GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post from CEO of Amicable and everywoman Innovator Award category finalist, Pip Wilson, explains to encourage girls into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers the industry should be clear that tech is not just about coding
What do you love most about working in the tech industry / your role?
What I love most about working in tech is the opportunity you have to be dynamic and innovative. At amicable, the company that I co-founded with my business partner Kate Daly, we are building a business that will really help people to better manage a situation that has traditionally been complex and stressful. That’s exciting and it’s made possible by the progress being made in technology. The capacity we have to change people’s lives for the better is what drives me, and I’m passionate about encouraging others in the industry to do the same.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in tech and how can we dispel them?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about working in tech is that you need to be a certain ‘type’ of person to get ahead. I don’t just mean this in terms of gender or ethnic diversity. It is also the idea that you have to have a certain level of intelligence or type of personality to fit in. The tech industry is huge and there are so many opportunities to contribute. The stereotypes we see in shows like The Social Network or The IT Crowd do not reflect the many different people who work in the industry. We definitely need to do more to shine a light on the unsung heroes of tech.
What can be done to encourage more young girls to study Stem subjects and pursue a career in tech? Are you involved in any initiatives?
We need to fight the idea that there is no place for young women in science or technology. I think it’s a symptom of the wider problems with the way we teach but science, maths and technology are exciting subjects that open up so many possibilities, personally and professionally. Schools need to find more creative ways of encouraging girls to keep studying these subjects beyond the age of 14.
There is a preconception that tech is about coding and you have to learn to code to be successful, I believe the ability to use existing digital products to solve real life problems will I believe be more and more relevant over time.
How important are role models for young people, particularly girls, when pursuing Stem subjects? Did you have any when you were growing up?
I think role models are very important for young people, especially girls, who are interested in Stem subjects. The most frustrating thing is that there are so many women in history – and today – who are pioneers in our industry. We just never hear about them! A personal role model of mine is the late Mary Lee Berners-Lee, one of the best computer programmers in a generation and the ‘grandmother’ of the world wide web. I had the privilege of meeting her a number of times as she lived close by, and she really was an inspirational woman.
Role models don’t have to be famous. For example I’m also a trustee of the Girls Network, a charity that matches young women from the least advantaged communities with female mentors, including some fantastic women in Stem.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in tech? Anything you wish you knew?
I struggle to see how technology won’t be an important part of pretty much every job going forward, even those currently thought of as more manual. Therefore it’s more about making it clear to everyone that they need to learn enough technology skills to help them succeed in their chosen area. By doing this I think more and more people will love the technology angle and it will remove a lot of the stigma.
For those wanting to get into coding or artificial intelligence (AI) or new areas then join support groups and forums as soon as possible, there is a huge amount of information available.