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Women are the “crisis managers of the world” so the IT industry needs to “re-frame” how it presents itself to women to make jobs in technology more appealing, according to the most influential woman in UK IT 2015, Jacqueline de Rojas.
De Rojas, who is area vice-president for northern Europe at Citrix and deputy president of TechUK, topped Computer Weekly's 2015 list of the 50 most influential women in UK IT.
Speaking of her own experience of carving out a career in IT, de Rojas tells Computer Weekly she did not choose the tech industry, rather it chose her. “I actually wanted to read the news – I wanted to be a newscaster,” she says.
“I did a language and business degree in Germany, one of the creative arts, and then came back to the UK to look for my first job. I was offered a job in technology recruitment, so it was all about people and how they impact the business. After two years, I went to work for my largest client, which was a tech company called Synon.”
Discussing the challenge of attracting more females to the IT sector, de Rojas suggests one way would be to “re-frame” the way the industry advertises job roles and presents itself as a whole.
“Women are probably the crisis managers of the world – aren’t we all just saviours of the planet when it comes to being under pressure with our families or work? If we re-frame what the role is – instead of saying it’s a coding job or an engineering job, we should re-frame that as problem-solving – I think that would really make a difference in encouraging young girls into the industry,” she says.
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“Wearable tech is a great example of that, where you can take lots of different metrics for people who want to stay in their own homes rather than go into a care home, for example, and to be able to use that technology to great effect. I really think that will make a big difference.”
De Rojas says she has had some amazing role models throughout her own career journey, and the industry needs to find more to encourage the next generations.
“I don’t think we called them mentors or sponsors back then, but I had people who cared about me and who cared about my career outcome, and that served me very well through my own journey,” she says.
Instead of saying it’s a coding job or an engineering job, we should re-frame that as problem-solving
Jacqueline de Rojas, Citrix and TechUK
Despite the tech sector having campaigned for several years for more women in technology, the number entering the sector is slowly declining. “It is really interesting that we’ve done so much work to encourage women and girls into the industry, but that the number has still declined,” says de Rojas.
“There are three things that I would probably focus on. One, if we really want it we have to really focus on it, and that means creating internships – I wouldn’t call them apprenticeships, but internships, so changing the language on how we encourage girls into tech at a young age.
“Two, I’d say funding is important – so encourage things like free training in technology for women returners or just women who want to go into tech. That will certainly make a practical difference quickly.
“And three, I’d just make it fun. This is the industry which is all about innovation, creative gamification and wearable technology. We need to make it something to be excited about to encourage young girls into the industry.”