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Forging a More Gender Balanced World for Women in Tech

Category: Recruitment, Woman in Tech, Computing and Electronics, Woman, Pontoon, Pontoon Solutions, IWD2019

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Sofy Richards, one of our women in tech, was one of only three women in her school class to take A2 computing, and the only one to forge a career in tech. Her story, is a reflection of the wider workforce where just 17% of those working in the technology sector identify as female.

As the theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is ‘better the balance, better the world’, the team at Pontoon decided we’d like to share the stories of three successful women in the tech sector.

In the first of three blogs to kick-off IWD 2019 we interviewed Sofy Richards, a Digital Business Manager about her career journey:

Why is it important for people who identify as women to be part of technology?

It opens the doors of an organisation to a more diverse set of approaches, views, and skill-sets which research shows increase bottom-line profitability. Diversity is an enabler of success, and to improve diversity companies need to be open to people from a broad variety of backgrounds, with different values and approaches.

Do you feel you have been subject to bias (unconscious or direct) and do you feel that attitudes are changing?

Yes, I have been subject to bias during my career and it’s easy to become frustrated when this happens but, in my experience, it makes a huge difference to constructively challenge that behaviour. Most people don’t come to work with an intent to discriminate and cause harm or offence. Everyone has unconscious biases and the solution isn’t castigation but education.
I think that attitudes are changing, I’ve seen more and more focus on reverse mentoring and sponsorship for women, unconscious bias training across the board, and companies reacting swiftly and with sensitivity to harassment issues.

With only 17% of the technology workforce identifying as female, have you found any particular challenges that you have had to overcome?

Something I’m really focusing on is shouting about the awesome work that my teams and I deliver. Historically I’ve relied on the quality to speak for itself, but I’ve learnt that’s not sufficient to get enough backing to make the changes that really matter. Sponsorship is important!

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d say don’t restrict yourself to jobs where you can already do 100% of the role; look for one you can do 60-80% of it. How you go about your work and the values that you and the business hold are as important as technical skills and technical skills can be learnt. Going for a job where you believe or can already do 100% can also engender a mindset where you’re less willing to learn due to already seeing yourself as an expert which can mean you miss valuable opportunities to innovate, learn, improve.

Mentoring and coaching are also invaluable in very different ways. At the beginning of 2018, I felt like I’d lost my sparkle and was struggling to identify what I wanted to do next. My coach helped me regain confidence in my decision making and his support to helped give me the confidence to go for my current role which was hugely out of my comfort zone. Mentoring is very much a two-way relationship.

One of my mentees recently made me see myself in a whole new light; I always said I’m not creative because I’m not great at drawing, but she made me see that my approach to problem solving is fundamentally creative and as a result we’ve worked together to develop a really creative approach to rolling out the new digital strategy.

How do you feel we can inspire women into the workplace?

There are lots of things we can do to inspire women to enter the tech industry. I think they fall into two categories; firstly, getting women into the technology sector and second, keeping them there. Three women out of a class of 20 took A2 Computing in my school year and I’m the only one of those who’s gone on to have a technology career. Engaging more women at a younger age will help funnel talent into the sector.

We need to focus on engaging younger children in schools, not just age 16+, to showcase how fun it can be working in tech, demonstrate the breadth of opportunities, and talk about how transferable and important technology skill sets are in virtually any career.

Keeping women becomes more complex, I think a large part of it is ensuring men have access to the same flexible working options such remote working and it’s not just seen as a ‘female thing’. Too often there’s an assumption that if a man is married, the wife can be flexible around her career when actually it would be better if both were to be able to flex as a team.

We hope you find some inspiration in Sophie’s story to apply to your career, that of members of your team, or perhaps future talent? At Pontoon our goal is to provide more work opportunities for more people so we’re proud to be supporting this year’s IWD theme of #BalanceforBetter

To keep up to date with how we’re supporting IWD, and changing the world of work, one job at a time, follow us @PontoonSolution.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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Pontoon Solutions

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