In the latest blog in our TechFuture Women series, Sian Davies an Apps for Good Expert shares her experiences of being a young woman in tech.
Looking out from our stand at my first technology expo I could see I was in a distinct minority – of the approximately 6000 delegates, sponsors and exhibitors wandering the floor at the huge glass and steel exhibition centre I could spot a female face for about every 40 or 50 men filing past. It was unnerving to realise that so few women were at an event where I was representing my company as a technical consultant. Every software pitch I did that day was to a man or group of men, moreover I noticed that a number of women hovering on the outskirts of their exhibitor’s stands were dressed in matching outfits and stilettoes, handing out branded freebies, and were evidently not being called upon to contribute their technical expertise.
By the time I returned to the same event the following year, the balance had changed; not only had my small company hired another female consultant, there were also noticeably more women in attendance. Suddenly it felt like women were everywhere; on the stands delivering demos, in the classrooms leading workshops, walking round in delegations looking for their next piece of kit, holding conference with other delegates in cosy corners. I certainly wasn’t looking at a 50:50 mix, but something closer to 60:40 had found its way into the hall.
Emboldened by witnessing the speed of such a positive change at the expo, I returned to London ready to get stuck in to my next two projects. The first, had me walking into an 8-strong IT team, all men, who regarded me with the same expression I think they would greet a martian who walked in off the street to tell them how to configure their servers best for analytics. The second, a pre-sales demonstration in the West Country, during which the rep frustratingly referred to me as “poppet” in front of the client, invited a reaction from me following that meeting that I’m not altogether proud of. Neither project went smoothly for me and I found myself dispirited, feeling I was lacking support from within my team and enthusiasm for being a trailblazer diminishing.
And that’s the core challenge of being a young woman making her way in the tech industry, it is a challenging experience marked by ups and downs. This is a world that moves rapidly, at almost breath-taking speed sometimes, and is therefore primed for diversity in greater proportion than other industries. But at the same time, while that diversity remains a work in progress, we find ourselves without a support network or role model to guide us on how to best handle the hostile native IT team, the sexist salesman, or our own impatience for progress. This is why initiatives like The TechFuture Women’s Network are so important to help mentor young girls and to ensure that both young boys and girls understand that women have a role to play in the world of tech.
Are you a woman in tech looking to inspire young people and help them discover the opportunities of the tech world? Join the TechFuture Women’s Network now, the first mentoring opportunity available is to become an Apps for Good Expert and help guide young people as they develop their own problem-solving apps.