For the first time ever, there are now over one million women working in core STEM roles in the UK. Yet while women comprise 24% of the core STEM UK workforce in 2019, we occupy just 16% of all UK tech roles – a figure that has unfortunately remained constant since 2009.
These figures from WISE, the campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, highlight that while great progress has been made, further action must be taken to encourage more women to enter and excel in traditionally male-dominated fields.
As someone with a passion for technology, I’m dedicated to ensuring more women know about the career opportunities within this industry. Without this awareness, change will be difficult and we will run the risk of seeing the proportion of technology roles filled by women continue to flatline.
No matter the sector, I want everyone to know that they have the right to an opinion, they can speak up and contribute, and they can achieve their dreams – regardless of colour, creed or orientation. That’s why I became a mentor.
I was lucky enough to have a supportive mentor from the start: my father. From an early age, I was always interested in being a scientist – a physicist to be precise. I loved learning about how things worked and my father took the time to show me. As a skilled engineer with four daughters, I think he was happy to have a daughter who took an interest and could share in his passions.
Despite this strong support at home, schooling in the ‘70s was more gender-defined. From being told to drop biology for domestic science to a lack of opportunity to further my education at university, I encountered the societal barriers which blocked the engagement and advancement of so many women.
So when I fell into IT after years of raising a family and having multiple jobs, it reignited my passion for technology. My love of the industry led me to find ways to cope with working in very male-dominated environments. Initially, I adapted how I communicated with colleagues or what I wore each day to fit in with the ‘old boys’ club’ culture but often experienced imposter syndrome – feeling like I didn’t belong. It took the wise words of a male MD at one of my previous companies to make me recognise the value of being myself at work: “Julie, if we didn’t feel you could do the job, we never would have given it to you. You have earned your place at the table.”
I know how hard it can be to get a seat at the table. I know how it feels to think your voice is not being heard, your ideas are being ignored, or that you are being overlooked for promotion because you are a woman, a single mother or just didn’t always shout the loudest.
Yet I found inspiration and encouragement in others, admiring business leaders like Jacqueline de Rojas and of course, our own CEO Melissa Di Donato. This industry offers scope for women to have successful and fulfilling careers, but mentorship is a vital element of gaining – and giving – confidence.
Becoming a business mentor for young adults working with the Prince of Wales awards back in 2011 was so rewarding. Yet, sadly, far too many women still don’t have the confidence to do what they dream of. We need more organisations to promote mentorship and create even more open, collaborative and inclusive working cultures.
At SUSE, we’re led by a CEO who stands up for diversity. Melissa is invested in our exciting new initiatives, from our Women in Tech Employee Network to mentor programmes. We’re all dedicated to offering opportunities for everyone to benefit, creating a borderless organisation where mentoring relationships are created across functions, roles and locations. Within SUSE, we embrace diversity of thought, diversity of experience and diversity of opinions – recognising that these will present opportunities for us to solve problems and capitalise on new opportunities more collaboratively.
While not every woman may find themselves working in such an inclusive organisation, they can find support. I’m thrilled to become a mentor for the Women in Sales programme – sharing my career experience and helping others to enter and excel in the traditionally male-dominated field of sales.
Standing on stage to present the 2019 Best Woman In Inside Sales award yesterday, it couldn’t have been clearer how much talent and passion was gathered at the awards ceremony. I look forward to working closely with my mentees and continuing to give back, offer advice and encourage women in their personal and professional growth. My advice: don’t be deterred by big dreams! Dare to be different and challenge the norm!