Good Morning Everyone! And welcome to a very specialWireliveon international women’s day 2021. I am fortunate enough today to be joined by a panel of 3 amazing women who happen to work in the technology space.
So today we have, Aimee Wood, who is a partner development manager at Microsoft. Puff Story, who is Co-founder of Tech for Good agency, 3-Sided Cube and Jenn Calland, who is a platform engineer at Cloud Technology Solutions.
Welcome Ladies! The reason we wanted to run this panel today was that we are in a situation where technology had never been more important to our society and yet the representation of women not only stalled, its going backwards. I read a Mckinsey study that showed over the last 25 years the percentage of women in computer positions, in the US, has gone down rather than up. The percentage of women of colour taking computer science degrees has declined. Also, in the context of COVID, we’ve seen a lot of the gender equality gains by women in the workplace go backwards, as they have had to step out for default assumptions around, they would take care of the additional caring responsibilities, with children coming out of school. Also a lot of the jobs in the sector they work in being the hardest hit by COVID.
So, as we sit here on a day, were we want to celebrate the amazing achievements of women and push for greater equality, we you know, could be forgiven the picture might look a little bit bleak.
However! I think what we will hopefully get to by the end of our time together today is a real sense possibility that exists, especially in the technology sector. The technology sector is a booming sector in our economy, it has really strong wage growth, which is why not only from a moral point of view but from economic point of view, we need more women to get into this sector.
By getting into this sector, women can give themselves the financial security they need fulfilling and safe lives.
Also, as tech is so important in shaping our society today, we need women to have seats at the table. The default assumption of any design has been male for too long. We need women in the room to change that conversation, also people thinking of shareholder value. Study after study has showed that a lack of diversity in any board room, in any team, particularly in tech leads to huge opportunity cost. Diverse teams are more creative, they are more innovative and they are more profitable. 3 things which are hugely important to the tech sector.
So, if the moral argument wasn’t enough we’ve got some pretty convincing economic arguments as well, as it why everyone needs to get more women into tech.
Withour futher ado, I would like to invite each of the panellists to give us a little bit of background around their career. How they ended up working in tech and what they love about it.
Aimee can I start with you please?
AW: Yeah of course. Hi everybody and happy international women’s day, my career at the moment is pretty short, I am still pretty young. So I originally started university doing a law degree, I was adamant that was where I wanted to sit, I was pursuing it pretty hard, doing lots of competitions around interviewing and I had my heart set on becoming a solicitor. The more and more work experience I did, felt like sometime wasn’t right, that I just wasn’t enjoying it and we work for far to long, for far too many hours to not enjoy something we do.
So I was lucky enough to be abe to take a placement in my university degree between my second and final year and I was just scrolling, you know, didn’t really know what I wanted to do, wasn’t going to use my degree so I was really at my wits end shall we say? I was seeing what placement opportunities that honestly offered a salary, because a lot of law placements didn’t offer any reimbursement on your wage and I know that I wasn’t in a financial position where I was able to take no money for a year.
So I was scrolling and I stumbled across Microsoft. They offered a really good competitive salary and I thought, ‘You know what? This is a name I’ve heard of, pretty confident in what they do so I’ll apply and see if I get anywhere’.
I applied and got through the various stages, the video interviews, the weird one sided question interviews that they like to do, where are essentially answering yourself, which is a bit bizarre and I made to the assessment centre and finally got the job as a junior account manager in the central government team in our public sector.
This opened my eyes, I was under a female manager who was super motivational, she know leads our Women at Microsoft Team and she was really supportive and really pushed me. They allowed me to do things that were completely outside of my comfort zone but were also not stereotypically an ‘intern’. I wasn’t making coffee or photocopying , I was at Downing Street doing pitches of our teams tech, showcasing our surfacehub at the likes of Buckingham Palace, which was insane.
I kind of felt like I finally belonged somewhere, it was nice to see that path so, once I finished my placement I went back to uni and you know, did the old slog! Had to do all my law exams in which I thankfully passed and got really good 2.1. And I was actually invited back to Microsoft to do the graduate program where I landed my position as a partner development manager which is where I sit now.
I have looked after various partners, including Wirehive, who sit in my patch. I thoroughly enjoy it, I get to go out and build and help transform businesses you know and digitally transform our customers and make life better, so yeah.
That's where I started and that's where I'm sat today .
CC: Thank you Aimee sounds like you really found a passionate cause as well as a great career at Microsoft so play ‘Puff’ you’ve gone down the entrepreneurial perhaps you tell us a little bit about how you ended up Co founding a tech for good agency?
PSS: absolutely. So my background isn't in tech it's actually in advertising and marketing I graduated from University in advertising opting and I was lucky enough go straight to job at a large media agency in London. I did that for 6-7 years loved it, it was amazing and made so many friends, but I think I got to a point where I wanted more to life.
You know I've been spending lots and lots of time doing something that I wasn't quite sure I believed, in it wasn't kind of helping people it was probably, you I thought I had sold myself to the devil and to put it bluntly which isn't a good place to be. I decided did that I would relocate from London back to Bournemouth which is where it's at Uni . I went into tech I went to a web design and development agency called said read web?
I started learning how people design and build websites which, this was probably 9-10 years ago, actually probably longer! gosh I don't want the numbers! yeah it was a steep learning curve but I absolutely loved it. But at that point in time I was engaged, I got married actually so pregnant with my first child and you know I met a guy called Duncan Cook who is the founder of 3-sided cube in the UK. We had really good chemistry, I loved what he was doing. But crazy thing is he's never worked in an agency before where is my background was just all agencies in terms of my career at that point in time. And Duncan had these grand visions of building, building an agency but he'd never been in one which had if I was really intrigued by. So, he offered me this position, where it was basically, it was those flexible working involved which 8-9 years ago just didn't exist or if it did it meant that I would have to take a step back in my career. I was kind of like okay! so I took a job with Duncan, we basically started building the UK agency together.
We started focusing in on our mission which is to build tech for change millions of lives for the better. I think at that point in time and still that still to this day it's definitely something that we can get behind the whole team get behind, that actually started exciting me that we were using technology to make a positive difference to people, which is really exciting. I think from a selfish point of view!
I could do all of that, but I could still do it on a part time basis, so I was working around being a mum and being a wife and you know looking after the house, which was great, I never had the opportunity before, so I found this whole it just was so flexible.
Fast forward eight years We have Co-founded the US side of the business, it is doing amazing! Were in growth, have a team of around 45 people here in the UK. We’re looking to grow quite quickly in the US so it's quite exciting!
I'm not part time anymore, the role is a full-time role, but I have managed to have another child, so I've got to two girls now.
I think it's important to have female role models that can show you that you can have children if you want children and still have a really successful career and so that's a little bit about my Story.
CC: That's brilliant, thank you, I think a really inspiring and I think a really important message on a couple of points around the promising ability of tech to power this flexible working environment.
Also, important role models! Which I think we will probably come back to later. Jenn, can you give us a bit about your story and how you ended up working in tech?
JC: Sure, I've been in tech since the 1990s and the tech industry in various forms. Basically, I was fortunate enough as a child to have a computer in the house and later on as a hobby, one of my hobbies anyways, is actually building desktop systems from scratch. I was a Uni drop-out unfortunately, but when I went and joined the job market, it was as a contractor.
it was usually like administrative assistant, type positions if you know what I mean. But people quickly caught on, ‘hey this girl knows a thing or two about computers maybe we consider on this project or that project’, each those projects ended up increasingly more technical.
And I landed a contract position at Siemens and in their finance Department, as administrative assistant, but the manager of the finance group talked to her husband, who was also working for the company but over in R&D. She said ‘hey, got girl here who knows a thing or two about computers.
So, I went to interview with him and was invited to join the capital and asset management team and basically what that team did was we would work with our tech OPS group, we would work with our vendors, we would work with our customers to come up with a standardised platform upon which to use Siemen PLS software, various software packages.
And this is before cloud and build out you know capital budgets, processes around it everything else just massive. Lot of planning, a lot of footwork that sort of thing. And my boss had tasked me with the job of developing a web application that would automate a lot, a lot of those processes which I was able to accomplish very successfully to the point where other tools such as a travel request, tool and staffing request tool were also kind of bolted into the original backbone of the web app that I built.
I moved on from Siemens because I fell in love with an Englishman and moved over to England and here, I went to work for a health food start-up, which basically they had just started selling products on the Internet but really had some had a poor website and had some poor back office processes and everything.
So, I managed to get them back on track, as far as you know new website, built from the ground up that integrated with processes in the back office that were all automated and everything basically.
I took a look at how Amazon did things repeated a lot of that! Because there’s no use reinventing the wheel, and this was at the start of the 2008 recession and by 2010 this business that had been running in the red grossed over 2 million in sales that year I think.
So, with productivity, with productivity increases and that sort of thing just did a tremendous job for this business making a successful business.
After that well maternity leave. That maternity leave ended up being MUCH is longer than I anticipated, but a couple of years back, I just made the decision that I want to go back to work and I wanted to be back in tech. How do we get there?
Because I had a lot of experience but with the gap, nobody really wanted to talk to me. So I managed to enrol in a couple of boot camps, one was a TECHUPWOMEN. I was one of the first 100 graduates there, and then I moved on to Tech Returners who had more of a Manchester focus. Complete their bootcamp and some representatives from CTS had gone to see you know with results of our boot camp at tech returners was, and asked me to interview as part of the graduate programme and they hired me last September so I was able to obtain a tech jobs that gives me a lot of flexibility, because now I am a mom of 2, parent care as well. But I'm able to engage in work, be productive doing something I love anyways and being successful at it. All during a pandemic so but that’s all, thanks.
CC: wow, what a great Storey again, again you covered so many great things. I think it’s what makes tech amazing to work in and why it’s so important that we solve this lack of representation of women in the sector. As it has the potential to be so empowering, in terms of improving gender equality across society.
I think you see when you women who can keep working, those who are in positions where they are fortunate to be able to work from home, not saying there aren’t additional problems around assumptions, about primary caring and that sort of thing.
but you know where women have really suffered those who people in roles that either increasing automated or the hospitality sector, or leisure sector, those sectors that have been really badly hit by COVID. I think your story definitely taps into some key themes around why this is so important.
Thanks this intros everyone. It would be good just to start off with some younger people listening or people who don't work tech, It kind of seems obvious to us because where in it but, What does the tech sector have to offer women? Why should women consider a career in the tech industry?
Aimee, would you like to have a go at answering this first?
AW: Yeah of course, just to point out especially if there are younger people watching and thinking about applying you don't have to be super technical to join the tech industry I'm not do not come from a technical background I do not sit in a technical role as such so you know we're not all setting their coding day in day out and hand up now I do not know how to code and I'm still doing pretty well at Microsoft said I think pick up a change I'm into skills that might not necessarily thought well open to you I it's not very good at science or maths at school but you know coming in and learning on the job and having hands on experience is very different to a classroom environment and you can pick up those skills as you learn and grow and really grow into yourself and become technical I think I think the flexible working again either we've touched on is amazing and not only if you've got children but for your mental health and this year's being particularly difficult trapped in a room you know and looking at your computer screen and if you don't have that flexibility to be able to walk away from your screen for an hour and just switch off and justice be at one with yourself I think that could be really detrimental to your productivity so I think flexible working is big one societies especially you know even get invited to do panels like this you know that doesn't happen in every industry so being given that voice and being able to join and talk about your experiences with other women is really powerful and it's really important especially looking for role models because it's not always open and it's not always you know right there in front of you and obvious that women sit in these positions especially at school and if you think of a technical person you're likely to think that it's a man that's just the way it's been and you kind of accept it's cool but actually meeting people and hearing their experiences she said yeah I can do that so I think that a massive thing and strong progression so many roles and so many avenues that you can go into that you can have five different careers and in the same industry which is amazing but you know it's not like when I say in law that I could be a solicitor or barrister and that was kind of the two avenues I could go into this just so many opportunities and so many different paths that you can take within same company or you know within the same industry
CC thanks Amy I think the school points really interesting I was reading a research by PwC the other week that says a lot of problems are that perception women don't think about going to charge because they perceive that it is a very male dominated at the lack of role models just reinforces a perception so with this vicious circle where it's seen as not for girls at the lack of
Proper female role models just enforce it so I think we've got a lot of work to do around there,
Puff perhaps you could tell us from your point of view, apart from the flexibility already mentioned, what do you think the tech sector has to offer women across the spectrum?
So, I agree and echo all of Aimee points, they’re fantastic points. but I guess for me, I'm not overly technical but what I love about being in the tech sector is I feel like I am, always learning, always learning something new.
Whether it's related to the technical side of the business or whether or not it's related to the people side of the business. I'm always learning, and I think being in an environment where everyone will tell you, that they are also always learning, you know, they might be experts of what they do but doesn't mean that they're not learning everyday themselves.
I think that's what's wonderful about being in tech, is that certain ally in our business anyway, you know, we all kind of honest and say look we are all going to be learning things on this journey and that's okay.
and I think there is something around confidence there, I don't think if you have asked me, 15-20 years ago would I see myself tech probably said no. Because I wasn't confident enough to be able to say yeah, I know loads about tech and I can do this, I just that's not me and I you know it's really sad to say this but I think that's probably how a lot of women feel. but I know that's fine and that's okay but none of us know its claim that we know everything even though we did work in tech and I think I think that's a good thing.
Aimee touched earlier as well with the infinite opportunities, so many opportunities and meaning the more people I meet the more I realise Oh my gosh there's just so many things that you could do you could you know be an entrepreneur you could start your own business you could go and work for a large organisation like Microsoft you could work for a small tech start up this is not different avenues lots of different routes as well as different positions so you could be in developer you could be a designer and you could you know we're client strategist you could like this couple different roles there's just so many opportunities so I think before writing anything off they do it research see what roles are out there I need a more important speak to those people because EBay clearing you imagine it at I think there is when they said it was when I was growing up that huge lack of female role models in tech that I was aware of and I think you know your Swiss slowly seeing that type change but I don't know if it's happening quickly enough which is why what tied autists always trying to push the button wriggling you can be whatever it is you wanna be whether it's intentional or not intend dying typing going into schools and speaking to you young girl smoking really important life choices at a very early age I think it's not just relevant for those younger children it's you know for women that have perhaps taking a career break whether they've had children or gone troubling or you know they want to change careers I I did I change from advertising and marketing is all I'd ever known InterTECH I started from scratch again I had to in the beginning but it's not is scary but it's not it doesn't have to be a bad experience it can be a wonderful experience so I don't could change that
CC I do want to do the age the industry or I guess do you think about parents advising children what their perception attack is do they think it is just you know men programming and so perhaps don't suggested to their daughters you know I think it's perhaps not understood that it can be really huge jump section ability in the way the 30-40 years ago it was like oh if you have a bright child pushed them to be an accountant or a lawyer because after profession that in new security I think I think Ted gets talked about the same way and actually all the data shows a huge growth area now and so I think if if schools don't have that insight parents have been site there's definitely a role for the sector itself to try to fill that educational gap at
Jenn and apologies cause when you get asked last in these situations quite a few points you probably want to make have come before but I guess from your point of you, particularly as a Tech returner what you think the technology sector has to offer women
JC: First off absolutely all the above plus though there is a lot of recognition I think in the industry as far as lack of diversity both gender, colour of your skin, who you love and because of that recognition that acknowledgment finally it seems like folks who are in leadership positions are doing more to promote women and people of colour and people of different gender identity or you know who they love whatever the case may be to come to the table and be a part of that decision making to finally see people in those roles who look like or think like me so there's been a lot more promotion there within the industry over all and I think that that's leading to of course more lucrative jobs becoming available with an eye on hiring from marginalised communities and I've definitely noticed you know that shift in culture at least where I work at CTS where there have been a couple of times where I've pulled my landline manageress eye and said wow I don't have to deal with you know this social issue or anything like that in the workplace because you know there's in comparison to working in the 90s in the tech industry there were a lot of things that women had to put up with as far as like microaggressions or even inappropriate talk and that sort of thing that's not tolerated anymore and so it's a safer environment for women or other marginalised peoples to come and work it because that behaviour isn't tolerated and that I think is a huge bonus as far as changing the work culture to be much more inclusive and then of course spreading the wealth you know a bit as far as like the opportunities and inviting people to the table not just to be heard but to make the decisions there's been a lot of positive change there
CC Thanks Jen, I think diversity inclusion belonging point is really important and I think it's quite interesting and maybe this is like myopic view because I work the technology sector, but it certainly feels like a lot of the companies who are being very proactive around the diversity including the belonging debate are technology companies. I know Microsoft instance not only has a great internal programme round adversity but,
as it Microsoft Partner, Wirehive are assigned the Microsoft partner pledge and one of the core tenets that they just commitment to diversity across both gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and I think it's interesting to see that that that tech for good angle really coming through and being a real hopefully it forced the good.
I mean obviously the tech sector does have some bad storeys I think you know Uber-gate from a few years ago shows the for some women working technology there was a lot of inappropriate behaviour and a really toxic environment which I still think you know we're not we've not seen the full extent of because obviously coming forward those storeys incredibly challenging and not always received with the openness and acceptance perhaps it should be but I do think since I'm not sure what you guys think it feels like Uber me too it kind of was like a a big touchstone moment in the industry I think we've seen a lot of change since then which would you agree or disagree with that.
I would agree I haven't been in tech 10 so 10 years but I would say that when I started out and take it properly experience more, I think I did experience really horrible things but you know it's not worth the airtime now and I haven't experienced that stuff for years. and I don't know if it's because I'm in a tech for good bubble or if it's just naturally like happened across the industry but I definitely I've definitely seen signs of improvement for sure.
CC Brilliant, that's really great to hear so
JC: I was just going to comment that I thinks it hitting critical mass as far as that's concerned was saying more diverse people you know in these working spaces and at least leadership positions right now is an excellent time for getting on.
CC: yeah definitely I think this raises interesting points I think awareness of the issue has never been higher and I think I do feel generally commitment to making a change not just from women who are in this issue positions but leaders in this you know allyship is so important to making this change happen quickly and making it stick I really feel like there is a genuine commitment to change however the reality is that still the tech sector is hugely male dominated and you know with your decision you can't be what you can't see it does cause problems so you know I guess be interested you know I guess interesting just but Kinda partly paddle at your own perceptions of you why do you think it's so bad dominated and you know what kind of I guess green shoots of diversity you start to see when you look around the tech sector, Aimee, maybe you could start?