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Network and hustle: the key skills for women in technology

The Guardian // 11th April 2017
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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Network and hustle: the key skills for women in technology” was written by Kirstie Brewer, for theguardian.com on Thursday 31st March 2016 07.32 UTC

The technology sector is burgeoning, so if women really want to be at the seat of power in the future, it’s a space they need to break into.

We assembled a panel of leading women in tech to take part in a live Q&A to discuss what we need to do to increase female representation in the sector. Here’s a roundup of some of the best advice they shared.

Seek forgiveness, not permission

  • It’s all yours for the taking so don’t think there are places you aren’t allowed to go to, events you aren’t allowed to attend and jobs you wouldn’t be allowed to apply for.
  • Keep learning, fail fast and often. If you embrace failure and look for opportunities to learn you’ll grow more as a technologist and will get more comfortable in the workplace environment.
  • Stay visible. You can insure your place in the field by being visible, working out loud and mentoring or being mentored by others. Making yourself visible means managers, colleagues, peers and sponsors will support you and help you grow – and get you out of hot water if you’re in the wrong sort of environment.

Anne-Marie Imafidon is CEO and co-founder at Stemettes.

This comment has been chosen by Guardian staff because it contributes to the debate

The missing Women in tech are in Africa too but in the West, we have built this biases against African women when it come to technology and innovation, therefore, are missing out on top quality women in the global conversation. We have African women in STEAMD (science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics and design) who are making great changes in Africa and empowering other women. I work with so many women and young girls in Africa. They are Computer scientists, they can code solidly between 3 to 5 languages, a skill which you do not see in the UK even in the Top University. We are #Rewritingthecode with come great campaign in Africa. Join us!! 🙂

Get a side gig and learn as much as you can

  • Be informed. Learn as much as you can about the job roles you are interested in and talk to people about the skills really required – people active in those roles – as opposed to perceived skills.
  • Get a side gig. One of my favourite topics that I write about often. You are more interesting to an employer when you are not only skilled but also engaging. Working on a project or something you are passionate about will give you skills that are important and applicable in the workplace, but that you cannot necessarily learn on a course. It also allows you to show your personality in an interview.
  • Hustle (whilse getting up to speed). A common misconception is that you need to know everything. You don’t. You need to have a capacity and ability to learn. Pre-requisite knowledge is not always what will get you the job.

Emma Sinclair is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of global software company EnterpriseJungle.

Network and do the hustle

  • Get out there and network – there are so many great and free meet-ups
  • Never give up and do the hustle! If you really want it, your passion will come across. People hire on attitudes not just skills that can be taught

Companies may be good at investing in career development early on, but this needs to be carried over for returning female employees (which is happening more). One crucial way of doing this is to ensure education opportunities that fit around family life.

At Digital Mums, we are addressing the rising problem of maternal unemployment by up-skilling mums to become social media managers for SMEs. The digital skills gap is growing across SMEs and by 2020 it could cost the economy £2bn. We aim to help plug this gap with this untapped talent.

Nikki Cochrane is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of social enterprise Digital Mums.

Find a mentor and take advantage of training

  • Spend your time doing what you are most passionate about – don’t be put off by anyone who says its hard or can’t be done
  • Find a mentor and other like minded people so you remember how good you are and what is possible if you go for it!
  • Ask for what you want – people love to help

At Sky we have just launched an initiative called Get into Tech – beginning in April we will offer free training courses for up to 60 women per year. In recognition of the need for flexible working arrangements for some target groups – including unemployed single mums, and mums returning to work – a range of course structures will be made available, from full-time to both part-time and evening courses. We’d love to see more women taking up a career in tech whatever their previous experience

Wendy Scott is Sky’s Mobile Products director.

It’s fascinating that there are so many tech roles that can be done remotely which are still packaged and advertised as full time, full day roles that need to be done at a specific location. Until the thinking changes on how we structure work we will always limit the number of women in a sector.

Be determinted and tenacious

Follow this mantra … I can, I will, watch me! There is so much opportunity within the tech community, come and give us a go!

This is a problem across Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) not just tech. Many great organisations out there are trying to change this situation. Young women and girls are just not being engaged early enough in schools to take up the sciences and programming courses. I believe it’s still seen as a male subject.

Elizabeth Eastaugh is a director of technology at Expedia Inc.

Celebrate the female role models we already have in tech

There’s a fair amount we can do as individuals. We need to be clear in communicating the creativity and altruism available in tech careers. We also need to be very conscious of exposing girls, young women, boys, teachers, parents …(influencers) to the copious female role models we already have – like my fellow panellists. There’s a lot the media can do. I for one, would love to see a technical female character on Eastenders to help normalise the existence of technical women!

Anne-Marie Imafido.

More attention needs to be paid to interesting things that young girls are already doing in Stem. Then other girls will follow. If every girl in the UK and US saw how empowering working in Stem can be, we may see a shift. A book I’m writing on a teen girl activist using Stem to change the world is a perfect example. You might recognise her as the flashlight girl. She invented a flashlight powered by the heat of your hand.

Melissa Jun Rowley is a journalist, activist, and the CEO of the human rights media company Humanise Inc.

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