Collaborative approach required to help the North fulfil its digital ambitions

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Katie Gallagher, Managing Director, Manchester Digital - large.jpg

In this contributed blog post, Katie Gallagher, managing director at the North West's digital trade association Manchester Digital, discusses the use of collaboration in narrowing the skills gap. 

The North of England has long been a prosperous region for technology. But in the past few years this has accelerated, with big businesses such as Autotrader and thriving here and the likes of Missguided setting up shop and becoming an international brand.

Bet365 and Sainsbury's have taken note too, having recently placed development teams in Manchester. The digital sector in the North really feels like it's on the cusp of something great.

Despite this, the industry is facing some uncertainty. Less than a year in, publicly-funded Tech North has seen a shakeup of its senior management team and many still have reservations around the Northern Powerhouse initiative becoming a reality.

In addition, the government continues to use education as a political football by making ill thought out changes to the education curriculum that won't deliver the critical thinking, problem solving workforce of the future.

The size of the skills issue right now

The ONS's latest Annual Business Survey revealed that over 50,000 people work in digital jobs in Greater Manchester alone. In addition, the region's policy think tank, The New Economy, predicts that an additional 22,000 tech jobs will be created in the region by 2035. However, our recent digital skills audit would suggest it is likely to be closer to 30,000. The jobs are there, and businesses in the region are crying out for talent to fill them but the skills shortage is stymying the development of the industry.

In our skills audit we found that a sizeable 37% of our members have turned away work in the last 12 months as a result of not having enough resource to deliver it. An additional 1 in 4 said they'd had to outsource work outside of the EU as they couldn't find the talent to fulfil it in the UK. Disappointing but unsurprising stats, given the feedback we get from businesses on an almost daily basis.

This severe skills gap is one of the reasons we run our annual Digital Skills Festival in Manchester; not only to help shine a light on the issue, but also to help students in the North understand the career opportunities that are available to them and to connect them with employers, in the hope they will find their first job.

At the event last month, we spoke to a number of big brands about their views on the digital skills gap, particularly in the North. We also asked students and education providers for their thoughts around this challenge. Their responses varied, but they all agreed on one thing: the skills gap is having a negative impact on them, or on their business.

University students are struggling to secure part-time work to build their skills whilst they study. Big name brands are attending recruitment events for the first time in a desperate search for skilled staff. And that's not to mention others that are having to recruit offshore because they can't build teams in-house. The skills gap is a challenge for everyone involved in the North's booming tech sector, and now we must pull together to find a solution.

What Northern businesses are saying...

Sam Barton, head of user experience at Shop Direct Group, said: "As a business based in the North West, the gap in digital skills has meant we often have to work with a number of off-shore companies to supplement internal skills, particularly in e-commerce and development.

"We believe in developing in house teams to provide continuity and drive innovation, but because of the pace of change and the rapid evolution of the types of skills we need, we are working closely with universities to ensure they reflect and keep pace with the needs of the industry - from computer science and analytics through to app coding and front end development - we need more talent with these skills."

Tina Patel, HR Manager at fashion brand Missguided, said: "The issue of digital skills is at a grassroots level, there just aren't enough people with a computer science background - you don't necessarily need a degree, you just need the skills.

"This is Missguided's first year of making a conscious effort to exhibit and attend conferences, as we are increasingly feeling the effects of the digital skills gap in the North."

Christine Bellamy, head of business operations at BBC Digital, said: "At the BBC, we attend events like the Digital Skills Festival as a way to engage with upcoming talent and make them aware of the exciting career opportunities available within BBC Digital.

"Our Digital Media Graduate Scheme creates a talent pipeline of skilled software developers and engineers for the organisation. Developing talent is key for BBC Digital: we are keen to do all that we can to plug the digital skills gap for both our business and the region as a whole."

Thoughts from the education sector

We also spoke to students and education providers, to gain a different perspective on the skills gap. While it's easy to list the effects the skills gap is having on our businesses, how is it affecting education providers? Are they coping with the pressures of bringing more talent to the table? And is this pressure having an impact on students before they've even got a foot on the ladder in the industry?

Dr. Robin Johnson, course director of digital apprenticeships at Manchester Met University, said: "At Manchester Met University, we are finding that a lot of young people aren't aware of the opportunities available to them because the courses covered in schools and colleges are so light on IT. Events like the annual Digital Skills Festival are a big eye-opener for them, which is why we encourage our students to attend every year."

Kris Pinter, web development student at Manchester Met University, said:

"As a web development student in the North, finding a full-time job isn't a problem, it's part-time work when you're still studying that is hard to come by.

"Universities are supportive of digital students; bringing in guest lecturers and having portfolio show days, but more needs to be done - more interaction with the industry and more opportunities to network and create relationships would be really helpful to us as students."

Clearly the digital skills gap is having a serious impact on people and businesses at all levels but how do we go about solving it?

Sustained investment in skills

Our recent skills audit proved that businesses are indeed bringing in fresh talent (80% have taken on graduates and 69% have created graduate schemes) but there still aren't enough good quality apprenticeships and work placement opportunities.

The government is encouraging businesses to take on apprentices to help close the skills gap but schemes that were lucrative for training providers led to a prevalence of low quality schemes. This, coupled with a lack of talent entering into apprenticeships, has put some businesses off them. Many smaller companies don't feel they have the resource or expertise to manage an apprentice and still see it as a bureaucratic process.

The most effective but long term solution to developing a workforce of the size and quality required is to work with education providers and policy makers. However, if we want to effect faster change it is up to industry to take some responsibility and take control.

Digital businesses need to work directly with the education system and be able to input into the curriculum. It's not just about coding - which schools are slowly but surely incorporating into their lessons - we need to educate students about the different career options in the digital industry.  It is also key that lessons are interesting and inspiring; the current computing GCSE could be much more engaging than it is. There are points throughout the education system where participation in digital and tech drops, this is particularly noticeable in 12/13-year-old girls. Clearly there's more work to be done to ensure students are engaged with digital in the long-term and to ensure better gender representation.

What now?

Collaboratively industry, education and government all have a job to do to support and develop the talent coming out of the great schools, universities and colleges in the region. Emerging talent will provide the backbone for the growth of the North's digital sector, and we must remember that and give the North the best chance of succeeding in its tech ambitions. 

Tech in Manchester: a man's world

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In this contributed blog post, HR consultant for Equality Pays Michelle Gyimah discusses the lack of women in Manchester-based businesses

Back in February 2016 I attended the Manchester Digital Skills conference. This conference focused on looking at skills within the tech industry to discuss and review the challenges the industry is facing, and what successes they've had.

It was very interesting. They produced a Digital Skills Audit which will be available to download in April 2016. It revealed that in Manchester, one in five tech businesses do not have any women in their company.

The gender split at industry level is 60/40 in favour of men. Which seems fine, but when you drill down to the tech roles within the industry, the split is 70/30 in favour of men.  Within the industry when you look at what women are doing, either through choice or being encouraged, you can see women focusing on the soft skills such as admin, PA and project management.

There are so many statistics to show that organisations with diverse workforces and women in decision making positions do better. They do better socially in terms of corporate responsibility, they do better in terms of PR (because that's a positive thing they can sell to potential employees, clients and investors), they do better in terms of investment and the types of investment they can encourage, as well as the decisions they make. The bottom line is they're much more productive, which means they make more money.

This is a wake-up call for the tech industry, I suspect not just for Manchester, but for the UK as a whole. We need to be thinking about really cohesive, positive ways to encourage more girls and women into the tech industry, to encourage them into tech roles, but also to look for ways to retain them.

There are two key things that I took away from this conference.

1.      You need to look at recruitment and how it's done. You need to be looking at more strategic, cohesive ways to recruit more women, and not just for the sake of them being women, but for improving gender diversity in the industry.

2.      Retention. It's very interesting when you look at big corporations like Google and Yahoo and the staff benefits. The things that we see in the media are the quirky offerings like an iPad, funky chairs, games rooms, or drinks on a Friday.  Those things are great for young men, but if your workforce is made up of other people or you're looking to attract other people who are not just young men without responsibilities, you need to be thinking outside of the box and look at other staff benefits too.

In the Digital Skills Audit report, the three top things that people were most interested in were career development and training, flexible working, and remote working. If, as an industry or company within tech, you could get those three things right, I can guarantee that more women would be encouraged to work with you.

Why gender equality is good business

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In this contributed blog post, Andrew Lawson, UK and Ireland managing director for Salesforce, discusses the business benefits of gender equality

I've recently pledged my support for the United Nations' HeForShe campaign - an initiative that encourages men to think about what they can do to promote female equality. Quite a few people have asked me - not on a personal level, but on a professional one - why I'm doing this.

To me, the answer is pretty straightforward: gender equality makes brilliant business sense.

In the UK tech sector, less than 17% of the current science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) workforce is made up of women and more than four times as many boys currently study Stem subjects at A-level or university than girls. What this gender gap means for our industry, and indeed the UK as a whole, is that business is missing significant opportunities for growth, innovation and success.

For a start, more women in the tech industry would create a more diverse industry. It would bring a wider range of perspectives to the table - something that can only be beneficial. In fact, it's proven that diversity drives greater success than individual ability does: according to McKinsey research from last year, companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others. 

As well as needing more women in the industry in general, we also have a specific requirement for greater female representation at the highest levels.  As role models, these women will encourage girls and young women to see what they could achieve.

What's more, a balanced senior leadership team is generally linked to better financial performance. The Peterson Institute for International Economics has found that having at least 30% of women in leadership positions, or the "C-suite," adds 6% to profit margin - and that's net profit margin.

Many economies, including ours in the UK, are facing an acute tech skills shortage. If we want to continue to be a technology powerhouse, we really need to address this. Yet, with fewer women poised to enter the tech industry, we're actually missing out on nearly half of the available talent to fill this gap!

So, from the beginning of primary school we need to inspire more girls to study Stem-related subjects and at the same time encourage more women to enter or return to the tech industry. This will not only help address the skills shortage, but because these new employees will bring greater diversity, I believe it will also help to make the industry more competitive and more innovative.

How we encourage them is a tougher question. There has been lots of progress in recent years in terms of teaching computing in schools and the launch of programmes like Your Life aimed at encouraging more girls to study Stem subjects at A-level and university. The tech industry is also stepping up, supporting mentoring and initiatives including CoderDojo Girls, G-Tech and the Stemettes Outbox Incubator.

But, I think that until more women, and more men, stand up and show girls what a great industry ours is; until all of us actively encourage the girls in our lives to explore tech subjects; and until we improve the coaching and mentoring we offer, business will never reach its full potential. The reality is, we need the business benefits that more women in tech will bring if we want our industry to continue thriving.  

Could 2016 be the tipping point for women in tech?

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This bylined article by Eileen O'Mara, senior VP sales EMEA at Salesforce, explains why 2016 may be the year for women in tech.


The theme of this year's International Women's Day - Pledge for Parity - is, I think, particularly relevant to the UK tech industry.  It's an industry where we're still a long way from achieving parity in the number of women compared to men in the sector and particularly in leadership roles.


According to e-skills UK, less than 17 percent of the sector is made up of women.  While this is also true for many other industries, it's still an issue that troubles me because missing out on more women in tech means missing out on a more successful industry.


The reasons for this imbalance are deep-rooted. For too long technology has been seen as a career for men. For example, when I was growing-up and looking at possible career options, studying computing was definitely not on my radar. It was seen as a boy's subject - something for geeky boys who were good at maths and physics. This type of gender stereotype has a habit of shutting doors before they have been opened.


Often the only way to break doors down is through real-life experience.  No-one from the industry told my generation of girls about the variety of careers that technology offers, or the range of skills required.


Equally, our experiences of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) at school weren't always positive either. I might have been a bit more interested if instead of simply learning how to calculate equations in BASIC, I'd been able to write a more practical programme that could be applied to my life, for example something that created a revision timetable for my exams, or that calculated the amount of pocket money I got from different odd jobs.


Fast forward to the present day and we're actually starting to make progress in encouraging girls to consider Stem careers. Computing has been added to the national curriculum, with all children from age six learning to programme. The government has also introduced other initiatives to help encourage girls to take up Stem subjects, such as the Your Life initiative. Organisations like the Stemettes and Coder Dojo are also helping girls to progress their tech skills and ideas.


But on their own they're not enough. I firmly believe that we will only see real impact from these initiatives if young girls also have role models to look up to - after all, you can't be what you can't see. And this is an area where we're still lacking. I recently read that three quarters of girls aged 12 feel there is a lack of high-profile role models in the science and technology sector.


But this doesn't have to be the case. If every woman in the IT sector visited their school or took part in a local careers fair once a year to talk to girls about their personal career paths, I think we'd see a lot more girls at least considering tech.


The really good news is that while not every woman in the industry is involved, advocacy for gender equality in our sector is most definitely on the rise - and more men are getting involved too. There are also more events and awards that celebrate the achievements of women than ever before. 


Vitally, we're starting to see the benefits of this - there are certainly more female CEOs and CIOs in the industry than when I was starting out: Marissa Mayer, Meg Whitman, Joanna Shields and Susan Wojcicki to name just a few; and this means there are more role models for young women weighing up their career options.

It's the responsibility of both industry and Government to fire the imagination of boys and girls when it comes to technology. But, it's also down to those of us already working in tech to make the industry a better place for the next generation. If we continue to drive forward as we are doing now, then 2016 could be the year that women working in tech start to make huge waves.

Celebrating International Women's Day

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This contributed blog post by Heather Brunner, CEO of WP Engine, discusses International Women's Day and why it's important to celebrate women in the technology industry. 
Heather Brunner.jpg

On International Women's Day, we celebrate the incredible work women do. This great work is not limited to just technology, but in every industry.

Building strong and diverse teams is a passion of mine (currently, the leadership team at WP Engine is an even 50-50 split, which is nearly unheard of in the tech industry). I believe diversity produces more effective, well-rounded teams, and it's something that should be celebrated not just today, but every day.

Throughout my 25-year career in the technology industry, I have learned a lot about business and leadership. The learning never stops. I experience new things and hear innovative ideas from my colleagues each day. Reflecting on my career, there are a few pieces of advice I have received that have stuck with me and that I still find particularly poignant: 

Thrive on change 

If you thrive on change, are adaptable, and enjoy problem solving, then the technology industry is definitely for you. It's fast-paced and exciting. It's also important to know that you don't need to be a developer to forge a rewarding career in it. Successful companies need passionate, creative thinkers in every discipline from developing to marketing to sales to customer experience.

Seek help

You cannot achieve every goal without help along the way. A great way to gain valuable insight and support from others in the industry is through mentorship. Colleagues, role models (such as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, who is a role model of mine), and industry peers have been an invaluable learning source for me. Mentorship is priceless and you never know where building a strong network will lead you. 

Find your superpower

As a leader, it's just as important to amplify your strengths as it is to work on your weaknesses. You should make people aware of and use your superpowers, create teams which complement each other, and work together to create incredible outcomes that you can be proud of.

In terms of being in a leadership position, the best piece of advice I can offer other CEOs is that your job is not to have all the answers, your job is to bring them out of your team. Listen twice as much as you talk and you will gain invaluable insight which will help your business and team succeed.

Working within the technology industry is truly exciting. International Women's Day is a great opportunity to celebrate success and encourage likeminded women to take on new challenges. What will you take on? 

WeAreTheCity opens nominations for Rising Star Awards

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Women's network WeAreTheCity has opened nominations for its Rising Star Awards, showcasing successful women in business.

The WeAreTheCity Rising Star Awards are designed to celebrate women in business below management level for their achievements.

Technology and Telecoms are among the categories women can be nominated for, and WeAreTheCity is looking for nominees who are:

• Champions of women in their business or sector
• Striving to achieve success and results
• Inspirational to others
• Recognised as having the potential to become a future leader in their industry

Other categories women can be nominated for include:

·         Banking

·         Charity

·         Consultancy

·         Defence

·         Diversity

·         EA/PA

·         Education and Academia

·         Entrepreneurs

·         Facilities Management

·         HR & Recruitment

·         Insurance

·         Investment Management

·         Law (The Lynne Freeman Award)

·         Media & Journalism

·         Oil & Gas

·         Property Services

·         Sales

·         Sport

"The focus on increasing the number of women on boards in the UK over the past few years has been incredibly successful. We now need to focus on helping to highlight women who will be future managers and directors within our organisations," Vanessa Vallely, founder and CEO of WeAreTheCity, said.

"Our hope is that our winners go on to be role models and ambassadors for not only their industries, but for other women."

The WeAreTheCity Rising Star Awards, which is sponsored by Barclays, is working in partnership with organisations such as Bloomberg, Cancer Research UK (Women of Influence), and Worldpay to ensure women below management level are recognised for their work.

Nominations are open until 18 March 2016, after which a shortlist of 10 women from each industry category will be chosen by a judging panel, and will then be open to a public vote in April 2016.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, which is sponsoring the entrepreneurship category of the awards, said: "Supporting the growth of female entrepreneurs not only drives diversity within UK businesses but it also creates an environment for future entrepreneurial heroines to flourish and succeed, empowering future generations to succeed in business. I'm extremely proud that Virgin Media Business are sponsoring a fantastic category which will inspire our future leaders."

The danger of trying to have it all

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In this contributed blog post, Stephanie Trunzo, CDO and COO at PointSource, gives advice to those in and outside of the IT industry trying to achieve work-life balance.

Born from good intentions as the title of a 1982 book for women looking to balance a career and family, the phrase "having it all" has made its way permanently into our collective consciousness. It has also become the source of anxiety, guilt, anger and straight-up confusion for many women. The belief that happiness can only be achieved by excelling in every area of life, from work and family to fun and fitness, is overwhelming.

As a wife, mother and professional, I've learned first-hand that you can't consistently do everything well and still have time to breathe. Instead of chasing this impossible ideal, it's time to ask the hard questions and discover what matters to us as individuals. Being successful requires hard work, sacrifice and creating your own personal definition of happiness. 

Define "having it all" for yourself: Our values and priorities change as we reach different stages in life. While at one point you may have had the freedom to work long hours or the flexibility to make it to every football practice, your lifestyle changes when you get married, start a family or move up the corporate ladder. You need to continuously redefine what having it all means to you. Maybe it means that you want to maximize time with your children while also continuing to advance in your career. Priorities will have to change as your situation changes, and that's okay. Regardless of what has to go, define what it is that you want and set boundaries accordingly to make sure that you don't lose who you are as an individual.

Make tough decisions, and remain vigilant: After you've defined success, prioritise and make positive sacrifices. Our ambitious tendency is to try to juggle everything, but the reality of this approach is that you're going to do some of it poorly. Instead, choose what is most important in your life and invest in it. Maybe this means you have to reduce the amount of travelling you do, the number of weekly obligations on your calendar, or the miles you log on your morning run. Overcommitting and failing to make space means you won't be able to give the tasks and people at hand your full attention. Regardless of your definition of success, your priorities and sacrifices must align. 

We all feel the pressure to succeed in our personal lives and at work from time to time. A few bad days, or even weeks, might be a sign you need to take a pause. If you're truly feeling off balance, adjust your priorities based on your definition of success and you'll begin to feel more aligned. What matters most is not an unrealistic ideal, but instead meeting the goals we've set for ourselves.

It's time to make Imposter Syndrome a thing of the past for women in technology

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In this guest post, Denise Hudson Lawson, enterprise learning architect for online learning provider Pluralsight explains why women should build a network to leave imposter syndrome behind.

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a GeekGirl Meetup, an event aimed at women working in technology as well as design. The event emphasised two key points for me: women are brilliant and just as capable as men at having a high profile position or setting up and running a successful business. However, women often suffer from a crippling lack of confidence that stops them reaching their full potential. The source of this is partly down to expectation and environment, but often than not this lack of confidence comes from themselves. 

To put a name to it, women have been suffering from 'Imposter Syndrome' for years. A term coined by clinical psychologists in 1978 to describe the process where women fail to recognise their own achievements and fear being exposed as a fraud. This can hold back ambition and entrepreneurial spirit. Women that struggle the least tend to be those lucky enough to have an established support network around them who can offer valuable advice, encouragement and direction. Women that find things a little harder might already have a fabulous idea but lack the self-confidence and know-how to turn it into reality.

Networking and coaching is a really great way to build confidence and contacts. Getting out there is also a great way to meet mentors and role models who can help to inspire, encourage or even catalyse investment opportunities and stakeholder engagement. I was lucky to have a strong-minded mentor in Joan Miller, the ex-Director of Parliamentary ICT, and a stern believer that I was better than what I was achieving at the time. Her belief in me helped me to accomplish more. Finding these people who believe in you is the first step to finding the confidence in yourself, allowing you to push yourself as far as you can and succeed as a professional.

Beyond having personal mentors, it's important that fledgling female entrepreneurs look to women role models who are well established. One woman who always stood out for me was Mary McKenna: co-founder of successful online learning company Learning Pool, Tech London Advocate and Entrepreneur in Residence at the NI Science Park in Belfast. We need to champion women like this, and ensure that the young women coming through with great ideas know they can be the Mary McKennas of tomorrow without fear of rejection.

To make a real difference, young women need to be introduced to female role models in tech from a young age. The government has a role to play in this. I've seen first-hand the impact this early support can have on a young person, especially a girl who believes some industries "are only for boys". Providing support for STEM subjects in schools and showing girls the careers available to them will help young women to believe in themselves. In the long-term, this will work towards eliminating Imposter Syndrome for good.

For those who are inspired to act now, who already have that great idea, I'd highly recommend joining networks, seeking help from others and investing time in your own personal development. Keep your skills up to date by tapping into the great array of learning resources available, both free and paid for, online and in person. Women can take it upon themselves to make Imposter Syndrome a thing of the past. Let's work together to instil confidence in each other and push the industry and the government to go further at supporting the female technology professionals of tomorrow. 

FDM everywoman in Technology Awards finalists announced

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The finalists for this year's Everywoman in Technology Awards have been announced prior to the awards ceremony in February 2016.

After filtering hundreds of applications, judges from IBM, EMC, Microsoft, American Express, Salesforce and Fujitsu, amongst others, have selected 34 women to appear as finalists in the Everywoman in Technology Awards 2016.

These women have been chosen as finalists due to the achievements they've made in their careers and their ongoing commitments to support more women entering the IT industry.

"We launched these awards six years ago to uncover the women doing amazing things in technology - women who were not necessarily known within their wider business let alone outside their company or the industry," said Maxine Benson, co-founder of Everywoman.

"By showcasing their talents and achievements, we are demonstrating the diversity of opportunity the industry offers so that more women will be inspired to bring their talents to it."

The sixth annual Everywoman in Technology awards, partnered with techUK and sponsored by FDM, will take place on 23rd of February in London will announce the winners of the awards categories.

The finalists for 2016 are:

Start-up Founder Award:

Jelena  Aleksic, CEO and co-founder, GeneAdviser

Stella James, MD, Gooseberry Planet Ltd

Georgina Nelson, Group CEO and Founder, truRating

Entrepreneur Award - Sponsored by ARM:

Lucinda Carney, CEO, Advance Change

Saija Mahon, Founder, CEO, Mahon Digital Marketing

Thayer Prime, CEO and Founder, Team Prime Consulting

Innovator Award - Sponsored by Equiniti:

Tania Boler, Founder and CEO, Chiaro

Zoe Farrington, CEO, Realsafe Technologies

Carole Mundell, Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy and Head of Astrophysics, University of Bath 

Team Leader Award - Sponsored by Asda:

Maxine Bulmer, Cyber Security Manager, CGI

Vanessa Hackett, Engineering Director, American Express

Jots Sehmbi, Director of IT Service Strategy & Improvement, UCL 

Leader Award - Sponsored by BP:

Charlotte Baldwin, SVP, Chief Technology Officer, Core, Pearson

Paula Constant, Field Director, Openreach

Pravina Ladva, Chief Information Officer, Barclays Partner Finance & Global Commercial Payments, Barclaycard

International Leader Award - Sponsored by Fujitsu:

Cheryl Daniels, Director of Planning & Lifecycle Management, BP

Keit Kollo, European Director, StartupBus EMEA

Janhavi Rao, Head of Compliance Technology, Barclays

Inspiration Award - Sponsored by VMware:

Dr. Carol Marsh, Electronics Design Process Manager, Finmeccanica Airborne & Space Systems Division

Alysia Silberg, Co-Founder & COO, Acceleforce LLC

Dr Alison Vincent, Chief Technology Officer, Cisco UK & Ireland

Rising Star Award - Sponsored by American Express:

Megan Castleton, Web Developer, Yard

Jessica Leigh Jones, Engineer, Sony UK Technology Centre

Kimberley Norris, Systems Engineer, Finmeccanica Airborne & Space Systems Division

The One to Watch Award - sponsored by EMC:

Joana Baptista, School Student

Yasmin Bey, School Student

Nayana Dasgupta, School Student

Risha Jindal, University Student 

Digital Star Award - sponsored by CGI:

Amanda Follit, Head of Digital Operations Services, Amaze Ltd

Sharon Jennings, Lead Email Developer, CACI Ltd

Shivvy Jervis, Creator-Producer, Digital Futures & The Trailblazers and Head of Digital Media, Telefonica

Engineer Award - sponsored by Alexander Mann Solutions:

Beatriz Escartin-Claveria, Systems Engineer, Alstom

Gemma James , Senior Civil Structures Engineer, Arup

Emma Thomas , M&E Engineering & Support Senior Engineer, Virgin Media

The Highs and Lows of Being a Woman in Tech

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Kayla Lamoreaux.jpg

In the contributed blog post, Kayla Lamoreaux, Workfront's solution architect, explains her best and worst moments as a woman in the technology industry.

When I decided to pursue a career in tech, it was because I wanted to be where people, process, and technology were making the world a better place. I wanted to be a catalyst in the optimisation of business and process through that technology.

Now, as a solution architect with Workfront, I get to fill that role on a daily basis. Unlike many women in tech, however, I've never felt apprehensive. Once I found the path, it just seemed a natural fit for me.

My career path didn't always point to tech. Many years ago, tech seemed like a world strictly for men. All of my friends in the industry were male. It seemed intimidating, untouchable. I couldn't see how my skills could translate to something meaningful there.

Then one day, a friend told me that they thought I'd make a great project manager. It was enough to get the wheels turning and open up tech as a realistic career path for me. Of course, this path has by no means been challenge-free.

The world of women in the workplace in general - and tech specifically- is often full of double standards. During one international project, I found the dress code - I had to wear a dress to the office every day - to be typically double-sided. Unfortunately, the duality didn't stop there.

Months into the project, my manager pulled me aside with good news: they had never had a contractor get so much accomplished in such a short time. For that reason, my contract would be extended again and I would be recommended for a permanent position. Naturally, I was thrilled that my hard work was paying off.

Days after the position was posted, the news broke. To my surprise, I had been passed up for the position. It had been given to a younger, less-experienced man who "had a family he was the sole supporter for."

I was hurt. The situation was anything but fair, one that was all too commonplace for women in tech, but luckily for me, it also proved to be a stepping-stone.

After I was passed up for that role, my first inclination was to fixate on the injustice that had been done to me. However, I took a different approach. I chose not to focus on the obstacles, and instead took stock of my skillset and the work I had done, reassessed what I really wanted in my career, and set out for it.

I began to see more opportunities open up for women. Sure, the double standards continued then, and still do today to some degree, but I found that communicating and standing strong while producing meaningful results eventually earned me equal respect and footing with my male peers. As a result, I've seen the opportunities for my career expand more widely than ever before.  I've seen a shift in the industry, where women are becoming more a part of the norm - and so they should be.

But, how do more women walk into tech roles? Companies aren't always good at painting a recruiting picture that women can see themselves fitting into. Additionally, hiring managers can often feel inexperienced in dealing with women, which leads them to use traditional recruiting techniques, which can seem as if they are passing women over. Maybe they just need to learn how to help women see how they might fit in.

But it's a two-way street. Yes, companies can do a better job of breaking down barriers and fostering a culture where both women and men thrive in their careers, but we - women who are already in the industry - have a part to play.

Women working in technology roles have a huge opportunity to pave the way for the changes we want to see. Sharing more of what we love about our work. Mentoring other women in tech. Creating success in our careers so other women and girls can see what is possible. All these things contribute.

In my last two years at Workfront, I've gone from being the only woman on my team to working closely with women at every level of the organisation, from executives to new associates. More importantly, the company's culture focuses every team member on results and caring for our customers. At the end of the day, it's about getting work done together, not about whether women or men are doing it. 

Like many tech companies, it's becoming a place where any employee can succeed, based not on their gender but on their performance.

GirlsGoIT is leading young women in acquiring digital and IT skills in Moldova

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This contributed article from GirlsGoIT explains how the organisation is equipping girls in Moldova with IT and digital skills.

GirlsGoIT was established to boost Moldova's entrepreneurship and innovation capacity by investing in and empowering young women by teaching them digital technologies and IT skills. 

The program worked in partnership with UN Women, eGovernment Center, Novateca and TEKEDU, to use technology and education to further career opportunities for Moldovan girls in the digital economy, empowering them with digital skills to embrace the opportunities of the web economy and gain greater access to the global market and entrepreneurship.   


In August 2015, GirlsGoIT organised a summer camp for 38 girls from 15 territorial districts in Moldova, including girls from Roma ethnic group and locomotive disabled girls between the ages of 16 to 20, to learn HTML+CSS, Bootstrap, Python and Flask.

As a result, 38 girls built six web-based social projects for their communities. In addition, one of the leading IT companies, Endava, supported in setting up the IT infrastructure of the camp, and global tech giant Google also contributed resources for the camp organisations.

Diana Marusic, one of the summer camp participants, said: "I am pleased that in addition to technical operations I learned about project management and acquired entrepreneurial and leadership skills. I am excited about the idea of creating a GirlsGoIT local chapter that could gather both girls and boys passionate about IT".

The project aims to change perceptions and bridge the gender gap for girls and women in IT. As Pavel Moraru, agenda manager of the program, put it: "The fundamental idea was to destroy the paradigm of IT being difficult and show that it is just complex."

"Having a project based approach fosters critical thinking while learning coding and programming skills rather than focusing purely on computer science. This approach also stimulates their entrepreneurial skills, team building and communication skills." said Abayomi Ogundipe, GirlsGoIT program manager.

As a follow-up of the summer camp, a conference was organised in October 2015 to establish local chapter clubs of GirlsGoIT in cities and communities to attract more girls into the program so that they can develop their confidence and drive local and community tech initiatives through mentorship and coaching support from role models and young professionals.

The outcome of the conference, which was made possible through the support of the Department of State and the Embassy of the United States in Moldova, led to the creation of four local clubs in Calarasi, Chisinau, Salcuta and Ungheni. 

One of the key components of the program is to drive policies and decision makers from Government institutions, international organisations, leading IT companies in Moldova and civil society organisations to commit, cultivate and enhance girls' digital skills, entrepreneurship mindset and startup potential.

In doing this, a manifesto platform was created detailing key actions and how people can support the program by signing the manifesto through their social media.

GirlsGoIT has planned to implement the second edition of the camp in 2016 with additional tracks on Mobile app development.

Women in tech can inspire more than those inside the industry: Lessons from the first Commonwealth Women's Forum

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In this contributed blog post, recent chair of the Women's Forum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015 Claire Cassar is CEO of HAUD, discusses the worldwide struggle for equality. 

As a woman in the technology industry, it's sometimes easy to forget that not only do women in other industries face challenges - some don't even have the opportunity to become involved in any industry at all. I was fortunate to chair the first ever Commonwealth Women's Forum this year, as part of the wider Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta - and it helped remind me that the struggle for equality is a global issue not just confined to the tech industry.

The theme of the forum was Women Ahead: Be All That You Can Be and aimed to come up with agreed targets and strategies, highlighting the importance of women's participation at all levels of decision making. This would be presented to Ministers of Foreign Affairs ahead of the Heads of Governments meeting, and was attended by representatives from over 50 countries.

Women in tech are a growing minority - and those that reach the top of their organisations are far less common than those in many other fields. However, tech has no reason to be a closed shop to women and, with the right conditions and opportunities, women already within the industry can make it much more open and inviting for other women considering a technology career - and take a leading role in the process.

A consistent concern I hear from women in the tech industry is that we are not given the best opportunities to develop their ideas and impact on the industry. It can be a difficult path to take, however, with a lack of women role models to help develop your career in a way that women can relate to.

However the desire is there to change this culture. During the Women's Forum we heard from Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Chief Strategic Planning and Membership at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). She discussed how the ITU has had gender equality and mainstreaming policy in place since 2013, which is backed by all its 193 member states. The hope is that, through policy and action, the ITU can become a model organisation for gender equality in ICT. The ITU is also promoting gender equality in the tech sector through two major programmes; International Girls in ICT Day and the GEM-Tech Awards.

International Girls in ICT Day, held each year on the fourth Thursday in April, has encouraged 177,000 girls in 150 countries around the world to consider a career in ICT. Meanwhile the GEM-Tech Awards celebrate the organisational achievements to advance gender equality in the field of tech - and have had a wide takeup, with almost 150 nominees from over 50 countries to date. It is hoped that these programmes will be able to play a part in inspiring girls to take up a career in ICT, and provide a real incentive to advance gender equality in tech.

A lesson from CHOGM must be for women in all industries - but especially in tech - to take the opportunities that are there for them, and not to be apologetic about it. Laksmi Puri, Deputy Director of UN Women stressed the importance of this issue by calling women to "be bold and hold leaders accountable" to "put a firm expiry date of 2030 for gender equality."

This can be difficult, however, with cultural values in some Commonwealth nations looking at our contributions outside the household less favourably. But the core aim of the event was to explain how women's contributions can have a positive impact politically, economically and socially.

While pushing for more representation in the tech sector may seem trivial compared to some of the challenges facing women in other parts of the world, by being prominent and vocal in our industry, we can inspire women in these countries - many of which are beginning to experience their own technological boom.

UKTech50 2015 - Digital transformation, enablement and customer experience are the next big trends in the IT industry

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CAinternannabel.jpgIn this contributed post, previous guest blogger Annabel Sunnucks, intern at CA Technologies, describes her experience at this year's Computer Weekly UKtech50 event. 

In 2015 I was lucky enough to be invited to the UKTech50 event organised and hosted by Computer Weekly. The event attracts movers and shakers in the IT industry to identify the top 50 technology figures in the UK.

Bryan Glick, Editor-in-Chief at Computer Weekly introduced the event, which consisted of a number of panel discussions on hot industry topics, such as innovation and leadership, as well as the announcement of the UKTech50 2015 list.

It was an amazing opportunity for me to meet and listen to some of the most inspirational figures in technology and I definitely felt like a very small fish in a very big pond. The room was full of CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, CEOs and CISOs from a variety of companies operating across many different sectors, including Microsoft, Halfords and Just Giving. The top three topics that kept coming up in the discussion included digital transformation, enablement and enhancing customer experience.

Discussions around digital transformation focused on the need for innovation, and the subsequent need for change, and it was very clear from the offset that these are two areas where companies are looking to excel. Mark Bedford from Microsoft made an interesting point when he said "if change isn't hurting, maybe you aren't doing it properly" and this rings very true! With the arrival of the sharing economy, companies face disruption on a daily basis and need to be able to take risks if they want to stay ahead of the competition, otherwise they will fall behind and might even lose customers.

Enablement, in regards to being more agile as a company, was a surprising topic of conversation, but it was really interesting to hear more about what the panel had to say. For me, it didn't spring to mind as being one of the key market trends to be aware of, but as the discussion progressed, I realised how important it is. Enablement in every way possible will help businesses to develop and grow, through product innovation, through customers and also their employees. The end goal of having the most market share is a common goal within the industry, but without aspects of enablement within every part of the business, that end goal will move a lot further away.

Another area that was explored by the panellists was the importance of good customer experience. Everyone knows how easy it is for consumers to find an alternative service if they are not satisfied with what they are receiving from a particular business. To prosper in the application economy every business, big or small, needs to learn to think as customers do, and to use technology in a way that optimises the customer experience. Those companies that invest in digital channels and engage with customers through technology are more likely to see an increase in their customer retention.

But being customer centric also means understanding your audience. Sarah Wilkinson, CTO at the Home Office, raised a very interesting point about this, referring to millennials - an audience that companies need to increasingly consider - "Millennials are completely comfortable with an adaptational approach." I absolutely love this quote! I'm a millennial myself, and embracing change comes to me and my friends very naturally. For example, when I first started school, we had chalk boards. By the time I left, we used touchscreen whiteboards that were connected to laptops. Millennials have grown up with technology and businesses should embrace this. No change is too dramatic for millennials and they will be ready to embrace the new trend or a piece of technology and adapt their lives to reflect it.

Overall, the event highlighted that the pace of technological change is having a massive impact not only on businesses, but also on the lives of ordinary people. The event provided a great insight into the minds of those who shape the way technology influences our lives. 

Meet the Stemettes: inside the event

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In November 2015 volunteer organisation Stemettes ran a campaign across multiple locations to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

During the event, panels were run simultaneously in London and Dublin to showcase speakers from different Stem fields and celebrate Ada Lovelace Day.

Here are two contributed blog posts from both sides of the event - an attendee and a panel member - designed to explain how the event went, and describe what parts of the day they found most beneficial.

An insider's view: "Meet the Stemettes" London - Alimat Bankole, co-founder of Nucleon Bytes


"I'm a certified ethical hacker." panelist Joe Wong told us on Saturday. This was one of the many amazing things said during the "Meet the Stemettes" London panel event which was sponsored and hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The diverse panel featured eight inspiring individuals who had excelled in Stem careers, including Keerthi Rachamallu, an alumnus of Stemettes' Outbox Incubator.

The panelists were the highlight of the event for me - they came from all walks of life within Stem - it wasn't predominantly chemistry, mathematics or engineering, but rather an interesting mixture. This allowed for a general overview of Stem to be represented when questions were asked.   

The panelists that particularly interested me were Tito Famakinwa, a data researcher from Bloomberg LLP, and Joe Wong, a VP (specialist cyber forensics) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

They spent time discussing the theme of mindset, especially towards maths. Maths is one of those subjects that students typically avoid due to its reputation of being difficult. They both said that, while they acknowledge the difficulty, with the correct mindset you can overcome it, thrive in it and even enjoy it. The possibilities of future careers are endless for those who choose to study maths.

I learnt many things at the event that I can directly apply to my own business. In particular, I will ensure I adopt a positive mindset when facing challenges. Valuing this outlook is something that the entire panel had in common - and it's safe to say that they were all successful in their chosen fields. 

Events like these are important because they are about giving girls role models who they can relate to. Seeing someone that's like you, someone that you can identify with succeeding in a predominantly male sector, will help spark a fire in a budding Stemette.

It'll show them that it's possible - that it's not just for boys, you can be a female in Stem too. I'd encourage girls to go to events like these. Not only do you leave with great advice and a new network, but you can also win prizes and leave with a stomach full of treats - Stemettes style.

"Meet the Stemettes" Dublin: A panelist's perspective - Elle Loughran, secondary school student and Youth Panel of the British Science Association member


Stemettes held its first Dublin event at Bank of America Merrill Lynch's offices on Saturday 7th November 2015. 'Meet the Stemettes' brought an audience of mostly young girls to hear from, and network with, a panel of seven women and one man in Stem.

I was invited onto the panel having participated in Outbox Incubator, an intensive entrepreneurship education programme for Stem-involved girls run by the Stemettes for six weeks in London.

My two weeks there during August were a whirlwind of learning, new friendships and opportunities, so of course I wasn't going to turn the Meet the Stemettes event down.

That "have a go" or "don't ask, don't get" mindset is what compelled me to fill out the long Outbox Incubator application online back in spring of this year, despite thinking I'd never actually get to go, and that's definitely worked out well.

At the event, we heard from each panellist in turn. I went second, talking about my journey into Stem then fielding questions about graphene, Christmas, Outbox Incubator and my favourite parts of this year of opportunities (so far). It was my first time speaking on a panel, so it was great getting to experience that alongside some really cool people and in a relatively relaxed atmosphere.

My favourite part of the event was getting to connect and reconnect with interesting people. I was reunited with many of my Outbox friends there, got to chat with Dr Shannon Chance, a DIT architect who came to the Outbox House in August to speak to us about design, and I sat on the panel with lots of cool people I'd heard of or seen online but never gotten to meet.

Professor Christine Loscher and Laura Tobin were among these, and we were given the chance to network with audience members, some of which were around my age and shared my interests.

The main benefit of my whole Outbox/Stemettes experience thus far has really been the network of amazing people I've encountered.

I loved hearing from all the panellists - there were lots of things I empathised with, and even more I aspire to.

As one of the panellists said, always look to and learn from those further ahead on your career path. Being a secondary school student, I have plenty of that to do, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

For example, Laura Tobin shared how she'd decided she wanted to discover an element and name it after herself, an idea most of us hadn't thought of but loved.

Prof Loscher described ways of finding what you really want to do and how it feels to find your 'tribe', people she found in the lab.

Dr Chance talked about scoping out universities on the down-low, which definitely rang a bell. Hey - they're interesting places.

I also loved hearing about Andreea Popa's love for astrophysics, her travels and how she ended up as a software developer at Microsoft.

Everyone mingled really well during the networking session, and when I asked an audience member what she thought of the event, she could barely pause her 'I met an architect!' enthusiasm long enough to say 'I loved it.' 

I think that's where the value in events like this lies - in showing people through example that their dreams are attainable, and connecting them with people who can help them along the way.

Closing the skills gap, in the UK and beyond

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This is a contributed post from Sharon Clews, director of people and talent management at techUK. 

There's no denying that the tech industry is facing an ever growing skills gap, which, if it goes unaddressed, will threaten the future growth of our industry and impact the wider economy.

One of the ways we can start to really move the needle is by increasing diversity within our sector. Take women in tech. By excluding half the population we are dramatically reducing the talent pool and potentially placing artificial limits on growth and innovation.

This is not just a UK problem. We have linked our women in tech programme to the European eSkills for Jobs campaign to bridge the digital skills gap across Europe.  By encouraging more young women to study and consider careers in STEM subjects we can start to fill the immediate demand, and build a skills pipeline for the European digital economy of tomorrow.

We know that diverse teams are more productive, efficient and collaborative. This is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If we can get this right, there are so many potential benefits.

It's a positive step that this issue is now openly acknowledged across the industry. However, we need to do more than just talk about the problem. Now is the time to act. This means addressing corporate culture and reviewing company processes to minimise the effects of unconscious bias.  

Unconscious bias can impact upon the culture of an organisation and affect decision-making with regard to the recruitment and promotion of key talent.  By training teams to recognise their own unconscious biases, organisations can positively impact their culture and make better people decisions.

We need to drive change across the industry and at all career stages, but there are some clear areas where we can measure change:

  • We want to see more women in FTSE 350 boardrooms, and have called on businesses and search firms to include female talent in their shortlists
  • We challenge businesses to offer best practice relating to their female population focused on attracting, retaining and sustaining talent at all levels in their businesses.
  • We want to make it easier for women returning to the workforce after a career break, to ensure talent and experience isn't lost

If we can make a difference even just in these three areas, we can finally start to see all the welcome efforts start to have a positive effect.

Following my passion for technology was one of the best decisions I ever made

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In this contributed article, Annabel Sunnucks, intern at CA Technologies, discusses her decision to pursue a career in technology and the advice she would give anyone considering a career in STEM.

Technology is something I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember, so it wasn't a difficult decision to study management and IT at Lancaster University. I'm often asked why I chose this subject and the answer is simple - technology has never failed to amaze me and fortunately I have been in the right generation to be able to keep up and observe the impact that it has on the world.

For me, the most attractive aspect of technology is problem solving. Problem solving is a challenge I have always loved - from completing puzzles at home through to programming at university. The potential of where we could be in terms of technology in 50 years' time fascinates me, and it's exciting to know that being involved in technology allows me to take my career in any direction.

There is an unfortunate perception that a career in tech is not a typical choice for a woman, so over the years I have been asked many times who inspired me - but it's difficult to choose just one person.

I have a lot of female role models in my family, my mother being the obvious one to look up to, but also others like my aunt who is the Director of Communications at a large technology company. I'm fortunate to have a very supportive family so my inspiration to be as successful and as happy as the women within my family has been my motivation to pursue something I love.

When it comes to women in tech, Marissa Mayer is someone I admire. Marissa's passion and dedication has made her into a successful business woman and it's great to see a female CEO with such influence. Since I joined CA Technologies earlier this year, I've been lucky enough to meet many women in leadership positions, who have also proved that technology doesn't have to be a male-dominated industry.

I strongly believe positive female role models are important to drive interest in STEM subjects, but there is also a need for a change in the curriculum. Whilst there have been positive steps towards educating students at a younger age about technology and engineering, I still believe more can be done. Pupils develop their passion for a subject when they're younger, which then feeds into the choices they make during higher education, because they feel more engaged and prepared.

The one piece of advice I would give any woman considering a career in STEM would be to simply go for it! Often, people assume that if you study IT at university, it means that you will then be stuck behind a computer writing code all day. But in reality, the possibilities are endless and the levels of potential are huge. STEM offers versatility that can't be compared to any other subject area and lets you choose many different roles and paths, from a NASA Curiosity Driver to a theme park designer.

I wouldn't want anyone at university or even in their careers to think "what if I studied a STEM subject, where would I be today?" As long as you have passion and dedication, you will succeed and STEM is no different in this regard. Whatever path you decide to take in life, it's not an easy ride - you will need to take risks, you will face challenges and you will face rejection.

As long as you have the passion to work hard, push yourself and not let anything get in your way, you will be successful - your gender has nothing to do with it.

Everywoman extends deadline for Technology Awards applications

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Applicants now have until November to nominate women for the FDM everywoman in technology awards.

The deadline for applications for the annual FDM everywoman in Technology Awards has been extended to 2 November 2015.

The awards are designed to showcase and celebrate women in the technology industry as well as the skills, innovation and leadership they bring to the table.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman said: "It's been wonderful to see the positive impact that winning one of these Awards has had on so many women's careers. The profile it has given them has had measurable impact on their progression, benefitting both the individual and the business she works in. We encourage every organisation to nominate their women."

All women in the technology industry can apply or be nominated for an FDM everywoman in tech award, and the ceremony aims to highlight the diverse pool of talented women working in the technology sector.

The 11 categories cover as many areas of tech as possible to give the opportunity for a number of different kinds of women to win including rising stars, engineers, leaders in large organisations or founders of disruptive startups.

The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards are free to enter and this year's categories are as follows:

Entrepreneur Award- Sponsored by ARM

Innovator Award - Sponsored by Equiniti

Team Leader Award - Sponsored by Asda

Leader Award - Sponsored by BP

International Leader Award - Sponsored by Fujitsu

Inspiration Award - Sponsored by VMware

Rising Star Award - Sponsored by American Express

The One to Watch Award - sponsored by EMC

Start-up Founder Award

And two new categories for 2016 are:

Digital Star Award - sponsored by CGI

Engineer Award

The awards are now open for entries until November 2 2015 and the awards ceremony will be held at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 23 February 2016 after the everywoman Forum 2016.

Over 500 industry leaders, government and the media will be in attendance to celebrate the award winners. 

Marketing the technology industry to women

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This is a guest post by Jennifer Kyriakakis, Founder and VP Marketing, MATRIXX Software

When people ask me what I do, I tell them my company develops software for communications providers, and the question that always follows is: How did you get into that?

I got into a technical field purely through exposure and interest. In my senior year of high school I took an elective computer class where we learned some basic programming and a little about this 'world wide web' thing that was taking off.

Fast forward a month and I was hooked. I knew Information Technology was a field succeeding during the recession and growing at a fast rate, so I declared my degree major, 'Management Information Systems' long before I'd even stepped onto campus.

Six of the seven people in my major were women. Little did I know then, this would be the last time I would be in that situation. As my career progressed, the number of women in my immediate peer circle kept getting smaller and smaller. Whenever I meet C-level members of a company today, there's rarely another woman in the room.

I've read the ratio has changed because women get married, have children and take time off. But I'm not sure that's true. The women I do know in executive roles all have children, and I've just had one of my own.

Growing minority

Recent statistics suggest there are simply less women in tech today than when I started my career. In 2013, just 26% of computing jobs in the US were held by women, down from 35% in 1990. In October last year, Microsoft reported that women make up almost one in three of its workforce, but only one in six work in technical positions, and just under a quarter hold leadership roles.

At Google, women account for 17% of the technical roles, with just 21% in leadership roles. Even lower in terms of diversity, Twitter reported just one in 10 women work in technical positions, with just one in five in leadership.

Given the expanding role technology has played in people's lives for the last 15 years, you'd think the trend would be moving in the opposite direction. Young women today grew up with mobile phones, laptops and fairly ubiquitous internet access. They grew up leveraging technology in most aspects of their lives - so today's work force has more exposure to tech than ever, yet the number of women working in the industry has been declining.

Even more ironic, when you look at aspects such as work/life balance, tech companies are great companies to work for. Yes, you work very hard, but unlike many other professions, you can do a good sized proportion of the work from anywhere, mobility has made that possible. Tech companies are also known for providing better benefits, healthcare, and other perks that will benefit your family that other industries can't provide. The tech industry is actually better aligned than most with many of the values women hold close such as the importance of flexibility with family and social time.  

So what is it about technology that's seemingly repelling women from an industry which is making huge leaps and driving the world's economy?

Exposing the diversity of tech

I think the problem here is not that we aren't exposed to science, maths or technology when we're younger, but rather the way we are exposed. If girls were exposed to all the different ways technology drives the economy right now, they would be inspired to work in technology - not turned off. I think what it actually 'looks like' to work in tech is completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Sure, if I watched Silicon Valley, I probably wouldn't want to work here either.

When I started out, working in technology largely meant working with enterprise software. Now we're in the age of the app economy, digital retailing and social networking. With technology driving so many industries today, you'd think more women would be attracted by the prospect of working in tech.

No matter what you are interested in - from fashion to food, movies to mountain climbing - there is a tech force behind it, building new technology to change or improve things. Technology today is centred on user experience and listening to the voice of the customer.  The industry itself is diverse in the technology being created, and the roles within those technology companies are by no means limited to developers and software engineers. 

There are more roles in product management, product marketing, user experience design, customer support, and so forth. These roles require something other than a hard core engineering skill set to be successful and are extremely crucial to the strategy and success of tech companies.  And if you think about traditional female vs. male skill sets - women tend to be better listeners, better multi-taskers, and are better at communicating than their male counterparts - which sets us up well to thrive inside of a tech company.

Marketing the industry

If you're reading this blog it probably means you're already working in technology or at least have an interest in it. So how do we inspire other women to follow suit? How can we change the stereotype of a developer sitting in a cube, tapping out code for some abstract piece of software? And finally, how can we draw women in from other industries?

I would market a career in tech the way you market a career in fashion or teaching. Be involved in the thing you love. Focus on the end product, rather than the nuts and bolts technology perspective of it.  Tech is not just about building software, it's about creating meaningful customer experiences and these days skills from other industries are far more transferrable than people realise.

Changing perceptions

As someone who works in the telecoms industry, I know in my sector, companies are actively seeking people from outside the industry to come in and shake things up. Similarly to the way Apple brought in Burberry's ex-CEO Angela Ahrendts to run its retail and online operations, telcos are looking to hire people from the retail space to bring a fresh perspective into the business and help them become a bigger part of the app economy which they have seemingly been left out of up until now.

It's time to change the way we market the technology industry to women of all ages. Mentoring and education are key factors, but we first need to work together to change the stereotype and relate technology to female interests, pursuits and values. In doing this, I think we'd see a shift back to a more balanced workforce.

The recipe for success for women looking to work in IT

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This is a guest post by Doris Mattingly, Director of Engineering, Lantronix

The statistics don't lie; there is still a clear gender gap within the IT industry. Despite an ever-growing need for an increase in skilled women in the IT industry, statistics show that only 17 percent of the industry is currently made up of women. Throughout my career I've witnessed a gradual increase of women in the IT industry, however, more still needs to be done to get women interested.

Addressing the issue

Thinking about how I got to where I am now, I owe a lot to my school. When I was growing up in Connecticut, I was lucky to attend a great high school. Whilst I was there, I developed a passion for maths and science. We were provided with advanced classes in the sciences and as a result it provided me with great options when applying to university. When deciding on what to study, I knew I wanted to work with both maths and science and because of this electrical engineering became a very appealing option. The degree provided me with plenty of hands on experience with both hardware and low-level software.

Many young children in education aren't as lucky as I was though. Great science and maths programmes are not commonplace and they often don't have the chance to take part in opportunities such as science and maths clubs. There is so much more that schools could - and I believe should - be doing to educate young girls on the IT and engineering sectors.

Programmes and campaigns

The UK government has taken steps to help address this problem. Campaigns to raise awareness in schools and recruit students to tech companies have been promoted through its STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) programme. However, despite this, each year the UK is short of 40,000 STEM graduates and the difficulty in recruiting these individuals is witnessed by 95% of graduate employers.

These statistics show that the government and universities still need to be doing more. As well as running career centres, universities should be looking to run regular seminars and discussions where students can learn more about specific IT industry opportunities. This would give students a chance to learn more on topics such as engineering, M2M, security, storage etc. It's tough for young students to go out and find all of this information by themselves.

Steps to success

For girls who have an interest in maths and science, or who already have an interest in the IT industry, but are unsure of what career path to follow, my advice would be to embrace the many opportunities that the IT industry has to offer. In my opinion, there has never been a more exciting, evolving and lucrative career path. But what should they do to get on this path? Here's my advice in four simple steps:

·         Highlight your skills and aspiration in the right place - Get your CV in shape and be sure to list your talents and relevant qualifications. Investigate the job market and apply for stimulating and varied roles

·         Involve yourself in training programmes - By being part of a club or training programme you can receive guidance on selecting the relevant GCSE, A-level, degree or industry-recognised accreditations necessary for the area of IT that you'd like to work in. STEM programmes are perfect for this and I would advise joining one to help you receive advice

·         Plan a route for your journey - Your career won't be as simple as going from 'A to B'. You will need to think tactically about where you would like to see your career path take you. By setting yourself goals you can monitor your progress by reaching one goal at a time

·         Seize the day - Go for it! Once you have secured the correct qualifications, seize the many opportunities that are out there. Once you know where you want to aim for, don't let anything hold you back from achieving your goal!

Getting started in the industry

Whether working in a tech start-up or an established organisation, both offer plenty of opportunities to shine. However, my experience has shown me that an individual is often more 'visible' in a start-up or small company and this offers a greater chance to stand-out and be recognised for their specific contributions. Whether choosing a small or large company, my advice for women to succeed remains the same - work smart and hard, be confident, and stay focused on the job and you're bound to be a success.

What a 14-year-old girl can teach you about business

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One of the ways you can make your business work? Make sure you have the same imagination as you did when you were young. 

I recently went to a workshop for female entrepreneurs in the IT industry designed to teach women who want to start a business where and how to seek legal advice.

Before we get too caught up in the advice that was given about women's networks, I wanted to highlight the advice given by a young entrepreneur named Jenny Brenan.  

Admitting it had been a while since her first venture, Brenan told how after setting up her own business she had handed it over to family when she got "distracted by her degree."

She was 11 when she taught herself to code, in the days where those with HTML skills had the best MySpace pages and your ability to keep your Neopets happy was a measure of your social standing.

She decided, at 14, to start a business making websites and trained and then hired her dad to help her along the way.

"I started a business because it was better and more fun than a Saturday job, but no one wanted a website from a 14 year old girl." she said.

Brenan explained this was the best way to be when starting a business: "I didn't have guts, I was 14, I just had no fear."

But whenever a client had a question, they would direct it at her dad despite her being the one giving all the answers.

"What a 14 year old shows there, is you might not always come across as the package that people need," she explains.

"In many ways it's a marketing problem."

Unfortunately this is a problem women in the IT industry still face and Brenan admits what she had previously called "a marketing problem" is "also a societal problem."

Later on this issue was discussed by a panel, featuring Susan McLean from Morrison & Foerster, Maria Shiao, MD of Novus Ordo Capital Ltd, Caroline Ferguson, founder of Living Lawyers, Lu Li, founder of women's network Blooming Founder and Catherine McClen, CEO of Buddy Hub.

The women stated they do still get underestimated, but you have to own your minority and use it to your advantage.

"We just want our fair share of the whole cake." Sated Li, who has built an advice network for women entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurship is a level playing ground," Li stated.

"Women need to believe more in themselves and their own capabilities - just go out there and do your stuff."

Maria Shiao then highlighted that eventually as long as you can follow up your claims and attitude with affirmative action, people will warm to you and your ideas.

All of the ladies highlighted that at first men in business may ignore woman and direct questions at other men, but if you keep bringing the conversation back to yourself the men will eventually get the message.

They also insisted that women should make use of the networks and tools available to them to keep themselves in the loop, ask other women for help, and eventually make the city and the industry a more diverse community.       

In the end, just as diversity makes teams more productive and innovative, it will be diversity that makes you stand out.

"Take the knocks, be strong with your business and what you're all about," summarised Morrison & Foerster's Susan McClean.

 "They might remember you against five Daves."


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