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Empowering Women to Take on Tech

August 8, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to speak to girls and women across the Channel Islands as part of a series of talks at the Digital Jersey Hub, Beaulieu School, Ladies College Guernsey, and St Sampson’s High School. As a result we have had two female IT students join us for work experience.

These events gave me a chance to really think about my own IT career and what can be done to encourage more girls and women to consider a career in our local industry. I have been fortunate enough to have had a very positive experience working in IT. Most of the individuals I’ve encountered throughout my career have been supportive and open-minded, providing me with opportunities to progress my knowledge and career – and I want other women to have similar experiences.

Despite this, it is no secret that the digital sector is currently dominated by men. The latest stats from Digital Jersey reveal that only 15% of tech roles are held by women. This puts us behind the UK and other developed nations by a whole 10%.

While this stat may be low, the events we talked at were well attended, and everyone generally showed an interest in what we had to say. We even received several work experience applications from girls on both Islands following the events. This said, it was clear that many of the attendees were not aware of the broad range of options available to them through technology, or don’t have the confidence to pursue a tech career.

It is my belief that the tech industry, which is based upon innovation and forward-thinking, should also work towards innovative and forward-thinking values that promote diversity and equal opportunities. There are clear benefits to encouraging more women to consider digital roles, beyond improving diversity in our industry; women could even be the answer to our digital skills gap.

Here are my thoughts on women in technology in 2017, reflecting on the events.

We must encourage girls from an early age

Many believe the true reason why most women do not consider IT as a viable career path is because of a culturally ingrained stereotype that IT is a ‘boys only club’ – which in 2017, should not be the case. Society does appear to be addressing these stereotypes, and now even Barbie is a Game Developer! Locally, schools on both Islands are investing in girl’s digital skills, with some even dedicating entire weeks to learning about tech, which is a positive step in the right direction. However, I think that to spark young girl’s imaginations early on, we must show them how technology can tie in to their passions and hobbies. Whether they’re into fashion, animals, cars or cooking, kids coding tools like Tynker can show the limitlessness and simplicity of app development, creating a fun approach for engaging with younger girls.

You’re not always expected to know it all

There is a misconception that if you are interested in a technical role, to get a foot in the door of the IT industry you must have already developed tech skills. While this of course helps, it’s not actually essential. At C5, we often employ individuals based on their enthusiasm for IT and willingness to learn. We then provide them with the skills they need. My career is a good example of this. While I have had previous technical experience, for the last few years I have worked in a training role. I proactively expressed my interest in progressing my technical knowledge and asked for advice on how to achieve my goals. This interest resulted in me being offered a more technical role, supported with training – and I haven’t looked back since.

It’s not all about the technical side

While it would be nice to see more women taking on coding and developer roles, some tech industry jobs do not require digital skills. For example, our Project Management and Support Team roles often lend focus to interpersonal, communication, organisational skills, and other ‘soft skills’ that can be learned through everyday experiences. Asking women to consider what they’re already good at is a great way of showing how they can carve their own path in the technology industry.

Highlighting strong female leaders

According to research, only 22% of students can name a famous female working in technology – it’s clear that we need to be highlighting women in senior leadership roles to show women what can be achieved by working in technology. There are so many inspirational women in tech: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, HP CEO Meg Whitman, Apple Senior VP Angela Ahrendts – I could go on! C5 recently appointed several women to director roles, which I hope will prove to women that it is possible for local women to find success and fulfilment in our industry too. The Women in Tech group is also doing a great job of offering support to women and I’d encourage women to attend the group’s monthly meetings for digital career advice.

 I’m happy to provide guidance for women with an interest in a career in technology. Please get in touch anna.milon@c5alliance.com