It’s no secret that the tech industry has a reputation for being largely male-dominated and to some extent, it is. Yet, we’re seeing increasing numbers of women entering the industry and being empowered to learn, grow and thrive throughout their careers. This International Women’s Day, Wirehive hosted its ninth Wirelive in the form of a live stream over YouTube, in which four inspirational women in tech came together to discuss how far we’ve come as an industry, and how far we have left to go.
Our panel consisted of four women who were willing to openly discuss their positive and negative experiences of working within the tech industry. The conversation was led by Chloe Cameron, a Managing Director here at Wirehive. Chloe was joined by Aimee Woods, Jennifer Calland and Sophia ‘Puff’ Story. Each one of our panellists followed a different career path and was subsequently able to offer an alternative perspective on how women fit into the tech industry.
Aimee works at Microsoft, helping partnered business reach their maximum potential. Aimee found her way to the tech industry through the Microsoft Graduate Scheme. ‘I studied Law at the University of Surrey with the full ambition of becoming a solicitor,’ Aimee says, ‘This all changed in my second year when we were offered a year in the industry and I stumbled upon the opportunity to apply for Microsoft. This altered my whole plan. I ended up doing my internship as a Junior Account Manager in our central government team within the public sector at Microsoft.’ Upon the completion of her degree, Aimee returned to Microsoft and is currently employed as a Partner Development Manager.
Jennifer tells of her unconventional journey to the tech industry. After having to drop out of University, Jennifer faced living in poverty and homelessness. After finding work in the contracting sector, Jennifer found that ‘knowing a thing or two about computers’ was helpful in securing her the role of Business and Applications Analyst at Siemens PLM Software.
Whilst employed at Siemens, Jennifer taught herself how to code and build database-backed web applications, which earned ISO and 9001 certifications, as well as SOX compliance. After a prolonged break to support her family, Jennifer returned to the industry via the #TechUpWomen program, which served to reconnect her with ‘all things tech.’ Moreover, the program connected Jennifer with a supportive army of over a hundred women in the industry. It was through these bootcamps that Jenn was able to get back into a career in tech as a Platform Engineer at CTS.
Sophia 'Puff' Story
Puff is a Co-Founder of 3 Sided Cube Inc and has been named as one of the top 100 most influential business developers. Puff has vast practical experience in a variety of industries but is most passionate about using tech for good in the NGO, charity and third sector. Having served as an advisory member of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), she has been influential in promoting the use of technology to boost transparency and advocacy in the sector, having a positive impact on society in turn.
Chloe is one of the two Managing Partners here at Wirehive. Chloe noted the ways in which she’s been supported throughout her career in tech by her female colleagues. ‘I had a female mentor in Microsoft who I’m still very good friends with’, Chloe says, ‘and I’ve always been part of online female networking communities. There’s a tribe for everybody, you just have to find out who that is.’
What Does the Tech Industry Offer Women?
When considering prospective career paths, it's important to bear in mind that many of the careers available in the tech industry aren't actually 'techie.' Whilst there are countless opportunities to learn and grow, there are roles available to cover a whole range of skills and capabilities. Aimee notes that 'I wasn't good at maths or science at school, but learning on the job is so different.'
The tech industry is uniquely empowering for women; it's the perfect opportunity for social and intellectual growth. As Puff says, everybody is always learning regardless of their position or how long they've spent in the industry. People are able to come together, learn from one another and thrive.
How is the Tech Industry a Force for Good?
As a wider society, we're seeing a push for greater inclusivity and diversity within the workplace, and the technology industry is no different. Jennifer observes that companies across the tech industry seem to be making a conscious effort to push for greater diversity, and is striving to include individuals of all races, sexualities and genders.
The tech industry is becoming an increasingly safe environment. Whereas before, women were largely excluded and ostracised within the sector, the related alienating discourse has since been recognised as grossly unacceptable. Puff notes that she's already able to see the difference that a few years can make. A few years ago, Puff attended a networking event and was noticeably the only woman in the room. Now, she's able to meet with increasing numbers of women at similar events.
Major tech companies like Microsoft are influential in paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Aimee notes that the tech giant published a pledge that it adheres to, and similarly encourages its partners to adhere to. The pledge offers guidance on gender equality in the workplace, and how to gain and maintain the dynamic, amongst other things. Allies are vital to the feminist cause full stop, and are key to achieving and maintaining equality in the workplace.
What Advice Would You Offer to Young Girls, or Women Just Starting Out in Their Career?
Chloe asked the panellists what advice they'd offer to young girls considering their career path, or to young women just starting out in their career.
The advice given was as follows: actively involve yourself in discussions and make your voice heard. Find your tribe online or in real life and use these networks to support your surrounding women, and allow yourself to be supported in return. Jennifer wisely observes that to look at the issue of gender inequality in the tech industry as one, large issue can be daunting and overwhelming. Instead, ask yourself what you can do each day to make the industry a more inclusive and accessible environment.