Girls in ICT day: Why more young women should consider a career in IT

Today marks the 5th International Girls in ICT Day, a global effort to raise awareness and encourage girls and young women across the globe to consider studies and careers in technology.

We asked a group of successful women working in the technology industry to share their experiences, and offer their views on the gender divide.

Studying ICT in school doesn’t just benefit those looking to work in computing, it can also open doors to a wide range of technical fields. Doris Mattingly, Director of Engineering at Lantronix described her experience, “when I was searching for a job, I knew I wanted to work with devices and equipment, so there was a natural tendency to gravitate to the M2M (Machine to Machine) area. The degree I studied was in electrical engineering, which provided me with plenty of hands on experience with hardware and low-level software.”

Joanne Ayres, EMEA Marketing Director at Tintri argues that “Although the glass ceiling of the IT world is slowly rising, it is by no means shattered”. She went on to explain that "initiatives such as International Girls in ICT Day are paramount to raising awareness of the opportunities that exist in our industry, for all genders equally. It’s about time we break out of this idea that ICT is a career choice for males only - I see plenty of females around me in an IT working environment every day who never fail to inspire and impress me and their male colleagues.”

Joanne finds that her workplace thrives through diversity, arguing that “my team works well because of the mix of people, skill sets and personalities – no restrictions attached. I would love to see institutions fuelling the education and interest of young women around the globe to become more involved in IT, diminishing any stereotypes or fears in terms of their own competence that might be holding them back. By empowering women we empower their ambitions, outlook and self-belief: the rest will follow.”

When asked whether women bring a different mindset to the technology industry, Connie Stack, CMO at Digital Guardian, had this to say: "If you look up the definition of mindset you’ll find something to the effect of, ‘the established set of attitudes held by someone, often informed by their unique experiences, cultural norms, etc.’ So yes, women would bring a different mindset to IT. For me, a broader mix of mindsets equals more diversity. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of a diverse workforce and yet the IT industry remains male dominated. There’s no doubt that we should all be trying to change this – the question is, how to effect the change?

"I believe it starts very early on with parents, educators and community leaders collaborating to convince the next generation of women that computer science, coding and technology isn’t the exclusive domain of men. As more and more industries leap into the digital age, technology will permeate literally every aspect of our economy. Technology has become one of the fastest-growing fields in business, one that needs more top talent. And one in which women simply cannot be left out.”

For Kat McIvor, Senior Learning Consultant at QA, this all begins with education. She argues that (contrary to most iterations of IT gurus in popular culture) studying computing can help students improve their social skills, specifically their ability to explain technical details. Kat explained that “studying computing helped me to acquire both the social and technical skills to fulfil my role. As a student I participated in numerous group projects, which helped me to develop the skills to be able to explain things to people. The technical side just happens when you’re studying Computer Science, security or AI. Nowadays I don’t attend classes, however I continue to learn new things every day.”

These learned skills are being put to use even today, “my every day job involves talking to people about technology. I'm involved with teaching, creating new courses and consultancy for companies of all sizes. I have to be able to explain how a new programming language or tool works, to both people with no experience and those who have been programming for years. I also have to be able to explain to the CEO of a company why a specific tool is amazing and why those working in his organisation need and want the training I provide.”

“In order to do all of this, it’s essential that I understand and use these tools on a daily basis. Learning is continual; keeping up with emerging technologies is fun and always keeps me on my toes!"

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens