Leadership & Productivity

How women can make the most of the tech boom

7 min read

17 July 2019

Only 17% of those working in tech are female. Added to this, a mere 10% hold executive-level positions. How can we encourage and support women to enter this booming industry?

I have spent 25 years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. From my experiences, I believe finding your passion, the right workplace and a strong support network are integral to getting ahead as a woman in tech. However, in order to reach the stage where we see women in 50% of senior roles, our educational systems need to do much more. 

Find your passion

Technology isn’t all about coding, data and electronics. The industry is broad and there are many sectors within the umbrella of technology there for anyone with a variety of experiences to explore. Before you can do this though you need to pinpoint where your passion lies.

For me, it was always clear where I wanted to make a difference – in discovering new medicines for rare diseases. This focus has enabled me to move from the traditional pharmaceutical sector into the cutting edge healthcare-technology space. From there on I entered my role as the Chief Operations Officer at Healx.

Here at Healx we use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to find new treatments for rare diseases. It’s our mission to progress 100 treatments towards the clinic by 2025. An achievement which will have a major positive impact on patients’ lives. 

Knowing that my job can help improve the quality of life for patients with rare diseases is what gets me up in the morning. Working alongside colleagues who are equally as passionate about finding new treatments for these diseases, is what gives me an extra buzz.

But Healx is by no means the only tech company working towards such a positive end goal. Health tech startups like Beat Medical, NOTESFIRST and SiSaf who are harnessing AI to get the right treatments to the right disease patients. These female-founded tech companies out there are also really making waves in the biotech industry. 

Find the right workplace

Choosing the right workplace to pursue your passion in is almost as important as finding that passion in the first place. For me, the best places to work at were the companies which recognise that each employee is different and caters to their individual circumstance. 

This tailored approach to employee relations works much better than adopting a one-size-fits-all strategy. It works better for the employees and the company. If you trust the people who work for you and show them respect, they will pay it back in terms of their work and commitment to your company.

Transparency within a corporate setting also helps. Being transparent on pay and the percentage of women in management positions betters the situation. This is why regulations like those relating to the UK’s gender pay gap report are so valuable for addressing the gender balance in the workplace. 

Find your support network

I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to have found support within the companies I’ve worked for. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some inspirational colleagues and managers – both male and female. A good role model can really make a difference. They have certainly helped me both personally and professionally. 

One such person who springs to mind was a former manager who taught me to be confident in my decisions. She would always say,

Just make a decision. If it’s the right decision, then great. If it’s the wrong decision then accept it, correct it and get on with it. But at least you made a decision.

This has always stuck with me.

You might find it beneficial to seek out a community outside of your current organization. The outside community does not need to be a women-only group but any within the tech space. This gives you the opportunity to share your ideas and visions with peers. Surrounding yourself with inspiring, supportive people will help set you up for success. 

Change needs to start from the very beginning –  with education

Finding my passion, the right company and a support network were key to helping me grow and develop as a woman in the tech industry. 

However, with stats still showing that only half of the female students who take tech and IT subjects at school go on to get a job in these areas, it’s clear that the discrepancy between the genders starts very young – and it’s such a waste. It’s true that there are inspirational women out there – like leading astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. The astronomer donated her £2.3m science prize winnings to fund women, refugee and under-represented ethnic minority students to become physics researchers. However, more needs to be done in our educational institutions to encourage more women to choose a career in tech. 

In the 25 years, I’ve been in this industry, things have certainly changed for the better, but there’s still much more work to be done. The goal for individuals, education systems and businesses should be to see women enjoy a 50/50 share of the most senior tech positions. I’m hopeful that this is a reality we’ll see achieved during my (working) lifetime.