Tech is #notjustforboys

If women set up businesses at the same rate as men there would be an extra 150,000 startups every year.

This is a contributed piece by Carol Snell, non-executive director, Push Technology


It’s no secret that we hear a lot about gender issues at work, especially in the technology industry. According to figures from a recent study conducted by e-skills UK [PDF], less than 17% of the tech industry is made up of women. The study also noted that this gender gap is worsening. Women make up about 55% of the workforce as a whole, yet fewer than 25% of women work in the technical field. Now, once again women in tech or the lack of them is creating headlines.

British Minister of State for Employment Esther McVey launched the #notjustforboys campaign last month to encourage more women to break through and reach top jobs in industries often deemed ‘boys clubs’. McVey’s initiative will challenge stereotypes about the careers that women can aim for. Ministers are concerned that too many women aren’t applying for jobs in successful and expanding industries, because they are seen as men-only sectors.

#Notjustforboys is a campaign that’s all about choice - supporting and inspiring women to make decisions that are right for them, in whichever industry it may be. The initiative isn’t just for women about to take the first step in their career; it’s for young girls thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, it’s for women progressing in their career, and it’s for those returning to work.

Miss McVey said: “I want to see more women make the most of the future growth and job opportunities in what once may have been considered non-traditional roles...women are getting on and making choices about the world of work, that many of their mothers and grandmothers might never have considered for themselves.”

FACT: If women set up businesses at the same rate as men there would be an extra 150,000 startups every year.

My tips to get ahead

A Silicon Valley boardroom veteran, I have bucked the ‘boy’s club’ trend throughout my career; last year joining Push Technology’s board of directors as the first Push Technology female board member. It goes without saying that I think more women should be working in tech, but this is why and how I think it could happen.

Last month, Hillary Clinton told Silicon Valley that the Valley elites like to think they’re miles ahead of the rest of the world. But when it comes to women, they are as behind as everyone else. “We are going backwards in a field that is meant to be all about moving forward.” Clinton said, as she explained how she’s sat through presentations full of sexist jokes; welcomed on stage as “the girl” and received compliments about her looks during business meetings.

In my career, women have had to work twice as hard to get half the credit. I think with this whole thing of men vs. women, sometimes we forget the fact that there’s a DNA issue here. We were born this way; we were born with different characteristics. As they say, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. The stigma we had to get away from—our parents and grandparents saying a man did this, and a woman did that—I don’t think that’s true today.

Women listen better, we’re more caring, our DNA is more nurturing—it’s just who we are. So we tend to make better leaders, in a lot of cases, because it’s less political for us—it’s more about teambuilding. I think women have a nature about them to be more precise, and more detail-oriented. I’ve seen that time and time again as I’ve built organisations over these last couple of decades. It never fails.

If you want to get ahead, make sure you never stop learning. Get a good education, develop a core competency in an area of interest and stand up for what you know is right. Don't try to be good at everything, even if you think that is the only way to be the best. Just get noticed and seek out opportunities to solve real problems. Know your stuff, gain respect; work hard and great outcomes will happen.

If I could offer one piece of advice to a young woman who aspires to have a career in technology, I would say to build a mentor network. Mentors are the greatest thing. Without them, I look back on my life, and I think how I would never have done as well if I hadn’t had somebody to bounce ideas off of. I’ve mentored a lot of young women over the last 10 or 15 years, as well. I just think building a network of great mentors is very, very smart.

Finally, don’t be a complainer. I’ve never been one of these people to sit back and beat up the nature of the beast, and say, “We’re never going to get ahead, and we’re never going to do this or that.” I have never complained or whined in my career. I feel like I’ve been given huge opportunities—I was on a great, fast-track career path. Sometimes I want to say, “Oh, hush and stop whining. Do your work, and there will be a good outcome here.” It’s an individual thing. If you want to do it, you can do it.