International Women’s Day: Breaking the bias – getting women into tech

International Women’s Day: Breaking the bias – getting women into tech
Published: 9 March 2022

To continue our ‘Women in Tech’ series and the celebrations around International Women’s Day yesterday, Fran Grant, Consultant in our Technology Leadership practice spoke with a number of female technology leaders about their career and their experience of ‘breaking the bias’. In this article, we look at how to ‘break this bias’ and get more women into the technology sector.

Could more be done to support females wanting to enter, or who are already working in the tech industry?

Yes.  Education on the subject is very valuable for everyone, as is the sharing of stories.  It’s so important that females do not think they are alone. Building a collaborative working environment for both men and women helps to chip away at the barriers.  And of course, putting your money where your mouth is (as an organisation) when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified females.

Michele Hanson, Group Chief Information Security Officer, Micro Focus

What attracted you to the tech industry?

I found technology fascinating. I also didn't want to be pigeon-holed into roles that were considered more appropriate for women. I found IT an immersive and interesting place to work. I’m deeply passionate about cyber security and how technology benefits and transforms ways of working. I would like to make working in IT more accessible and attractive to women.

Trish Darling, Programme & Service Management Consultant

What advice would you give to females entering the tech industry?

Don't think IT is just for men. It is changing. More women are coming into the industry and developing incredibly successful careers. It's a fascinating, fast-paced, and continually evolving environment. There are so many areas within technology from technical roles to 'enabling' technology. Here in the East Riding of Yorkshire, C4Di is inspiring, innovating and developing the best creative and technical minds and is fully supportive of 'women in tech'. It is an incredibly exciting time for young women in this area. Hopefully this influence will permeate across local schools and colleges, so females have options in addition to some of the more traditional roles presented to them.

Trish Darling, Programme & Service Management Consultant

The tech industry is male denominated, with women making up only 17% of the workforce. What advice would you give to females pursuing a career in this industry?

I would encourage women wanting to enter this industry to find an area where they feel they can add most value and develop a skill set/depth of experience in a field that’s in demand.  I’ve always kept my CV broad and tried to get involved with as many projects as possible to give breadth to my knowledge and I now have an impressive CV and valuable experience that’s in demand. This makes it difficult to be overlooked for a man at the selection stage of recruitment.  I would also say to be professional in all aspects particularly dress code - a short skirt will get you attention but not in the right way, and finally learn to play the game. When I need to, I use my female intuition and skills to manipulate and influence - it’s a man’s world so you have to play in it but not necessarily to their rules!

Digital Transformation Consultant

As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?

I’ve been very fortunate and haven’t experienced many barriers. The retail sector is predominantly female (although saying that at board level it’s often less than 50% female) and digital, as a new channel, doesn't have a history of male dominance so I haven't had the barriers of more traditional careers or companies.  However, there is still work to be done to represent more women and support them in getting a seat at the top table particularly in those more traditional sectors.

Kate Smyth, Digital Director

What have been the biggest barriers in your career, if any? How did you overcome them?

There will always be barriers, obstacles, politics, people in everyone organisation that can hinder you. Focus on your goals, remain determined, and stay on your own path. One thing I would like to be acknowledged, is that tech is an incredibly exciting and incredibly broad/deep landscape that can make the most of diverse skill sets. I would challenge managers who are aiming to attract more females into their organisations to review their job descriptions. Are they writing for a female audience? Also, ask themselves, why is a degree in IT or Computer Science still essential these days? IT courses are fast becoming out of date as tech is changing so quickly. There are so many people from so many backgrounds with so many skills that could contribute to such a broad technical landscape and succeed in a variety of roles. We need to acknowledge this.

Avril Chester, Chief Technology Officer at RIBA and founder of Cancer Central UK

Have you ever felt resistance as a female leader in a predominantly male sector?

On occasion, but it can depend on the environment/sector you work in. My environment tends to be more male-oriented where, potentially, you can experience greater resistance, but with the right attitude, approach, plenty of engagement and communication this can be overcome.

Trish Darling, Programme & Service Management Consultant

What’s the biggest factor that’s helped you in becoming a successful career woman?

I think for me I have always been really curious and wanted to know/learn more. I have always tried to get involved in lots of different things and this inevitably led to opportunities that otherwise would not always have been obvious for me. I have also always applied an approach of ‘if the front door is shut climb through a window’. Go out and find opportunities and if someone or something gets in your way dig in and find another route.

Debbie Chun, Assistant Director of IT, Stonewater

There are significantly fewer female leaders in tech and digital than there are men. Why do you think this is?

There are significantly fewer females in tech generally and this undoubtedly plays a part. Having said that, however, studies have shown that there are a number of barriers to career progression for women including the lack of clear pathways, gender bias and a lack of sponsorship and mentoring.

Tracey McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, McCarthy Stone

During the course of the next few days, we will be sharing our thoughts, and the thoughts of female technology leaders on topics such as female leadership in tech and fostering Inclusion & Diversity in tech. To read our first article in the series, please click here.

Fran Grant is a Consultant in our IT & Digital Leadership Practice specialising in recruiting Senior Technology and Digital professionals in Retail, Retail FS, Leisure and Hospitality, with a UK wide remit.

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