This article is part of our Essential Guide: Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK IT 2015

Selling tech as a lifestyle will attract more females says HDS

Dev Patel of HDS says we need to sell the lifestyle of the tech industry to appeal to more women

The tech industry needs to sell itself to women as a lifestyle to aspire to, a senior female executive at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has said.

Dev Patel, vice-president of Cloud Go-to-Market at HDS, took some time out of HDS Connect 2015 to speak to Computer Weekly about her experiences as a woman in the technology industry.

With over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, Patel has held technical roles at the likes of HP, Cisco and HDS.

She believes more females would be attracted to the technology industry if they were aware of how flexible the industry is and how successful you can be. 

“We need to sell the technology industry as a lifestyle. We need to show girls the lifestyle they can aspire to be part of and that will really grab them.

“My mum was in medicine and that has a bad work-life balance. Tech is phenomenal for allowing women to carry out every role they have – Mum, wife, worker, friend, etc. With technology as the enabler it allows you to be flexible in your career. You need a job where you have good work-life integration rather than balance. That is attractive to women when looking for a job,” said Patel.

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Having grown up near the NASA Ames Research Center in California, Patel said she fell in love with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at a young age.

“In my senior year in high school my maths teacher suggested I apply for the NASA scholarship, as I was inspired at school watching the space shuttle. In my third year of studying I realised what tech really is – solving problems.”

She said many women who enter the technology industry drop out a few years later. 

“There will be periods where things are not good and you don’t enjoy everything about your job, however opportunities will open up. Things change and I’m pleased I stuck at it.”

Patel advised that working in a male dominated industry can occasionally throw up some situations that you might not be completely comfortable with. 

“Be true to who you are and be comfortable in your own skin. You have to set your boundaries early on,” she said. 

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Which lifestyle would that be? The one where women are paid less than men, harassed, run into glass ceilings, given all the less important projects, and get death and rape threats when they become prominent?
I'm not sure that I agree that a career in technology is going to offer you a better work-life balance. That really depends a lot on the company that you work for. I've been at my company for seven years, and it's the norm for many departments, including IT, to be permanently understaffed and for employees to be overworked. 

Working in IT will often mean that you will be involved in some kind of support, and/or after-hours system maintenance, weekend deployments, etc. I don't think that that sounds attractive to anyone. 

I do have the flexibility of working from though, which is not very common in other departments outside of IT. 
I think this makes a really good point. You can be very successful and make great money in IT and still generally work a 40 hour week during daytime hours, generally have some schedule flexibility, get good paid vacation time and benefits, and if you make a good enough name for yourself or find the right company, you can even work remotely.

That's a big difference from your typical retail/medical/or service industry jobs, where most people work irregular difficult to schedule hours. Plus you can get started on the road to success without the years of training that medical or legal jobs require, and accumulate the experience as you go. It's really got a lot of advantages over other similar professions.