The subject of women in IT tends to be one that is discussed mostly by women who work in IT, as females in the sector share stories, tips, and advice.
But what about the men who work alongside these women? Computer Weekly asked men their views on the sometimes sensitive topic of the importance of mixed gender teams and why it is important to increase the number of females working in the industry.
Jerry Brand, managing director at Caternet, said the current statistics of women working in the IT sector surprise him: “While there are the obvious gender differences between men and women, it’s been my experience that women are more precise and strategically intelligent than men – a quality that is highly beneficial to the technology sector.
"The whole subject is thought-provoking, because I believe that women possess so many of the qualities that are essential for the successful running of a business (regardless of industry).”
Qualities needed for running a business
Brand explained that women are often far less “precious” about their careers than men. “I’ve witnessed scenarios where a man has not been given the promotion they expected and as a result they have felt that it was the end of their career at that company," he said. "Yet on the flipside, I’ve known women to be far more tenacious and stoic, always striving to see the positives of what they can do to improve performance.”
According to Brand women are better team players compared with men, so the fact that women only make up 17% of those that work in technology sector is a disappointing figure.
He added: “It’s disappointing that the IT industry is not more welcoming of women, because I’ve been fortunate to meet many ambitious women throughout my career; in particular I have the utmost admiration for working mums who are usually great team players and who really seem to put their life-expertise to good use in the working environment – something that many IT companies could benefit from.”
Possibly a reflection of the many roles that a woman embraces – career, home, wife, mother, etc – Brand noted: “It would also take a brave man to deny that women are much more focused and level-headed when it comes to dealing with pressure.
“But women also seem to understand the importance of customer service better than men, particularly in the area of IT where service levels are not always a priority for ‘technically-minded’ personnel who are more focused on the nuts and bolts of the technology itself,” he explained.
Brand highlighted that more obviously needs to be done to encourage more women into a male-dominated sector; however he wonders how many women are currently studying for IT-related careers in higher education, or even at secondary school level.
More on women in IT
“Surely the enormous push from the Far East, as well as TV-based marketing of science programmes should help more women to start pushing into the sector?" he said. "t would be a great shame and a great loss to the industry of the diverse but complimentary working culture that comes from mixing both men and women in business,”
More women in leadership roles
Paul Veitch, director of application development for Avanade UK, relayed similar experiences. He said throughout his career in IT he has worked with many women, however, the change he has seen in more recent years is more women moving into leadership roles within organisations traditionally considered male dominated.
“What a diversified organisation brings, that is most valuable to Avanade and our customers, is a more well-rounded view on a business and technology problem which is often focused on the human aspects, however I find women are also able to offer unique strategic viewpoints that enable Avanade to help our customers in new and valuable ways,” he said.
Veitch is responsible for the Graduate Programme for Avanade in the UK and said: “We recognise that there is a challenge in recruiting women from the education system in the UK to our industry and we have put particular focus about bringing in talented women into our organisation to realise the benefits that a well-rounded workforce brings.”
On the importance of mixed gender teams Jacqueline de Rojas, vice-president and general manager UK & Ireland at CA Technologies, said: “It’s vital we promote a healthy mix of gender, ethnicity and social backgrounds within businesses to drive creativity and innovation. It is only through thinking in new ways and promoting alternative approaches to existing problems that we can hope to grow the economy in these tough economic times.”
Recently, Amy Stirling stepped down from her role as chief financial officer at TalkTalk. Stirling’s exit was the latest in a string of high-profiles female CEOs and CFOs to leave FTSE500 companies, which has added to the continued decrease in the number of women represented on UK executive boards. Others include Stacey Cartwright, chief financial officer of Burberry, and Rona Fairhead and Dame Marjorie Scardino at Pearson.
De Rojas added: “While I have absolutely no doubt that the male replacements who stepped into each of the above roles are hugely qualified, talented and deserving of their office, there is no question in my mind that UK PLC is worse off for the reduction in women in senior roles.
“Indeed, businesses benefit from diversity at all levels, from the shop-floor right up to the boardroom.”
This was first published in March 2013