I’m Tracy Westall, board member of techUK and long-time senior executive in the tech sector.
As someone with a great career in tech, surely I’m not worried about attracting women into digital and leadership roles?
Well actually, I am.
For a sector that is often at the forefront of innovation and cutting-edge developments, the statistic that only 27% of tech roles are held by women is shocking and frustrating in equal measure. If we aren’t attracting women into the sector in the first place, then likelihood of them moving into leadership roles is guaranteed to be low.
So when the opportunity to be involved in the DWP Women in Digital event came along, I jumped at the chance. When you have a large government department like DWP, shouting about the importance of diversity in tech and promoting the career stories of women like Sue Griffin and Kirsty Tidmarsh, why wouldn’t you want to be involved?
Just like you and me
The fact that it was a cross-government event, with contributions from speakers like Kylie Havelock from the Ministry of Justice, just made it even better. All their stories were interesting, lively and well delivered but the big take away for me was how ordinary they were. I mean ordinary in a ‘like you and me’ way – women I could relate to; likeable, down to earth, accessible, real women. In fact just like all the women I know and work with – and this is important. In my opinion, effective role models need to be real people. People like Kylie, Sue and Kirsty would have inspired the younger me in the same way as they impressed the older me.
The importance of support
Working in digital and tech might be considered aspirational but it certainly is achievable and within the grasp of many more women if they have the confidence to try. I’ve always been aware that my strong support network has helped me succeed in what I have achieved. So talking throughout the day about the importance of strong support networks really helped people understand how it can make a difference. We know that not everyone is fortunate to have that support in place, which is why events like this are vital to build confidence and create a much-needed way to bring us all together. For me listening to real stories and being able to tap into expertise in a warm, friendly and accessible environment is so valuable. And it matters… a lot.
I knew the event would be good but actually it was great, and the DWP’s Women in Digital event video shows just how great it was.
At techUK, we’re passionate about diversity in the sector and run a highly successful ‘Women in Tech’ programme. Whether it’s bringing young women in as part of their first career option, a returnee or those interested in making a career change, we know that it’s important. With so many pressure points such as the need for more skills to fill the expected sector jobs growth, the documented improvement in company performance when women are on the board, or simply having access to the talents of 50% of the population – getting women in leadership and digital roles should be an absolute no-brainer.
As the numbers show, there is still work to be done and that work includes brilliant events like this. So keep talking, tweeting, debating and promoting the gender discussion, and identifying real-life role models who inspire more women into realising a career in digital and tech could be for them.