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Let's Have More Women in Tech

  • Written by Jennie Allen Technical Writer at Bazaarvoice.

    On Friday 25th February, along with several of my colleagues from Bazaarvoice, I attended the 5th Women in Tech conference at the Titanic Belfast, hosted by Women in Business NI and sponsored by MCS Group. With the iconic Titanic staircase as its backdrop, the stage saw several inspirational talks and captivating panel discussions throughout the day. These were interspersed with comedic hosting from Strabane’s greatest export, Emer Maguire, who kept the crowd entertained all day, even when the smoke alarm started playing up (“That’s the AI coming for us”).

     This year’s conference theme was Transforming Tech Together and there was a clear thread running throughout the different talks and panel discussions: how can we get more women into tech, and make them want to stay? For those of you who missed the conference, or who want to revisit the ideas discussed on the day, I’ve put together a short list of ideas stemming from Women in Tech of how we can continue to grow the number of female employees within the tech sector.

    1.   Teach girls and young women about the tech industry

    As part of the Jobs in Tech – Let’s change the stereotype panel discussion, panellists advocated for making computer science a compulsory subject in schools, therefore giving all children the opportunity to learn about and discover a passion for computing. Sapphire Duffy from Women who Code also provided several great ideas for women who are already in the tech industry: reach out to your old school and offer to give a talk about your career; volunteer with organisations like the STEM Ambassador Programme, Coder Dojo or Women Who Code; create a TikTok reel showing a day in the life of a real-life woman in tech. If girls are made aware of tech from a younger age and start developing relevant skills, it will be easier for them to pursue a career in the industry when the time comes.


    2.   Show young women that tech can change the world

    Dr Nidhi Simmons gave an uplifting talk about her journey to becoming a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at the Centre for Wireless Innovation. As a young girl, her mother regularly took her to science fairs and encouraged her to pursue her interest in maths and science. Now, the research she is working on will help contribute towards world-changing innovation including autonomous driving, factory automation, and even remote surgery.

    Furthermore, as part of the Ethics in Tech – is AI transforming us for the better? panel discussion, a conversation was sparked around the idea that many girls and women tend towards more care-giving or humanitarian career paths. And indeed, with the advances that AI is making in areas such as climate change mitigation, safety, and healthcare, working in tech is now one of the professions for making a real difference in the world.

    Exposing children to the wonderful opportunities that STEM subjects can provide, both for the people who study them and for the world, is a great way to attract more females into the tech industry.


    3.   Combat imposter syndrome

    An interesting fact shared multiple times throughout the day was that women generally feel they need to meet 100% of criteria before applying to a role, but men will apply even if they only meet 60%. Lindsay Rootare from Slice spoke about the untraditional paths many of us have taken to reach a career in tech and how the skills we learn from other roles and life experiences can often be applicable to a tech role. Used to be a dancer? You’ve learned discipline, teamwork, consistency, and determination. Worked in an aquarium? You know how to decipher the needs of individuals, retain complex information, and prioritise tasks. Parent to a toddler? You have undoubtedly developed invaluable skills in negotiation, resilience, and collaboration! In the tech industry, we need innovation, and for that, we need a diverse range of people with unique perspectives and experiences. In short, what makes you, you, makes you perfect for tech.


    4.   Be an advocate for gender equality

    For real progress to take place, we all need to work together towards gender equality. As part of the Authenticity in the Workplace panel discussion, speaker Nicola Nelis recalled a time when a male employer initially dismissed her for a role after a three-minute conversation, claiming the role was usually filled by single men who had more time for work and a stronger technical background. Spurred on by his false assumptions, Nicola worked even harder to showcase her commitment, expertise, and tenacity to land the job role. She noted that this man was now one of her biggest supporters, and how much they had both learned from one another by working together. Fixed gender roles are a thing of the past, so let’s drop the assumptions and collaborate through open conversation and mutual learning.  

    5.   Facilitate career growth for women

    As part of the conference, MCS Group led a workshop on Building for the Future, where each table was invited to write down ideas for how we can Attract, Retain and Build future female leaders. Many attendees advocated for mentorship programmes; a great way for women to develop in their career and for more senior professionals to share their knowledge and experiences.

    Another major theme that emerged was how to support women who are also mothers, whether that’s by offering an excellent maternity package, providing childcare vouchers, or implementing flexible working policies. If women do take maternity leave, it should be as easy as possible for them to return to their job and continue making progress.

    Ultimately, we need more women in tech leadership roles. A supportive workplace which prepares women to apply for and attain these roles will create a virtuous circle of learning, teaching, growth, and empowerment.

    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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