On Friday 25th January FDM hosted its first women in IT event for clients at Glaziers Hall, London Bridge. Attended primarily by executives in the technology industry and featuring a panel of executive women from the sector, the event addressed the issue of increasing gender diversity in the workplace.
The ‘glass ceiling’: How to get more women to go beyond middle management positions.
Feeling that their time is flexible can help women manage their work/ home life balance. Belinda Parmar, Chief Executive of Lady Geek, highlighted that “As an employer, I don’t mind being flexible if a mum wants to go home at 4:30pm, but I expect mums to be flexible too. Go home early if you need, but be back online at 8:30pm when the kids are in bed.” By adopting this management approach, companies could boost the confidence women need to pursue their career without worrying that they will lose control. Christina Scott, CIO at the Financial Times, highlighted that “Not working in the office full time does not mean that you are less serious about your career, it means that you’re just trying to get the balance right for you”. Family and work – can you be at the top of your game in both?
Control stereotypes and image. It’s all very well that, as a parent, you buy pink dolls for your daughter and Lego for your sons but if we begin to shatter these gender stereotypes then careers will be opened up and diversity will follow. Angela Morrison, CIO at Direct Line Group, said she was her dad’s “surrogate son” – her mathematical brain prompted her childhood to be filled with toys aimed at boys rather than playing with dolls.
Not just rooted in parental techniques, it is important to tackle the structure of the education system. ICT lessons in schools need to be improved to encourage and inspire women into the technology industry. Parmar’s research in a school showed that, when asked to draw a picture of someone who works in IT, they all drew a male geek with glasses. Image stereotypes need to be shattered so women actually want to enter these careers.
Lyn Grobler, Vice President and CIO functions at BP expressed the necessity for role models. Leading by example that leaving early and spreading the workload throughout a full day rather than operating on a rigid 9-5 mentality is key to opening up mindsets of women who feel they have gone as far as they can career-wise before beginning to sacrifice their family life.
Parmar had a copy of a letter from the BBC in 1969 that rejected a female’s application to become an engineer role because she was a woman. What gave this evidence even more substance was that Morrison said that she had received a similar letter in the 1980’s when applying for an internship at the BBC. This wouldn’t happen now but the speed of change towards accepting that women can do these male dominated careers is not reflective of the times, and companies and schools must do more to revolutionise this.
If you work in the IT sector and want to meet other like minded women in your city why not take a look at our community network.