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.

Balancing act: engineering a future for women in STEM

Sarah Glastonbury, part of the Senior Leadership Team at Creative ITC, explains that although progress is being made, there’s a lot more the IT sector can do to improve gender balance.

For years women have been under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and occupations. Since 2015, the number of female graduates globally in core STEM subjects fluctuated between 24% and 26% in 2019 – where it has now stalled. The fact that the IT industry continues to be male dominated with women making up just 19% of the current tech workforce is therefore not surprising.

So, what can the tech sector to do redress this imbalance?

Change will do you good

The good news is, there are positive signs of change. Over the past decade, we’ve definitely seen inroads across the industry to improve diversity and equality, creating more opportunity and support for females to consider STEM careers. Campaigning and changing attitudes are also encouraging women to take up different roles and move into more senior positions within the sector.

A diverse team combining a mix of genders, ethnicities, experiences and backgrounds will incorporate different perspectives and viewpoints to enable better problem solving. Companies which become known for encouraging a more diverse workforce also benefit from attracting a wide talent pool.

Altering perceptions

At Creative we’re really proud that a third of our team is female. One was recently crowned employee of the year and another is one of the top virtualisation gurus on the planet. Yet, within the IT industry this seems to be the exception rather than the norm. Women have been put off by perceptions of the IT sector’s male-dominated working environment. It’s slowly changing, but we need to lose the perception that you need to be a male geek to work in IT. It’s not all about code, ones and zeros, soldering motherboards, and so on.

If you’re naturally analytical and method-minded, you’re already well on the way. Women have become known as natural multi-taskers. Many of us are working mums – we’re used to keeping lots of plates spinning, which is a great skill to have in such a fast-paced, ever-changing industry.

Many women have been put off pursuing tech careers by lack of flexible working. However, one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is stigma around working from home has disappeared. It’s become completely acceptable to acknowledge that we’re all juggling work with personal lives. Conversations on maintaining work-life balance and wellbeing are now commonplace – and we’re all more relaxed as a result, men and women alike.

Two of the things I’ve most enjoyed about working in this sector are variety and the energetic pace. There’s always something new on the horizon. It’s fascinating to see how businesses go about adopting digital tech for competitive edge. The drive to be faster, smarter and leaner adds tremendous buzz and energy. The industry needs to get better at communicating this to attract the best talent.

Bringing the dream to life

More needs to be done to grow awareness at grass-roots level. Sadly, only 35% of girls study STEM subjects beyond GCSE, compared to 80% of boys. We need to change that and convince young women that starting a career in IT is a smart move.

We need to bring that dream alive – for example, by celebrating female tech leaders more. It’s important to have a variety of role models that young women can identify with. When you bring women into senior positions, you show that others have the opportunity to succeed too. Better online and media representation of females working in tech would help as well.

The diversity of roles within the sector is not widely understood. You don’t necessarily need to be good at maths or understand binary to be a software developer, for example. Neither would women intuitively associate an IT job advert with an opportunity that could lead to a long, lucrative career, which might take them around the world. To encourage diversity, recruiters need to get better at crafting job opportunities. Women are likely to be attracted to roles offering the ability to work creatively, travel and be well-rewarded, with benefits such as working flexibly around childcare and better maternity packages.

Remember there’s always a technical position out there that plays to your strengths. It’s just finding the right one that will enable you to thrive. And there’s never been a better time. The global IT field is crying out for young female talent.

Sarah GlastonburyAbout the author

An enthusiastic, versatile B2B marketeer with over 10 years of experience in the IT sector, Sarah leads marketing strategy, planning and execution for Creative Group. CIM-qualified and results-oriented, she has proven success in delivering exceptional business outcomes on the national and international stage.


The path to Silicon Valley: How to get into the IT world as a woman and thrive in it

Female working in a Technical Support Team Gives Instructions with the Help of the Headsets. In the Background People Working and Monitors Show Various Information, SysAdmin Day

The path to success is a long one. Especially, when you are a woman. Especially in the IT industry.

I heard these statements lots of times on all kinds of different occasions. However, the years go by and these common misconceptions have become nothing more than mere stereotypes. Today the whole world is actively making its way towards gender equality. Wages and salaries are calculated based on skill, not gender, and women take over the leadership roles in business. Companies adopt policies with strict rules on hiring and career growth opportunities of employees, leaving no place for gender inequality.

However, even the most developed countries such as the USA and Canada are still far from true gender parity. Women there sure do feel more confident in their “non-female” professions but equality in payment and career growth opportunities is only yet to be seen. Senior Quality Assurance Associate at Testfort, Viktoria Voloshina, shares her personal experience on how a woman can go from being a trainee to a team lead with 100+ people under their management.

How it all began

Today a female quality assurance engineer would hardly surprise anyone. But let’s go 13 years back when I have only become one. I used to catch bewildered glances at work. A funny story happened to me when I got a new position. At a meeting, where I was the only woman, a client was asking a lot of technical questions that they addressed to my male colleagues. The funny thing was that I, a woman, was the only person in the room who knew the answers to those questions.

Today situations like this are very rare. People start realizing that women are as good for technical professions as men. And here is why.

Different perspectives lead to better products

Men and women see the world differently. They have different logical chains building up in their heads, so they notice different qualities of a product when they evaluate them. For example, women are good at noticing the smallest details, while men are good at analyzing the big picture. So together they can explore the product from a 360 degrees perspective. Quite often women have a very different perspective on working with products, and software development companies should exploit this. After all, the products we help our clients build and test are used by everyone—both men and women.

Self-development and career growth

Women have a bigger passion for self-improvement. According to the statistics presented by DOU, Ukraine’s biggest community of IT professionals, Ukrainian women are more intensively engaged in self-education than men. 66% of women go to online courses and trainings compared to the 56% of men that attend them. IT events are also more appreciated by women (33% of women compared to 23% of men).

It was my self-development efforts that brought me from the role of a junior to a middle, then to a senior, and now I am the head of my own department. I have a large team of 100 people under my supervision, but I started with only 10 employees. I like to see how the team develops and grows, and the complexity of our projects increases.

And as a leader I understand that it’s not the gender of a team member that’s important to me but their skills and desire to mature as a professional. A person with perseverance and determination for self-improvement can be seen from miles away—and it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman. I always give such people a chance regardless of their gender.

Empathy improves processes within the company

Some may assume that there’s no place for emotions in IT, but they are mistaken. IT is a combination of complex processes, large teams, and constant communication. To keep all this in good shape, the self-control of men wouldn’t be enough, you need women’s empathy.

The result depends on a lot more than well-written code. It is important to pay attention to how the processes are established within the company, and understand how communication is handled. It is a little easier for women to build a dialogue, negotiate, and convey their message. A woman feels the person they are talking to, and this empathy helps them in their work. For example, when communicating with a client, a woman catches the mood of their interlocutor and can quickly turn the conversation into a different direction. It’s difficult for a man to rebuild a dialogue as quickly as a woman would.

Yes, some women get more emotional before important meetings than men. But in the same way some men can be too straightforward and persistent in situations they absolutely shouldn’t be. This must be accounted for when preparing for a meeting. And sometimes it is easier for a woman to predict how a person will behave at a meeting.

I take different approaches towards different employees depending on their personality. And it makes no difference to me whether they are a man or a woman. I see the person I communicate with and speak the language they understand. At least at some level, I understand the values and know the character of each of my colleagues, and there are more than a hundred on my team.

Balance in the team

The research shows that gender diversity has a positive effect on business. The surveyed companies have drawn a parallel between women holding management positions and company growth, higher shareholder value, and greater profitability.

When I joined TestFort, the female to male ratio in the company was around 30/70 percent. Today this indicator has grown to 50/50 in regard to the positions of team leaders. This helps provide, what I call, complementary thinking. The company gets different opinions, and thus can see the full picture.

Besides, a man and a woman differ in their actions and decision-making, which can only strengthen the team. It is easier for a woman to teach someone, to organize the process, and men are good at execution. This is how they complement each other. Even so, one must take into account that it is not only a matter of gender, but also of the person’s experience gained, their temperament, and upbringing.

Women love it in IT

Another well-known stereotype is that women quickly get bored with IT. It is not true. As for the professions involved, there is a wide range of possibilities from classic programming to product management. Some enjoy writing code, while others will find themselves well in a managerial position. But most importantly, both the first and the second can be a woman.

It is important to be clear at the interview about what you like and what you can do. Women tend to downplay their merits by saying “we” instead of “me,” even though one person did the job. You need to be specific and show your technical knowledge. Then it will be easier for the company to understand what tasks you can perform the best and what you enjoy doing.

Checklist: how to become a part of an IT company and settle

  • Understand what you want to do. The world of IT professions is so vast that every second person at least once thought about trying something new. Find your role in this industry.
  • Be persistent. It’s through perseverance and persistence that I learned everything I know today. 13 years ago I came to get a job. Completed the test task, did even more than I had to. I didn’t notice all the errors but I took the task with zeal. And now I know that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
  • Look up to other women. Nothing is more motivating than the success stories of other women in the industry. Their paths can show you the direction you should take.
  • Find yourself a mentor. Many companies practice mentoring. It is good when a woman is taught by another woman who has already passed the “baptism of fire” and can give some practical advice.
  • Try networking. Courses, trainings, and events are not just educational tools, they are an opportunity to meet the right people.
  • Never stop developing yourself. The world moves at a rapid pace: new technologies appear and people’s needs change accordingly. Keep up with trends and learn new things every day.
  • Don’t be afraid to be honest with your management about what you like and what you don’t. This will help you feel more comfortable in the company and be a part of it for as long as you keep it that way. If you are tired of a project, speak your mind freely instead of waiting, enduring it, or looking for a new job.

Closing thoughts

A woman is not a man in a skirt. But you can be both an attractive woman and an irreplaceable expert in your field at the same time. So far, you need a hardened character and the ability to stand up for yourself to prove this. But times change. More and more companies understand that IT is not a “male” sphere despite there still being more men in it than women. It doesn’t matter what your gender, race, or even musical taste are. A woman can be a great developer and a man can be a talented recruiter. After all, it’s your skills and passion for what you do that really matter in a career path you’ve chosen to take.

Victoria VoloshinaAbout the author

My name is Victoria Voloshina, Sr. QA Associate at TestFort. I have more than 10 years of experience in quality assurance and software testing. As a team lead on one of TestFort’s largest QA projects and a Sr. QA Associate, I use my broad technical background and strong knowledge of quality assurance processes to successfully tackle even the most challenging projects with the latest software testing tools and techniques.


SysAdmin Day 2021 | Not all heroes wear capes

Female working in a Technical Support Team Gives Instructions with the Help of the Headsets. In the Background People Working and Monitors Show Various Information, SysAdmin Day

System administrators are the unsung heroes of a business. They ensure daily IT operations run smoothly and any technical problems are fixed efficiently.

However, working in the background, they are often overlooked and under-appreciated.

The 30th July is SysAdmin Day – a day to talk about the vital work that system administrators carry out and appreciate how they keep our businesses running. In 2021, after a turbulent year of remote working and a return to the office for some, it is more important than ever to appreciate the people who have allowed for the seamless transition into flexible working.

With this in mind, WeAreTechWomen spoke to multiple IT industry experts to get their opinion on the importance of sysadmins and how we can show our appreciation for all they do.

The backbone of a business

Daniel Lizama, Leaseweb GlobalSysadmins mostly work in the background, on hand to resolve any issues that may arise and ensuring that the day-to-day running of the business goes smoothly. Daniel Lizama, Team Manager, System Administration at Leaseweb, recognises that, “day after day, these professionals manage to produce solutions to problems. At Leaseweb Global, for two weeks each month, every sysadmin is available on 24-hour call. No matter the day or time, when an issue arises at Leaseweb Global, a skilled sysadmin is quickly available to deal with it.”

However, sysadmins don’t just wait around for problems to arise for them to fix.

“Your system administrator will play a key role in enhancing your organisation’s cyber security posture, as they manage and maintain best practice configurations of the systems that hackers are targeting, 24/7,” explains Thomas Cartlidge, Head of Threat Intelligence at Six Degrees.

Surya Varanasi, StorCentric“It was impressive to see the number of sysadmins that have elevated their backup strategy from basic to unbreakable,” adds Surya Varanasi, Chief Technology Officer at StorCentric. “In other words, they knew that for today’s ransomware they needed to protect backed up data by making it immutable and by eliminating any way that data could be deleted or corrupted.

“With these capabilities in-hand, these savvy sysadmins alleviated their worry about their ability to recover — and redirected their time and attention to activities that more directly impacted their organisation’s bottom-line objectives. And that is indeed something to appreciate!”

Dave Miller, Fluent CommerceAt Fluent Commerce, sysadmins have not only been tackling their own to-do lists, but have transformed into DevOps, Cloud and Site Reliability Engineers. “These unsung heroes make sure shipping software is cost effective, reliable, secure and performant. They make sure users have what they need to get the job done whilst making sure it’s secure—turning commited code into value shipped to customers. The buck stops with them to ensure performance and availability on a global scale is constantly improving,” tells David Miller, Senior Vice President, Director of Technology.

Carrying on through COVID

Adding to this, a sysadmin’s job has never been more difficult than in the last year. As different waves of COVID thrust the UK in and out of national lockdowns, employees were forced into remote working and left dependent on technology to allow them access to the required systems. It was sysadmins who ensured that this was possible.

Gregg Mearing, Node4“Executing their role with skill, confidence, and with an on-going problem-solving ability, the sysadmins are the ones that have been quietly bearing the full-force of the IT business challenges the past year has presented,” explains Gregg Mearing as Chief Technology Officer at Node4. “National lockdowns and their variations throughout 2020 and at the beginning of this year meant that most businesses were thrust into embracing remote working. This placed unique and unprecedented challenges on IT operations. Because of this, it is arguably more important than ever to recognise the vital role that these employees play.”

Chris Hornung, Totalmobile“Lockdowns and skeleton workforces have placed a renewed importance on suitable, reliable technology that allows people to carry out their work,” furthers Chris Hornung, Chief Operating Officer of Totalmobile. “Without sysadmins, remote workers would be more susceptible to detrimental problems, such as server failures, overloaded systems, and downtime, preventing them from maintaining high customer service levels. By keeping platforms such as scheduling software and mobile workforce management running, sysadmins have allowed mobile workers to carry out their day to day operations largely uninterrupted by the effects of COVID.”

“The entire world shifted on its axis in the past year and a half, yet our sysadmins still managed to produce the quality needed for customers. Despite constantly shifting conditions, Leaseweb Global’s sysadmin team managed to deliver splendidly,” Lizama states.

Dwain Stuart, Content GuruIn the contact centre industry, “sysadmins have worked behind the scenes to ensure that physical equipment, from servers to laptops, is suited to this new working environment, and have supported agents by migrating equipment from physical contact centres to home offices. The challenge moving forwards will be bringing agents back to a hybrid environment, with some remaining at home while others return to physical sites,” explains Dwain Stuart, Production Engineer at Content Guru.

Ways to show your appreciation 

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftThis SysAdmin Day, showing appreciation for sysadmins should go further than saying a quick ‘thank you.’

“By increasing the amount of support and training they offer, employers can demonstrate that sysadmins’ support is valuable – and worth investing in. Providing opportunities for upskilling and learning new certifications will also help keep sysadmins more engaged and equipped to meet the demands of the modern workplace,” explains Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft.

Tim Bandos, Digital Guardian“Understanding the valuable input of your sysadmins and IT teams is something business leaders should tune into more. A common mistake by the executives is not involving their in-house team of experts in these discussions,” agrees Tim Bandos, Chief Information Security Officer & Vice President of Managed Security Services, Digital Guardian.

“They know the business, and when it comes to change, implementing new processes, or migration planning, they deserve to be a part of the conversation. This SysAdmin Day, acknowledge your sysadmin team, acknowledge what they have to say about the inner workings of your operations, and make sure they are feeling supported in what they do – the same way they continuously support your organisation.”

By applying new solutions to aid sysadmins in their job, organisations can demonstrate their appreciation for their work, as well as benefiting the business as a whole.

Alex Chircop, StorageOS“Transitioning to a cloud-native solution can make the life of a sysadmin much more comfortable,” agrees Alex Chircop, Founder and CEO at StorageOS. “Kubernetes offers fast failover, scalability, a platform-agnostic approach, and resource efficiency to sysadmins and provides them fewer issues to deal with. With Kubernetes rising, sysadmins can make sure a business’s infrastructure is managing heavy workloads at a faster pace than before.”

“SysAdmin Day exists as a reminder to appreciate one of the hardest working professionals behind a workstation,” he concludes. “They are the backbone of any company. At StorageOS, we try to ensure that sysadmins go from being known as unsung heroes in the tech industry to being thanked daily.”


desk-with-laptop-promoted-promotion-featured

Attracting and retaining female staff in IT roles is still a challenge. How should the industry be addressing this issue?

Kira Makagon, Chief Innovation Officer at RingCentral

desk-with-laptopIt’s a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations.

In fact, in the UK, while the majority of workers are women, STEM Women data suggests that women make up just 22% of the STEM workforce.

There are a number of factors behind this gender imbalance. One reason is that fewer women are electing to study STEM courses at school and university. In fact, STEM Women’s data reveals just 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women. The number of men studying STEM also far exceeds the number of women. The percentage of women graduating in STEM has fluctuated, from 25% in 2016, down to 24% in 2017, and then finally up to 26% in 2018.

The men to women imbalance is notable in the IT industry. STEM Women also states that although the number of women working in IT roles has increased over the years, the number of men working in these roles has increased at a faster rate.  The proportion of female IT professionals in the workforce has inched up just a bit - and in 2018, it was just 16.2% (compared to 14.3% in 2014).

More needs to be done to encourage women to study STEM and to help them transition into, and stay, in STEM jobs. Businesses have a responsibility to ensure they are creating corporate cultures that hire, promote, and retain women. Hiring and promoting more women is not just good for women; it’s good for the bottom line. Studies show that increased diversity and inclusion is best for innovation, performance, and more in any company.

Below, I offer some steps that IT businesses can take to ensure that they are doing all they can to grow and retain their female staff.

Women supporting women

The simplest way to create a more inclusive culture for women is to hire more women. This is particularly true at board and management levels, where women in senior positions can impact an organisation meaningfully. When there are senior female leaders in the workplace, there becomes a de facto support group to inspire and motivate the next-generation of female leaders.

Having a strong female network is proven to help with career progression. Research by Harvard Business Review revealed that both men and women benefit greatly from a strong network. However, the data suggests that women are more likely to land an executive role with greater authority and higher pay if they have a strong inner circle of close female colleagues. Technology and IT companies stand to benefit greatly from promoting women into leadership roles, as women will see these companies as environments where they can grow and progress.

Equity matters

Equal pay is a big concern for women in STEM fields, and evidence suggests there is still a significant pay gap in the IT industry. Research by New Scientist shows that women are often paid 20% less than their male counterparts. Needless to say, there is no reason why women should be paid less than their male counterparts who are doing the exact same job.

Pay equity isn’t an issue that affects just women; it affects all employees. Colleagues talk, and female workers realise when they are being treated unequally. This puts both women and their male counterparts who are being paid more in awkward positions and creates an unpleasant culture for all. Businesses should be focused on creating a culture that is fair to all employees.

Equity isn’t just important from a morale perspective; it’s a smart business decision. Data from Tech Nation found that UK companies with more diverse boards are making more money than those that are homogenous. Businesses should be looking at the positive impact diversity can have on their bottom line. Again, this goes beyond just women and extends to not discriminating against anyone.

Focus on flexibility 

Sometimes employees feel as though they have to make a choice between their career or their family life. In this day and age, no one has to make that choice, especially when there is technology available that supports flexible working.

Businesses would be well-served to investigate technologies and policies they can put in place to support flexible working for all staff, not just for women. Flexible hours, working from home as appropriate, remote working, and supportive benefits make employees happier and more productive. These policies also make sure that employees with families aren’t making sacrifices that might impact their work or their place within a business.

Making the cultural shift happen

The idea that the IT industry needs to “woman up” isn’t a new idea. More needs to be done to encourage women to pursue IT careers - and to stick with them. While getting girls and women into STEM studies and then into the doors of IT companies are the very first steps, more needs to be done around culture.

To do this, businesses should look at ways they can encourage a culture in which women support women. This could include holding dedicated networking events or simply stimulating a culture of sharing and collaboration between employees. After all, there is technology available today that allows employees to interact across a variety of channels, not just face to face. Encouraging flexible working practices, and having the tools in place to support this, allows all employees - not just women - to thrive.

Ultimately, businesses need to create environments that make women feel welcome, equal, and empowered, including by hiring women into the senior team and encouraging women to be heard across an organisation. When women are represented and rewarded more equitably, not only will female employees grow and thrive, but STEM fields, and IT companies, will become more diverse, which is to everyone’s benefit.

Kira MakagonAbout the author

Kira Makagon leads global product, user experience, engineering, and operations. She is a critical driver in defining RingCentral’s product strategy and in bringing to market RingCentral’s robust communications and collaboration solutions. Throughout her career, she has pioneered multiple breakthrough industry solutions and companies, garnering a reputation as a visionary product and business leader.

Before joining RingCentral, Makagon founded and served as CEO and president of Red Aril, a real-time audience and media optimization platform acquired by Hearst Corporation. Prior to that, she co-founded and held executive and board positions at flagship online marketing and CRM companies, including Octane Software, acquired by E.piphany, and Scopus Technology, acquired by Seibel.


Women in IT

Why is there a shortage of women in IT?

women in IT
Image via Pixabay
Its 2017 and Britain has recently celebrated a record number of female MPS winning seats in the UK general election.

Women head up the Tate Britain, National Gallery and BAFTA, and across the country more women are getting accepted into university than their male contemporaries. However, when it comes to IT, the statistics look very different.

Women are wildly underrepresented in the IT world and with a shortage of female employees in managerial and technical roles, the industry is suffering. TechCrunch reported last year that only five per cent of leadership positions in the corporate tech industry are held by women and this is set to decline even further as the percentage of women in the US computing industry is projected to drop from 24 per cent to 22 per cent by 2025.  Even tech giants like Google have struggled to address this inequality with the company admitting that only 17 per cent of its technical workforce are female.

Alongside the glaring benefits of a more equal workforce such as more diverse viewpoints and wider skills sets leading to better business decisions, the most frustrating issue at play here is that there is already a dearth of talent in IT which desperately needs to be filled. The Guardian projects that if the current trajectory continues, there will be one million more jobs in the industry than graduates to fill them by 2020.

Cyber security in particular has been hit hard, with a decline in skilled workers that is set to leave the industry 1.8 million short by 2022 according to a Frost and Sullivan report, and in the current climate, this is an area that cannot be ignored. By encouraging women to pursue these roles and consider IT as a viable career option, this demand could easily be met and the industry would benefit as a result - after all, women use technology as much as men so to use their skills in innovation will widen the market and help to fill product gaps for female consumers.

However, moving towards a more gender equal workforce in IT industries is easier said than done. Widespread change is required in the perception and attitude towards women working in tech, with many females facing unfair stereotyping and discrimination for choosing what is perceived by many in society to be a male career. We see that girls are less inclined to pursue technical subjects from a young age as although 57 per cent of US college students are female, 82 per cent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) are male and this comes down to education, with a shortage of female STEM teachers and role models to influence students.

The women that do end up in a technical careers often face greater challenges than their male counterparts as they struggle to fit in as a minority in the workplace. It is also speculated that in general, female employees are less boastful of their contributions, letting male colleagues step in and take credit for their work in a professional environment, meaning that their victories go unnoticed by management and they are less likely to be promoted.

It is clear that there is a need for wider societal change to redress the gender balance in the tech workplace. We may be wise to take tips from countries like Russia who boast high percentages of females in technology roles compared to the rest of the world and put this down to strong role models, a gender neutral school curriculum and an attitude towards science as a national priority, and an area that all citizens can be proud to work in. However, there are already movements across the UK to move towards a more equal attitude towards tech jobs, with the Girl Guides pioneering new badges for coding and computer skills for its members and companies offering a wide range of  IT positions for girls considering a career in the industry.

About the author:

Rowan Chernin writes about Tech and outdoor activities including a life-long obsession with the English coast line.


Lynne Collier featured

Inspirational Woman: Lynn Collier | Chief Operating Officer UKI at Hitachi

 

Lynn Collier is the Chief Operating Officer UKI at Hitachi. Here she shares her career journey with WeAreTheCity.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the beginning, honestly no, but I believe it’s like anything in life, if you have a view on where you’re going you’re more likely to reach your destination. The key is not just having a plan, but working towards it, seizing opportunities as they come up and also being flexible.

Over the years, it’s fair to say that I’ve taken some sideways moves in terms of job opportunities, but that has given me a breadth of experience that has become particularly useful in recent years as I’ve taken on more senior positions. It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to adjust it as you move forward and different opportunities present themselves.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Like most people I’ve faced challenges and frustrations along the way, and one thing I’ve learnt is that self-awareness is absolutely imperative to dealing with them. Knowing why you’ve found yourself in that challenging position will go a long way to helping you find your way forward. If you make it a habit to appreciate and listen to feedback, then what you choose to do after that is entirely up to you, but at least you have a picture of why things are the way they are. It is also key to tap into your network and build a community of people that you can interact with when challenges arise.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing is to recognise that, while a leadership role can be very daunting, once you get into it you discover just how exciting and rewarding it can be. To get there, you just need to be confident in your own abilities and your perspective on the business, and be clear about the value you bring to the role.

It’s also really important to avoid trying to be someone that you’re not, and be authentic in your style.

Don’t be afraid to seek input from your peers, management or mentor if you have challenges or concerns – because that’s what they’re there for.

No one has all the right answers, but consulting your trusted network and sounding people out will help you to get the input and feedback you need to make the right decisions.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

As well as the explicit skills and experience to fulfill the role, I always investigate other attributes such as attitude and whether someone is a good cultural fit for the team – which I believe are equally as important. Just because someone looks right on paper or has the right credentials, doesn’t mean they are going to fit in with the team culture or have the drive and enthusiasm to make the job a success. In an interview situation, the passion and drive that people demonstrate is key.

How do you manage your own boss?

I can answer this very simply: it all comes down to open and regular communication.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

The one thing I like about the role that I have today is that it is varied. No two days are the same, but typically I am an early riser. I always arrive in the office early and check emails, read documents or prepare presentations. Once the day begins in earnest, it usually involves meeting colleagues or external contacts, running through a sales engagement, facilitating a workshop or even presenting industry forums. At the end of the day I try to schedule some time to ensure I’m following up on my agreed actions and preparing for activities for the rest of the week.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

When I emigrated to Australia, I was given great advice from a relocation consultant I worked with, which was to “always be a joiner”. What she meant by that was to be visible and be engaged, because – particularly as women – we need to overcome unconscious bias and manage our personal profiles.

You need to ensure it’s not just your immediate team or your manager who know who you are and what you stand for, but that the wider community know as well.

Don’t be afraid to showcase your successes, because no one else will do it for you.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have benefitted from both coaching and more formal mentoring in the past. It’s about continuing to seek input and opinions from those whose values you share, and from role models for certain skill sets and behaviour. I think increasingly in business, with adaptive change being the key for so many companies, there are a lot of people with whom you can engage informally and I continue to do that too. It’s also important to give back. I do a lot of coaching and I am a mentor for people both within Hitachi and outside.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Whatever you do, wherever you are in business and in your personal life, networking is crucial. It is an activity that requires care and attention. You need to be proactive and engaged through social media in various community and special interest groups; attend industry briefings and relevant events; and keep connected face-to-face.

As the saying goes: “Make new friends but keep the old, for one is silver the other gold”.”

What does the future hold for you?

I’d like to think it’s full of amazing opportunities and I believe it is. It holds the opportunity to work in a changing and dynamic organisation like Hitachi, be part of social innovation projects and look at how we can harness the art of the possible to help students in school to take advantage of STEM subjects and develop their careers. I think most of all, it’s about breaking free from preconceived ideas about how business is done, the impact technology can have in society and the role women can play in the world; it’s about being able to embrace new challenges with innovation and exciting solutions.

 


Womanpower in tech

Advancing womanpower in tech

 

The gender gap in IT reigns fierce. Tech companies still need to level the playing field when it comes to the diversity of their workforces. The question is, what practical steps can be taken to address this?
tech
Image via Shutterstock

Research shows that diverse teams, with higher levels of women in executive roles, drive stronger performances and yield higher returns. In addition, improving gender diversity within the tech workforce is key to addressing the overall digital skills deficit in the sector. However, as Britain’s technology sector thrives, creating new jobs at an unprecedented rate, we need to ensure companies are stepping up to inspire women towards these new opportunities.

Progress is underway

In many organisations, work is already underway to create fair and equal working environments across genders. In fact, more tech companies are taking the lead by conducting gender pay gap audits. This is a welcome step within an industry that has struggled to close the gender pay divide; global employee benefits company, Mercer, indicates that the pay gap in the UK’s high-tech sector is well above the national average at 25 per cent, compared to 18 per cent across other industries.

The gender pay gap legislation means that from the start of the new tax year, businesses with 250 or more employees are required to publish annual figures showing how big the pay gap is between their male and female employees, including bonus payments. This transparency will provide true insight into the difference between the wages of men and women within a shared organisation. As a result, it will put equal opportunities at the top of the agenda for UK businesses.

Do more, and show your people how

In Networkers’ recent Voice of the Workforce research, which surveyed 1,656 tech professionals, 54 per cent said they believe gender diversity is improving within the sector. In contrast, only one third of respondents actually know what their companies are doing to tackle the issue.

The first step is to ensure there are measures in place to make IT departments and tech businesses attractive to women. Businesses should consider adopting flexible working strategies and return to work schemes for women at all stages of their careers to encourage retention.

The next step is communication. Employers need to showcase what they are doing to address equality, not only for the benefit of new hires, but to foster positive energy and support within existing teams and to demonstrate it is high up on the agenda.

Ensure women’s voices are heard at all levels

Our research shows that tech professionals think companies also need to do more to address unconscious gender bias within leadership teams. This is concurrent with data from other sectors, where we see executive boards being dominated by men.

Companies should look at the current state of diversity within their organisations as they stand now, and evaluate where the gender gaps are most prevalent. We should be asking why, and we should be asking how we can we encourage more woman to apply for positions are that are often male-dominated.

Make IT attractive to younger female generations

We need to give girls the motivation to seek opportunities in tech early on. Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how important early years education is in determining children’s career choices. Less than one in 20 girls considers a career in STEM subjects while at school, compared with one in five boys. Moreover, in 2016, only 10 per cent of students working towards an A-level in Computing were girls. There is a long way to go before this is balanced.

Recent steps by the UK government to introduce cybersecurity lessons for schoolchildren is a major step in equipping children with the practical skills they need, as the way we work continues to be transformed by an advancing digital landscape. However, institutions, teachers, and parents also need to find new ways to make young girls consider a career in technology, give them hands on experience, show them the breadth of jobs out there, and encourage girls to envisage what a career in the sector could look like.

Inspiration from women at the top

Shining a spotlight on inspiring women at all levels, in a variety of companies, and within your existing workforce, will help to bolster the ambition of younger female generations to pursue tech careers.

Female role models such as Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded, who is dedicated to running digital literacy programmes such as ‘Code in a day’ and ‘Hacker in a day’, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is inspiring women to ‘Lean In’, and Marissa Mayer, the first female Software Engineer at Google and now president and CEO of Yahoo, are effectively demonstrating that female tech entrepreneurs are crucial to success within the sector.

With only 14.4 per cent of the UK STEM workforce represented by females, it is clear that we need more women in tech. Ultimately, tech businesses should look ahead for long-term solutions to the diversity issue, rather than short term staffing solutions.

By doing so, tech divisions will ensure they are attracting and retaining employees with a broad range of skills, experiences and backgrounds. This will equip them with a versatility that will be crucial in preparing their businesses for future success. Ultimately, companies that fail to address diversity will not keep pace with thriving businesses in a global economy.

About the author

The article was written by James Smith, Managing Director of Networkers.


Digital Diversity

“Digital Diversity” is our next workforce challenge

 

The real-life equivalent of James Bond’s tech expert ‘Q’ is a woman.
Stem Women
Image via Shutterstock

This revelation came from MI6 Chief, Alex Younger, as he spoke of the importance of diversity in the tech sector at the Women in IT Awards in January. Yet, despite this fact, gender imbalance continues to hinder the development of the UK’s digital and tech industries.

Women make up 46 per cent of the UK labour force, but are vastly under-represented in STEM industries, accounting for just 13 per cent of all workers in STEM occupations and only one in five (19 per cent) at a senior a level in the technology field. That is why on International Day of Women and Girls in STEM we are calling on businesses to do more to support women already in STEM, and to encourage more women into these types of roles, to help tackle the lack of ‘digital diversity’ in the UK workforce.

Diversity pays dividends

The UK is in the grips of a digital skills crisis which is estimated to be costing the UK economy £63bn in lost GDP every year. Our own Digital Development Index revealed that women feel less digitally confident than their male counterparts in the UK; fostering a digital divide when it comes to gender participation and confidence in this sector. What’s more, this divide is affecting our position on the international stage, with our study showing the UK is lagging when it comes to our ability to compete in the global digital economy, trailing in 4th place behind Estonia, South Korea and Sweden.

UK PLC needs to double the number of STEM apprentices and graduates if we’re to meet projected demand by 2020. 1 But, getting women into STEM can’t be limited to just solving the digital skills gap. Tech and innovation is centred on solving today’s societal problems and as these problems become more complex there needs to be a diverse set of people and perspectives to rise to the challenge. Encouraging women to pursue a career in the tech and digital sectors will only help bolster our ability to solve these issues now and in the future. There are economic benefits too; research shows that increasing the number of women working in information technology (IT) could generate an extra £2.6 billion each year – a tangible example of what’s to gain from supporting women in tech.

Confidence is key

It seems that girls have a strong track record of participation and achievement in STEM subjects in school, but their interest in the sector drops off as they exit compulsory education. An OECD study found that despite girls outperforming boys in STEM qualifications, they lacked confidence in key subjects such as science and maths.

It seems the problem is not getting girls and women engaged in STEM and technology, but preventing them from becoming disengaged.

If we want more women to see the technology sector as a viable career option we need to foster their confidence in this area and dispel the overarching stereotype that technology is a man’s industry. Crucial to this is creating a clear pathway for women and girls from studying ICT at school straight through to the job of Chief Information Officer for a FTSE 100. Young women and girls need successful female role models to aspire to – profiling successful women in tech is key to widening their perception of their career options. It is about leading from the top and, as a business leader, I took on my own digital skills challenge and learnt to code. We saw a phenomenally positive response from colleagues who have risen to the challenge of developing their own digital skills and confidence. We now have over 18,000 colleagues who are Digital Eagles, dedicated to encouraging every one of all abilities and ages to engage with new technologies.

On International Day of Women and Girls in STEM we need to strengthen our commitment to a diverse digital industry and that starts with promoting the empowerment, participation and contribution of women and girls in science, technology and innovation today and in the future.

About the author

Ashok Vaswani is the Chief Executive Officer for Barclays UK, covering Personal Banking, Wealth, Entrepreneurs and Business Banking and Barclaycard UK. He is passionate about helping people embrace the new opportunities of the digital revolution with confidence and champions the bank’s initiatives to achieve this.


Anne-Marie Imafidon, Founder of Stemettes, on being awarded an MBE: "Women in STEM is a wider problem that affects everyone, so I’m pleased it has been recognised"

 

‘Head Stemette’ and Founder of social enterprise Stemettes Anne-Marie Imafidon, was awarded an MBE for services to Young Women and STEM Sectors as part of the 2017 New Years Honours List.

Stemettes is an award-winning social enterprise inspiring the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles via a series of events and opportunities. In three years 7,000 girls across the UK, Ireland and Europe have had attended Stemette experiences.

As part of the initiative she has also Co-Founded Outbox Incubator: the world’s first tech incubator for teenage girls. She sits on the boards of Redfield Asset Management, Urban Development Music Foundation and Inspirational YOU. She has previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers.

WeAreTheCity recently spoke to Imafidon about her award who said: “It’s a pat on the back from the wider society. There has been lots of change in the IT industry, and a lot of companies are looking inwards still.

"But women in STEM is a wider problem that affects everyone so I’m pleased it has been recognised as this has previously not been included on the honours list. STEM has been included before, but not girls in STEM.

“I was so surprised that someone entered a nomination for me. It’s crazy to think that someone thought I deserved it.”

Imafidon added: “It is humbling and overwhelming, because I am much younger than the others on the list and on previous lists. At only 27 to be recognised at this age is insane.

“Even though it’s me who can put the letters after my name now, it’s not just me who done all the work. It’s a thank you to the whole Stemettes team and everyone who has supported us. It’s for everyone.”

Imafidon has always been interested in business, Maths and technology. Her rather unique set of achievements include passing two GCSEs aged ten (Mathematics & ICT), holding the current world record for the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing (aged 11), a Guardian ‘Top 10 women in tech you need to know’ and being one of the youngest to be awarded a Masters’ degree in Mathematics and Computer Science by the University of Oxford, aged 20.

She was also named the UK IT Industry & British Computer Society’s Young IT Professional of the Year in 2013, Red Magazine’s ‘Woman to Watch’ 2014, won a Points of Light award from the UK Prime Minister in October 2014 and was named the 29th Most Influential woman in IT in 2015. Anne-Marie has also been listed as one of Management Today’s 35 Under 35 and was on the Timewise List of 50 Power Part Timers.

Outbox Incubator

On 27 July 2015 Stemettes launched the first ever Outbox Incubator, which invited 45 young entrepreneurial girls, from across Europe, to stay at a large house in South London for six weeks. The house was billed as a cross between Dragons Den, The Apprentice and Big Brother.

The Outbox Incubator programme offered support and funding for girls aged between 11 and 22 who want wanting to launch their own science or technology-based business. In partnership with Wise, whose patron is HRH The Princess Royal, the programme was funded by the Salesforce Foundation.

Throughout February 2017 Stemettes will be screening its Outbox documentary - Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat. It will also be launching a network of youth clubs called Stemillions clubs across the world.

Imafidon added: “We will be running an event soon to celebrate the Outbox house one year on, to reach other girls and inspire others to start similar projects. This will include encouraging the girls to start their own youth clubs and to continue to reach more girls in their own communities.

“We aim to reach two million girls by 2025 who can say they have some kind of Stemettes experience.”

 


WeAreTech: Women | 26 ways to solve the tech gender skills gap

WeAreTechnology, the technology arm of WeAreTheCity, hosted its first full-day WeAreTech: Women conference for female technologists at Barclays, One Churchill Place, Canary Wharf recently.

Over 200 women attended the event to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their technology networks.wearetech-women-conference-featured

Speakers included Kate Russell, BBC Click Presenter and Author, Jacqueline D’Rojas, Executive at Citrix and President of techUK, Anne Marie Imafidon, Founder of STEMettes, Michelle Moody, Engagement Director Insights and Data at Capgemini UK, Stephanie Daman, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK and Dr Sue Black, Author of Saving Bletchley Park and Government Digital Services Advisor.

Throughout the day attendees were invited to put their questions to speakers via the sli.do app or in person, during several Q&A sessions. Sli.do enables live Q&As to take part during an event. Attendees can pitch questions to the panel, via the host, and can keep their questions anonymous if they wish.

During the conference, the attendees also used sli.do to highlight ideas that they believe could improve diversity and gender balance within their organisations. Below is the full list complied by our attendees:

  1. Getting middle management to become aware of the un-conscious gender bias and understand the challenges women face
  2. More involvement with women on a 1:1 basis to understand the challenges we face (e.g. Focus groups)
  3. Mapping of career paths and giving us support to ensure we get there!
  4. Being more transparent about open roles and opportunities
  5. Empowering and enabling us to see opportunities through knowledge of the company's detailed roadmap and internal opportunities
  6. When an employee asks for help, support by listening, not just hearing meaning 1. follow-up 2. provide solutions/first steps
  7. Be personal. Pay attention to individuals to retain their energy and loyalty
  8. Flexible working hours
  9. Training, support for maternity and return from maternity, facilitate working from home
  10. Have a more active women’s/employee networks
  11. Provide access to senior female and male mentors
  12. Actively make sure women returning to work after a break (e.g. maternity leave) are not left behind in their career progression.  Provide on-going support.
  13. Enable managers to support lateral moves.
  14. Build in personal development time to learn new skills
  15. Hire managers who are inspiring and who are bought in to our development – their managers to check on their progress in terms of their teams on-going development
  16. Provide open and honest feedback during performance reviews. Be transparent and constructive
  17. Create initiatives that support our careers and our on-going learning
  18. Provide us with opportunities to be in the right rooms and meet the right people
  19. Let us reverse mentor
  20. Monitor firms progress by looking at promotion stats year on year
  21. Greater visibility of accessible sponsors and role models
  22. flexible working
  23. Confidence building training
  24. Mentoring and good sponsorship from males and females
  25. Give longer paternity leave to allow fathers more involvement in parenting
  26. Better access to sponsors and mentors

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