The theme for International Women’s Day this year, ‘DigitALL’, highlights the need for inclusive and transformative technology, whilst celebrating the women and girls who, like me, are championing this.
It’s so fantastic that The United Nations has chosen to shine the spotlight on the digital gender gap. As a woman in tech, I’m lucky to work within a business that embraces and strives for a balanced workforce, but there’s still such a long way to go to achieve true equality in the wider world. However, the more attention and noise that’s created around the challenges, the faster changes might happen. So here’s my contribution….
From one male-dominated industry to another
I started my career in civil engineering. After completing my degree in India, I moved straight into a role as a graduate engineer. Perhaps it was the culture of that particular company, but I realised almost immediately that this was not what I wanted to do.
Luckily, my background allowed for a relatively easy transition into software testing, giving me an initial foothold in IT. But having previously completed an internship in project management, that’s where my heart was.
Shaping roles around people is the future
I like to say I landed on my feet when I applied for a Test Team Manager role at Propel Tech after working for the business for two years. During the interview, I mentioned my ultimate ambition to work in project management, the directors saw my potential, and they created a role for me there and then.
What a better place the world would be if all businesses were as forward-thinking. Shaping roles around people - rather than the other way around. In my view, this attitude would create so many more opportunities for women wishing to progress in a tech career, who in turn, bring different and valuable experiences and skills to the table.
There was a study a few years ago which revealed that men commonly apply for a job when they meet 60% of the criteria, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. It’s widely reported that this is down to confidence and imposter syndrome. This comes as no surprise to me. In my own past experience, I felt like I always had to work a little bit harder than my male counterparts to be recognised for my contributions.
I wouldn’t say this is the fault of men - but it’s time for everyone to take ownership of this in overall society to ensure our daughters, sisters, friends and ourselves are treated with fairness in the workplace.
It is possible to work in an inclusive tech environment
I love my job. How many people can say that? One of my first jobs as a Project Manager at Propel Tech was managing a large piece of work with support from senior management.
The project took place over 14 months, during which time my confidence and independence flourished. I was trusted and empowered to do my job, with just the right level of assistance when needed. I’m so proud of this accomplishment and I would urge any woman wishing to pursue a career in the tech industry to pick carefully when approaching companies to work for as it is possible to thrive in places that are geared up for equality.
Living and breathing equality
The tech sector is changing. I certainly see more females in tech than I did a few years ago.
It really does depend on the department and the company culture. For example, you see fewer women in software development roles, but more in management roles. Perhaps this is a societal thing, where more must be done in schools to entice young women to consider IT-related subjects and careers, or maybe due to the softer skills of many women being more geared up to management. Nonetheless, why should any female feel they're not welcome in certain fields?
I believe the onus is on businesses to educate their teams on the advantages of a balanced workforce and put processes in place to ensure everyone is nurtured in their jobs. Senior business leaders need to live and breathe equality - it’s not just about ticking a box.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel
Tech roles for women are becoming more accessible. Flexible and hybrid working has had a significant positive impact on women who can now juggle the responsibilities of motherhood with work so much easier, should they wish to. There are more social events, groups, events, and communities - both on and offline - geared around supporting and celebrating women in tech.
It's also heartening to see more and more businesses getting involved in events and initiatives that help to show young people at school and colleges the broad opportunities available in tech; roles that tap into their particular skills and talents.
Inspirational women in tech are being respected all around us - in the press, on senior leadership teams, and in our workplaces.
My advice to the next generation of women in tech
You may have no clue what you want to do with your life. I was this girl. In the end, I tried something that interested me at the time. Engineering didn’t work out, but it led to where I am now. So just go for it. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be a success in everything you do - it might work out, it might not, but you have every right to give absolutely anything you want a shot.
Finally, I think it’s important to see a job interview as a two-way process - you’re checking them out as well as the other way around. During the interview, ask questions about a company's track record in developing people, and don’t be afraid to ask about how they support women in particular.