Who are the women in IT?

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.