What Women Want: Four Changes That Women In The Tech Industry Want To See Right Now
While there have been huge strides made in order to bring equality into workplaces across the UK and the US, there is still a way to go – especially within the tech sectors.
Global tech recruiters MRL are on a mission to champion women in the tech industry. In order to get some real insight, they asked a selection of incredible women to talk about their experiences of diversity within the industry and the challenges they have faced throughout their careers.
The women who were interviewed are Dr Anjali Subburaj, Chief Architect of Mars, Hannah Marcus, Associate Director of Discover.ai, Kerry Harrison, Co-Founder of Tiny Giant, and Sonia Dorais, CEO of Chaser.
As a result, they have compiled a list of key changes that the tech industry can implement in order to encourage and support diversity within the sector.
1. Promote Women to Rightful Senior Positions
Dr Anjali Subburaj, Chief Architect of Mars, said “Talented women in technology are often relegated to being ‘Salieris’, I would like to see them get acknowledgement and rightful reward as the Mozarts that they are!
“Men are comfortable mentoring women in technology into junior to middle level positions. However, very few come forward to sponsor women to help them to progress to the most senior positions. We need more visible women at the most senior positions in the technology industry.”
When we asked Dr Subburaj what advice she would give to women working in the tech industry, she said, “Always invest in your own learning. Make learning a habit. Look at the person in the role above you and learn from them and seek feedback from your community so that you can continuously grow and improve. Introspection has helped me redefine my values and I live by them; at the same time, I internalise feedback to continuously improve myself.
“Many people assume that strong communication skills are not necessary to work in the technology industry. After all, won’t they be spending more time with computers rather than people? I too started my career in technology with this assumption, but quickly realised that my technical skills will never gain the recognition and value that they deserve, if I cannot successfully convey their importance to others. Speak for your work and don’t leave it to the work to speak for itself.”
2. Improve Gender-Disaggregated Data Capture
Hannah Marcus, Associate Director of Discover.ai, said “I would like to see more empathetic design built into technology products, regardless of sector. If a piece of technology isn’t working for your primary user group, the response should not be to blame the user and try to change their behaviours, but to change the technology to be more in line with what people actually need.
“A technology that functions perfectly when you test it once may work very differently when someone is using it 30 times a day whilst trying many other things. I would love to see more integration between the user and the developer, and more empathy being factored into technological design, ultimately leading to better tech that does genuinely helpful things for more people.”
When we asked Hannah what advice she would give to women working in the tech industry, she said, “The first thing about working in technology is that it’s not necessarily about a skillset, it’s about an attitude. Are you comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone, about finding ways for technology to help you do new things? If so, then you’ll be able to find a form of technology that speaks to you, whatever industry or sector you’re in or want to be in. If you want to go learn to code, do, if you don’t, that’s also fine.
“I think also remember that pretty much everyone has some form of imposter syndrome, and that it’s a waste of your time but also that you’ll get over it at your own speed because everyone does.”
3. Encourage Multi-Disciplinary Teams
Kerry Harrison, Co-Founder of Tiny Giant said “I’d like to see more diverse and multi-disciplinary teams in the tech sector. More women and people of colour in our teams. If our AI models are being trained and built by white, middle class males, the technologies that emerge from that are likely to be less inclusive. With more diverse teams, problems with race or gender bias for example, can be called out or questioned at the design stage.
“In the same way, I think multi-disciplinary teams are also important. We need developers and engineers, yes. But I believe we also need creatives, ethics experts, social scientists, those who bring different perspectives and who really understand the implications of new technologies on people and wider society. Without that understanding, we’re more likely to release technology that may solve one particular problem, but then have a negative impact on certain people in society, or on society as a whole.”
When we asked Kerry what advice she would give to women working in the tech industry, she said, “Just start. Start anywhere. Play with the tech, learn to code, stay up to date on the technology around you and read about it so you understand its capabilities and pitfalls.
“In terms of creating art, there are several non-coding platforms to try – they’re a great way to push your own boundaries and explore the possibilities. A job in tech doesn’t just mean being a developer. There are lots of creative roles too. As long as you understand the tech, you don’t have to be a full-on coder to contribute. Find your strengths and then see how AI and tech can support that.”
4. Listen to Unbiased Perspectives
Sonia Dorais, CEO of Chaser, said “I would like to see more people from non-traditional finance backgrounds come into the industry to add an unbiased perspective.
“For example, from the marketing perspective, many fin-techs could do with better branding. Modern marketing tools like gamification can make mundane tasks like receivables or budgeting appear exciting and more enjoyable to end users.”
When we asked Sonia what advice she would give to women working in the tech industry, she said, “First, support each other. Always. Try not to be a part of the problem and be self-aware of when you might experience unconscious bias yourself. All too often, it is women who are tough on other women. Some are so desperate to be part of the “boy’s club” so they compete with each other thinking there is only room for one woman there. It’s not the case. It’s never the case.
“Remember that no matter which woman comes your way in the industry, we are still the minority, and may have had to work twice as hard as a man to get to where she is and prove herself. Treat men and women in the same way: Take direction from women in the same way you’d take them from a man. Trust her strategy and expertise as you would from her male counterparts.”
A spokesperson for global recruitment agency MRL, said “If we’re going to truly champion diversity and equality within the tech sector, the best people to ask for advice are the women who have first hand experience of working in the industry.
“At MRL, we are constantly striving to be better, and getting insight like this is invaluable. Businesses should be paying attention to what women are telling them about the challenges they face and how they can be tackled.
“Women have been an intrinsic part of the tech industry for decades, and it’s time for that to be rightly acknowledged and appreciated. These are just a few small steps that can be taken, which could potentially make a significant difference.”