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Women In Technology

Where are we now? Why aren't women going into STEM roles?
How do we get more to enter the workforce?

The Facts - Younger Years

Many of the issues that faced female inventors, dreamers and artists of history remain relevant today. It is with this in mind that we now focus on what to do to highlight the women of today, and of tomorrow. Asking questions such as; ‘How can we reach gender parity in the workplace?’ and ‘What can we do to encourage more women into STEM workplaces?’

If you are in any doubt about the need for more women in the tech industry we can turn to one thing everyone is interested in – the bottom line.

www.womenintech.co.uk

“The UK economy would benefit from an extra £2.6 billion each year if we increase the number of women working in tech to fill the prevalent IT skills shortage.”

The unsavory facts are that women and girls have a long way to go to become equal partners in all areas of the workforce, but the area hardest hit by the lingering murky shadow of the patriarchy is computer technology.

Whether it is a miscommunication about the reality of tech, stereotypes about spotty male loner geeks tapping on their laptop in a darkened broom closet or just that there aren’t enough women in the public eye as role models – there just aren’t enough females entering the industry.

 

Younger years:

Women and girls continue to demonstrate that they have the skills to excel in education and as such are 35% more likely than their male peers to go to university (Higher Education Policy Institute) and that gap is widening every year. Yet some countries are doing better than others at encouraging our brightest minds into tech careers.

Helen Briggs, reporter for BBC Online, recently stated that the UK has the lowest percentage of female workers in the field of engineering when compared to our European counterparts. Not just by a little bit either. Briggs highlights that Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus are attracting 30% of women into engineering roles whilst the UK is struggling to get up to 10%. So what are they doing right tha the UK could learn from? Little time or investment appears to dedicated to it by central government to explore this. The focus remains that of encouraging women at a younger age to ‘have a go’.

The Facts - In The Workplace

In The Workplace:

Just half of the girls that study IT & tech subjects at school go into a job in the same field.

 

stem

More than 9 in 10 STEM apprenticeship achievers are men.

Susan Bowen from techUK and Cogeco Peer 1.

“We have a national digital skills crisis; there are something like 600,000 vacancies in the tech sector forecast to rise to 1 million by 2020.”
The Facts - In The Boardroom

In The Boardroom:

Only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women

Only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

 

The power of perception

Perception of gender parity has long been an issue when it comes to arguing for a focus on funding and continued discussion on how to increase the number of women in the workplace. If people don’t ‘see’ the real disparity but have noticed a change they can overestimate the impact of the progress made.

 

 

This is in no way saying that those that overestimate, as in the example above, are averse to change or are disinterested in altering the current status quo. Rather this is evidence of how easily a change in the places we work can warp perception as we tend to notice something that is different more than something that we have seen day in day out.

 

Whatever the perception of women in the upper ranks of business, the figures show that those companies that champion women are more successful.

Jacqueline de Rojas, techUK President.

“Just one woman on the board of a business can reduce the risk of bankruptcy by 20 per cent. A team with varied experiences and background will produce richer, more considered ideas. Gender diverse companies are 45 per cent more likely to improve market share, achieve 53 per cent higher returns on equity, and are 70 per cent more likely to report successfully capturing new markets. The writing is on the wall for uniformed businesses.”
Action

So, what is being done to tackle the lack of girls entering STEM subjects? And just as importantly, women graduating in STEM subjects but not moving into careers where they are desperately in need such as tech?

At school level, there has been a noticeable increase in programs encouraging girls to consider STEM subjects. Some programs have been initiated by government, charities, universities and by employers. Many encourage interaction between educators, people working in STEM related industries and companies local to each enterprise. This creates a tangible pathway for girls interested in areas such as computer sciences to see the reality of that career and cut through the misinformation and stereotypes that usually prevail.

Dave Gibbs, STEM computing and technology specialist at the National STEM Learning Centre and Network.

“Schemes such as STEM Clubs or inviting a STEM Ambassador into schools can be a great way to empower the next generation to take the first step towards a career in IT,”

MO

Are We Celebrating Too early?

With the increased focus on getting women into the workplace, and the self-congratulation by those companies who have programs, are we missing an important area that needs immediate and drastic change?

 

Working conditions, sexism, even serious assaults have been alleged to be rife amongst the world’s largest and long-established tech companies. Not just commonplace but routinely swept under the carpet. See recent claims against Microsoft  and new exposé book, ‘Brotopia’ by Emily Chang, which shines a light on the sex party, strip club, bro culture that marginalizes and alienates female workers in Silicon Valley.

 

Is this due to the misogynist era in which these companies began their journey? If so, are younger, smaller, more agile companies better placed to deliver the kind of workplaces that enable women and men to be equal? It stands to reason that newer organizations have the opportunity to set the agenda for gender parity from the beginning rather than try and steer HR policies and engrained patterns of behavior in the right direction.

Griselda Togobo, Managing Director of Forward Ladies

“At work, however, the playing field is unfavourable to women with cultural biases and institutional barriers actively hindering the advancement of women."
Next Steps

Sheridan Ash, Technology and Investments Director at PwC and PwC’s Women in technology – Change the ratio initiative lead, Sheridan Ash says

“We need to share our experiences, support one another, and make sure women have appropriate representation in senior roles. If you support this objective and want to make a difference, and let’s face it, we all need to take responsibility.”

Progress will not be made solely by making our offices and boardrooms 50/50. We need to change the working environment that has for living memory existed to suit men and women. We need to challenge bad behaviours, educate employees and equally reward outstanding performers.

Sharon Clews, techUK Director, People and Talent Management.

“37% of women in IT say they have been passed over for promotion because of their gender, and women in senior roles in the tech sector are also startlingly low at 9%.”

Men need to be advocates and cheerleaders for female employees and co-workers that deserve praise. And women? Women need to continue to fight against the patriarchal establishment despite the pressure to conform the social norm and encourage the next generation of bright women.

What Can We Do?

This year International Women’s day has asked companies to #PressforProgress. They want us to concentrate on what we can do rather than the problem with a series of commitments. Pick one (or more) and commit to it for one year and see how it works for you. It’s a baby-steps approach to real cultural change that may just work. And, it helps that they aren’t insurmountable promises.

sales-i, in further recognition of the importance of women in the tech industry, wanted to get involved. Our choice was an easy decision – to celebrate women’s achievements.

Although far from gender parity, in the UK workplace sales-i has at least one woman in every department. Each has a story to tell in how they found their way to a career in a tech, the obstacles they faced and the social expectations they had to challenge to become the valued members of the sales-i team that they are today.

The Women of sales-i

To celebrate and give visibility to their achievements to encourage others to follow in their footsteps, here are the stories of the women of sales-i.

Devon Cockram, Product Owner

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career?

I moved to the UK from South Africa with my Family just before the millennium. We moved to the UK for my father’s work as a software architect.

I grew up in the Cotswolds where there wasn’t much of an education system in place for learning IT Skills, if my father hadn’t been a software architect I probably wouldn’t have had any exposure to the world of IT.

I started working with website developers during my degree when I was a ghost writer/copywriter for a number of small businesses, this gave me valuable experience in handling and working with website editing tools.

 

My first proper job in tech was working as an Account Manager for a website development house. We worked directly with clients who were more often than not technophobes, so we had to spend a lot of time understanding what they needed and training them on how to use everything from word through to their website editing tools.

I don’t think I really decided to make it a career until I moved to the Midlands and started working with a software development house. I love the way that you can use technology as the puzzle pieces to build someone’s idea.

I fell in love with the constant challenge of building business changing software and continued looking for challenges as I progressed through my career.

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?

I was lucky as a child my dad didn’t believe in the idea that there were things that girls or boys were traditionally meant to be good at. He never wanted me to be reliant on someone else just because of what society said, so he made me work hard at things that are more traditionally male such as DIY and all things technical.

My dad works as a Solutions Architect and taught me how to do some basic code when I was a teenager, so he’s kind of where it all started when it comes to website and software development.

I’m also a huge Sci-Fi geek, I grew up on Star Trek, Firefly and every possible Sci-Fi book I could get my hands on. I loved the worlds they showed where all these incredible women working alongside men as equals.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

A recurring challenge I have faced, both in education and employment, has been being taken seriously when it comes to technical talk. I’ve had clients say to my face that they want to speak to the men in the office as they’ll be the best ones to ‘answer the techy questions’ despite my qualifications. Sadly, it’s not unusual for there to be a large level of surprise when I am the one to answer technical questions rather than a male colleague.

I experience that less now than I did when I was working as a Project Manager (a lower grade than my current role). However, on occasion I do have simple technical concepts or technology explained to me when this wouldn’t ever happen to my male coworkers.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?

I had a hugely unusual start to the industry as I worked in a company where all but one of the staff, including the directors, were women. It was a bit of a shock moving into larger development houses where women were a rarity.

There’s now a lot more women that I know working within tech which is fantastic, and the culture has changed a lot too. I think it’s become more noticeable when inequality does happen as people are probably more aware of it, and, in my experience, men seem more comfortable calling it out when they see it to.

Sonia McNally, Accounts Administrator

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in the tech industry?

I really wanted to show my children that they can become anything that want to as long as they work and study hard.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

I returned to education after having two children. It was very difficult studying with two young children to take care of, especially as a single parent.  I often had to take my children to college with me if they were sick so that I would not miss my class.

 

What attracted you to sales-I as a company?

When I came for my job interview people were so friendly. The office was very relaxed with non-corporate touches such as bean bags and table tennis. I quickly thought that this was a place I would feel comfortable and happy. I am now studying for my ACCA in my spare time and sales-i have been very supportive by allowing me time off for exams.

Rachel Challis, sales-i Trainer

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career?

In 2006, I successfully applied for a job at Apple in one of their retail stores. This was the beginning of my hands-on role with technology as a job.

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?

It took the strong encouragement of a good friend to push me to try the tech industry for a career. Her direct experience of working at Apple Retail showed me I could fit in and that I was capable of the role.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

I think that I was quite lucky to be born in 1987. I grew up in the late 90s/early 00s which I feel was an exciting time for women. I also was raised by a strong woman and a feminist father who taught me that I could do anything I wanted to. In hindsight, this gave me a blissful obliviousness when it came to what roles I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ apply for. As a result, I applied for roles and jobs that interested me. E.G. Cinema Projectionist, Tech Support at Apple and eventually a product trainer at sales-i. As I recall my interests did raise few eyebrows but I, in the most part, got respect for my efforts rather than any negative response.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?

Yes. I think the attitude towards the industry as a whole has changed since I started. Kids are taught code at school and, more than ever now, young women are actively encouraged to apply for tech roles. You can see a better representation of women in advertisements for all companies, tech or otherwise.

There are still low-level assumptions I encounter regularly – usually subconscious – but on the whole people are mortified when they realise they’re mistaken and that I’m not the receptionist, I’m the trainer. All you can do is assume the best of people and gently correct them when they make mistakes.

 

What encouraged you to work at sales-i?

I was encouraged to work here because of the uniqueness of the product itself. I found it an exciting prospect to be involved at the grass roots level with a company that was growing exponentially. I have a few friends who worked here before I did and liked their description of the company – the idea of working alongside the various teams in-house (development, support, marketing etc) and with the customer base externally was a genuine appeal.

When I came for an interview, it was encouraging to see a few women in the office, and it was especially encouraging to be interviewed by a woman. I value the fact that we have women in all departments at the sales-i. I value that greatly. In a way it makes you feel like the ground has been broken already – you don’t have to work twice as hard to be the one to break it; you can just go in, get on with the task at hand, and do your job to the best of your ability.

Rajni Sitladin, Business Development

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career? I actually stumbled across tech. It was the summer of 2013 – I was temping as an office assistant for a cloud-based vendor and very quickly progressed into the sales team. Our customers were benefitting from a product that was decreasing time to market, reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. I thrived off the results and very quickly decided that my future is in tech! I love the impact tech can have on all kinds of businesses and charities.

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?

The sales teams I have worked in have been predominantly male. For me, ‘carrying the torch for women’ has been a motivating factor in my career.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

My first sales job was in the print and publications industry. After an encouraging start in sales, I found it very difficult to adjust and was constantly underestimated because of my age and sex.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?

The tech industry is becoming more and more fast paced, dynamic and innovative, driving lifestyle changes for individuals and their families. More flexibility in the workplace has given greater access to a career in tech for women.

 

What encouraged you to work at sales-i?

I visited the office a couple of times before deciding to join the company and it felt like there was a fairer gender mix than most companies I had worked in before.

I wanted a platform and environment where I could bring my experience and ways of working that would be fully supported by my team, manager and the wider company.

The positive, entrepreneurial and collaborative environment is what ultimately encouraged me to work here at sales-i.

Prabha Patel, Software Tester

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career?

I have wanted to work in the tech industry from a very young age and set out on that path with my education from the start. Culminating in studying for a degree in I.T degree at university.

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?

I would say my older brother’s interest in computers was my first exposure to tech. He has been into computers since he was about 5, and I found it very interesting. He also made a career in tech as a computer programmer.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

Luckily for me no – I managed to get into university without any issue and having the I.T background it has always helped me find employment.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?

Oh yes, it’s a very fast-moving industry and always has to keep up with the demands of the end users as well as society. As such I have seen advancements in the workplace for female techies.

 

What encouraged you to work at sales-i?

My current role was ideal for me. sales-i are a very flexible employer which has suited my family life with two young children.

April Brunt, Marketing Executive

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career?

I was interested in computers from a very early age – and that was when they were usually bigger than the average human! I was mostly interested in gaming, then that became an interest in graphic design as part of my employment in marketing roles.

I never thought that computer technology as a stand-alone subject was a career path for me. My access to and education on computers was very limited at secondary school. I think that was because that was all before technology, mobile phones and laptops were an everyday thing. I didn’t have an email address until university!

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?

I wanted to be creative in my workplace and so increasingly took on marketing design work. I have been self-taught for a lot of the time. The fact that I had an interest in using computers for creative work, and the fact that I was often the go to person in the office for when the technology failed, meant that I had opportunities to develop my skills.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?

Opportunities in education didn’t exist for me. The era and that fact that my school was more focused on traditional subjects meant that that career path never occurred to me.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?

I am pretty new to working in the tech industry, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the percentage of women involved in all areas of the business at sales-i.

 

What encouraged you to work at sales-i?

I have worked in quite a few different sectors so far in my life. My role before moving to sales-i was in the charitable arts sector which is very liberal and had an all-female management team. However, previously I had worked in the construction industry and had some very difficult experiences as a gay woman. So, moving back to the corporate world wasn’t a decision I took lightly.

 

Everyone I met at sales-i during my two trips to the offices to interview were laid back and friendly. The office atmosphere was relaxed, and the role was flexible to allow me to grow in the direction I wanted to. I had no hesitation in accepting the role.

Deepika Agrawal, Software Engineer

 

When did you decide to get into tech as a career?
I was interested in technology from an early age. I studied Technology – Electronics and Communication in India and gained my first job in 2006.

 

Did anything or anyone influence your interest in tech?
Yes, when I was in school, one of my cousins (male) was working in a software firm. I was fascinated and wanted to pursue my career into software industry.

 

Did you face any challenges in your education/employment?
Definitely. My college was a 3-hour commute from my home and so to continue my education in technology I ended up living away from my family in a hostel.

My first job was even further from my family, 1900kms away. I was the first in my family to pursue a career and live away from the family home, so it was a big decision for me. However, my parents always encouraged and supported me.

After I married in India, my husband was offered a job in UK for a long-term assignment, so I moved with him. This meant starting a new challenge searching for a tech job in a new country, a different language, culture etc. It was bit difficult in beginning but the team at sales-i have been fantastic.

 

Do you think things have changed since you started in this industry?
Yes. In India there are many women working in tech roles whilst in the UK women are still quite rare at all levels of the industry.

 

What encouraged you to work at sales-i?
Great work, good work environment, open culture, ping pong table.

Resources:

www.techuk.org/insights/opinions/item/12403-guest-blog-one-for-the-boys

www.techuk.org/insights/opinions/item/12398-guest-blog-thought-leadership

www.womenintech.co.uk/the-future-of-women-in-it

www.ey.com/US/en/Newsroom/News-releases/news-ey-new-research-from-the-peterson-institute-for-international-economics-and-ey-reveals-significant-correlation-between-women-in-corporate-leadership-and-profitabilityhttps://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/women-in-technology.html

www.gov.uk/government/news/government-and-industry-join-forces-to-help-get-more-women-and-girls-in-stemhttps://www.mobiles.co.uk/women-in-technology

www.techuk.org/insights/news/item/7103-how-techuk-is-working-to-address-the-forecasts-for-women-in-tech

www.womenintech.co.uk/

www.mywit.org/

www.womenintechnology.org/

womenintechnology.co.uk/

www.wes.org.uk/content/wesstatistics

www.womeninstem.co.uk/breaking-stereotypes/surviving-and-thriving-in-a-male-dominated-stem-workplace

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