To celebrate International Women's Day, we asked women at Code four important questions to help raise awareness against gender bias and take action for equality.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let's all Choose to challenge.
Honestly, I don't think I'm conscious of the obvious challenges that I may have faced due to my gender. I think the biggest stumbling block for me at times has been my mindset and overcoming that. When you belong to a group, who have struggled for equality in the workplace for so long, it's easy to enter a room of strong willed and talented men and feel (wrongly) at a disadvantage. Thanks to greater inclusivity, and strong female role models occupying senior leadership positions, this is becoming less of a problem.
Many of the challenges I've faced as a woman working with technology and digital have often come from within my own head and my own feelings of insecurity or not belonging have held me back. In the last few years, I've been fortunate enough to have a male line manager who has been my friend, ally and advocate for me, encouraging and reminding me that my presence is valued and valuable. Everyone needs an ally.
Not knowing about the Entitlement Gap. No one really tells you about it and you don't really know what you can do about it so you're on the back foot from the beginning of your career. It's like the biggest kept secret and it needs to be closed quickly so we don't pass these toxic attitudes on to our future generations. We should be nurturing young women to grow up without it. As for now, women should not be afraid to ask for what they are entitled to, and deserve.
The biggest challenge I've faced as a Product Manager is still the challenge I face daily, and that is perception. As a young woman in a quote unquote 'management' position, it's difficult to be taken seriously or assert authority without being labelled 'bossy' or a 'control freak', stigmas that men in my position, regardless of age would not face, instead being described as 'authoritative' and 'strong'. Having said that, it is something that is improving as time moves on and these old labels fade out of our consciousness, especially the more we call it out as an incorrect assumption.
I really encourage young women who are considering a career in digital to take the next step and learn more about the huge variety of opportunities this industry has to offer. There's a real misunderstanding around what a career in tech offers, and whose best suited to this space. It's not some exclusive club for computer scientists! What young women may not realise is that there's huge amounts of opportunity across a wide range of subject matters. There are so many successful and inspirational women doing great things for tech, and there's plenty of room for you to be one of them!
I'd say try it! No career decision you make now has to be final, we're seeing people join us who are on their second or even third career path. Use contacts you know to understand more about the roles available or be brave and bold and get in touch directly with people to ask them about their experience. Businesses are increasingly aware of how important it is to get the right people into their business and it is a mutually beneficial fit for both you and the company. Use this to your advantage when exploring roles and ask for taster days or to speak directly to teams.
As a kid I was always told that I talk too much, but my career in client services has allowed me to realise that I have a voice and I can use it to say something important. The diversity of opportunity in digital means we don't have to conform, we can just find our own space. You don't just have to be a developer - my background is comms and client services, but always with a focus on digital. I've found my place as a digital consultant as I love working with people and building lasting strategies. We have all different kinds of personalities across our disciplines and each woman at Code has been able to find their groove due to its openness and inclusivity.
Women thinking about embarking on a career in digital need to absolutely go for it. Do your research, find a place that will allow you to explore some different avenues to experience the many different routes into digital workplaces. My main piece of advice is to become visible and take up space in the community you want to join, make the effort to attend meetups, follow up enquiries on Twitter, be present and focused on what you want to achieve and run with it. Being a woman in the tech industry can at times be lonely, so make sure you join some female tech communities, you'll be surprised at how many women feel the same way as you and want to help by offering mentorship and support.
We can do so much more at a grass-roots level. By ramping up our engagement with schools, and other learning providers, we can promote an inclusive industry with plenty of opportunity for all genders and backgrounds. We can continue to challenge existing misconceptions an provide a greater platform for diversity in the industry.
It has to come from the removal of stereotype boundaries at a grassroots level. We should be introducing all children to opportunities in digital and technology at an early age, and as leaders in the industry we should not only be demonstrating what can be achieved, but we should be helping to break down accessibility barriers, like the work that Code does with InnovateHer. At our level though, we should be influencing change by calling out inequality ourselves. It's obviously a huge agenda item for leadership teams but we can't wait for those behaviours to be changed by instruction when we can influence them immediately; we should feel comfortable pointing out bias in our everyday working lives. I also think it's key that we do this constructively and positively, there's no need for conflict or shaming.
Despite the digital industry being highly developed and forward-thinking, there is still a vast amount that can be improved on in relation to gender issues. The gender pay gap is still very real and companies need to be more transparent about what they're doing to combat this issue. However, the most important gender issue to be improved upon is diversity, and the conversation around this takes us way back to how we educate women across the country from as young as primary school age. We need to get better at teaching young girls that tech is for them too and that there is more to it than a coding boys club, it's actually a really cool career to pursue. We also need to improve the level of support offered to lower-income families that consider tech careers to be expensive for their child in terms of kit they need to be able to succeed.
My first manager in my graduate job, Helen Crimble (she probably doesn't know this!). She was tenacious, fair, supportive, and transparent. She showed me how to act professionally but also what not to stand for; that kind of mentorship early on in your career can really shape your future so, thank you, Helen.
Every woman in tech is pushing the field forward. We're constantly moving the industry to a more diverse and equal space that is going to create so many new types of jobs in the new world we're building together. New opportunities are sprouting out of the ground like crazy and we're reshaping the structure of employment and gender perception as we go. So I celebrate all women in digital today, and thank those that have come before me for creating an industry where I am able to thrive and succeed where they perhaps did not. Happy International Women's Day to all the womxn in the world, and to quote drag queen Bimini Bon Boulash, you all look so sexy tonight, you make me want to dismantle the patriarchy‚ have a great day everyone!
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