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Be the exception: Tips for women moving into technology careers

Happy woman getting anew job offer, shaking hands with colleague

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Aima Owen, chapter lead in the consumer CIO office at BT Group’s digital unit, provides insights on how women from various backgrounds can transition to new careers in technology sector.
Aima Owen, chapter lead in the consumer CIO office at BT Group’s digital unit

After leaving the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Corps, Aima embarked on a career at OpenReach. Currently at BT Group, her responsibilities encompass the successful delivery of end-to-end strategic technology projects, demonstrating her exceptional skills and determination.

MOVING INTO TECHNOLOGY – AN INDUSTRY THAT CONTINUES TO BE DOMINATED BY MEN – MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THE INITIAL CHOICE FOR WOMEN WHEN THEY CONSIDER THEIR CAREER OPTIONS.

This is a mindset that we undoubtedly need to change if we aspire to see greater representation within the STEM job market. Technology has become an integral part of everyone’s daily life – we all interact with various forms of technology. Therefore, it’s only logical that women should have a more significant role to play in this process.

As a child, I had big ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had aspirations of becoming a doctor or a scientist. Back then, I couldn’t have predicted that I’d one day study electronic engineering at university, go on to work in vehicle maintenance in the army, and ultimately find myself in a tech role at BT Group through an apprenticeship. Why was this foresight lacking? Perhaps due to the scarcity of related role models in those fields – or maybe because I was unaware that such roles could align with my abilities. Regrettably, this aspect still holds true today. Despite women constituting approximately 50% of the UK workforce, the tech industry only sees 24% female representation.

However, let’s remember that not following the conventional path doesn’t mean a tech career isn’t meant for you. Working in tech is exciting and rewarding, offering a chance to contribute to something profoundly impactful. Your journey can be as unique as you are, leading to a role where you make a real difference.

BE EAGER TO ADAPT AND LEARN

At any junction in your life, you have the power to move into a technology role if that’s something you’d like to do. And it’s not limited to coding and hardware. Numerous skills are transferrable and are buildable from lived experience, such as management and problem-solving. If you have a desire to learn, there’s a plethora of learning opportunities to seize, whether through apprenticeships or entry-level IT learning courses.

And even when you’re in technology, you don’t really ever stop learning. For me, every day is different. One day could be dedicated to shaping transformative projects, followed by refining project management across teams the next. The beauty of tech roles lies in their inherent flexibility as well. We blend remote work with office days and on-site visits spanning across the nation. The diversity of experiences is what keeps this journey ever engaging.

BE THE EXCEPTION

Naturally, there might be instances where you feel like the odd one out. It’s understandable, considering that 78% of students struggle to name a prominent female figure working in technology, according to PwC. There continues to be a significant gender gap in the industry that, despite progress in recent years, which can create barriers for women, and even an unwelcoming work environment. However, being the exception can also be your biggest strength. Women possess the ability to inject fresh perspectives and innovative concepts—a novel approach that the industry eagerly requires. You also have the power to inspire other women to embark on an exciting and dynamic career venture.

Never allow the fear of conforming to others’ expectations impede your ability to unlock your potential.

I’ve encountered numerous voices over the years implying that I would inevitably move to an office-based, less physically demanding job. My time in the army laid the foundation for what I do today as a Chapter Leader at BT Group — equipping me with the resilience to tune out the external noise and stay true to my path.

KEEP THE BIGGER PICTURE IN MIND

At the same time, for every person who questions your capabilities, there’s another ready to lift you higher. Men in the technology sphere must stand in solidarity with women in the industry, recognising that the transformation we want to see must stem from our collective efforts to diversify, extend opportunities, and inspire the next generation. This unified endeavour reaps substantial rewards – research by McKinsey reveals that companies led by female executive teams outperformed those with lesser gender diversity by nearly 50%.

Undoubtedly, our world is on an inexorable path toward heightened digital connectivity, progressively reliant on technology for myriad tasks in all facets of life.

It’s of paramount importance that women play an integral role in shaping this landscape.

In embracing technology, women don’t just secure a place at the table; they help set the course for a more inclusive and innovative future for everyone.

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