Sitting on the train to London with no service on my phone a few weeks ago, and no social media to anaesthetise me, I decided to start a blog – as you do!
Why am I doing this? Because I’ve been in the IT industry for over 30 years and want to encourage more people, and especially women, to try tech roles.
There’s a lot of press around the lack of women in tech industries, the lack of women in senior roles and the lack of girls taking tech / STEM subjects at school.
How much of it is the misconception that IT is ‘geeky’?
How much is it the misconception that women can’t perform well enough at a senior level?
Or how much is it the misconception that girls should only be interested in hair and beauty courses at school?
It may be something else. It may be the language and imagery of association to gender that we use. It may be a mix of all these and some. Whatever it is, it needs to change.
I have to say I don’t get it. I simply do not understand why anyone should be put off a career in IT. It’s a career that’s served me extremely well for nearly 31 years now and will continue to do so for a few more to come.
I’ve been a programmer; setup and run a help desk without the support of RMM tools! I’ve installed graphics cards, printers, memory chips. I’ve punched cables into data cabs and wired RS232 connectors! I’ve installed Unix from scratch (64 floppy disks), networks, PCs, software and printers. It’s immensely interesting work to do. By the way I have long painted nails and wear heels – although I am sensible if I need to be crawling under desks!
These days my company, that I set up 15 years ago, provides mainly training, consultancy and project management and we leave the really techy stuff to our MSP partner. But we’re still in IT! There’s such a wide range of jobs available but I don’t think I know a single female support technician anymore and I think it’s wrong.
I’m not advocating that companies recruit or promote women for the sake of it. I’m advocating that companies ACTIVELY seek to interview women for tech roles and that women need to start applying for them.
When I was at school I was told I couldn’t study Computing as I wasn’t good at maths. I fought really hard against this decision and ended up taking the options I wanted not what the school thought I should do. Determination can get you a long way as does following your heart! I was one of only 2 girls who took metalwork instead of home economics too!! But I can still cook.
For any young girls wondering what options to take, look at IT. Why not try a job in IT if you’re out of work or looking for a career change? One of the huge benefits of our industry is that in many cases your attitude will determine how far you can progress. We can teach skills but we can’t change mindsets so easily. IT companies are usually dynamic and responsive. They need people who will step up to the mark, be decisive, work well in teams, have good interpersonal skills. ALL the attributes women possess!
Now before any men get their hands on this and complain about the female bias, I’m looking for the industry to have a fair and balanced approach towards women, which by its nature, involves raising our profile so that we get noticed and not passed by. For male employers, perhaps you could think about the image you project and how welcoming this is for women. You could look at how you advertise for jobs and whether you use images that include women on your website and in your literature. You could go and speak at schools and colleges about your business and actively seek to encourage girls to consider IT.
For girls, do your work experience at an IT company. Look at the jobs available. For parents, encourage your daughters to take tech options at school. Tell them they can achieve whatever they want in life. I have a family and I still have a great career in IT and I’ve never had a nanny, or support with bringing up my children except from my very helpful husband!
So this is a call to action; if you’re female at least investigate a career in IT and if you’re male and in IT please consider a woman for that next role. IT is a fast growing industry that’s here to stay and will get bigger as tech touches more and more of our lives with social media, the IoT and more automation at work. IT truly is everywhere!