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Tech is not only for men: Women in IT who have advanced technology

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Tech is not only for men": Women who have advanced technology

With the persistence of male dominance in the technology sector, it's easy to forget just how instrumental women have been in its development since its origins some 300 years ago. Despite the constant barrage of obstacles, women have persevered to have their work recognized and widely used, so much so that many of the pioneers of early computer programming were women.

The origins of women in technology date back to the 1700s, when Nicole-Reine Lepautre, a French mathematician and astronomer, predicted the return of Halley’s comet on April 13, 1759, and was almost correct when the comet arrived on March 13, 1759.

Women and technology in the 19th century

The 1800s saw many obstacles for women in the field of information and communication science and technology. One of the most shocking obstacles was the contradiction between the fact that universities were open to women, that there were computer courses for women and teaching positions available for women, and the fact that female university faculty members were forced to resign if they married.

Other pioneering women of the 1800s included Maria Mitchell, the first American scientist to discover a comet; Anna Winlock, who helped produce astronomical data at Harvard; and Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who is said to have discovered Cepheid variable stars, helping to explain the expansion of the universe.

Women and technology in the 20th century

Factors such as the impact of the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 19th century, as well as the First and Second World Wars, meant that women had a lot of interaction with technology in the 1900s. Many women gained experience in early engineering by working with machines in large factories and as telephone operators.

Women and technology in the 21st century

Today, efforts are being made to promote women in the tech sector, but the term has become something of a buzzword, and there’s still a long way to go before gender parity is achieved in this sector.

Indeed, according to The Guardian, despite industry-wide efforts, gender pay gap reports, TED talks and campaigns to encourage girls to study science subjects at school and university, the percentage of women employed in the UK tech sector has barely moved from 15.7% in 2009 to 17% today. And women occupy just 10% of senior management positions in the sector.

Overall, it is estimated that only 19% of women work in the technology sector, and in Europe, only 15% of start-ups are founded or co-founded by women.

And yet, at this year’s Web Summit, Europe’s largest technology event, women were as numerous as men – 50.5% of attendees – for the first time in the event’s ten-year history.

Clearly, women’s interest in the technology sector is high, but the industry seems to be lagging behind others in its efforts to recruit, promote and showcase women.

Yet some companies are determined to turn the tide. This is the case at Depop, the second-hand fashion app, where 57% of the management team is made up of women. Remo Gettini, CTO, has worked with a training organization to recruit promising female engineers. Over a third of its graduates are women, and many have gone on to work for brands such as Deloitte, Google, the BBC and the Financial Times.

Sarah Luxford, digital data and technology partner at executive search specialists GatenbySanderson, believes a broader, systematic shift is needed, to tackle persistent attitudes that a woman’s place is in the home.

“For me, it’s about socio-economic issues as well as infrastructure. There’s also this great myth that to work in technology, you have to be a technician. In fact, the sector needs different skills, whether it’s program management, finance or operations.”

A few years ago, while working for a headhunting firm, Luxford was frustrated by the lack of women shortlisted for senior positions. To understand the obstacles and how to overcome them, she traveled to Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, to interview 50 of the top women working in technology.

“What emerged was that women needed to have the right digital skills, make sure strong mentoring was in place, look at funding for [company] founders, increase the number of female venture capitalists and angel investors, [promote] best practice as a whole, and change the remit of board members and non-executive directors to encourage diversity.”

Armed with this knowledge, Luxford went on to co-found Women in Tech in 2016. It now has 5,500 members in the UK and works with organizations, government and women to inspire change.

Technology is a brilliant career for everyone, including women.

Many articles claim that women don’t need to tick all the boxes before applying for a job; yet women tend to apply for a role if they think they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men happily raise their hand when they meet 60%.

For many people, especially women, the idea of working in the technology sector is intimidating. Usually, the articles that get the most attention and publicity are those featuring tech geniuses, such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs (who aren’t very close). Especially as pop culture tends to portray the stereotype of the single man, or the male-led startup, working furiously at the computer, coding late into the night.

Yet technology is becoming the driving force behind everything. Supermarkets are now tech companies, even the statistical modeling needed to combat Covid-19 is technology-based. The world is full of problems to solve, and the more diverse the teams solving them, the better the results for business, government and humanity.

Technology companies need roles that go beyond technical skills: positions as product managers, customer success managers and growth managers are common (and necessary), and you don’t have to learn to code or invent a new application to apply.

We should also add that working in tech is an ideal setting for women who want to manage the organization of their time with significant flexibility, the chance to be more independent, gainful employment and real career development. Above all, the opportunity of a more open society, with a reduction in social inequalities that breaks down stereotypes.

If you’d like to get started in the tech industry, get in touch with us so we can support you in your career plans!


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