International Women’s Day: 7 Questions with our women in IT
Significant advances have been made towards workplace equality in recent years; countless milestones have been reached, inspiring changes have been accomplished and the wider picture has certainly become very encouraging, however, it seems as though the IT and Tech industries didn’t quite get the memo.
Recent statistics have shown that women are overwhelmingly unrepresented in IT industries with a mere 18% of the UK IT & Technology workforce comprising of women in 2016. And this is a picture that is being seen around the world as well, with some of the biggest tech companies on the planet employing an embarrassingly low proportion of women in their IT and Tech positions.
As a company that takes a great deal of pride in our equality in opportunities and employment, we find this statistic a little unsettling. And so in honour of International Women’s Day we decided to talk to our women in IT.
Joanne Dixon – Managing Director of HBP Group, Rachelle Gray – Operations Manager at HBP Group and Niki Smith – Financial Manager at HBP Group, were all kind enough to sit down and offer their insight into what they think can be done to solve these issues in their industry, what their advice is for women going into similar fields and tell us a little about themselves and what inspires them.
With only 18% of the tech industry being comprised of female employees, what do you think the barriers are for female employment in IT and Tech?
Joanne “Honestly I think a lot of it is down to stereotyping in job roles. The media and the wider world tend to perpetuate this idea of Technology being a bit geeky and typically a male oriented interest, young women start to think computers are boring because they ARE boring in the way they are presented.”
Rachelle “I think the initial interest in IT is less of a draw for younger kids, it really just doesn’t appeal to them, and it’s definitely prompted more as a male interest. Something needs to be done about this original presentation of the industry.”
Niki “I think the notion that ‘IT is for men’ is drilled into children from a young age through the type of entertainment that is available to boys and girls – most computer games are aimed specifically towards males.”
What would your advice be for women who are just starting out in your industry?
Joanne “Embrace it – it’s cool for goodness sakes! The days of crawling under a desk and swapping out parts are long gone. This job is all about problem-solving now, it’s less technical than you’d think and more about tackling challenges and being really creative with how you take on these problems.”
Rachelle “Nothing is impossible or gender based at all, everything just starts as a simple requirement and progresses into a process, application or product. Learning the basics is the best way of moving on to more technical aspects.”
Niki “Don’t think of the IT and tech industry as purely engineer based and full of the stereotypical “IT geeks”. I’ve come from no background in IT at all and it is definitely a challenge but it has encouraged me to develop skills in areas I didn’t even consider I would need. This industry is open to people from all backgrounds and with completely different skill sets.”
Which woman inspires you the most and why?
Joanne “My Mum. I trust her implicitly and know she will always be open and honest – she always has my best interests at heart.”
Rachelle “My mum, she has always taught me that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that whether it’s work or just in life, I should always put my best into everything I do.”
Niki “Joanne Dixon – she has succeeded in an industry where women are often ignored and not taken seriously. This has made her stronger than most men I know! She has also done all of this whilst bringing up a family – showing that women can indeed have it all!”
What are the best and worst decisions you have ever made?
Joanne “Best – Not going to University and joining HBP on a YTS Scheme instead.
Worst – Employing people who don’t fit into our company’s culture and values.”
Rachelle “Moving to a location that gave me an opportunity here at HBP is the best decision I’ve made.”
Niki “Best – to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, which was also the worst! It was 3 years of hell so felt like the wrong decision at the time when I was sitting all those horrendous exams whilst working full time and revising constantly… but definitely worth it in the end!”
What was your dream job when you were growing up?
Joanne “Journalist. I always wanted to be the next Kate Adie.”
Rachelle “I wanted to be a teacher originally, but I decided against going to university.”
Niki “Interior Designer. I was very into art when I was younger and was even close to going down this route when picking what degree I was going to do.”
How do you think we can encourage and nurture employment among women in the IT and Technology industries?
Joanne “I think there needs to be more emphasis on educating kids about technology early on and getting people to engage with the idea that IT is interesting, and isn’t a ‘nerdy’ pursuit.”
Rachelle “Make it more accessible at a younger age so everyone has an equal opportunity to build an interest. We need to show it’s a field that’s available for everyone.”
Niki “I think more IT education available at schools from a much younger age as this generation is completely dependent on IT and 99% of businesses would not be able to function without some element of IT. I think colleges and universities could advertise and encourage female applicants more.”
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Joanne “Getting them to believe they can have it all – a career and a family.”
Rachelle “Being open minded to technology and the IT sector in general.”
Niki “To believe that they can have a full-time career at the same time as a family – this is definitely still a concept that most women in business struggle with. If men can do it, then why can’t women?!”