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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.'
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.
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.
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
Over 500 industry leaders, government and the media will be in attendance to celebrate the award winners.
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.
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.
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 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 industryWhether 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.
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."
The IT sector covers a wide variety of careers and firms - but who counts as an IT professional?
A while ago I was chatting to a woman who had quite a senior IT job. On finding out I had a Computer Science degree she suddenly announced "oh, you're one of us!"
I began to realise there's a bit of an elitist view of who actually counts as a woman in IT, so I was surprised when I was asked to talk about my role as Computer Weekly's Business Editor at a BCS Women and Women in High Performance Computing (HPC) event in September 2015.
I chatted about my degree, about what IT skills and training I have and how I ended up as an IT journalist.
The crowd had mixed opinions on whether or not I actually count as a "woman in IT" with some saying I have the training and I use the knowledge every day so I should count, and others saying I don't actually work in a technical job and so I am not an IT woman.
One of the speakers, Georgina Ellis from OCF, even said she was a "fraud" to be speaking at the event because she is a salesperson as opposed to a software engineer or something similar.
Like me she has the knowledge and she uses it every day, but she isn't in a technical role.
Regardless of whether or not I am worthy of a woman in IT title, the event I spoke at was designed to convince women at a career crossroads to consider moving into a role in the IT industry.
Other speakers on the panel were academics Lorna Smith and Alison Kennedy from EPCC, Toni Collis from EPCC who founded Women in HPC, Georgina Ellis from OCF and Gillian Arnold the chair of BCS women.
Each spoke about their background, their jobs and how they reached the point they are in their career.
Speaker Lorna Smith claimed the reason there's a drop off in IT careers after getting a degree is down to universities.
"There is a problem with career plans for software engineers in universities," she said.
"Universities struggle with career progression."
To tackle some of the pressures women put on themselves when wanting a successful career, Gillian Arnold gave some sound advice which could be applied in most industries including speaking out for your achievements rather than waiting for them to be noticed, making sure you examine your own motivations and finding and using active networks in your industry to your advantage.
Toni Collis followed up by explaining there are few opportunities day-to-day for women to interact with other women in the sector, and women's networks can provide support.
"There's no shame in wanting to network with other women." She insisted.
The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards 2016, partnered with techUK, are now open for nominations.
Everywoman's sixth annual event is searching for 2016's most successful, inspirational and influential women working in the technology sector.
Launched in 2011, the awards celebrate females making a difference in the technology industry, whether they're startup founders, leaders in large firms or still building their path.
By showcasing these women's achievements through the awards, the FDM everywomen in Technology awards aims to inspire others to pursue a career in IT.
Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman said: "These Awards are playing a hugely important role in shining the spotlight on talented, successful women who have the ability to inspire a girl, a graduate, a colleague to pursue a career in technology. Only this will help increase the number of women working in technology from the woefully small 25%."
Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer of title sponsor FDM Group commented: "FDM is delighted to be sponsoring the everywoman in Technology Awards 2016 for the fourth consecutive year, as we continue to share a commitment to supporting, maintaining and celebrating tech talent within the industry. Diversity in the workplace is fundamental to business growth and success; it drives innovation, facilitates communication and improves global awareness. To push this diversity we aim to promote a gender -balanced workforce and continue to be inspired by the many women who are driving technology forward. FDM's dedicated global Women in IT campaign is our way of showcasing our continued commitment to driving gender diversity in the workplace, by encouraging women to pursue a career in tech."
Julian David, CEO of techUK said: "techUK is once again delighted to support the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. Attracting appropriately skilled employees continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the UK tech sector and we need a greater representation of the working population to join UK tech companies and help support continued sector growth. In particular, we need to work hard to attract smart, skilled women who are not currently attracted to the industry and communicate the breadth of career opportunities in tech that are open to all."
The FDM everywoman 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
The awards are open for entries until October 27 2015 and the awards ceremony will be held at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 23 February 2016.
It's nearly that time of year again where our friends over at everywoman hold their leadership academy at IBM's Southbank.
The 2015 everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology aims to equip women in technology with the skills they need to advance their careers and to become confident leaders.
As a partner of the everywoman academies Computer Weekly has attended this event several times and I always look forward to learning something new and worthwhile in the workshops available on the day.
With the need for IT professionals expected to grow by 1.6% per annum until 2020, the industry needs to do more to not only encourage more women to consider a career in IT but to also retain the talented ones that already work within the sector.
During this year's October academy you will learn how to:
· Developing a long term career plan
· How to stay motivated
· Creating a positive personal brand
· Building resilience to navigate workplace challenges
As a supporter of this event, everywoman are offering our readers a 20% discount off tickets. Last year was a sell-out event so ensure you book your space early and enter the code CW20.
Venue: IBM Southbank, London
Date: 15 Oct 2015 8.30am to 4.45pm
This is a guest blog by Eileen O'Mara, vice president sales EMEA at salesforce.com.
This year's shortlist for the ComputerWeekly Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT is more impressive than ever, and seeing the achievements of so many interesting and successful women in technology laid out before me got me thinking about Geena Davis and her See Jane campaign.
I realised I was looking at a list of the UK's most intelligent, powerful businesswomen from every type of technology company. Their outstanding achievements will be celebrated through the rankings - clearly, great strides are being made to improve the opportunities for young girls and women alike within the IT industry.
But although it's a great step forward, it's still only just the beginning.
At present, there are just over five men for every one woman studying computing in the UK. And this number is the lowest that it's been in years. This means - sadly - that the UK economy is missing out on significant opportunities for growth, innovation and success. One recent report predicted that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy.
The reason why Salesforce sponsors and participates in these programmes is to help drive interest for women of all ages to choose careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and start making positive strides to turn back this tide. We need to do as much as we can to recognise the achievements of female IT executives in the UK and Ireland.
But we need to do more than just sponsor - and attend - awards ceremonies, even though they have a massively important role to play of course.
A recent interview with Geena Davis in McKinsey Quarterly looks at the potential impact of the lack of girls in family films. The ratio of male to female characters is 3:1, the same as it's been since 1946. Davis argues that it's probably not a coincidence that in many segments of society--including on boards, in politics, and even in IT companies - the percentage of women stalls out at around 17 percent, given that we condition young children to see that kind of number as the norm.
It's important therefore that we make the issue of women in IT not just about women. So many of the hurdles we face actually come from social and cultural norms that both men and women propagate. That means getting men educated and involved in the debate as much as women. Next year I hope to see even greater male participation and interest in the Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT event.
We must do more to showcase the impact and potential for women in IT. Geena Davis talks about how easily and quickly children incorporate what they see into an understanding of the role of men and women in society. At Salesforce, we like to say that you can't be what you can't see - that young girls really need to see and hear from mentors and successful women to know and understand what we can achieve, in the IT industry and beyond.