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How Women in Tech Can Fast-Track Their Careers

  • Lorraine Acheson, Managing Director of Women in Business, explains the need for a widened approach of support for women wanting to enter the tech industry

    As the fastest-growing region in the UK, Northern Ireland tops the tech rankings as an international destination for software development, fintech and cyber security. On our doorstep, we have a diverse talent pool of innovators who have collectively brought the local industry forward in leaps and bounds.

    Indeed, the number of highly-skilled women who make up this cohort is impressive – inspiring, really – but that number should be much, much higher.    

    Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed a disappointing decline in the number of women working in the tech sector during Q2 2023, with economic instabilities cited as the main factor.

    I cannot overestimate enough the need to turn the tide. We must actively support women in the sector and help unlock a suite of skills and experience that can truly take it to the next level, fuelling the engine of the NI economy. For that we need a holistic approach, addressing the issue on several fronts – within our schools and third-level education, but also as a pressing priority on the Executive agenda.  

    What is important to highlight is that many industry jobs are not tech roles, per se; they may fall into the fields of research or product or client representatives. This means you don’t need to have a tech background to forge a successful career in tech. What we’ve seen is an upward trend in women changing careers in favour of tech roles, particularly those returning to work.

    It's a career option that can be both flexible and fulfilling, and it’s by inspiring the women of today that we can impact the tech industry of tomorrow.

    Our annual Women in Tech conference returned earlier this month to do just that. Working in collaboration with many of NI’s leading tech companies, the 7th conference placed a laser focus on ‘Inspiring Giant Ambition, Fostering Talent and Igniting Innovation’.

    On the day, guests heard from a range of keynote speakers who shared their own journeys into tech, including Maria Diffley, Co-founder of Sustain IQ. Maria didn’t have a tech background but recognised the need for a solution which helped companies to navigate the complexities involved in measuring, monitoring and reporting on their Sustainability and ESG investments. Maria is now growing a successful tech firm addressing a global challenge.

    When we recognise and celebrate these achievements, we empower women within the tech arena to achieve greatness. Come May, our annual Women in Tech Awards will showcase the landmark success of women across NI’s tech sector. Too often at award ceremonies I see few women represented, which is why these Awards provide a unique opportunity to nominate and celebrate women at all stages of their careers across the sector – from apprentices to C-suite leaders.

    Of course, none of this would be possible without on-the-ground support, which is why I’m passionate about our mentoring programme delivered through the Centre of Learning. There’s also the Press Refresh programme, delivered in partnership with Belfast Met, to support women returning to the workforce. It’s a crucial first step for women keen to retrain and reboot their careers.

    On a big-picture scale, we are also working with the Department for the Economy’s Women in STEM committee, helping to shape the very policies that will open doors for more women entering the industry.

    All told, there is a lot still to be achieved. However, with a holistic approach deep-rooted in collaboration, we can ensure NI’s tech industry remains on the fast track with women leading from the front.  

    This article appears in the skills, education and tech careers edition of Sync NI magazine. To receive a free copy click here.

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