female data scientist, woman leading team

Not just a woman in tech: thriving in a male-dominated field

female data scientist, woman leading team

Heather Delaney is Founder and MD of Gallium Ventures, a London-based communications consultancy leading in the technology sector.

Born in Silicon Valley, Heather grew up in the world’s preeminent hub for technology. Now based in London, Heather has built up a wealth of expertise working across both sides of the Atlantic for global and local organisations, and has been integral to the growth of several well-recognised European and Silicon Valley businesses.

Here, she shares valuable insights on the journey of women successfully operating in a male-dominated field.

My beginnings in Silicon Valley meant I was immediately immersed in the world of technology. I grew up having access to the founders and leaders of tech companies that are now household names, and remember noticing how few women there were at a senior level. Those who did work in the space tended to be in the creative departments, while few were working in coding or programming, and there certainly weren’t any in the C-suite. However, we were at the cusp of change and, in the decade following, more women were taking up roles in the developer and the executive field. Those women are now at an age where they are at C-suite level, and because of the struggle they went through to make it more accessible for the later generations, we are now seeing even more women in the industry.

I say struggle because it wasn’t an easy ride. For a woman to be taken seriously in tech and given the same opportunities as her male counterparts she needed to work twice as hard—not because she lacked the skills, but because she couldn’t leave any room for criticism. There was an unspoken responsibility on the shoulders of each of these women to demonstrate their capability at the highest level, because there was an acute awareness that they could make a real difference for those to come.

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I was personally inspired by my mother and grandmother, who served respectively in the police force and in the Air Force as a pilot. They were both pioneers in their fields, working in sectors that were not particularly welcoming to women at the time, and they didn’t only face challenges in the work itself, but with male colleagues too. They faced these challenges head-on, persevered and stood as amazing examples, to me, of determination and of not letting yourself be defined or limited by societal expectations.

For years, especially early in my career, I realised that I was the only woman in the room. I’ve walked in meetings where people thought I was the secretary, when I was actually running teams and leading projects. However, the tech industry back then is very different from what it is now. Things have been changing slowly, over time—there is less of a stigma, women’s voices are heard more and more, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt—and that remains with me—is that we each have a role to play and every effort in the right direction matters. It’s not so much a matter of forging a path for other women to follow, but rather opening up the space for others to join you. I am hoping in a future where the narrative will shift from women in tech (or any other field) to intelligent and passionate professionals—regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation—in tech/medicine/STEM etc.

Technology itself has been beneficial for enabling women to get into any industry they dream of, pursuing their passions and refining their skills. The internet, for instance, has provided access to news, entertainment, job opportunities, flexible working, and much more. Women who are staying at home as mothers or carers now have more opportunities than ever to train and educate themselves. In fact, you can see more and more women picking up coding and programming through online classes and workshops, which is something that would never have been possible before.

Today, we find incredible women who are winning BAFTAs for video game development and creating all kinds of award-winning technology. An entire discipline of technology—femtech—is significantly powered by and tailored for women. We all matter when it comes to moving the industry forward and broadening the scope for diversity and inclusivity. For a field that depends so strongly on innovation, increased diversity can only be a good thing. There are significant challenges that we face as a people, such as climate change or the gender health gap, which I believe technology can be used to help solve serious problems. There is plenty of room at the table for everyone who wants to be a part of the solution.

Heather DelaneyAbout the author

Heather Delaney, Founder of award-winning communications consultancy Gallium Ventures, is a world-leading expert in growing brands and launching products or services, creatively. Heather specialises in building and fixing global organisations and startups alike — from their communications strategy, to product development and everything in between.

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