IWD breaching the barriers panel: What does being a ‘woman in tech’ mean?
At the beginning of this month, as part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we hosted a panel with some of our global colleagues to get their view on what it means to be a woman in the tech industry and how, collectively, we can inspire the next generation.
We spoke with Katy Winterborn, principal security consultant, Dana Hehl, senior VP of operations, Helen-Rose Whitehead, head of customer success and Jennifer Fernick, head of research in the US.
As part of the panel, we also wanted to ask what it means to our colleagues to be a woman in tech. From the viewpoints of sales, technical and operations teams, our panellists expressed their opinions on the range of opportunities and challenges that being a woman in tech presents.
Jennifer Fernick: “On one hand, I have the opportunity to change the culture where I work, and serve as a role model and sponsor to a range of diverse, talented people who may be underestimated, and to have the opportunity to play a part in shaping this is really exciting to me.
“As a woman in tech, I also have the opportunity to create spaces that are easier to thrive in, which is thrilling to me as I think about the challenges I have had to overcome in my own career and how much more I would've achieved. This is why I took this role and came to NCC Group – to build a research culture that I had never been able to experience fully.
“On the flipside it often means people make huge assumptions about who you are sometimes, especially around International Women’s Day. I often have recruiters pitching me jobs saying my feminine soft skills are desperately needed, instead of realising that my hard-technical skills are really my greatest strength. I would love to get to a point where this question is not even interesting to ask anymore, as we have gotten used to having a diverse range of people of all types of roles.”
Dana Hehl: “As I don’t have a background in tech, the banner of being of a woman in tech is different for me. Sometimes I feel like I should stand in the back row, but the reality is that the industry is bigger than just the boots on the ground.
“It does mean the definition of a woman in tech doesn’t have to be narrow and I like that I can be a representative of that – not just as a leader in our organisation, but as someone who comes from a different path and interacts with tech in an indirect way.
Katy Winterborn: “To me, the equality and diversity question will be answered the most when this question goes away. For the moment, being a woman in tech means to be an ambassador.
“The reality is that people aren’t taking up STEM subjects, particularly girls, and I want to be the person that shows them that I have a great job and career and, most importantly, that I chose this path because I wanted to do it.
“I want to share my experiences with people who may not have considered a technical career and show how amazing it can be. Nothing can match that moment where you are trying to solve that technical problem and come up with a creative solution that no one else has come up with. If I can share that passion with at least one girl who then considers a career in the industry – because she wants to – that would be amazing for me.”
The final article, ‘IWD breaching the barriers panel: What does the future hold?’,will be out on Tuesday 31st March.
Listen to the full webinar here.