There has been a lot of talk about women in tech and the gender gap but we wanted to hear it first hand. We asked women working in technology how they got into it, what they like about it, and how has the industry changed since they joined. This is what they told us.
Technology: A chosen career?
Some people know what career they want to be in from a very young age. Others, sometimes, fall into an industry by accident and end up staying in it for the rest of their careers.
Some of the women we interviewed started in a different career, landed in tech and for a number of reasons they found they preferred it to their initial career. This is the case of Jennifer Gane, Junior Software Developer at STCS who switched careers from being a Latin teacher to coding and she hasn’t looked back since: “As soon as I started coding I was hooked […] I didn’t really know what a tech job would look like, but I knew I wanted to write code.”
Similarly, Bethan Vincent, Marketing Director at Netsells, knew she wanted to work in a History related field, however her ‘hobby’ was blogging and, as she got more into web design and development, she realised she wanted to do that full time: “It’s been a mixture of accidental luck and following what I enjoy doing.” Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight and Sarah Dowzell, COO and Co-founder of Natural HR both also use the term ‘accidentally’ when referring to how they started in tech and how they enjoy the ‘fast pace’ of the industry.
Sandrine Zhang Ferron, Founder and CEO, Vinterior, who decided to move from the financial industry to tech, highlights the culture of sharing of the tech industry as opposed to the financial one: “I really like the openness (a lot of learning sharing across companies, open source code) of this industry compared to the finance industry (where I was before) that was very secretive.”
Some of the women we interviewed ‘fell’ into technology, but others also admitted they had already had some contact with the industry previously. Like Iris Winter, Senior Frontend Developer, Modulr who was attracted to technology from a very young age: “I have been into tech since I was little. My dad worked as a systems admin and I got into development when I was only 12.”
“Technology offers an ever evolving career without boundaries, where you can conceive new dynamic concepts and see them through to actualisation. Within the tech sector, you have the opportunity to make a difference in business and society.”
One of the things that attracts people to technology is the pace and rapid nature of the industry. Technology is probably the industry that has evolved faster in the last 10 years. The rise of social media, together with the consumerisation of technology, have made technology an option when looking to choose a career.
Are there more women in tech or is it just a perception?
When we asked women what they think about the presence of more women in the tech industry, the majority of them agreed that there has been a positive shift in the industry in the past 5 years. However, they also agree that it’s still lower than it should be.
“The number of women going into tech has increased versus 5 years ago, but is still significantly lower than it needs to be.”
The findings of a recent study by Women in Tech revealed that 82% of women believe there are still more males than females in tech. Bethan recognises the effort that the industry has done in the past years to attract more women into it: “I do think the industry has come a long way in making itself more inclusive and taking positive steps in recognising why women historically haven’t been attracted to roles.”
When we asked women how they see this trend going, most of them reiterated the need to provide support and resources to girls wanting to go into a career in technology. Sarah notes how encouraging young women to get into STEM needs to start at school.
“To be the first and only black woman is a complete shock and hard to comprehend. Upon reflection, on many occasions, I was the only Woman-In-Tech in the room over the years.
The diversity gap is so enormous. It’s certainly not a lack of ideas – it’s a lack of support. It is vital to start encouraging more girls in school to consider future careers in technology. Education is key to bridging the gap.”
In the same note, Jennifer and Sandrine noted that the industry is creating more platforms for young girls who want to get into technology such as Code First: Girls or coding bootcamps to get them engaged from an early age.
Jenna Grierson, Scrum Master at Modulr also remarks the importance of having a mentor, that sometimes is key for them to decide to pursue a career in technology: “A big part of my transition into tech was working with an amazing senior leader in the tech team who happened to be a woman.”
Sally also notes how there is a need for change in organisations, starting with the recruiting process: “Change is happening and increasing numbers of organisations are committing to empowering more balanced workforces.”
What advice would you give to young girls wanting to go into tech?
We finally asked women what advice they would give to young girls wanting to go into tech. They agree that education and choosing the right company to start their career is vital to define their career in tech.
“A lot of people are taking action in supporting young women in achieving their dreams and educating young people.”
Christine stressed the importance of choosing STEM subjects: “I studied economics, history and business, but doing it over, I would have incorporated formal engineering training into my education. By studying STEM subjects, you will be able to do anything with this training later.” Jenna stressed the importance of becoming involved in tech early on in their careers and be part of the design of new tech products.
Apprenticeships is also another topic that came out in the answers as a way to get into the tech industry for young people. Each month, an average of 23,000 apprenticeship opportunities are listed on the government’s Find an Apprenticeship site.
Carlene concludes with how an apprenticeship is a way to get into the industry: “My advice to girls wanting to work in tech is to find a forward thinking company that helps solve world or business problems that interest you, and look to take up an apprenticeship. This will provide you with a supportive environment and a qualification to discover what your strengths are to start your career, and be paid at the same time! “
“Just do it. It sounds silly but I think the barrier isn’t always about going into tech but more raising interest. My personal experience has been very positive.”