Opinion

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Women in tech: Negative stereotypes like ‘computer geek’ put people off

5 Mins

This is particularly true for women. In my 28 years working in the technology industry, attitudes towards women have vastly improved. While more women are working in the industry today than when I started my career, in the core technical roles these stereotypes persist. This goes hand in hand with the perception that ICT traditionally has been a very masculine industry. 

Technology companies and the industry as a whole deserve credit in that it values the female workforce. Increasing the number of women in the sector will generate an extra £2.6bn each year for the UK economy, partly by reducing the skills gap. 

Personally, I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in technology and after graduating from a BSc in Science and Technology, my path was fairly straight forward. I was lucky to have some great female role models who showed me there was a real career opportunity here. 

Young women within the industry today can take encouragement in that more and more females are taking lead roles in ICT services. For example Chief Technology Officers for several local authorities across Scotland are women, as is the CEO of Lockheed Martin. 

Girls who could have the potential to forge a successful career in technology are increasingly encouraged and more are becoming aware of what opportunities are available to them. The issue of low female participation in ICT education had a detrimental effect on a strong female workforce – only one fifth of professionals within the industry are women. However, I believe this trend is changing.

In a mostly ‘masculine’ environment, women bring something different to the team, certainly a different perspective. We are not necessarily better than our male counterparts or them better than us, but we do tend to have some different, complementary personal skills. 

Not only are women perceived to share sound logical reasoning with their male counterparts, but more generally women tend to encourage, collaboration and interaction from their colleagues, be team players and encourage group development. It is for these reasons especially that successful interview panels include both male and females to ensure different perspectives are taken into consideration. A balance of different skills lends well to a successful team environment.

As the UK industry grows, the skills gap and lack of professionals applying for ICT roles becomes a key issue. As education initiatives and programmes filter through universities, colleges and schools, encouraging both boys and girls into the ICT industry needs to be a fundamental element. To do this, we need to end the perception that it is a masculine industry, instead an industry that is looking for talented and motivated professionals regardless of their gender. 

All members of a team contribute to the organisation’s success and overall growth. It is our responsibility to encourage the next generation of professionals, both male and female, and ensure we fill each position with the most suitable applicant. Having a balanced workforce in terms of gender and age benefits everyone and has a transformational impact on all aspects of our business. 

I have been lucky enough to enjoy a fantastic career working alongside some great people who have helped me really develop my skills. Informing females of these opportunities and providing them with the tools to become a part of this talented pool of professionals is integral to ensuring continued growth in the ICT sector.

Fiona Davidson is business unit director, networks & utilities, at Lockheed Martin, which takes an intelligence-driven approach to information systems and cyber security today to defend against possible cyber threats.

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