Being a woman in tech – Charlotte’s storyBy Charlotte Tracey
I’ve always loved technology and how it can help enhance people’s experiences, whether that is through their professional life, or home life. From being able to control your central heating through your smart phone (The Hive), to using software to improve productivity at work (Slack) and the app I use the most on my iPhone (with the exception of ASOS of course) – CamScanner.
It almost seems ironic that after graduating with a degree in Ancient History, spending so much time looking back to the past, I now look to the future to see how technology will continue to provide enriching experiences.
As someone who was surrounded by successful women growing up, and had female mentors throughout my education and first internship, I received a bit of a culture shock when I took my first steps into the digital world.
I didn’t always want to work in technology, and in all honesty, am here by complete fluke. I started out in research, specifically within the culture sector, where technology was being used to extend the gallery experience. Even while working in research I saw a divide between the qualitative side and the quantitative side. As I moved into the more quantitative side of research, the number of women in the office diminished.
Morris, D. P. (Photographer). The TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 conference in San Francisco [digital image]. Retrieved from Bloomberg.
Numbers were definitely a man’s world, while words were left to women. Challenge accepted. Or so I thought.
As an analyst I tended to allow the data to speak for itself, but I found that when this data was presented by a woman, it was much harder to get the message heard. The challenge of being one of the few women in the room was, I thought, too much. My confidence dropped and I often blamed myself for not getting what I wanted out of my career.
Then a friend recommended I go to a Ladies that UX meet–up. I went along, expecting it to be full of women who had achieved so much more than me. But listening to other women who worked in the sector share their experiences was a game changer. I realised I wasn’t to blame, but more importantly I realised that with the support of other women, I could do something about it. I started reaching out to women in the industry through attending these events and started discussing my career goals with other women in my workplace without judgement.
“If we do not share our stories and shine a light on inequities, things will not change.” Ellen Pao, Former CEO of Reddit
By coming together with like–minded women, listening to their experiences and sharing my own stories, I felt supported. My confidence grew and I started making myself be heard among my male colleagues. I would not step down when ignored. I didn’t allow the fear of sounding like a broken record overpower me when I had to keep repeating points in meetings. It was not an overnight change, but it was a step in the right direction. Slowly but surely I started to use my voice to tell the story behind the data, and not sit back and let my male colleagues take the lead.
Rawpixels.com (photograph owner). Four women standing on mountain [digital image]. Retrieved from Pexels.
Opening these conversations to include my male counterparts meant they were more aware of our experiences. As the saying goes: strength in numbers!
Having recently relocated back to Northern Ireland it is great to see so many organisations here in Belfast that have been set up by women in tech to support their colleagues. Organisations like Lean in Belfast and Women who Code. I can’t wait to start attending some of the events organised by these amazing women.
Much has changed in recent times but there is still so much more we need to do to ensure gender equality in our industry. As of 2017, only 5% of leaders in the technology industry are female and 78% of students cannot name famous female leaders within the industry (PWC, 2017). It feels like we have a mountain to climb to overcome these statistics. But we won’t get anywhere without women supporting women. My dream is that names like Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook), Angela Ahrendts (Senior VP, Apple) and Susan Wojcicki (CEO, YouTube) become household names for young girls throughout their lives.
PWC (2017) Women in tech: time to close the gender gap (p. 1). Available at: https://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/women-in-technology/time-to-close-the-gender-gap.html [Accessed: 05/03/2019]