8 March 2019

IWD 2019 at UKFast, women in techDid you know that just 6% of women in the UK run their own businesses? The current ratio of female entrepreneurs to male is just 0.46. And just 17% of people working in the technology industry are female.

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a prime opportunity to check in with the current state of women in tech. So I’ll hand over to some of the leading women in the industry to hear their thoughts:

Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO and co-founder of ORCHA

What are your views about the current state of ‘women in tech’?

It’s certainly starting to improve – more female tech leaders are now seen, particularly in the public sector but there is undeniably a need for greater balance in the private sector. Whilst some progress has been made, women in tech continue to NOT be the norm particularly at board level. Nor do we seem to be seeing an improving picture – there are fewer girls each year taking STEM subjects at GCSE and A-Level, and tech products continue to predominantly remain male in their design.

What progress has been made? Can you identify any specific positive steps?

It’s fantastic to see new programmes to encourage young women in education to feel more confident being established. Equally, female leaders are being empowered to tell their stories and mentor others. And people are starting to “call out” organisations who are not taking equality seriously and celebrating those that do.

What needs to change/happen next? How does the road ahead look?

We need to start earlier – to embed this change in girls from an EARLY age. We also need to embrace and accept that female leaders can be different to male, and that this is good. Alongside this, we need to support women to be able to work post children – through better policies and ability to work part time.

Mel Carlen, Head of IT Services, Moneypenny

What are your views about the current state of ‘women in tech’?

Tech is part of everyone’s everyday life now whether at home or in business so there shouldn’t be a question of gender in technology. Technology is only as good as the people behind it and we need diversity of thought and skills to make sure it is the best possible.

What progress has been made? Can you identify any specific positive steps?

Events like The Female Founders webinar demonstrates that women are leading the way in technology and pioneering its use in business. I am also a fan of schemes and initiatives designed to get women into STEM university subjects or careers. We hosted a Cyber Girls First Day at Moneypenny for students from local schools.
We believe in giving everyone a chance and believe that strong teams, including tech teams, need different people, personalities and skills to flourish. After all, diversity and inclusivity breeds innovation which is what we strive for.

What needs to change/happen next? How does the road ahead look?

We simply need to continue to offer opportunities to everyone to pursue their interest in technology and ensure that everyone has an understanding of how critical it is to our way of life. We provide webinars and talks at Moneypenny about our technology and try to bring to life our innovation so that all members of our team embrace it. Everyone at Moneypenny is able to confidently communicate that we offer our clients a winning combination of cutting edge technology and amazing people.

Gail Jones, UKFast MD

Gail Jones UKFast - IWD2019

Gail Jones, UKFast MD

What are your views about the current state of ‘women in tech’?

So much progress has been made but there is a long way still to go. There is little point in wasting your energy becoming frustrated with the state of play, when you could invest that energy into making a change instead.

Just 17% of people working in the industry are female – that’s a huge imbalance and something that desperately needs to change. It’s also a huge untapped resource for the industry and the UK, which is undoubtedly holding both back.

What progress has been made? Can you identify any specific positive steps?

Seeing the initiatives, workshops, pay gap narrative requirements and more, it’s clear that progress is being made. I am incredibly proud of our 0.9% mean pay gap at UKFast, and we’re working to lower that further. I am also proud that we have a 50/50 gender split in the senior management layers, but that’s just part of the story. We’re working hard by engaging with children of all genders and backgrounds to show them that a career in tech is an exciting career option no matter who you are.

What needs to change/happen next? How does the road ahead look?

I’ve been asked this question a few times in the build up to International Women’s Day. Redressing the balance is something we’re all learning as we go really. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to but I think it starts with putting yourself out there as a role model. Share your experiences. Representation is important for young people, which includes gender, race, sexuality and more. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved and recognise how that can inspire young people into the industry.

Equally, you can’t manage what you don’t measure so look at the teams within the business, look at the data coming through the recruitment process. Is there something you could do to appeal to all genders, to different backgrounds? Evaluate whether you are communicating in a way that inadvertently excludes sections of people. Language is powerful, even just the words that you use to write a job advert can have a huge impact on who applies for the role.

Be open and honest. We all know that there are challenges with gender parity in the tech industry and across business in general. Only when we have open and honest conversations about the state of play can we really start to work out what needs to be done to drive positive change.

Chris McHugh, Doris IT

What are your views about the current state of ‘women in tech’?

After working in the industry for more than 30 years, we have seen the increase in interest from women in all areas of tech and they are now more able to progress and succeed in a primarily male dominated environment. With more diverse leaders and senior decision makers, the future is bright for women in the industry.

What progress has been made? Can you identify any specific positive steps?

The positive progress that women in tech campaigns have had on the industry is probably not given enough coverage!

Our employees say ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and so Kath and I have made it our mission to pass this business onto the next generation and be role models for anyone who aspires to achieve great things.

What needs to change/happen next? How does the road ahead look?

The next step for Doris is to continue to bridge the digital skills gap merging together the DQ of Millennials with the EQ and organisational experience of Baby Boomers and beyond! Bridging gaps in experience and education is the way to an equal, diverse and inclusive future for the tech industry.

Patricia Keating, Tech Manchester

trish, Patricia Keating, from Tech Manchester

Tech Manchester’s Trish Keating.

What are your views about the current state of ‘women in tech’?

Whilst we have so far to go in balancing the numbers, we should highlight the great opportunities for women in our sector. I have been involved in the technology scene for two years and the efforts being made to make it a far more inclusive welcoming place, where women feel comfortable, go far beyond what I see in other industries.

What progress has been made? Can you identify any specific positive steps?

Lots of focus in schools, but a special note to the recent growth of the ‘tech returners’ programmes for career-break women to attract them into the tech industry. There are almost half a million women on career breaks in the UK – a huge talent pool. In Manchester Tech Returners, It’s Her Story, and and BeBraver/Creative Equals for the digital creative sector will make a difference.

With the Tech Manchester mentor programme, a third of our mentors and startups are currently female – ahead of the UK average – but we strive for gender parity in the participants of the programme.

What needs to change/happen next? How does the road ahead look?

Role Models are key. Each woman in tech needs to recognise their vital role in helping attract more women into our industry by sharing the positive experiences in it. Right now it’s only the bad news stories that you see in the press. We all need to lean in, collectively we can make a difference. For ourselves, it’s continuing to tailor our approach to women business leaders, as we have found a more personalised approach is effective in building their confidence to step into mentoring others.

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