Breaking the bias to inspire more women in tech
As many of us marked International Women’s Day yesterday, I was honoured to be invited to participate in an event with fellow business leaders and students at Goodenough College, and I wanted to take a moment to share what I took from the event.
We were there to celebrate the achievement of women, and to discuss the importance of levelling up – which I believe is an imperative if we are to create a more inclusive, equitable future for the UK.
Hosted by the World Trade Livery, we were lucky to have the worshipful master, Mary Hardy, and Lesley Batchelor OBE in attendance, without whose work this event and the meaningful discussion that ensued would not have happened. The world view that they brought to the discussion helped to truly stimulate the debate.
There was a genuine buzz in the air and a passion from the young women, which gave me confidence and optimism for a powerful, diverse, connected future. The generational perspective that they shared helped me reflect upon my own career. I realised that, when I was a student, I wasn’t even aware of the range of opportunities available in tech, which is why it’s so important to inspire young women to consider a career in the industry.
We as leaders need to help young women on their professional journey if we are going to continue to break down barriers to unlock a more diverse talent pool for the future. Here are my top three takeaways on how we can achieve this:
- Debunking the stereotype of a career in tech
Despite growing up with advanced technology at their fingertips, many young girls and women still hold negative perceptions about what a career in tech looks like. The truth is a tech career can fit all types of personalities, from the creative kind to people loving to build connections with others.
I ended up working in tech ‘by mistake’. A series of career decisions led me to occupy a leadership position in a sector that I would not have considered years ago. I hear similar examples of big career changes every day at Cisco, most recently through our apprenticeship where one of our most recent cohort used to work in hospitality. Another used to be a pharmacist before joining the programme. These unusual career paths create a richness of working in tech and demonstrate that there is a place for everyone.
- More female role models to inspire young women
I believe that a big part of why women are hesitant about starting a career in tech, is that we struggle to picture ourselves in the environment. We should not underestimate the benefit of looking up to an organisation and seeing people we can relate to. Seeing yourself being represented and having role models to follow is essential for girls and young women considering their future career path and can encourage more women to apply for jobs in the tech sector. Earlier in my career, my role model gave me confidence that someone with my skills is a desirable candidate for a technology company, which made a big difference to me.
- Sponsoring the next generation of women in tech
As senior people in tech, regardless of gender, we need to encourage the younger generation to step outside their comfort zones and have a curious mindset when making career decisions. We need to look for opportunities to get women involved and empower them to fulfil their dreams. There are numerous ways in which we can achieve that, from mentoring and fostering an inclusive work culture to supporting women in leadership roles through flexible work policies and continuous training.
It is vital that we give women a platform to succeed and I’m excited about what we can continue to do to make our sector more inclusive and diverse.
Yesterday, I was inspired to know that I had the support from my colleagues at Cisco and our partners from the University of Salford and the Merseyside Community Trust in attendance at the event, but what spurred me on further, was to know that we are all on the same path with the goal of working hand in hand to drive positive change and social mobility for women and girls in the future.