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Women in technology

  • Written by Kelley Keogh, Line Manager at Sidero.

    Attending an all-girls’ school, I bemoaned the fact that I was missing out on subjects I would have loved to have tried, such as woodwork and metalwork. Looking back now it makes me realise just how much we tended to pigeon-hole our young girls into certain areas early on, without giving them even a taste of what could be possible.

    There wasn’t much of a technology curriculum back in the late 90s, but when the CAO form had to be filled in, I chose Software Engineering. According to my Guidance Counsellor, enjoying Maths was a big help, and I.T. appealed to me, from the little I knew of it at the time. Right from my first day in college, it became apparent that I had entered a male dominated sector. Going from a girls’ school into a primarily male class was a shock to the system, however it also helped me to push myself to prove that I was as good as the boys. It was also the reason I was able to forge some friendships with my fellow female engineering students which I still have today.

    On graduating from the course, I spent the following years working across a wide array of roles, including I.T. Operator, Billing Applications Analyst, Software Engineer, Software QA Engineer, Scrum Master and, currently, a Line Manager with software and cloud specialist, Sidero. 

    Working in the tech industry has provided me with lots of experience in a variety of roles. These different roles have shown me how varied the I.T. industry is, and allowed me to gain critical experience in each. However, my experience has also made me realise that this variety isn’t conveyed to the younger generation in perhaps the way that it should be, so that we could help to encourage young girls and women into the sector.

    When young people think of the tech industry, they generally think of gaming and coding, and let’s face it, historically we haven’t been good at selling either of those to our young women. It’s always been an issue, but given that some of the first coders were women, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more girls entering our engineering courses at third level.

    So how do we convince our younger girls that a career in engineering and technology is a good choice? We could start by giving them the opportunity to learn more about the industry and what’s involved. Technology is so much more than just coding, and we need to demonstrate that in the school curriculum. We also need female role models and mentors to show girls what’s possible, and help guide them towards a career in I.T.

    Overall, as a woman working in the I.T. sector, my experience thus far has been a mostly positive one. I’ve gained knowledge in a variety of different areas, increased my experience through different roles and developed many friendships along the way. I was lucky enough to be able to take the full benefit of my maternity leave when I had my daughter, which I know isn’t always the case for everyone. I also went back into the role I had before I went on leave, so it was business as usual.

    My male colleagues have always treated me extremely well, and I never felt excluded for being a woman, sometimes the only woman, on a team. In fact, if anything, it has been the contrary. I have been fortunate to have had some great teammates during my time, and have always felt very much supported and part of the team, and never patronised. They have supported me not only professionally, but also personally and I feel very fortunate in that regard.

    There is one area where I have noticed a definite change during the course of my career, and that is the emphasis on the gender balance in the tech Industry. There has been a big drive to improve it, which can only be a good thing. However, there is also an obvious recognition within the sector for not having more female engineers, and the techniques that companies use when trying to make women feel more involved aren’t always successful. At times, instead of making women feel more included, they instead serve only to make women stand out. Women don’t want to be rewarded or given recognition for just being an engineer. All they are seeking is, to quote Aretha, a little respect. They just want to be treated equally to their male counterparts and given the same opportunities.

    Women don’t expect to be promoted just for being female engineers either. We want to be given the opportunities because we earned them. So, if you want to see more women in positions of influence in an industry, don't just put them there, give them the ability to develop their knowledge, the confidence to achieve their goals and the opportunity to make a difference, ensuring that they deserve to be there. Having more women in technology shouldn't be a box ticking exercise for companies. It's a huge opportunity to give the younger generations of girls the role models, motivation and courage to make a massive impact on the future of the technology industry.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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