They were Clare Parry Jones, Business Enablement Director at Computacenter, Chantal Constable, Director at CGI and Naureen Khan, Associate Director, Central Government and Education at techUK. The moderator was Virginia Blackburn.

 

VB: Why does the perception exist that women don’t work in technology?

CC: It’s taken 20 years to get to the point we are now, where perceptions historically have been that this is a geeky, complex environment where you are in the brains of a computer and therefore it’s not a team environment. You do need technical skills and it’s therefore seen as a niche.

CPJ: I agree. People think it’s mundane but don’t understand the scale of the roles within the tech market and as an industry we don’t do a very good job of sharing this. And we need role models. If you look at Facebook, people talk about Mark Zuckerberg not Sheryl Sandberg.

CC: Yes, the role models profiled in the media are seen as the exceptions, not the norm, they are seen as the superwomen. We need to role model women at all levels in the IT industry to create a new normal.

NK: Some of that perception is reality as women are underrepresented in the industry, making up only 16 per cent, less than the number of women in the House of Commons.

VB: What careers are open to women in the tech industry?

NK: My background isn’t in tech, rather government relations and public policy. Yet, I have successfully made the transition into the tech industry. There are wide ranging roles available and they are not all technical.

CC: Everything from deep Java development skills, which are fast paced technical coding, to understanding customer propositions. You can start very technically and move into delivery management roles. We have examples of women who built their credentials with their customer base from their technical delivery, then moved into service roles that broaden their business and team leadership skills.

CPJ: Personally, I was an only child and went to an all girls school so I could be who I wanted to be. My first job was in tech support and I moved to being a systems engineer and then sales. But even now people say, I can’t believe you were in tech support and a systems engineer. But it was an opportunity – this was your start position, not your end position. But the role I do now is not a technical role.

NK: There are also great opportunities for creative female entrepreneurs – this is something that techUK is working to promote as part of our women in tech manifesto.

VB: How can we encourage women into the profession?

CPJ: There are a lot of stereotypes we have to fix starting at school. In August Lego issued a new set with three female scientists: it sold out on the same day. There’s a real desire for this.

NK: The Government’s new initiative about coding is helpful and we must bring men along as well. Additionally, we must challenge industry to offer best practice relating to their female workforce with a focus on attracting, retaining and sustaining talent, regardless of gender, at all levels in their businesses.

CC: Multiple entry routes into the talent pipeline. It’s an ongoing journey, so we need to be role modelling, secession planning and developing our people throughout that pipeline, arming them with relevant skills, mentors and platforms. Women are not a special case. Businesses perform better with a diverse workforce.