientation, abilities, cultural diversity, and nationalities. Our comprehensive learning and development platform ensures all our employees have an inclusive working environment, and access to safe and secure working environments. We believe that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at the workplace is an instrument for growth. We value and celebrate the uniqueness of every individual by fostering an environment of inclusion and empowerment. Our policies and practices are gender-agnostic and disability confident.

Making a global impact on International Women’s Day

In 2022 we envisage following a ‘GLOCAL’ strategy across EMEA, acknowledging the vast and unique differences in culture between every country. Our plan is to build more awareness around our Diversity & Inclusion policy and reiterate our message of zero tolerance to any harassment at work.

We’ve also launched our WLP program, designed to help women in individual contributor roles to get started on leadership roles in project, program or people management. This is a 6-7 month learning and development plus career opportunity program. To date we’ve been overwhelmed with the nominations received and the interest shown by our Young Women leaders to participate in this program but are always looking for ways to improve further. For this reason, we’re looking to extend the number of participants beyond 30 in the near future.

Finally, our D&I Gender Diversity Council will continue to act as our central body across EMEA to support, develop, and drive initiatives.

Maintaining momentum post COVID-19

Upheavals such as COVID-19 and the ensuing economic squeeze risk causing a ‘backwards slide’ for women in STEM, according to Princess Anne. Couple this with the flatlining of the proportion of tech roles filled by women in the UK (remaining at 16% since 2009), and the scale of the challenge ahead becomes clear.

There are proven ways in which to retain and nurture/ groom women in STEM, however, with commitments to pay equity, sponsorship programs, anti-bias training and leadership development programs for women among the most effective. And for companies which have a hard time attract women into STEM fields, eliminating bias in the hiring process and making public, long term investments in gender equality. By stating goals and timeframes accountability will be raised.

It’s paramount that we continue to upskill women in the workplace. While we’ve repeatedly seen women prove themselves across STEM roles, the focus must now be on progressing outstanding individuals into techno managerial, leadership and board level roles. I’ve seen a growing number of female software engineers, but few in top-level architecture, solution consultant, data scientists roles. This must change, and the onus is on businesses to consider how to fully utilize strengths and provide them with challenges and opportunities to grow.

As I reflect on gender diversity on International Women’s Day, I can’t help but feel that despite the flatlining of women in tech roles, we’ve made significant progress as a society. While it may have been patchy and uneven, there’s no doubt that diversity and representation is an issue which has risen to the top priorities of many boardrooms around the world.

The desire for women to fill STEM roles has never been greater; now we must work together to empower, inspire, and support one another to ensure possibilities are limitless for anybody in the workplace.

Vaishali PhatakAbout the author

Vaishali Phatak is the Technical Learning Service Head, and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Tech Mahindra. In her current role, Vaishali leads the Global Technical Learning Function for the organisation where she has redefined the objectives in order to create a future-ready workforce that enables business growth. In her time at Tech Mahindra, she has helped to conceptualise and implement learning programs like fresher training, role based learning journeys and higher education for the underserved  in collaboration with Universities.

She was also the former Chairperson of POSH at Work, an organisation which highlights the issue of sexual harrassment and provides employers with a policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Under her tenure, she helped to create sustainable diversity and inclusion practises focusing on Gender, Generations, PwD, LGBTQ+ etc. She has built rigour in D&I practises with a 3-year roadmap for tracking improvement as well as creating new policies and initiatives in this area.

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Becoming a female tech leader | Part One

March 8th 2022 marks International Women’s Day, and for many, this day is one to celebrate, highlighting the great steps that have been taken by individuals, organisations and industries alike in making women an equal part of society.

However, we still have a long way to go in making genuine and noticeable headway with diversity in the tech industry. According to the most recent Pipeline’s Women Count, only five percent of CEOs in FTSE 350 companies are women. With so little representation among leaders within the technology sector, it’s no wonder that so many women feel that there isn’t space for them within the industry.

However, there are many women who have made careers for themselves within the tech industry which have been rewarding and incredibly successful.

We talk to those women in this two-part series, highlighting their achievements as well as the advice they would give to those women looking to enter the technology field.


Yael TasherYael Tasher, Global Senior Director, Customer Success at Cyren

“Gender equality and diversity is something that has been constantly developing over the years. The evidence to that is that many companies have departments that are responsible for recruiting people from different backgrounds to create diversity (not only gender). And this openness and the fact that there are discussions about this topic shows the improvement. For example, at Cyren, we give equal chances to all candidates. When we recruit new employees, gender is not an issue- we look for the skills and the personality that the candidate brings.

“The industry can improve its gender equality by starting with young age- have companies help in exposing young people from different backgrounds to this world. Invest in programs that guide young people to believe in themselves and believe that they can join the technology industry, and what they want to achieve (it does not have to be engineering/coding, it can be finance, HR, etc). To that I would also add that sometimes women or people from different backgrounds may need to work or invest more to shine or show their value, but this is not necessarily a negative, on the contrary, it shows character and willingness.

“For those women looking to enter the tech industry, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try a new path, it can often result in the best careers.”

Tina GravelTina Gravel- SVP Channel and Alliances at Appgate

“I started my career after I had just finished school in a company selling B2C products. I knew that I wanted to be involved with selling something that took strategic thinking, so I targeted companies that, at the time, had the best training programs, such as IBM. Once I made that decision to move to IT, I haven’t looked back.

“The technology industry has improved in its openness to welcome women into job roles, however, we still have a long way to go. Instead of looking at the industry as the culprit, we must look at all institutions; schools, governments, to make sure that fairness prevails and is architected into systems and processes at all levels to really effect change.

“For those women looking to enter the tech industry, please do not hesitate and come and join us! It is a wonderful time to be part of this business and we need you. I can promise that you will never be bored. You can find many female mentors within the space as well- one of my female mentors is Carolyn Boyle (ret.) CIO of CNA Insurance. At her peak she had over 1200 people in her department there. She has been coaching me since the 1990’s and I am so grateful for her sponsorship and friendship all these years later. She was my customer way back then, and I never let her go!”  

Bar Block, Threat Intelligence Researcher at Deep Instinct  

“I was not interested in the technology field at all until I had an “introduction to computer science” course in Middle school. We learned to program using a block based visual programming language called “Scratch”, and the teacher encouraged us to program apps that interested us, such as games. This made the lessons quite interesting and as a result, I majored in computer science in high school and even become an active member of the school’s app development club. When I finished high school, I enlisted in the IDF and went through cyber security training. When I eventually finished my service, I joined Deep Instinct.

“Although I have only been part of the tech industry for a few years, I do think it has improved in its openness to welcome women, and I think it is continuing to improve. The industry can help its next generation to become more diverse by helping young girls who are interested in tech related fields to fulfil their potential. This can be done by creating tech related afternoon programs for girls, encouraging them to take part in existing programs, or even just sending women who work in the industry to lecture in schools and show them that they also have a place in this industry.

“Those who are looking to enter the field need to know that there is a space for them- if it is something that you want to do, then do it. It may be difficult at first, but if you work hard, you will find your way in this industry and may even help in making it more accessible to other women.”

Rachel AbdullahRacha Abdullah, Customer Solutions Architect at EfficientIP

“I always knew I wanted to be a woman working in cybersecurity. My father, who was an officer, always said that the next war will be a cyber war. He therefore wanted all of his kids to have a career in cybersecurity, so it was instilled in us from a young age and he planted the seed of my affection towards networking and security.

 “I do think the industry has improved in its openness towards women- people trust that we can do just as well as the men working in the field, and they trust our expertise and opinions. While I haven’t faced discrimination per se, I have experienced people being surprised by the fact that I am a woman. For example, the first time I worked on a full deployment for a big project in the area, I discovered that the customer was really stunned- I was the first woman who was doing onsite professional services for them. I thought he was actually a little scared, but when he saw my professionalism and my dedication, he gave me his full support and we have since become good friends.”

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Girls in tech, STEM

Let’s inspire a new generation of Sara Seagers

Girls in tech, STEM

On March 8, we’ll celebrate International Women’s Day, and I’m sure it means different things to different people. To many women, it will be a platform to redress the gender imbalance in so many areas of our lives.

For me, it’s an opportunity, when the topic of conversation is inclusion and diversity, to talk about a subject close to my heart: the need to encourage more young women into STEM subjects. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths, of course. And it will not surprise WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen readers to hear that women are woefully under-represented in STEM courses and careers.

You may have seen this already but according to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) data, the female proportion of graduates in core STEM subjects has flatlined at around 26%.

In tech, the figures look even more unrepresentative, according to government data. Of the 300,000 more people working in tech jobs now than in 2009, just 55,000 are female. This means the percentage of tech professionals who are female has remained stuck at roughly one in six.

I’m a female CEO of my own tech company and one of those one in six, and I’m passionate about providing tech solutions to employers, training providers and learners. But I’m also a STEM ambassador who believes that we must do much, much more to attract young women into STEM subjects.

A question might be why? Why is it so important to have a gender balance in technology, for example? Are men stronger in some subjects while women are better in others? The old cliche of science subjects being better suited to males, and creative subjects or humanities more suited to females may be easily dismissed, but it’s still the perception of many young people. In a study of KS4 pupils, only 33% of female pupils considered themselves to be best at a STEM subject compared to 69% of their male classmates.

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For me, the need for more young women to enter into STEM careers is not just a question of fairness, or even of challenging an age-old cliche. Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s a question of how we can get the best possible outcomes from science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If the single aim that draws the practitioners of these disciplines together is to make our lives better in some way, then they stand a better chance of doing so with inclusive, equal, diverse professions.

Because I know it best of all, I will use the example of technology. I develop tech to help employers manage apprenticeships. About half of apprentices in England are female, but 87% of developers are male. How can we build software solutions that work for females if they are being developed by men and will have gender bias built in?

According to a global software developer survey in 2021, the vast majority of developers are male, accounting for 91.7 percent of all respondents. Female developers amounted to only five percent of all respondents, demonstrating the male-dominating reality of software development jobs.

But the truth is that women’s voices in tech will always add new and unique perspectives to products and services. One study of more than 100 teams at 21 companies found that teams with equal numbers of men and women were more likely to experiment, be creative and successfully complete tasks.

So, how do we get more young women pursuing fulfilling careers in STEM subjects? I think it’s about inspiring them and providing more female role models. This is why communities such as WeAreTechWomen are so important. The media can also play its part by providing inspirational content fronted by talented women.

And I agree with others that there needs to be more female role models in STEM subjects in our national curriculum. Research by one teaching charity in 2020 found no mention of any women in its Department for Education science content at GCSE level, but 14 mentions of male scientists. So, no Marie Curie and her contributions to science. No Sara Seager, who has found 715 planets in her time working with the Keplar Telescope. No Jane Goodall, the most famous primate scientist in history.

The list is endless. But how can we expect there to be a gender balance in these subjects when young women see only successful men as examples?

Women make great scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. It’s time we started to tell their inspirational stories.

Kerry LinleyAbout the author

Kerry Linley is CEO and founder of Rubitek, a tech firm that specialises in developing software to help employers manage apprenticeships.  Kerry is also a STEM ambassador and a passionate advocate for encouraging more young women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Inspirational Woman: Agata Samojlowicz, CISSP | Deputy Challenge Director - Digital Security by Design, Innovate UK

Meet Agata Samojlowicz, CISSP, Deputy Challenge Director - Digital Security by Design at Innovate UK

Agata Samojlowicz joined Innovate UK in July 2014 as a Lead Technologist for Online Commerce. She has almost 15-years of experience of commercial digital activity. She started her career with T-Mobile International in their global Content Team. After this, Agata worked for a number of innovative content developers and technology companies such as Disney, Capcom, Shazam and Tapjoy. Since October 2016, Agata has been Innovate UK’s Digital Innovation Lead for Cyber Security. She works with companies, academia, across government and other partner organisations to fund digital R&D that will grow the UK economy. Recently works closely with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to deliver 2016 National Cyber Security Strategy initiative – academic startups programme (aiming to increase the amount of academic research being commercialised within UK universities). Agata is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Agata Samojlowicz

Did you sit down and plan your career?

No, not my career. From my perspective, from where I am today, it’s almost like it’s been watched over. It’s like somebody has planned this for me because my career has been quite unusual. I have been made redundant four times. I’ve learned a lot from this, but initially it wasn’t the most pleasant experience, as you can imagine. Now I know that, without the experience I’ve gained by working through four different companies, all different sizes, all of them innovative businesses, I wouldn’t have the job I have today. It’s interesting, because I often have people coming to me and saying – How did you plan your career? What’s your key to success? Have you always wanted to work for innovative businesses? But really my career just grew gradually. I’m passionate about digital innovation, especially cybersecurity, but no, I haven’t planned my career. Looking back, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, even for the redundancies, because they helped me to understand that this is just a job. I may have a job today, but that doesn’t mean I will tomorrow. I’m trying to not be so emotionally attached to my jobs. That doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about my work, of course I am, but I just try to remember that things can change.  I don’t know if I can say this, but I think my experiences have helped to keep me humble. Just because I’m currently at Innovate UK, that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this way. Tomorrow, I may not have this job. So no, I haven’t planned.

That’s interesting. And you always know that the plan can change. You’re probably now used to not having a plan and just kind of going with it.

Yes, exactly. With my first job, I wasn’t sure what I could or couldn’t do. The fear of the unknown would have kept me from leaving. If it wasn’t for the redundancies, I might have been stuck in one job, or maybe even skipped around 10 or 20 jobs like some people do. I think I averaged about three years at each job, and I had gotten used to that, I almost expected to be made redundant after 30 months or so. Now that I’ve been with Innovate UK for longer, it feels a little unusual. But I am enjoying it. I’m now in my third job at Innovate UK, so I guess I must be. The one thing that I don’t like is the routine – nothing is changing. I quite like uncertainty, I like to be creative in my job and do different things, not to focus just on one. Doing the same thing every day just isn’t me.

So, you’ve touched on how with the redundancies, some people may view that as a challenge, but you’ve kind of viewed it as a challenge to overcome. What are some of the other challenges you faced throughout your career? And how have you overcome them?

I would say that the redundancies were the most difficult. My first redundancy was quite challenging because it came at a time when it wasn’t easy to find a job. Before I was made redundant, I was really scared about losing my job, but I did. It took me about eight months to find a new one. It really affected my confidence. It took me about a year and a half to fully recover.

Luckily, I was blessed with a great manager at my new job.

It’s funny, even though I’m not a native speaker, I’ve always been able to talk to anyone. But when I had to talk to my manager, I had like a thing in my throat. I couldn’t say a word. But I did recover, and my confidence came back. My manager said to me, “your English has improved,” but I said, “No, it’s not my English. It’s my confidence.” And he played a big role in that. His support along the way was important. Early on I didn’t feel like myself, or wasn’t giving 100% of myself, but he didn’t reject me, he gave me a chance, supporting me on my journey. But not all redundancies were so difficult. Yes. Some were done in a friendly, positive atmosphere. It just so happened that the job was moved to different countries. So, you know, I had no choice.

I’m also sure the first time is probably the scariest as well?

Yes, exactly. The first one is the scariest, but you know, what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. It also helped me to sense when future redundancies were coming. When I was made redundant for the third time, I knew it was coming before anyone had said anything. I remember calling my husband and telling him “I think I’m going to be made redundant, just warning you,” and then a week later I was. I wasn’t the only one, but you know, I could tell what the cycle was. I could see the signs. I think that’s really interesting.

I also like how you talk about kind of redundancy thing, it often isn’t really spoken about, but I mean, it happens so often. And I also like that, you were able to overcome that, and it was through confidence and gaining the confidence that helped you. I think confidence is something a lot of people lack so it’s amazing that you were able to get that back within a safe environment.

Yes definitely. I really do have to thank my manager for that, he gave me a chance. He saw potential in me. I really do think that’s important. Without those redundancies I wouldn’t have the experience I have now. I usually don’t have to explain about the companies on my CV, people tend to know them, and why I left. I thought being made redundant that much was normal, but now I realize now that it’s unusual. I think being forced to look for a job like that was a valuable experience for me.

As I said, I could have stayed in each company for 10 years. I think it was a good thing that everything happened the way it did, it allowed me to change and learn and grow. I have a variety of experiences. I’ve worked for large corporates, I’ve worked for scale ups, I’ve worked for tiny little startups. So, I know what challenges each of them poses, and how they change or what their journeys are. I’m happy with the experiences I’ve been given the chance to have. Now that I’ve had those experiences, I’m on the other side and know how to support businesses of different sizes.

So, what’s your biggest achievement been in your career?

I would say the network I’ve built over the years, the close relationships I have. I think that people are the biggest asset you can have. People say that in cybersecurity, people are the weakest link. While I do agree with this to an extent, I think it was Angela Sasse that challenged this, she wrote a paper that said that humans are the only link. You either use them or you ignore them. I liked that, and I agree with it, we are the only link with technology. You can either use people and try to support them or treat them as the weakest link. I think treating people like they are the weakest link is a real barrier to succeeding in cybersecurity. Especially with Innovate UK, I would say that my biggest achievement is the initiation, development, and deliverance of Cyber ASAP. Putting together the cyber academic startup accelerator program, inviting and working with KTN. I think it’s through collaboration that we’ve done a great job. I like to think that, at least.  I was also involved with, from the very beginning, creating a digital security by design program. We are collaborating with Arm and with universities. If I had to name them, I think it’s those two programs that I’m most proud of being involved and connected with.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

In the early days of my career, I felt as if my contribution wouldn’t be a valuable one. In meetings, especially with more senior people, I was quiet. So, if I was speaking with my younger self, I would say: “don’t be afraid to have an opinion and share it with your boss, or your colleagues.” I would also say: “don’t be afraid to challenge the norm, just because things are the way they are now, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.” I know John Goodacre likes that one. He challenges the norm a lot. So, yeah, don’t take things as they are, always question why.

What top tips would you give to an individual who’s trying to excel in their career in technology?

That’s a difficult question because people all have different careers, and they can go very different ways. I think really, you just need to follow your gut. It’s not specific to technology, but I think it’s really important.  For example, when I was a student, I studied economics. Well, actually, my subject was corporate financial strategies and stock exchange, but I’ve always loved maths. I wanted to study maths but I got scared because there was no role model for me. The only person I had was my tutor at Uni; he was really into numbers but not really anything else, and I was scared that I was going to be like him forever. For me, people are important. I’m passionate about people, as well as maths. I love getting to know people and their stories. I love it. I was scared that I wasn’t going to be able to do that on the path I was heading down. Looking back, it feels a bit silly, because you can always do things your way. So yeah, that’s my advice – do it your way. Don’t look at other people.

There’s nothing wrong with the way other people do things, but you don’t have to do it that way.

I think it just scared me because, other than my tutor, I didn’t have anyone else to relate to. So I didn’t study maths. Sometimes I regret it, but then, I don’t know where I would be today if I had studied maths. I think what I do now is compensating for that – I am studying maths, just in technology and computers. It feels quite natural.

What advice would you give to women who are like yourself? They were looking for, like representation, but they didn’t have it in the field they wanted to study?

I would say just do what you want to do – don’t worry about whether your demographic is well represented. Just do what you think is right. And follow your heart. Follow your heart so that you don’t regret. I’m not very techie, so I couldn’t say exactly what my advice would be for techie women, but in general, just follow your heart. I didn’t feel represented, like I said I didn’t feel like I had a role model, so I forged my own path. I realized that I didn’t have to be like my tutor, as into numbers as he was, I could still build the relationships I wanted to build. But you do need encouragement, at least I did. I think that’s probably one of my regrets. I didn’t get enough encouragement. But then, it all turned out great. When I first started out, I got into the travel industry, I’m a licensed guide. That helped me a lot. I felt like that was where the people were, it was a job in which I could get to know people. There I learned about psychology, I learned how to understand people, or at least try to.

When people go on holiday, they kind of lose their minds. They go into tourist-mode. They follow you around asking you loads of questions. I you went somewhere on your own, you’d have to find things out for yourself, like, for example, where the toilet is. But when you’re in an organized group, you become so reliant on your guide. One man I remember asked where the toilet was, and I told him. But then he came back saying that it didn’t work, asking where he should go. Do you see what I mean? I think we’re all a bit like that.  Anyway, I enjoyed it. You get to try and make people’s dreams come true, working in the travel industry. People are very demanding though. But I learned a valuable lesson during that time. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you see, what hotel you stay at, what the weather is like, it’s the experience that matters. Working in the travel industry you must build the experience, build the atmosphere to make people feel special. I don’t think I would have learned that if I had studied maths. So yeh, I think everything worked out well, I liked doing the additional work in the travel industry.

I think it helped me most with dealing with people. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, even in technology. Building relationships with people is the best thing you can do. Working in travel really helped with that. I’m not saying that I’m an expert in building relationships, but I’m passionate about it. I don’t always have great relationships with people though – everything goes two ways doesn’t it? Not everyone is interested in building a relationship.

Do you believe that there are still barriers to succeed for women work in tech? And if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

From what I have experienced, lack of self-confidence can be a major barrier. But that goes for everyone, not just women. Although I think men are generally more self-confident. I’ve heard of this research study that says something like, when a man looks at a job description and only ticks three boxes out of ten, he thinks “yeh, I’m good, I’ll go for it,” but then women will tick all ten boxes and assume there’s a hidden one, one that they don’t tick, so don’t think they’re good enough.  I think that kind of approach isn’t necessarily prohibiting, rather inhibiting. But I mean, I’ve never felt as if I was being treated worse than men, but maybe it just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I am just lucky.

So, you haven’t experienced it yourself? But have you seen other women struggling in observed any barriers that seem to be there for women within the industry?

I haven’t heard of any recently. Not in any of my previous jobs. I’ve heard that some nationalities were preferred, or that men were preferred for senior positions. I saw it happening. But it’s not only women vs men. It’s also nationalities. I’ve seen this this unconscious bias problem. But other than that, I haven’t really seen anything. I try to be a very positive person, so maybe I just can’t see that kind of thing

When it comes to self-confidence, how would you suggest that barrier can be overcome?

I think there are a few things. You should set yourself small, achievable goals. When you start reaching them you increase your confidence in steps. Don’t start with high challenges, start with low ones. I learned that on a Remarkable leadership course for women. I would actually recommend every woman to go to one of those and experience that.

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What do you think companies should do to support and progress the careers of women working in tech?

I would say build on their strengths. Sometimes people say, “oh, what are your weaknesses? You need to work on your weaknesses.” I think a better approach would be to, help women to discover their, as Remarkable call it “zone of genius”. Ask them: “What’s your uniqueness? What’s your kind of strength? Super strength?”. And then build on this. So instead of looking for what’s wrong with you, you should look for your strengths, and what can you do with them. Work out how to strengthen them even more. Companies should support women in that journey. At least that’s how I would approach it.

What resources do you recommend for women work who in tech? Remarkable Women?

Remarkable is definitely something that women should go and experience. Otherwise, it’s difficult for me to say because it all depends on what women are looking for, and their character. If you’re looking to gain some technical knowledge, Caps Lock comes to mind. If you’re looking to move into tech, that’s definitely a good one. But really it depends on what your needs are. I never used to be confident speaking in front of people, so I became a licensed thought leader. Initially, it was a challenge but over time it became easier for me, not being a native English person. It was a challenge, but one I had created for myself. I had to say to myself: “I’m always going to make mistakes, nothing is ever perfect, As long as people understand me, that’s what matters.” I always used to apologize for my English, but people would always say, “but my Polish isn’t as good as your English”. Really, it’s all about self-confidence. I wanted to speak and present with confidence, so I went on a course that helped with that, It’s really about what you want to do. If you want to change career into tech, go ton Caps Lock. If you’re looking to gain confidence, go to Remarkable Women. It’s not a typical leadership course. It’s more about learning about yourself, changing the way you approach things.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever mentored anyone? Do you mentor? Are you a mentee? Who have you had any experience with this?

I’ve never had an official mentor. I would say that in my early days, I always turned to my father for advice. He was sort of an unofficial mentor. I recently asked my colleague if she could become my mentor, and she agreed, so that is something in my future. I’ve never been a mentor myself, but people do come to me and want to talk with me about loads of different things. Then they’ll come back and tell me that it helped with this, or that. But I try not to advise people. If I advised someone, then I would be responsible for the outcome. But I do try to challenge people’s thinking and help them approach things differently. I would say, although I’ve never been an official mentor, I have had people I have spoken to come back and tell me that without my encouragement they wouldn’t have applied for a job or something like that. I really try to drill into people that they will never succeed if they don’t try

Actually, I was a mentor once. Quite recently actually. But it was only a few meetings. It wasn’t official. But yeh I did mentor a lady once.

What’s the next achievement you’re working towards? And how do you plan to get there?

I’m most looking forward to parenthood. I guess you could say that’s my focus for the next, well, lifetime. Not adoption per say, but parenting. I’m going to take a year off for parental leave. But to be honest, I’m happy where I am with Digital Security by Design. I want to see the technology we work on used in real life, knowing I had even the tiniest contribution in it.


#BreakTheBias: Thoughts from top female tech leaders & executives

#BreakTheBias is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, and to celebrate, we’ve collected thoughts from top female tech leaders and executives on how everyone, across every industry, can encourage a gender-equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.


Shanthi IyerShanthi Iyer, Chief Information Officer at DocuSign

Bias, whether intentional or unconscious, makes it difficult for women to advance. It is not enough to simply recognise bias; action is required to level the playing field. With women disproportionately affected by the pandemic, particularly those from minority Black or Asian backgrounds, it is more important than ever to ensure that businesses are taking the steps necessary to achieve more equal representation and opportunity within the workplace. 

Acknowledging and eliminating bias is crucial to achieving the diversity, equality and inclusion agenda and critical in establishing more sustainable, responsible, and successful organisations.

My biggest advice for women is to know what you’re good at and how to express it. It is not uncommon for women to find it difficult to find their voice, particularly in male dominated industries. When I was younger, I was particularly shy about speaking up, as I was often mocked for having a deep voice. This impacted my confidence and meant I overlooked it as a strength. It was not until later in my career when a coach told me, “Your voice is your power. Everyone stops talking and listens when you speak.” For me, that was a eureka moment. I began to practise being more succinct in my speech. I also had to learn how to communicate openly about my skills without coming across as arrogant.

Kadri Pirn PipedriveKadri Pirn, Head of Engineering, Pipedrive

A UN report in 2020 found that almost 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against women worldwide. International Women’s Day is an incredibly significant opportunity that allows people across the world to join forces to combat the inequalities, gender bias and discrimination women face. But also, it is a time to celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome these obstacles.  

With the world focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years or so, progress towards gender equality in the workforce has almost certainly taken a backseat. It is vital for business leaders to reprioritize gender equality and continue breaking the bias. Not only that, but businesses also need to develop a culture that allows people to pinpoint any issues, call them out and ultimately eliminate the challenges to create a workplace where all people feel valued, no matter the gender, cultural background or social position.

Sonja GittensSonja Gittens Ottley Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Asana

International Women’s Day is an important reminder for businesses to scrutinise their diversity and inclusion efforts. As a first step, businesses must establish a culture of trust, which is the foundation on which all inclusive practices can live. Crucial to this is creating spaces for employees to express themselves; where women can be vulnerable about challenges they’re facing and be honest about any changes they believe the business needs to make. 

Once businesses have created this foundation of trust, they can then set out their inclusive practices. Working in tech I realised replicating the approach used for building a product when building a diverse and inclusive culture can be a powerful approach. Treating company culture like a product means constantly assessing and evolving through direct consultation with employees, analysing data and reviewing processes and policies. Inclusion isn’t a check-box exercise and the work does not end when these initiatives are started. Much like a product, it requires review and iteration to ensure that it is successful – only then will business truly break through biases.

Samantha Wessels, Vice President, EMEA Sales at Snyk

More and more women are entering the typically male-dominated industries of technology and sales, often at graduate level, and it’s important we take the right steps to nurture and retain them. Seeing more women in leadership positions is key, while effective mentorship is equally important and something I am personally passionate about. 

In order to bring even more women into technology sales, we need to “Break the Bias” that it is an environment where only men can thrive.

I’m seeing a shift in the industry, where leading with empathy, a traditionally “feminine” style, is bringing out the best in people and in turn driving revenue. If women can be clear about who they are working for and what they believe in from the outset, they’ll be more likely to stay.  Progressive, forward-thinking businesses that foster diversity must make it clear for existing employees as well as new joiners that they offer an environment where everyone can thrive, no matter their gender or background.

Sarah Clark, Clearco (1)Sarah Clark, Head of UK at Clearco

This year’s theme is break the bias and the VC community is no stranger to these issues. We need to ensure that the businesses which receive funding have diverse founders and allow women to take the plunge to start a business. When raising capital it can be more about who you know and who you are rather than the potential of your business. Revenue-based financing is paving the way for all founders to have better access to capital.

To ensure that bias is eliminated from the funding process, we, at Clearco, use AI to evaluate a business and decide whether it is a sound investment – this helps to remove bias. Technology holds the power to help women break through the barriers to investment and power new businesses 

At Clearco, nearly 30% of businesses in our UK portfolio are led by women, with a staggering 50% of our current global portfolio are businesses led by women. Our leadership team at Clearco in Europe is almost entirely women, and we’re proud to create a diverse and inclusive work environment to support a gender equal world. 

Peggy de Lange, Vice President of International Expansion at Fiverr 

The Equal Pay Act received its Royal Assent in 1963, making it illegal to pay women less than men for the same job. Yet, almost 60 years later men are paid 20% more on average than their female counterparts – showing there’s still a lot of work to do to buck the trend around pay. 

Fortunately, the freelance community is reversing the trend and breaking the bias. By offering individuals the platform and the power to negotiate their own salaries, Fiverr research reveals female freelancers on our platform are actually earning 9% more than their male counterparts. 

What I love about my job as part of the international freelance community is being able to offer opportunities to women who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – in terms of job losses and pay – and showing them that by going freelance they may be compensated generously for their talents. Fiverr for example, is a platform where individuals are judged solely on the quality of their work. Credentials and reviews are the key criteria freelancers are judged on, which means gender, sexual orientation, race or religion do not affect the hiring process. 

I am a huge advocate for inspiring women to know their financial worth, and selling their skills accordingly – as the famous saying goes, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ 

June Ko, CircleCIJune Ko, General Counsel, CircleCI

“International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on whether you live and work in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. We’ve certainly made progress over the years, but important work remains ahead of us. From the recent nomination of the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, to companies publishing annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) reports, I have a lot of hope that we are creating positive change for future generations. However, bias still exists, and to break the bias we need to call it out when we see it – in short, creating awareness with others is critical. We need to lead with empathy and get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.

This is especially true in tech. Technology touches everything in our lives and has consequences for everyone across every background. It’s more important than ever that women and all who are underrepresented have a voice and are involved in decision making, research and technology. We can empower each other by recognizing achievements along the way, while promoting a clear vision of how greater diversity and equity in tech is not just a box to be checked off, but is vital to designing a world that works for everyone.” 

Laura FinkLaura Fink, VP of People, Healx

Despite 50% of the UK population being women, only 26% of all workers in one of the most sought-after sectors to work in – the technology industry – are women. On International Women’s Day (along with the other 364 days of the year) it is vital for companies to tackle the bias women face working in technology and build the necessary frameworks to allow them to thrive. At Healx, we strive to be leaders in setting an example for this change and, as a mission-driven company working hard to find treatments for people who are often excluded from access, inclusion sits at the very heart of what we do. 

We understand the wide benefits that a diverse workforce can bring. Teams from different ages, genders, races and backgrounds offer a melting pot of knowledge and experiences that a homogenous group simply do not. This has been proven in a study that found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. The more that businesses focus on creating a diverse workforce, the bigger the impact on innovation and growth.

Companies also need to consider what it takes to attract this diverse talent.

Only once employees – and potential new hires – can see themselves reflected in their work, their teams and their leaders, will they be more likely to join or stay with a company. This means actively going out to where diverse candidates are and developing attractive growth, development and people policies that create an environment where employees feel genuinely seen and valued. 

It also means cultivating a culture internally that demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion. At Healx, employees are encouraged and empowered to share their unique experiences with the rest of the company – and this cycle of sharing and learning is really helping us to raise awareness and learn about the biases and assumptions people face day to day, as well as reflect on what we can do to check our own biases and show up as allies.  

Paula Flannery, ProcorePaula Flannery, Strategic Product Consultant, Procore

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day rings truer than ever: businesses need to break the bias and change the career stereotypes which women face everyday by offering new opportunities to learn and develop. The construction industry represents fertile ground for women to do that. And never has it been more vital to do so, especially as the construction industry’s output begins to bounce back. However, it isn’t just about putting more boots on the ground at construction sites, but opening up the vast opportunities construction offers on the whole, to women. Whether it’s as an engineer, an architect, a surveyor, a data analyst, CEO, or sales person, the industry needs to ignite greater enthusiasm for bringing women in. Tackling the gender divide in this way not only offers a more diverse set of voices, experiences and perspectives, but also skills which lead to a more creative, fast-moving and innovative industry.

Pip White, SlackPip White, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EMEA at Slack

International Women’s Day offers an opportunity for businesses to reflect on how they can further encourage diversity, equity and inclusion, and, as the theme indicates this year, break the bias. This is vital to employee experience, as our Future Forum survey shows that employees who rank their companies the highest in investment in DE&I score the most for overall engagement. The current shift towards a digital-first world offers a great opportunity for businesses to redesign work and integrate diversity, equity, and belonging, throughout their policies and practices.

One way organisations can really make an impact and level the playing field is by listening to what employees want and by offering increased flexibility.

Our research reveals the desire for flexibility is particularly strong among those who have historically been underrepresented in knowledge work, such as women and working mothers. But in order to really make a difference, managers must lead by example. Firms also have a responsibility to evaluate how they can redesign workplaces, not only to enhance belonging and social connection when employees gather in person, but so women feel they can be heard in a safe space. The time is now so let’s take action.

Clare Loveridge, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Arctic Wolf

The technology industry has historically always been a male dominated industry but I am proud to see so many incredibly talented women coming through the industry and breaking the bias. If we want to continue on this upward trajectory, businesses need to take a proactive approach on their diversity and inclusion initiatives and strategies. While it is important to attract and hire, it is more important to be creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging so that when hires are made, they stay!

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

A group of miniature men and women standing on either side of a pile of coins, equal pay, gender pay gap

International Women’s Day 2022: Overcoming unconscious bias for a more equal future

International Women’s Day has been raising awareness and striving for gender equality for 111 years.

Whilst much has been achieved in this time, Shirley Knowles, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Progress, reminds us why such a day is still so important in 2022: “International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate women and recognize their achievements. For too long, women have been left out of the history books and decision-making conversations, and that is especially true for the STEM fields. Names like Rosalind Franklin, Katherine Johnson and Mae C. Jemison should be just as recognisable as Steve Jobs. Women’s contributions to the STEM fields should be acknowledged and praised, and we need to continue this momentum for all girls and women pursuing these fields. And how do we do that? By investing in them.”

With this in mind, WeAreTechWomen spoke to industry experts to determine why there is still such a gender gap in society, and the technology industry in particular, and what organisations can be doing to close the gap and support their female employees.

Institutional bias from a young age

One of the main barriers preventing women from entering the technology industry is the pre-existing gender bias that makes the sector so male-dominated.

“The biggest barriers in technology for women are what we believe they can accomplish, and attitudes surrounding that on an educational level,” explains Lucy Zhang, Senior Digital Designer at Plutora. “Most people can agree that the idea that women are better suited for certain types of work is outdated, but this notion still permeates society and is difficult to tackle head-on.”

“Of course, the lack of diversity in tech is not a problem solely facilitated by the employment sector, for many, the issues begin far before entering the workforce,” adds Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Young girls face notable obstacles from very early on in their schooling, whether that is unconscious bias, or being actively discouraged from STEM subjects. Therefore, by the time they are making career choices, many have not taken on higher STEM education and therefore do not have the necessary qualifications to enter the science and technology sectors as easily as their male counterparts.” 

Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam agrees that “the biggest obstacles women face often start long before they enter formal employment. Young girls face conscious and unconscious bias throughout their entire schooling and as a result, often overlook or are actively discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects. But, is encouraging girls to participate in traditional STEM subjects the only way forward? I’m a big supporter of adding an ‘A’ for ‘Arts’ to the acronym. Creativity is needed across the board in tech roles, and often girls do levitate towards these kinds of subjects. If we did a better job of promoting the importance of creative thinking in technology, we could inspire more women and girls into the industry – both as they begin their careers, and to join the industry later in life too.”

Fight for fairness

With awareness of the institutional bias that is still so prominent within society, it is important that organisations fight against this and have initiatives in place to support women in tech. 

“We continue to champion the women in our business and celebrate their achievements around the world,” emphasises Dominique Fougerat – EVP People & Culture at Axway. “We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women’s achievements. We support local education programs to contribute to start inclusion earlier in life than just at work. We are on an irresistible path to a different kind of society and tech must reflect this challenge to all businesses: We challenge all businesses to join the discussion and, if we pull together as an industry, we can improve as a sector and support the technology women of today and inspire those of tomorrow.”

In order to make these big societal changes, smaller steps are needed. Focusing on making recruitment and progression processes inclusive is an important first step for achieving these bigger aims.

“Recruitment, personal development, and promotion processes are key to building a work environment that fosters gender equality,” states Eulalia Flo, Sales Director, Iberia at Commvault. “We have to be careful that they don’t continue to perpetuate inequality. If I want to recruit more women and I know that there are not many female graduates in one career, it would be good to ask in which other careers I can find them (for example, there are more women in aeronautics than in mechanical engineering, or in biomedical engineering than in telecommunications).”

“Using language that is female inclusive and drawing out the benefits that would attract within HR sites and in job descriptions is also key,” adds Sharon Forder, SVP Marketing at Glasswall. “Practising what you preach by actively promoting females into leadership roles and helping them to become part of the ‘face of the company’ will contribute to breaking down the long standing perceptions of ‘it’s a male dominated sector’.” 

Furthermore, with domestic duties and childcare responsibilities falling on many women, it is important that organisations are mindful of this and don’t prioritise men without these burdens for promotions and other workplace advantages. The COVID-19 pandemic has been beneficial in this case by bringing about a greater appreciation for flexible working.

As Bruce Martin – CFO at Tax Systems explains: “Organisations need to open their businesses up to the large diverse talent pool that is too often overlooked – the part time workers, which statistically are more likely to be women. Challenging the traditional 9 to 5 / 5 days a week approach is one way to achieve this.

“At Tax Systems we have embraced agile working practices and worked hard throughout the company to encourage and support part time and flexible working before, during and now after the COVID pandemic. By being more accommodating and taking on the objective approach of trusting our team to get the work done, we are able to widen our talent pool and get the right people in the right roles – irrespective of location, time constraints or personal circumstance.”

A brighter future

Organisations are certainly becoming more aware of their role in closing the gender gap and diversity is now a topic of boardroom discussion in many businesses. As we continue to move in the right direction and push further for equality, International Women’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to “celebrate women all over the world who pushed forward in an effort to #BreakTheBias so others could thrive,” notes Julie Giannini, Chief Customer Officer at Egnyte. “While the journey is far from over – with women in leadership remaining underrepresented and gender biases still prevalent across many industries – we can take the time to celebrate the women who got us here, as well as those who keep pushing.”

Mariam Karamyan, Associate Software Development Manager at HelpSystems concludes: “This International Women’s Day I want to encourage organisations to focus on what more they can be doing to promote female role models and celebrate the women they currently have in leadership positions. At the end of the day, this will not only benefit women but the company as a whole. Men and women see things differently and bring unique ideas to the table. With true diversity of thought, we can achieve better problem solving and boost performance at the business unit level.”

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Sarah Cunningham

International Women's Day: WeAreTechWomen talk career journeys & advice with an outstanding woman in cyber

Meet Sarah Cunningham, Information Security Consultant at Waterstons

On International Women’s Day, we asked Sarah Cunningham, Waterstons’ information security consultant, more about her story as a woman working in cyber security and her journey into the sector.

Sarah Cunningham

For as long as I can remember I have had an interest in computers and technology.

Growing up and throughout school I excelled in STEM subjects – especially maths and computing – so naturally, I found myself strongly gravitating towards this industry.

After leaving school, I spent some time as a desktop engineer, working with the physical side of computing before moving on to pursue a degree in Ethical Hacking. This, for me, is where I really found my passion and love for cyber security.

Now, almost six years later, I work full time as an information security consultant for Waterstons, where I have the opportunity and freedom to build on my interest in cyber, work with like-minded individuals and help others along the way.

At the beginning of my journey, I found it intimidating walking into a room knowing less than 10% of the people there would be women. Looking back these experiences have helped me to grow and appreciate the position I am in now.

While yes, cyber security is an industry dominated by men, I have always preferred to focus on the quality of incredible women in our field, rather than focusing on the quantity of them. There are so many inspirational women in STEM that it would be difficult to believe you are alone.

Sarah Cunningham - Workshop

Last year I was honoured to have been shortlisted for the Outstanding Woman in Cyber Award at the 2021 Scottish Cyber Awards.

I was very humbled to be standing alongside three other very talented and hard-working women which was prize enough, but to then go on and win the award, I felt overwhelming joy.

While we are still the minority in the cyber security field, awards and events like these – focusing on the female talent in the sector – are a fantastic way to showcase and highlight the exceptional work of women out there.

Surrounding yourself with positive role models who will help you succeed and build a career is the foundation to a successful beginning in this field, and I’m passionate about not only looking to these role models, but aspiring to be one.

In this digital age, we need to move away from the stereotyping of women in our industry and instead focus on inspiring the next generation of young women to enter into the field.

International Women’s Day is a phenomenal opportunity to highlight the efforts of thousands when it comes to fighting these stifling industry stereotypes.

The main piece of advice I would give to all women out there, not only those in STEM, is: Don’t be scared or shy to speak out. Don’t be hesitant to promote your work, and never worry about standing up for yourself and your ideas.

I have learned that by highlighting the amazing work you have done, you are inspiring the next generation of young women to follow in your footsteps!


Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

What does #breakthebias mean to leaders in STEM?

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8, with the first day being held in 1911.

Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias – which looks actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it.

To mark International Women’s Day we spoke to Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Chief Executive Officer and President of NMITE; Samantha Lewis, Director of HR, NMITE; and Gary Wood, Academic Director, NMITE about their thoughts on the day and #breakthebias.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Elena Rodriguez-FalconElena: International Women’s Day is an important day when we remind ourselves of how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality and gender inclusion. It’s a moment to celebrate each other, to celebrate women’s achievements, to raise each other up. But unfortunately, it’s also a day when we must reflect on all the obstacles we still have to overcome, and the gaps that we still need to bridge. And if I were to be really, honest, I would prefer if we didn’t have an International Women’s Day, because that would mean that we achieved what we needed to achieve.

Do you feel there are barriers and biases within the engineering industry that prevent women from achieving their full potential? If so, what?

Elena: Yes, of course. There are always barriers and indeed for women in engineering profession, a prevalent bias is that women won’t be able to be committed the same way as men because of their caring responsibilities, which women still largely have. It’s also important though, to mention that we’ve come a long way since days where that was completely a fact. There are many things we’ve done to prevent that. But there is also a reality. There aren’t enough women in engineering. And, one of the reasons is because we, as women, have clear biases about the profession. We worry about whether we will be the only woman in the workforce, and often it’s true. I worry about the gender pay gap, and that is often true still, unfortunately. So, I think that the better question is, what can we do to break the bias and get more women into the profession?

Samantha LewisSamantha: I do. I spent 16 years in manufacturing. I think it’s still perceived by many as a man’s game. The perception is its oil, and rags, and spanners. And engineering isn’t just that. engineering is so much more. And I think if we can expose engineering in its entirety to more women, more women will be attracted to the trade, and that shift could then slowly happen. I think there’s a lot of people that still believe women should stay at home and raise the children, men go and do the engineering roles. And that isn’t the same anymore. Women, they’re curious, they have passion, they have grit, they have determination. And all of those are things that make a good engineer. They’re not traits that are just seen in men. So, the more we can expose females to what engineering really is, the more we can change that perception.

What more should be done to #BreakTheBias and encourage women to pursue STEM subjects as a profession?

Elena: This is one of the most important questions, but also the most difficult one. If you look around, we have serious problems in terms of poverty, climate change, we’re experiencing a worldwide pandemic and we need engineers, scientists, mathematicians to help us solve these problems and others. But the reality is that we don’t have enough engineers.

The number of women who graduate from engineering is such a small proportion and the number who practice engineering is even smaller. And professional engineering bodies like the Royal Academy of Engineering, have created massive campaigns and resources to educate the educators, train the parents, the careers advisors, and so on. And those are working to some extent. There is so much more that can be done though, and that’s the challenge. We still haven’t cracked it and the next step includes everyone being involved.

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What is NMITE doing to #BreakTheBias and encourage more women to study engineering? 

Elena: Our female engineers and colleagues are working on outreach activities, marketing, and student recruitment to ensure we are present and sharing what we have achieved and can achieve. We have looked at the barriers to entry to higher education. One of them is A-level math, for example, which we’ve removed, reducing the funneling that often happens. We’ve looked at investing heavily on female campaigns to ensure that young people out there and their parents can better understand the profession. Also, we have female only bursaries, which is very uncommon, and I think is incredibly important to celebrate. The most important and I think more transformational contribution that NMITE is making to gender balance and gender representation is our pedagogical model, in which we ensure that it’s hands on learning, problem based learning with different industries and sectors represented so that there is a variety of experiences that people out there could experience. Hopefully it will attract more diverse engineers and certainly more women.

Samantha: We are making ourselves known as a brand, where we’re working within the community. We don’t require maths or physics A levels. We look at characteristics and traits more than just subjects and grades. Grades are important, but so are what makes that individual and what makes them become an engineer.

So, the determination, grit, passion, that need to succeed, all those traits can be seen in both females and males. Hopefully, that will open the door to attract more females into engineering. We’re looking at ways we can attract females. We are hopefully going to have the women’s bursary or females bursaries to attract them.

We are working with schools and colleges. We’re hoping diversity breeds diversity. So the more females we can attract, that will attract more females. So our staff is 50/50 gender-balanced. Our student cohort aims to be 50/50 gender-balanced because we want people to feel comfortable. So it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, male or female; it doesn’t really matter. We want people to belong here across the whole board.

Are you personally doing anything to #BreakTheBias and champion equality, diversity and inclusion, both in general and within your role at NMITE?

Elena: Absolutely. This has been a lifelong ambition of mine to help and contribute to getting more women into engineering. I’m a member of the Advance HE Strategic Advisory Board on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. I chair the board of trustees of the Engineering Development Trust, which is an organization that works with young people to raise aspirations. I also often lead on national debates. For example, last year, I challenged the professional engineering bodies to change the name of the profession to call engineers “ingeniators”. And the rationale was that in other languages, the word ‘engineering’ comes from ingenuity and innovation. And of course, in English, it sounds as if it comes from an engine. And that caused a huge debate, which, of course, also makes engineering a bit more visible.

But more personally, I participate in talks with young people. I talk to peers and parents, and I’m often at the forefront of those conversations. And of course, leading NMITE is one of the most important activities that I can do personally, so that I can raise awareness of engineering and of the value of engineering in the world.

What advice/words of wisdom would you give to your younger self and to aspiring female engineers, to help overcome biases?

Elena: When I was at university and deciding what to study, I was considering medicine, but I discovered that I didn’t like blood. So, I decided to do something else, which would allow me to help people. So, what I would tell my young self is that engineering is a caring profession. It’s not often how people understand engineering, but without engineering, we wouldn’t have the tools that are used in practicing medicine or the tools to do nursing or the tools to make vaccines. And that is something that I would’ve liked someone to tell me.

What I would say to young people now, particularly this generation who are really worried about their future, is that if you want to be part of the change that you want to see, consider engineering, because then you will have a very important role to play to help save the world.

Gary WoodGary: I’d remind everybody that biases exist in the minds of people. And so, in that sense, they’re relatively easy for us to overcome, we just need change our thinking. We must be able to challenge our thinking and be willing to follow our passions and interests. And I think that as more and more women do that, then it becomes easier for more women to follow in their footsteps. We need to have people who are prepared to challenge the bias by being the future that they want to see, then other people (both men and women) in the profession can help with that by supporting and recognizing that they need to play a part in making this a comfortable, and safe, and supportive environment for everybody around them to work in. And through that, we can then start to pave the way for more women being able to follow and come into the profession.