February 2011 Archives

We need legislation to get more tech women into boardroom

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Clare Grant is director at the Women in Mobile Data Association. She shares her views about Lord Davies's independent review into women on boards.  

While any initiative like the Lord Davies report which aims to spark companies into getting more women into their boardrooms is welcome, I'm not convinced that the report's conclusion about getting businesses to sign up to voluntary targets or codes of conduct is the answer.

Where's the incentive? It hasn't happened so far, so why will telling companies to meet a 25% target by 2015 without any penalty or incentive work now?

Surely it's better for the government to legislate and incentivise for options like flexible working and mentoring schemes which allow women to get there on merit?

Why not, for example, give tax breaks for companies that implement such schemes?

I agree that quotas aren't the way to go. Women want to feel they've earned the right to be there. If quotas were forced on business, can you imagine the working relationship women would have with their male colleagues who'd know they didn't get there just on merit?

Flexible working will help encourage women back to work because it will give them choice. At the moment it is very difficult for women to continue their career where they left off after having a child.

Shared maternity leave proposed by the UK government will help, but so will helping businesses to adopt flexible working hours, remote working or indeed career breaks for male and female colleagues.

Change also has to come from the boards themselves. If you look outside of the FTSE companies featured in the report (and let's face it, most people have to), women find it tough going, especially in traditionally male sectors like technology.

In sectors like mine - mobile - where just 17% of IT and telecoms professionals are women, it's going to take a cultural and educational shift to get more women into the sector, let alone the boardroom.

You only have to look at the virtually all-male board of the GSM Association which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry to see what a long road it is.

Groups like the GSMA and technology boardrooms up and down the country need to think long and hard about how to adopt diversity strategies and policies - like mentoring and periodic diversity audits - that help to bring the broader issues to senior management teams.

Starting with the GSMA, isn't it time you led by example?

Is Lord Davies's women on boards quota aim patronising?

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Lord Davies's independent review into women on boards has been released today.

Lord Davies recommends that UK-listed companies in the FTSE 100 should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015.

Lord Davies said, "Currently 18 FTSE 100 companies have no female directors at all and nearly half of all FTSE 250 companies do not have a woman in the boardroom. Radical change is needed in the mindset of the business community if we are to implement the scale of change that is needed."

But how much will getting more female-bums-on-boardroom-seats make a real difference to female equality in the workplace and gender stereotypes?

While this is not a mandatory quota, more of a recommendation, the idea of gender quotas in business is dangerous territory.

There is a danger that women who work their way up could be seen as merely meeting government guidance rather than being an equal and valid member of the board, undermining the perception of women in the workplace and among male peers.

On the other hand, perhaps more female role models at the top of the tree could encourage more female talent to aspire to higher positions.

A podcast with FT featuring Lord Davies, Anna Ford, Miles Templeman, Alison Carnwath, Julie Meyer and Julia Budd shared their thoughts on the recommendations, available here.



Shortlist revealed for CWT everywoman technology awards

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Everywoman and Connecting Women in Technology (CWT) in association with www.womenintechnology.co.uk, have revealed the finalists of the CWT everywoman in Technology Awards.

Computer Weekly are supporting the awards as a media partner and hope to get some of the winners writing for WITsend.

See the shortlist below:

Rising Star of the Year

Emma Davids, IT professional, Yorkshire Water Services Ltd from Bradford

Stephanie Nicolaou, ICT systems analyst, Agusta Westland Helicopters Ltd from Somerset

Madiha Sayed, partner system engineer, Cisco from Feltham

Anushree Srivastava, vice president of Goldman Sachs from London


Business Leader of the Year

Lesley Cowley OBE, chief executive officer of Nominet from Oxford

Janet Day, director, Technology and Infrastructure Services of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP from London

Christine Hodgson, executive chairman of Capgemini UK plc from London

Bernadette Wightman, managing director, Partner Organisation, Cisco UK & Ireland of Cisco from Feltham


Team Leader of the Year

Carol Bogue-Lloyd, head of end user services for the North West European Cluster of Siemens IT Solutions and Services from Frimley

Sarah Lynch, development director, Snow Valley Ltd from London

Billie Major, core assets portfolio director of Capgemini UK plc from Telford

Paula Walter, vice president of Goldman Sachs International from London


Innovator of the Year, sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Naomi Chayen, professor of biomedical sciences, Imperial College London from London

Leesa Fogarty, vice president Northern Europe & Asia Pacific of Augure UK Limited from London

Ella Romanos, managing director of Remode from Plymouth


Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by BP

Alicia Navarro, CEO and co-founder of Skimlinks from London

Wendy Tan-White, founder and CMO of Moonfruit from London

Juliet Tzabar, managing director of Plug-in Media from Brighton


Inspiration of the Year

Jo Alma, managing director of Goldman Sachs from London

Philippa Snare, technical sales and marketing director of Microsoft Ltd from London

Nikki Walker, senior director inclusion, diversity & sustainability Europe of Cisco Systems from London



The awards ceremony will take place on 22nd March 2011 at the Landmark Hotel in London. For table bookings, contact everywoman on 0207 981 2574 or visit their website.

INQ CEO: Pretty girls use iPhone and Blackberry because Android is too complicated

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At Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week, INQ Mobile CEO, Frank Meehan, quipped to Mashable:

"If you go to a nightclub in any city in the world, the pretty girl has an iPhone or a BlackBerry," Meehan told Mashable.

"She doesn't have an Android phone. She has no emotional attachment to an Android phone. It's too complicated. It's a geek device, it's all wrong."

Indeed, how can girls in nightclubs be expected to dance to Gaga, hold a pout and use a handset running on an open-source mobile operating system at the same time?

Brave words.

Perhaps it's fair to comment that different handsets and mobile operating systems are marketed at different people with different lifestyles.

But it's frustrating that Meehan reduces female use of technology to aesthetic qualities only. 

Considering the massive gender inequality in the technology industry, tech top dogs making narrow-minded observations to reinforce gender stereotypes is a bit of a no-go.

Also, if you're a pretty geek or a pretty male, what phone do you use then, Mr Meehan?

Workplace power is more of a slur than improvement for gender equality

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I recently wrote a blog about the top 10 most powerful women in Silicon Valley and the differences between the power women wield in the workplace compared to men.

I got in touch with Peter Johnson, work psychologist and owner of Fairday Research Ltd, who made some interesting points about celebrating the power of women in the workplace.

He said there is evidence of workplace gender differences although this is tempered by studies that suggest that some women who rise to the top in a 'man's world' do so by playing the male game particularly well, referencing Margaret Thatcher.

"If this is the case with these women - and it would require evidence or biography to ascertain this - then I'm not overly certain that it is something to particularly celebrate," said Johnson.

"Are these women simply the gender equivalent of the slur once used by the black community in the US - Oreo - which means black on the outside, white on the inside? Are we getting female leaders who are biologically female, but in terms of their leadership styles, act male?," he added.

"I'm a fan of feminism's radicalism, and its offer of a new paradigm for the world - and the workplace. This model offers participatory and communicative leadership styles that could perhaps create a quantum shift and improvement in the way things get done in the workplace." he concluded.

Read his article, 'Women could fast track the alternative IT needs', here.

UK maternity provisions contribute to women leaving IT. Will we see a change in maternity laws?

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The government has come under a lot of scrutiny of late, with public spending cuts not proving very popular. But there is a beacon of light in all the doom and gloom - Nick Clegg's plans to reform maternity leave.

The deputy PM, who shares childcare responsibilities with his wife, a successful lawyer, was quoted as saying:

"Right now, when a child is born, fathers are entitled to just a paltry two weeks of paternity leave. These rules patronise women and marginalise men. They're based on a view of life in which mothers stay at home and fathers are the only breadwinners. That's an Edwardian system that has no place in 21st-century Britain."

I have always maintained that the current maternity and paternity provisions in the UK are a significant contributing factor to the high number of women leaving IT and reaching senior positions - we have one of the most unequal set-ups in Europe, which must change.

At the moment, the majority of women that do reach the top either do not have families or they have partners who stay at home. But in 2011 why should we have to choose between children and a career?

At one of our past events, one female attendee said 'In Sweden a guy can take up to one and a half years of paternity leave - there's no discussion about who's at home with the kids; you both are' and I think that mentality is one that we need to work towards.

Women are a valuable asset to the business world but without drastic measures we're not going to see much of a change. Allowing men and women to share maternity leave would mean neither would have to sacrifice their career, and would hopefully encourage employers to consider more flexible working options for their workforce.

With more part time work for both men and women, the IT industry will be able to retain a lot more of its talent.

So well done Mr Clegg, we applaud your efforts. Let's hope that the plans materialse and make a real difference.

Computer Weekly is supporting

CWT everywoman in Technology Awards


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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