Computing is an amazing field to work in. There are a wide range of roles available, new technologies and methodologies are constantly being developed and there are opportunities to develop systems, apps and sites that can make a real difference to peoples’ lives yet there is still a lack of women working in and choosing to study computing. A lot of attention is focused on how to get more women into the field but another equally important topic which doesn’t always get addressed is how to make the most of the female work force you do attract.
Only the Beginning
Getting more women into your organisation is great but it’s only the beginning. Once they are in the organisation a company needs to look at how females are progressing in their company and the spread of roles they are moving into. This is not about positive discrimination or saying hang on we don’t have a women in role A we better get so and so into the role as our token women. This is about looking to see if there is any thing holding women back from achieving their full potential or putting them off applying for certain roles or following a particular career path.
Coaching for Success
I wish I had someone 5 years ago telling me to speak up and give my opinion, talk more about the topics that interested me and generally get more involved. I got really positive feedback about my role but no encouragement to push myself further and as a naturally shy person I held back. For some reason having my son and being away from IT for a year gave me the confidence to start going more for things. Having a small person who relies on you makes you get on with things. Within my own company I see girls who just need a push and some validation that their opinion is worth being heard. I think it is important that we create an environment which encourages everyone to share their views and when we see someone holding back try to find a way to get them to share.
I’m lucky to work for a company that has lots of great opportunities to learn and develop outside of my day to day project work. I think it’s important to see girls getting involved in these and if they aren’t understand why. All of these are voluntary so no one should be forced to do something they don’t want to do but it’s important to understand if there is anything other than a lack of interest holding them back and if there is to address it. It’s also important to make them aware of the benefits of getting involved in things like hacks and presenting. I always felt I didn’t know enough to present and had this fear that if I did I’d get caught out but I’ve found speaking about something I’m passionate about is really enjoyable. Not all my presentations have been successful but I’ve learnt from them and improved my skills. I’ve also gotten my face and interests out there.
Again this comes back to making girls realise their ideas are valid and encouraging them to develop them, seek out sponsors and self publicise any successes they have. I’m still working on this part. I’ve had ideas and spoken to people but I haven’t progressed them. Something I’ve realised over the last year is that if you have an idea there is nothing holding you back from pitching it to management no matter what your level. If you really want to get buy in you need to have developed it a bit before you go to them. Have a plan for how it can be achieved, quantify the business benefit and show willing to take on the bulk of the work. Definitely something for me to work on over the next year.
Inspiring Role Models
I’ve been lucky throughout my career to have worked with some great people who have inspired me. We can all play a part in helping women starting out in their career by giving them advice based on our experiences and by talking about what we’ve achieved and worked on. Also by following our own advice. What better way to get girls more involved and speaking up than by setting an example and doing it ourselves.
If organisations get it right and make the most of their female workforce it will have a positive impact on getting girls into IT. Seeing women enjoying successful careers in IT in different roles and levels who they can relate to and imagine wanting to be like is the most powerful message that computing is a great career choice.
Talking about something like this where it covers a large group of people has involved a bit of generalising so I’m sure it won’t apply to every women but it would have to me. A lot of the suggestions are just as relevant to developing guys in the workplace. Personally I think we should make time to develop all our talent.