Women in business technology top stories of 2013

Read the top women in business technology stories for the year and see what the hottest debates surrounding gender were for 2013.

Women have been busy making their mark on the tech sector this year, so Computer Weekly takes a look back at some of the top women in business technology stories for 2013.

At the beginning of 2013 service provider FDM Group held an event at Glazier Hall, near London Bridge, to promote the need for attitudes to change towards flexible working for both men and women in order to change gender diversity.

A panel of speakers shared their views and experiences of being a female in the tech sector and how women enter the business technology workforce at the same rate to men but that the dropout rate for women is higher. The ladies present at the meeting concluded that the main reason for this is down to the lack of employer flexibility.

This seems to be one of the reasons that UK women are choosing to start their own businesses instead of joining the male dominated corporate world of IT.  With more female business owners saying they have started to notice a rise in the amount of women opting to start their own tech firms, Computer Weekly decided to look into the reasons behind this new movement.

The business women that Computer Weekly spoke to agreed that running your own business means greater flexibility and control instead of having to fight your own corner all the time. Computer Weekly did hear about some horror stories this year from female contacts, which got in touch to share the worst advice they had ever received. As discussed at FDM Group’s event at the beginning of the year, there is a high drop off rate for females in the industry and we decided to investigate why.

Sharing experiences

Computer Weekly asked the females in the industry, that thankfully did decide to stay put, what type of advice they had been given during their time in technology – and did we get some interesting responses to this story.

Business women in technology contacted Computer Weekly to share their experiences on being told to stop thinking how a woman would react and instead think like a male. One female IT professional said during university she was told not to waste her time as the industry doesn't want women. Other advice given was to do your best to blend in or become a secretary instead.

Computer Weekly received some interesting comments about this story including several males who wanted to get in touch to express their views on how valuable they find the females on their team.  There has been lots of research published this year on how diversity can improve a team’s productivity and the men who contacted Computer Weekly couldn’t have agreed more.

So, in response to the worst advice ever received story Computer Weekly wrote about the reasons why men in IT see women in IT a valuable asset. We 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.

Regardless of gender, the majority of males questioned said they believe women possess many qualities that are needed to run a successful business. During the time of this article’s publication 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 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.

Deterring women in business technology

So what is deterring females from technology? Computer Weekly’s women in tech blog Witsend had a contribution from a schoolgirl in 2013, which was very popular with readers. The piece discussed why schoolgirls are not interested in studying IT by talking about her own ICT classes and why she won’t be pursuing the subject at levels higher than she is required to.

Another reason women are not attracted to the industry may be the outdated use of terminology in job advertisements and apprenticeship opportunities. During the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards 2013 a roundtable discussed this issue. The senior executives who attended the event came to the conclusion that the terminology, branding and way in which IT jobs are packaged could be deterring females from applying for roles.

Present at the roundtable was a representative from Cisco who explained that when Cisco sent out a request for system engineering apprentices, initially all of the applicants were from young men. When it relaunched the job specification with a greater focus on technology and relationship building, rather than engineering, it got a higher level of young female applicants.

This could be down to the fact that women in tech think differently to men in tech. Women think and react differently to men was the topic of discussion at a Mortimer Spinks women in technology roundtable this year in partnership with Computer Weekly and Lady Geek.

Those present felt that women have a tendency not to apply for a job role if the requirements are bulleted, as the majority will only apply if they are qualified in most of the points on the list.

A Mortimer Spinks survey this year, also in partnership with Computer Weekly, revealed women don’t realise how good they are. Both men and women agreed to being happy with a career in technology and being offered equal opportunities, but women are lacking self-belief, according to the survey. It also found that men and women feel there no is longer is a major difference in career happiness and opportunities for promotion, regardless of maternity leave or career breaks. 95% of women said they are happy with their careers in technology, exactly the same number as men.

Watch the speaker videos from Computer Weekly’s women in IT event 2013

  • Nela Brown QMUL
  • Lesley Cowley Nominet 
  • Jacqueline de Rojas CA
  • Rebecca George Deloitte and BCS 
  • Chi Onwurah Cabinet Office
  • Maggie Berry WEConnect International 
  • Jo Swinson Gpvernment Minister
  • Ann Brown Capgemini 
  • Gillian Arnold, BCS Women

However, despite these positive results there is still one major difference between men and women – self-belief. When asked how successful respondents were in achieving certain career factors, on average men considered themselves 20% more successful at “being prepared to take risks” (21%),“being ambitious” (23%) and “being able to work extra hours/weekends” (15%) when compared to women respondents. Women chose not to tick the “very successful” box as often as their male counterparts.

Confidence and self-belief were also topic that came up at everywoman’s academies this year. They held two academies, one sponsored by Cisco and one by IBM.  At the first academy women were encouraged to take charge of your career path to success and at the second were encouraged to set your boundaries and stick to them.

During the first academy of the year Jacqueline de Rojas, vice-president and general manager UK and Ireland at CA Technologies, discussed game-changing moments with the audience.

She said one of her game-changing moments was when she became clear about her "personal brand." This was also something she discussed at Computer Weekly’s Women in IT event for 2013. This event was held to ask the question of what YOU can do to change the future of IT. 10 women in business technology shared their advice during an afternoon at the Charing Cross Hotel.

During the day Computer Weekly also announced the 25 most influential women in UK IT 2013. Joanna Shields, CEO and chair of Tech City Investment Organisation took the top spot this year as the most influential woman in IT.  

The aim of compiling an annual list of the top 25 most influential women in UK IT is to focus on the role of women in IT, recognise the most influential role models and discuss the vital part that female IT leaders will take in making a difference to the future of the UK’s high-tech economy.

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