Female tech executives give advice for Women’s Equality Day

Women’s Equality Day is held each year on 26th August and celebrates when women were granted the right to vote in the United States. This provided UK Tech News with a great opportunity to speak to some female technology executives and hear their opinion on how to face adversity in tech head on and encourage more diversity and equality in the world of business.

Connie Stack, Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Guardian, explains the importance of involving young women in the world of technology:

“The key to addressing many of society’s greatest challenges is also the key to improving the tech gender gap – education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Recent research from Microsoft and KRC Research found that confidence in STEM wanes as girls get older, but interest can be recovered when subjects are related to real-word people and problems, tapping into girls’ desire to be creative and make a difference in the world. At DG we’re trying to do just that by sponsoring the United Way STEM program, including hosting girls and boys for a cyber security training camp every summer.”

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft, believes education is key to solving the gender gap:

“Despite advancing in education, we are still seeing a huge disconnect between school subject choices and the boardroom when it comes to gender representation. And across entire organisations, women are still being paid less than men. Fewer than half of the UK’s largest employers have succeeded in reducing their gender pay gap this year, with 78% still favouring men. Education is key – from encouraging girls to pursue academic subjects traditionally seen as ‘for boys’ to highlighting unconscious bias in the boardroom. Women’s Equality Day offers us a chance to self-assess; where is change needed and how do we do it? One thing is clear in 2019 – we need to do much more.”

Rachael Andrews, Technical Course Director at WhiteHat Security, implores organisations to overcome their bias:

“As a discipline, technology can often be stereotyped as more ‘for boys.’ That stereotype has permeated the industry for decades and persists in 2019, where roles are still very male dominated. IT is slowly evolving to accept more women over time, including into C-suite roles of organisations.

Overcoming the gender bias is not easy. But the first step is for women to become comfortable expressing conviction in their abilities and greater confidence in the expertise and ideas they can contribute. Tech is changing every day and it can spark a career interest early. Whenever I speak with young women, I love hearing them say, ‘I want to be a scientist!’ Pursuing a technology career has been enriching, especially in the cybersecurity industry, and I would encourage more girls and women to consider this growing field.”

April Taylor, Vice President, ConnectWise Manage, has seen how greater exposure is encouraging more women:

“Schools are leading the way in representation for women in technology from a young age and organisations should be cognisant of the talent that makes up the current workforce. Every industry is tied to technology, so it’s great that the right education is available, especially to younger women because now they’re getting more exposure to potential careers within the tech sector. While there hasn’t been a significant increase, we have seen more women entering our company through our internship program because of that exposure and it’s our responsibility to welcome them to the tech space without making them feel different.”

Bethany Allee, EVP Marketing at Cybera, examines the importance of company culture:

“Although women have made impressive strides in the tech industry, not every company culture is as supportive. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most successful companies tend to be the most progressive in terms of advocating for diversity in leadership roles. That type of success tends to permeate one company’s culture and positively influence an entire downstream ecosystem of other companies.”

Svenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb, advises women to ignore stereotypes and go with their passion:

“My advice to women keen to develop a career in tech is to just do it; don’t be put off by the stereotypes as a team comprised of people with an even balance of genders is more representative of the clients and customers you are building products for. Listen, learn and be the best version of yourself. Find the role that fits you best – after all, it’s person-specific, not gender-specific and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.”

Leane Parsons, Cloud Team Leader at Node4, is convinced women need to go out and be disruptors:

“I always find it interesting when I am asked about being female in a technical role within the tech industry. Whilst it is still very much true that it is a male dominated industry, most of us women do not sit here wondering how we made it into our current technical roles. The truth is that many of us are in the position we are because we saw a role we wanted, and we went for it.

For women who are thinking of taking a job in the tech industry, my advice would be: if you find something you have a passion for, go for it. Be a disruptor!”

Lucie Sadler, Head of Content at Hyve Managed Hosting, encourages businesses to keep striving for greater diversity and equality:

“Women’s Equality Day gives us the opportunity to not only stand in solidarity with women across the USA, but to also reinforce the message that equality is not a female issue. There needs to be a shift culturally to recognise that equality is a wider social issue – and one that we are all responsible for.

“Too often the technology industry is tarred with the ‘lack of diversity’ brush, but thanks to mentoring initiatives, coding workshops and more women in leadership roles, we are starting to shake up the industry.

“But there’s still a long way to go. As women working in tech we must do all that we can to encourage diversity and equality in the workplace and to educate our peers.”