Prolific+ Jobs: Five female tech leaders on getting more women into the industry
With continual pressure being put on companies to address gender inequality in the workplace, research shows that we are making progress, albeit slow.
The problem of a gender imbalance in some industries isn't solved simply by just hiring more women. Trying to balance the scales in the tech world often starts with making STEM subjects more attractive options for young women.
Progress has been made, with the percentage of women working in STEM rising from 13% in 2014 to 24% in 2018, but there's still clearly a way to go.
We spoke to five inspirational female tech figures working in the North to find out what they would say to today's women looking to work in tech.
Zandra Moore, Founder of Panintelligence, Leeds
"Women really do have a great deal to contribute to the industry and it’s a fact that diverse teams come up with the best tech solutions to meet society’s needs.
"With a small, but growing, female talent pool from which to recruit, at Panintelligence we’ve seen first-hand the immense value of bringing women on board. A female developer recently joined our team, for example, and the effect has been palpable. Not only has there been a dynamic cultural shift but the atmosphere of the business is now more open and less siloed, with more empathy and tolerance around too.
"For women considering tech as a career, there’s never been a better time. It’s worth bearing in mind though that due the shortage of female role models in the industry it can be useful to get in touch with some of the many - very friendly, open and accessible - meet-up groups that exist for people working in tech. That way you’ll be able to find out more about the kinds of roles that are available. There is an incredibly broad spectrum – don’t assume it’s all coding geekery!
"For me, becoming a mum was the point at which I realised that the tech industry was still very entrenched in its archaic, male-orientated working practices. I became self-employed in order to be able to work flexibly within the industry, but it was clear that bringing more women into tech was the only way things would change. I’ve since recruited many women, and tech is evolving to become a far more flexible and female-friendly industry."
Michelle Hua, Founder & CEO of Made With Glove, Newcastle
"Tech is an industry that presents numerous opportunities for women and for people who aren’t stereotypically already in the tech industry namely those that come from the black, Asian, minority and ethnic backgrounds. Tech is now being used by everybody and should be accessible to everybody.
"Designers, creatives, technologists and senior leaders in tech can and should represent a more diverse industry. My advice is to find role models and support networks who can help you achieve your goals.
"As I entered the wearable tech industry in 2014 and started my own company, Made With Glove, I found a lack of women in this industry and co-founded Women of Wearables (WoW). WoW is a global organisation that connects women in wearables, IoT and AR/VR and to provide them with the support network they need.
"In just 18 months, we grew our international community from zero to more than 8000. CEO Marija Butkovic established eight chapters with local Ambassadors as role models spanning US, Asia and Europe. Because we believe that without role models, you cannot be what you cannot see."
Helen Wollaston, CEO of WISE Campaign
“Technology is transforming the way we live, work and do business. Whether you are interested in fintech, edutech, cleantech, biotech or beautytech, technology is growing exponentially everywhere. There are so many opportunities out there – exciting opportunities to shape the future and earn good money. I don’t want women to miss out.
"Women with a tech qualification are in such short supply that employers will be falling over themselves to offer them work. My advice would be to take advantage of the many networking and training courses designed to attract women. Some examples are the Hyperion coding bootcamps, the BBC tech training course for women, and Sky's Get into Tech initiative.
"I am motivated by the inspiring women I meet through my work. Chetna Arora, WISE Technology Award winner 2018 and now a manager at Plusnet in Sheffield, sums it up: “Being a software engineer provides you a platform to have a wide influence on society.”
Jenny Davies, CEO of M247, Manchester
"I’m currently CEO of a technology solutions company, headquartered in Manchester. Prior to that, I worked in utilities and telecoms so I’ve only ever worked in male-dominated environments. Although it’s all I’ve ever really known, working in these environments has taught me to be adaptable and resilient, but also become an inquisitive leader, strong people coach and facilitator of change.
"I’ve always been a believer in only ever judging a person on their ability to do the job. Their age, background and gender have no bearing on whether they’re good at their job or not!
"Some women might find it challenging to climb the corporate ladder as juggling a career with children isn’t often easy. But at M247 we encourage flexible working and compressed hours to enable our working parents (male or female) to maintain a healthy family/work balance. Hopefully, if more businesses adopted this approach, it’ll be easier for more women to excel in their careers.
"Currently almost a third of our workforce is female and I’d love to see more and more women come into tech careers. My advice would be to know your worth, work hard and let your results speak for themselves."
Professor Janet Cade, Founder of myfood24 and Leeds University Food Science and Nutrition Academic
"As an academic leader in nutrition, I was inspired to create a new approach to measuring diet, developing something better than 'pencil and paper', after years of struggling with inappropriate methods. We created a unique tool (myfood24) using online technology. Whilst I am not a programmer, I could see the way that we could harness the power of data to deliver high quality, evidence-based results. The need for such a system led to the foundation, in 2017, of Dietary Assessment Ltd, of which I am founder and Director. I work for the company alongside my full-time role as an academic.
"You need a strong vision for your tech solution and have a good team around you; you don’t need to be an expert in everything! Be interested in finding out how to use tech to solve the problems you are facing. If your team works well together, you can reach your goals.
"New forms of tech are the future, and women need to play a major role in those developments. Women need to have a voice in these tech advances and it is not necessary to have an engineering or maths degree to get involved (though, why not if you are interested!) We need to even up the opportunities for women, arising from the tech ‘men’s club’ mentality.
"I have taken my research area, nutrition - typically seen as of interest to women - and developed a tech company. I believe that women can achieve as much, and more, than men in this space and I am keen to support women in all aspects of the tech business from writing code or programming to marketing.
This story is a part of our Prolific+ February series on Jobs. Each month, we'll be diving deeper into a specific topic. You can find our January Prolific + series on Digital Healthcare here.