“My mother-in-law was a rocket constructor”: Women of BigChange discuss how to get more women in tech on IWD
Leeds, 15 March 2021 – Women make up 16% of the workforce in IT. At BigChange we’re doing better than that, averaging 27%. But we aspire to a 50-50 split. How we can meet this challenge was our focus on International Women’s Day.
Jo Godsmark – our Chief Operating Officer – was joined by six colleagues from across the business, to share experiences of being a woman in tech – and to reflect on why they are the exception in the industry.
Self-selection bias was identified as a key issue. Jo called for more and more women to apply. “I genuinely believe all of our recruiting managers want more women and support them in the business,” she said. “But we don’t receive the volume of applications we want.”
Catriona Faulds, Project Manager in the Customer Success Team, continued: “You feel like you have to meet the whole [job] criteria as a woman, to be a perfectionist, to really outshine yourself to land the role. I feel that you find a different confidence in male candidates, who think they can grow into a role, or step up if selected.”
“I think you can follow that gendered difference through to discussions about pay rises, promotions and opportunities,” said Jo. “I think sometimes women can be less vocal. We therefore have a great obligation as managers and leaders to design processes that don’t rely on people jostling for position, but instead assess fairly on someone’s worth.”
Several employees said that the norms of their upbringing were vital to their success.
“There was a moment where my mum went back into education later in life and it changed the views of me and my sister about what was really achievable,” said Catriona. “She became the breadwinner after university and suddenly the family dynamic changed. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do what I’ve done if I hadn’t seen that.”
Lubov Krasicova, leader of the Automated Test Team, also saw her childhood as crucial. “In Ukraine we have a communist heritage,” she said. “At that time, a lot of women began to work in technical professions so it was normal. My mother-in-law was a rocket constructor.”
Solving this problem requires making changes now, to improve things for future generations.
Erica Donnelly, a Report Developer in Professional Services, said how, “Starting early and having an exposure to the subjects is obviously important. Even though I went to an all-girls school the subjects weren’t gendered, I got to learn about woodwork, soldering, electronics.
“Later in life, getting women into more powerful roles will provide a role model and an aspiration for younger generations. Knowing you can enter into a role because you have someone who is already there is so powerful.”
A powerful discussion also identified both being undervalued or joked about, and employers who wouldn’t let them balance work and family, as barriers to women fulfilling their full potential in tech.
Tansy Sheehy, Customer Service Director, encouraged women to go for it because, “The tech field doesn’t have a criteria you have to fit”.
You can watch the full discussion here:
International Women’s Day 2021 comes at a challenging time. While female doctors and heads of state leading the charge against the pandemic have been put in the spotlight, globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 were 1.8 times greater than men’s, while mothers were 50% more likely than fathers to have permanently lost or quit their jobs.
At BigChange we’re proud to promote these conversations, and to set testing goals for ourselves to get more women into tech.