Where are the role models? Why more women in tech is essential to the younger generation

 

Tech event
There’s a multitude of valuable careers for women in technology. Unfortunately, not enough women are embarking on them yet.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed that just 26 per cent of those working in the digital sector are women. And although there are government initiatives in the works to introduce greater gender diversity into tech roles, the industry must play a part for these initiatives to be a success.

In short, we need more female role models. And we need them now.

Here’s why. There’s currently a drive within schools to shake up the way children are taught about computing. The long-in-the-tooth ICT courses are being replaced by computer science GCSEs. This is great news, reflecting the changing way that we interact with computers, as well as the new skill sets needed to thrive in the digital economy. The only problem is that the uptake of the new qualification simply isn’t high enough.

As reported by the BBC in June, the British Computing Society revealed that the number studying for a computing qualification could halve by 2020. A major contributor to that decline is a lack of interest from girls. In fact, only 20 per cent of those who took the computer science exam last year were female. And that’s the battle we’re facing here. Girls don’t always see careers in technology as something suited to them. There is and will increasingly be such a huge reliance on tech across more sectors than ever seen before so we need to find a way to change that – and quickly.

As an industry, we want and need a talent pipeline filled with young women who are excited by the prospect of working with technology. To do this, we need to recognise and act upon the fact that there is something of an image problem we need to address. An important part of that is to move beyond the stereotypical image of the IT, engineering and technology worker being male. Another issue is to communicate the incredibly diverse range of roles which use technology.

Yes, there are female coders, and yes, we do want more, but just as important are the other jobs in technology and using technology that aren’t communicated or showcased as often; frequently because they are brand new roles.

Everything from marketing to consultancy and leadership to sales, from social innovation, to data science and creative roles, can all be found across the employment landscape.

Female voice

The onus is on businesses to create and highlight the female role models that will inspire the next generation of STEM workers. We need to increase the number of women in the industry but, at the same time, we also need to celebrate those who are already working in the sector. We must illustrate the variety of their roles and what their jobs actually entail, how they operate, and how tech roles have evolved across multiple sectors.

Businesses need to be doing more to find and showcase female spokespeople from within their companies. Crucially, it’s not just about broadcasting the views of women at the top (which we’re already so good at doing). These roles may not appeal or be realistic to every potential applicant.

We also need to start looking at how to showcase female spokespeople from every level within the business to demonstrate the wide variety of opportunities available in the industry.

Establishing female role models in this way will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will speak to those who already have the skills and are looking for opportunities. Sometimes, the issue can also be one of retention: ensuring that those with the talent come to our industry and stay there to develop themselves and their careers. When they see the possibilities of those who have already been successful within the industry, it could give them the extra motivation they need to seek wider, higher or different opportunities using their skills, knowledge and expertise – often across different vertical sectors.

Secondly, it will be helpful to those who are currently at school and considering what kind of career choices they could be making. Female role models, or females using STEM skills and showcasing how they could be applied in a variety of roles, help challenge the concepts of jobs for boys and jobs for girls, demonstrating how tech is a sector for all comers, with roles that are rewarding and attractive.

Diversity breeds success

Businesses that do this will help themselves both now and in the long term. There are many benefits to having a diverse workforce. Gender diversity guarantees a workforce with a varied skillset. It’s a workforce that is both productive and able to successfully engage with its diverse customer community. Statistics show that companies who encourage gender diversity within their management teams enjoy more than average growth and an increased return on equity.

Indeed, businesses should be at the heart of creating a more diverse technology sector. Not only does it help safeguard their individual companies for the future, it also helps nurture talent across the board. This means communicating with women who may want to join a fascinating industry. And who better to tell those stories than the women themselves?

About the author

This article was provided by Lynn Collier, COO UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems.


Women in Technology

How to hit the high note

 

My last trip to King’s Place was to watch a performance by The Swingle Singers; so it struck a chord with me when I had the opportunity last week to return to this amazing venue to attend “Women of Silicon Roundabout”, the largest UK conference dedicated to diversity in technology.
WomeninTech logo

The morning was a whirlwind of impressive speakers from the likes of Google, McKinsey, ITV, Tesco and Salesforce. I was staggered to hear that women still only make up 3.3% of European tech companies. More astonishingly, if we had equal labour participation here in the UK, it would equate to an additional £600bn to our GDP.

These statistics stuck in my mind throughout the day, and made me ask the big question – how should we be tackling this?

One of the key topics that was touched on by every single speaker, was the importance of taking personal responsibility for your own career. Specifically, the importance of differentiating between a Sponsor and a Mentor. McKinsey’s Naomi Smit informed the audience that men were 46% more likely to have a sponsor in the workplace, demonstrating that women appear to be less likely to ask for help. The evidence was clear, having a sponsor can make a significant difference to how you can progress within a company.

Faz Aftab, from ITV, focused on the importance of being constantly inspired and connecting with the people around you. She highlighted the positive impact of having a mentor to guide you along your own path; where you know your value & can continually build on your confidence. As a working mother, Faz was refreshingly honest about the work/life balance. She said that it is a constant “juggling act, and sometime I have to drop some balls, I just try and make sure they are not the breakable ones” What motivates her, is showing her three young girls that it is possible to have a successful career alongside family life.

Clearly we all need to be proactive in inspiring the next generation of technologists. Melissa Di Donato, (30% Club & SAP) is certainly one of these leaders. She spoke passionately about making positive choices and not being afraid to make mistakes. She encouraged the audience to identify your role models and to lead by example, regardless of what stage of your career. Citing a quote from MIT’s Esther Duflo“A wise girl knows her limits, a smart girl knows she has none” there were strong waves of approval and agreement from the audience.

Feeling upbeat, I was intrigued to hear one of the few male panelists - the charismatic and hugely energetic Dom Price from Atlassian. He took us on the Atlassian journey, how they have successfully built their global business around a culture of innovation & inclusion. Innovation is the responsibility of every individual employee of Atlassian. Once a quarter they form “Ship It” teams, where they have 24 hours to work new ideas that relate to their existing products. This level of both inclusion and participation makes for a highly engaged workforce, who are confident at pushing the boundaries – we need more of this in the UK!

As I digested the flow of opinions and statistics, it occurred to me that having a voice in your role is essential for both adding value to your employer, and (more importantly) your own career. But how do you ensure that your voice is heard when faced with the continuous challenge of unconscious bias? An interesting question was raised by an audience member; who asked the panel advice on how to make a room full of men listen to her: their response was uplifting – regardless of who you are, be assertive, and say it with passion and conviction.

“If they believe in your why, they are joining your cause” Anna Gevorgyan, Expedia

After this event, I am even more determined to adopt a different approach; to not be afraid to challenge the status quo, and to learn from my mistakes. One thing is for certain, as a Millennial – I am passionate to be part of driving this debate. We all have an important role to play in changing and promoting diversity and inclusion in the world of technology – enabling people to understand the long-term value to both themselves and the people around them.

This is a journey that must gather momentum, and it starts with YOU:

“Be your brilliant self and embrace challenges” - Monika Biddulph, ARM

 

 

 

This article was provided by Belinda Whittingham who attended the #WinTec16 event. Belinda is a passionate advocate for inclusive and values based talent attraction & retention. She thrives on the challenges of matching up individuals’ career aspirations to roles with forward thinking tech companies across Europe. She has recently joined a start-up in Shoreditch called Cloudstream Global, who launch in January 2017.


15 per cent discount to Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 for WeAreTheCity readers

WeAreTheCity readers are entitled to a 15% discount to attend the Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 event in January.

Using the code WATC15 WeAreTheCity readers receive a discount for the women in technology conference taking place in London on January 28th.Woman of silicon Roundabout 2016 Feature

Organised by Maddox Events, Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 will offer the female technology community a day of panels and presentations to offer a voice for all those working within the industry.

The event will hear from senior technicians and engineers about their journeys so far and their perspectives for the future.

The Lead Producer of Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016, said: “This topic comes up, year on year, without major change ever occurring. Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 aims to break this trend by supercharging the motivation and ambition of our community.

“We hope to fast-track female code slingers to managerial positions and ultimately the Boardroom.”

The agenda for the day is broken into four primary focus areas:
  • Women in Tech Leadership
  • Closing The Gender Gap
  • The Journey of a Coder
  • Inspiring Future Generations of Women in Tech

You can find out more information about this event and how to register here.