International Women’s Day – a day to feel inspired and celebrate all the women in our lives. But with UKTechNews reporting that only 26% of those in the tech workforce are female, are women given enough guidance and support to enter the sector? Reportedly, women working in the tech world are also being driven out of the sector due to burnout, gendered biases, toxic aspects of bro-culture and a lack of work-life balance.
Roq, an independent, outcomes-focused Quality Engineering consultancy that provides tailored services on all things quality to the world’s largest organisations, is encouraging women to work within the sector. They want to help shrink the gender gap by supporting women in the field, and aid those who want to work in the world of technology. They believe that their work is only possible with the collaboration of brilliant people who genuinely care about quality and believe in being inclusive.
The company wholly embraces gender diversity and has a knowledgeable cast of women who contribute to every function. Head of People, Sarah Riggott, Finance Director, Stacie Batterham) and Marketing Director, Cat Allport are all professionals who have achieved senior leadership positions within the technology industry; and their highly skilled technical specialists all make consistent, valuable contributions to the company’s clients and delivery portfolio. The team members at Roq have shared an insight into how women in tech feel about a career in the sector, gender inequality, and what it was like growing up wanting to work as a young woman.
Tracey Lomas, a Senior Test Analyst stated that she had always been interested in the latest technology; “I wanted to work with technology but at the time didn’t know what career to pursue. A computer degree at university helped me understand what I wanted to do as it covered all areas from software quality to development.”
Chatna Darjee, one of Roq’s Test Managers agreeing, said, “University was where I was able to learn more about the technology and networks. In school, it was more about Business Management at A-Level. Now it’s so easy – to learn about technology, you need to Google it and watch YouTube videos, how times have changed”.
Others, though, found that learning at home, playing PC games and being introduced by male family members increased their knowledge and love for technology. Joanne Greenhalgh, an Academy Consultant at Roq, stated that it was her big brother who introduced her to tech through gaming on his Mega Drive. She found that after getting her first computer at age 11, learning how to use things tended to be a trial and error process, as she didn’t know anyone else who used computers, but it got easier once she had access to the internet.
But what inspired these women to get into technology? And did anyone try and deter their enthusiasm for the industry?
Test Manager Vanessa Austin said that she found that her natural ability to ask questions and break code helped her no end – “By being an annoying user who didn’t accept the response: no, you can’t do it like that you have to do it like this, I have always been someone who pushes boundaries and has a thirst for knowledge. Testing gives me that in abundance. As a woman and previously a contractor, I’ve worked in environments where the term “Mansplain” was evident.” Feeling that she had to work 150% harder to prove her worth. She was also dealing with imposter syndrome, which meant that she found it challenging being a woman in tech. She found that a can-do and responsive attitude helped and states that “I am here [working in tech] to be successful and to do a good job, which I consistently deliver.”
Kara Whitehead, Senior Test Manager, had a similar experience but found that it wasn’t so much men who were putting her down or causing barriers while she was trying to progress her career, it was mainly women.
Sophie Carter, a Test Consultant, and Louise Owen, a Senior Test Engineer, had different experiences, both experiencing significant encouragement. Sophie was positively pushed by her friends and family when pursuing a career in the technology sector. Louise found that her sheer curiosity and logical thinking made a career in technology right for her, stating that “this career allows me to investigate logic problems in-depth. I am quite lucky that I went through education at the right time when they were more actively trying to encourage women in the field.”
But sometimes, is the male/female divide putting women off working in this seemingly male-dominated environment?
Chatna found that when she first started in the industry, it was very male dominated, with some sectors still being like that; “I could walk into a room, and it would be full of men, but over the years, the balance has changed, but there is still room for this to go a lot further.”
Whereas Louise gets the impression that some women do indeed find interacting with men as a barrier to getting into technology, but is optimistic that “working at Roq provides the right environment for women in tech” and that it’s the education stage that needs to do better when it comes to inspiring the female uptake. She witnessed gender inequality mostly prominently when she was just one of four women on her university course of about 230 students. She was the only woman left when she reached her Masters.
So, with the gender gap still being so prevalent in 2023, what do our current women in tech feel would be a ‘game-changer’ for attracting more women into this sector?
Helen Kendrick, a Roq Test Manager and Kara Whitehead, Senior Test Manager, both feel that other women sharing their experiences would help. Helen says that female exposure and promoting tech opportunities in early recruitment activities at schools and colleges would be beneficial. Delivery Support Co-ordinator Jacki Wilcox also felt the same, thinking that women in the tech workforce must be more visible, with perhaps female-focused career sessions based around the industry.
Chatna believes that promoting technology as a career to younger age groups and the types of roles available would help break the stereotype, attracting more women. She states that “support and mentorship could be a game changer. It would be encouraging if women shared their stories about how they got to where they are. Everyone has taken a different path and faced different challenges within their technology career, and I think if we inspired each other, we could attract more women in this field”.
The gender skills gap in tech is large. Still, with confident women working in the field, building great careers and sharing successes, it’s hoped that more women will join the tech world, eventually shrinking this gender divide and showing that technology is more than a man’s game.