Georgina Fuller on why we need more women in technology
The number of senior-level women working in the technology sector can be counted on one hand, according to Lady Martha Lane-Fox, co-founder of LastMinute.com and one of the pioneer dotcom entrepreneurs. Speaking at a conference in London in March, Lady Lane-Fox said: "It is not misleading to suggest that about 98% of the code that the internet and web technologies rely on was and continues to be programmed by men."
An estimated 14% of the UK technology sector is female, according to industry figures and whilst several of the big players in the US, such as Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer, are female, the majority of tech staff across the globe are still male, pale and stale.
So what is being done to tackle the gender gap here in the UK and how are women breaking into the testosterone fuelled technology sector?
Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer at FDM, said driving gender diversity was a hot topic on the IT group’s agenda. “With more tech skills needed across the UK business landscape and all the benefits a gender balanced team brings, companies are making the effort to attract and retain women, whether that be through showcasing role models, encouraging females at an earlier age, mentoring programmes or being more flexible with regards to home working,” she notes.
FDM has a dedicated global women in IT initiative which aims to support and encourage more women to pursue a career in technology. As part of this initiative, female champions are selected as role models to other women in the business and offer advice and support on a one-to-one basis.
Salone Sehgal, co-founder of the online casual gaming startup TrulySocial, says women should never be intimidated by working in a predominantly male industry. “Much has been said about how the tech sector is inundated by men but when I was approached by my current co-founder to join the company, I viewed it as the next big adventure and did not need to be convinced,” she comments. In fact, Sehgal says, now is actually an excellent time for women to consider a career in technology. “The tech investor/startup/ accelerator community are rapidly waking up to the merits of having female-run businesses.
More gender diversity also brings a different angle to problem solving and ideation – a clear need that investors are starting to appreciate.” she notes.
Adelina Simion, Java Developer at Geonomics, agrees. One thing any women working in the technology sector can be guaranteed is fun, says Simion, “Software development allows us to create our own world with our own rules, and after all, how many jobs allow us to do that? You will work with your colleagues who share your vision and passion and create something new and exciting. It cannot not be fun.”
Simion admits, however, that it did take her a while to adjust to working with so few women, especially when she was a student. “I did feel a little strange in the beginning of university when I joined a class of 95% men, but that soon got forgotten when we were all working together on interesting problems,” she comments. “Software development at its core demands people to cooperate so it naturally provides a very inclusive environment.”
Kimberley Bolton, junior IT Support Consultant at Pythagora and one of the youngest Microsoft Apprentice of the Year Winners at just 19 years of age, says more could be done to target female school leavers and entry-level applicants. “Something I feel personally would attract more women into the technology sector are more events in schools and colleges to inspire young women. Overall, I believe networking and creating events tailored to women in technology are high on the agenda for the industry.”
Top tips on how to break into the technology industry
CEO of Mr Glue Stories, a new children’s app, Carrie Gregory-Hood, says:
- Network, network, network – play on your natural ability to network and build relationships in business
- Be the problem solver and lifelong learner – tech is ever changing: new languages, new devices, new applications, new everything – and you have to be comfortable with change
- Tech is about collaboration – often women excel in this area, so be confident about your skills
- Decide if you really want to work in a start-up or would be better suited to an established business – although they may require some of the same skills, the attitude (and financials) are totally different
- Think about the user when you’re in tech – the user experience is one of the most important factors in the success of a tech business: if the user can’t do what they want with the tech, doesn’t matter how powerful the backend or software is, it won’t work as a business