International Women's Day - Women working in technology

Ladies, as it’s International Women’s Day on Sunday, we are celebrating those supergals who have defied gender stereotypes and made it right to the top in technology. Read the full report to see the damning figures of female representation and explore how top tech brands are encouraging women to join.

What led you to your current role?

I spent six years in Operations, (as one of only three females) for a company in South Africa. When moving back to the UK, I sought something similar, still within the software or IT industry. I particularly wanted to find a company with values that fitted my own, which brought me to CRITICAL.

What challenges have you faced as as a result of your gender?

I believe being female helps me within my role as I can more easily play the ‘mother’ of the company; HR is usually thought of as a female role, because of its caring/organisational nature. However, the industry is certainly male-dominated and presents some interesting challenges for me, especially given the stereotypes applied to software engineers. I think perhaps it is easier for a woman to keep the perspective of the bigger picture in focus as our ‘peripheral vision’ and empathy is hard wired. Interestingly, I did not have to adopt an all guns blazing, tough-love approach; my compassionate, considered approach has been successful. Still, although IT is a million miles from a building site, there will always be a certain amount of ‘banter’ that you have to take with a relaxed attitude.

What can employers do to encourage women in leadership?

In my opinion, forging a satisfying work/life balance is the most crucial way an employer can encourage women. At CRITICAL I feel supported in this area, though I know it is not as common a practice as it should be to support employees so well. It’s vital that women do not feel pressured to compensate for their gender; a woman might feel she needs to illustrate her commitment and value to the business with a more demanding work schedule, negatively impacting her personal life.

Have you got any any advice you want to share with women working in technology?

As more companies are realising that pay is not the only driver for employee buy in, and that other incentives are important, I think female participation is increasing. Engaging more women will be of huge benefit; the skills, intuition and management style that women can offer are advantageous. I say, utilise this opportunity to develop your career, and make it easier for the women who will follow after you. Go for it!

What do you think is the biggest challenge women face this International Women’s Day?

CRITICAL as a company recognise that software is rather a ‘man’s world’, and so take steps to recruit and retain females to balance this out, realising the assets women can bring. It’s sad that this is not more widely done and that needs to change. The more women push their involvement in the male-dominated industries; bringing their invaluable talents and abilities to the table, makes their presence more desired. The biggest challenge is breaking the status quo.

Following on, we speak to Dianah Worman, Diversity Adviser at the CIPD.

What can employers do to encourage women into leadership roles, in particular within the technology sector?

If you want to encourage women into your top team you can’t just get them straight off the street. Those who have a low proportion of women, in particular, need to send out messages, even to children at school. Girls need to know what tech is about and what it does for them from an early age. Also, don’t forget to check who is applying for roles. You have to encourage women and work off that pipeline of talent. You have to be very careful with the messaging and the skills that are needed.

To get women who are already in technology you have to make sure that they have access to the appropriate training and are encouraged to participate, and that you are giving them the opportunities to build their profile within the business and the industry. When you’re looking for specific skills in a specific sector, it can’t be one big campaign and then you’re done. Get onto the radar and get yourself in the right position. There is no quick win and businesses who want to redress the gender balance must invest the time and money – and understand the need to do that.

Have you faced any challenges as a result of your gender in the past?

I think we all face challenges as a result of our gender at some time or other, but it’s not always apparent. Sometimes you assume that you are being given all the opportunities when in fact that isn’t the case. This can be directly due to gender, but also down to simple differences in gender characteristics. Men, for example, may be more confident and just have a go at something, while women may weigh up the requirements and not progress due to perceived weaknesses or minor issues.

How have perceptions changed around gender stereotyping in business?

These issues don’t disappear and they never will. The key is raising awareness of diversity in the workplace, and stopping and thinking for a moment.

What are the benefits of having an equal gender split within a business? What benefits to women bring to a business?

The benefits of having more senior women within a business are now becoming evident, as businesses who have done just that share their experiences. It affects the bottom line, profits and output. Higher risk businesses don’t take so many risks.

What is the biggest challenge facing women this International Women’s Day?

Same old same old. Having children is a challenge and it will compromise your career path in some way. Unless you have access to flexible ways of working that is how it impacts on you. Flexible ways of working are pivotal, as are childcare arrangements and length of leave. Businesses need to be on their toes.