Today is International Girls in ICT Day. It aims to encourage girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing field of ICTs, allowing both girls and technology businesses to gain the benefits of greater female participation in technology.
I understand the issues involved as I have become a team member at technology company Roq since 2015. I joined the company as a Software Tester, before moving up into the role of Senior Test Analyst in 2018.
As a woman progressing in my career in the field of technology, International Girls in ICT Day offers an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on my own career journey. It’s also a chance for me to think about the challenges and share what I believe can be done to help encourage more girls to study ICT subjects and build careers in technology.
My journey to being a successful woman in tech
Like many little girls I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up and it’s a passion that I still have, taking adult dance classes where I can. But I think my interest in a career in technology probably started around the time I took my A-levels. I found myself really drawn to ICT as a subject and knew it was something I could continue in the future.
Technology really interested me growing up as I grew up during the technology boom. I remember sitting in my class in Year 7 and being the only pupil who didn’t have internet at home! But quickly after that moment we had dial up and upgraded to the Wi-Fi we know and love now, shortly after that.
I think it’s almost impossible to grow up when I did and not have technology influence your life heavily. It was probably easier to learn then than it is now, as everything changes so quickly in the world of technology, whereas things were a little more static when I was at school.
After my A-Levels I went to university to study a degree in Information Systems. I found out about Quality Engineering consultancy Roq at a university careers talk, before joining the company in 2015 the same year I finished my degree. Since then, I have progressed at Roq and haven’t looked back.
The challenges to getting more girls interested in ICT subjects
As someone who regularly visits schools, colleges and universities to give careers talks, I’d say that while we’re seeing more girls and young women interested in technology, there’s still this overall thought that it’s dorky or nerdy to be interested in it.
It’s the thought that people might look at them in some weird way just because they’re smart enough to understand technology and want to be interested in it. The pressure to fit in is demanding, and I know that all children (not just girls) feel this pressure. Changing this perception is still a big challenge.
But then I challenge these girls and young women to think of any job anywhere that doesn’t in some way involve technology. It’s everywhere and used for everything, so taking even a moderate interest it in is smart as it’s never going to leave our lives. So surely learning more about technology would actually be a much better way to fit in?
Also, as this is a field in which males have dominated for decades, or even centuries, we still have to shift away from the perception that it’s a ‘boys/men’s domain’.
Although we have our famous women in STEM such as Ada Lovelace and Mary Jackson, we still automatically think of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates when it comes to development in technology.
However, the number of women in jobs in technology is steadily on the rise. It’s only by continuing to show just how capable we are that we’ll rid of any stereotypes completely. It might take some time, but we’ll get there.
How to enthuse more girls to embrace studying and working in ICT
I think this starts at home. If they haven’t already, parents should encourage all children to use technology, although using it safely should be taken into consideration. Even if that’s just taking an interest in the latest app that has taken over their child’s phone. By asking children to explain what the app is, how it works, or if they have any frustrations with it, parents are opening the lines of communication, and forcing children to really think about the technology they’re using.
There’s a role for businesses to encourage girls to take an interest too. These girls are going to be in the workforce one day. Why wouldn’t we want to be doing everything to encourage them to pursue technology as a career?
As an industry, we will only benefit from gaining smart minds and fresh ideas. I love going into to schools to encourage software testing itself as a career, as I know that if I’ve managed to inspire at least one girl it was completely worth it. And if I don’t inspire anyone at least they’ve had the choice to explore it as an option.
DON’T be afraid to be interested in technology
Finally, my advice to any girl thinking about getting into technology is to pay attention in school, first and foremost. This is free education, and you should soak up as much as possible, while you can. Choose as many additional courses in technology as you can, even if this is an introduction to Microsoft Excel course, you’ll benefit from it all.
Also, DON’T be afraid to stand out from the crowd, for being smart or interested in technology. Those people that might try to make you feel less important because of those interests are not worth your time. Don’t let anything affect the future career you’ve chosen for yourself; it’s your life and you can absolutely achieve a career in technology with hard work and patience.
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