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International Women’s Day: How can we encourage and retain women in tech?

Women in blue jacket working on laptop smiles at colleague

ARTICLE SUMMARY

International Women’s Day not only marks an annual opportunity to celebrate women's contributions to the tech sector, but also serves as a reminder that there is still much to be done to eliminate gender inequality.

For instance, women are especially underrepresented in the tech industry, making up only 26% of the workforce. How can we encourage more women into the sector?

Some leading female tech experts give us their thoughts:

Clare Loveridge, Vice President & General Manager, EMEA, at Arctic Wolf

PROVIDING ACCESS TO TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Clare Loveridge, Vice President & General Manager, EMEA, at Arctic Wolf, believes more can be done at an earlier stage: “It starts in school, where we need to equip girls with the right skills to excel in STEM careers. Then we need to ensure more female role models are available while increasing the number of women in leadership roles. This will improve the visibility of women in the workplace, while also encouraging more women and girls to consider a career in STEM.”

“The key is starting at grassroots level.” Abi Catt, Security Services Team Lead at Cyberark, adds.

Abi Catt, Security Services Team Lead at Cyberark

“Careers in STEM should be made accessible starting with school-age girls, through both awareness of career options and access to role models in STEM who have paved the way.

STEM careers should not be an intimidating undertaking for women.”

Karen Worstell, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist at VMware, highlights that lack of access to tech can be a barrier: “Many of us can take access to tech for granted in our day to day lives.”

Karen Worstell, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist at VMware

“However, its advantages are still out of reach for some. The industry must come together to ensure the expansion of access to technology and a thorough digital education. We must renew our commitment to all who lack the resources to pursue their tech curiosity.”

DEVELOPING THE RIGHT SKILLS

Liz Parnell, COO, Private Cloud at Rackspace Technology, emphasises why we need to teach women technical skills: “Jobs and careers in all industries and sectors are evolving at the intergalactic pace of technology. For this generation, every job will be a tech job. Specifically for women, this means showing what skills in technology can do for them: illuminating the path, removing barriers, creating genuine excitement for what is possible, and most importantly – building belief in themselves and the value that they bring.”

Mairead O’Connor, Business Unit Managing Director at AND Digital

“Recent AND Digital research revealed 63% of women have not received digital upskilling from their employer, compared to 49% of men.” Mairead O’Connor, Business Unit Managing Director at AND Digital, states. “For this to truly change, businesses must remove the stigma around upskilling. We know 40% of women want to improve their digital skills, but don’t feel comfortable bringing it up with their employer.”

Faye Ellis, Principal Cloud Training Architect at Pluralsight, emphasises the importance of soft skills: “In addition to technical skills, you also need the ability to understand business requirements, communicate with stakeholders, understand their concerns, and have empathy for the teams around you who have to deliver and support the solution that you recommend.”

Siobhan Ryan, Regional Vice President, Enterprise, UKI at UiPath

“We need diverse voices more than ever because the stakes are higher as we mature into the next generation of technology – and ‘why’ questions will be at the core of this.” Siobhan Ryan, Regional Vice President, Enterprise, UKI at UiPath, adds. “Instead of fighting to attract women away from the social sciences, we need to embrace the social sciences and explicitly incorporate them into technology education and careers.”

ENSURING AN INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE

Jo Matkin, CEO at Grayce

Jo Matkin, CEO at Grayce, argues that inclusivity in the workplace is important: “Employers should create an inherently inclusive environment to attract and retain talent, including female workers. We do our best work when we feel empowered and supported in the workplace. Companies need to invest in creating this supportive environment, including embedding a culture of universal empowerment and implementing inclusive policies and practices.”

“Organisations also have a bigger role to play in creating the right environment for women.”

Amy Springford, Director of Client Relations at Exponential-e

Amy Springford, Director of Client Relations at Exponential-e, agrees. “There needs to be a stronger focus on advocating mentors to help female employees progress their careers, and on implementing flexible working policies to help women like me who have childcare responsibilities, to juggle their work life balance with greater ease.”

Saleha Williams, Global Head Analysts & Alliances Software & Platforms Engineering at Cognizant, comments: “Women’s ambitions don’t shrink with age; employers need to enable them the flexibility to realise their full potential.

Saleha Williams, Global Head Analysts & Alliances Software & Platforms Engineering at Cognizant

“Too often managers judge employees on their availability, meaning individuals that have childcare or care giving responsibilities are frowned upon.

“This must change and business leaders need to ensure their workforces are assessed based on their performance, not just presentism.”

“One challenge for many female employees right now is striking the right work-life balance; organisations must focus on improving flexibility in this area.” Eve Maler, Chief Technology Officer at ForgeRock, adds. “Many organisations offer great support groups, but often day-to-day work gets in the way, preventing people from taking advantage of the support available.”

Najila Aissaoui, Head of HR at Venari Security, gives her view: “Remote work has opened up a global talent pool and if companies want to make an active difference, they need to look beyond their own borders help educate in areas where the digital divide is greater. This is one of the reasons why we set up our Centre of Excellence in Tunis last year.”

Pam Maynard, CEO at Avanade

Pam Maynard, CEO at Avanade, emphasises how companies need to consider intersectionality: “There is no woman on the face of this earth whose identity is not also impacted by factors including her race and ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, family and background. Have these conversations, and then take targeted and meaningful actions. Only then can inclusion, diversity and equality be truly embedded into a company’s culture.”

Meng Muk, Director of Engineering at Matillion

Meng Muk, Director of Engineering at Matillion, points out that a supportive company culture starts at the hiring process: “We are starting to see a change in hiring practices to tackle inclusivity and unconscious bias, and improvements are being made to the interview process to consider women who may not have much practical experience by looking at other qualities, such as creative thinking and innovation.”

ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER

“I’ve been fortunate in my career and life to have a lot of unconscious influencers among my friends and family who helped me pursue a career in technology where I have been part of the push to bring women into tech. Others have not been as lucky.” Poornima Ramaswamy, Chief Transformation Officer at Qlik, reflects. “This International Women’s Day, we must all work together to make the digital world work for all, by making access to technology and the tech sector easier for women around the world.”

“Having supporters and contacts is crucial for building a career, and challenges you to explore new areas.” Fiona Mackin, Public Sector specialist at Cradlepoint, agrees. “For example, I would not be here today if it wasn’t for one of my early mentors who supported me leaving an admin role and move into a completely new sector, sales. This support also helped me push myself out of my comfort zone to continuously learn new skills.”

Hayath Hussein, Chief Operating Officer at Com Laude

Hayath Hussein, Chief Operating Officer at Com Laude, says: “We need to be able to give girls a chance and encourage them by providing the platform to shine. Having women in senior leadership positions can encourage more women into tech roles, which isn’t surprising news. If you don’t see someone like you in a leadership position, then you might think this isn’t your world.”

“Accessing industry networks and support from mentors in particular, is key.” Laurie Haley, VP of Strategic Alliances at Veracode, gives her insight. “As a security leader working in a fast-paced tech business with a female CEO, and as a mother of four, I know how important it is to have like-minded people around me that understand the challenges of juggling work and home.”

Caroline Vignollet, SVP Research & Development, at Onespan

Caroline Vignollet, SVP Research & Development, at Onespan, encourages women to embrace their identity: “While I always present myself as a professional in the workplace, and not a woman, I do believe bringing a feminine approach to a solution, strategy, team building and thinking helps bring a different perspective to the given environment. We need to celebrate differences and ensure we are all learning from each other in order to further innovation and progress.”

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