We interviewed Julia Legge, IAM Product Lead at Hargreaves Lansdown on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
I lead a team of Identity & Access Management (IAM) analysts and engineers to implement continuous improvement of our IAM and Privileged Access Management (PAM) products, as well as delivering project scope in the IAM and PAM spaces.
I fell into it at an entry level role on a Service Desk as I speak other languages and they needed Service Desk analysts who could support various European offices. I quickly realised I liked working in technology and enjoyed each of the roles I moved into from there.
Nope, nope and nope! My education background was strong in Humanities. Our IT lessons in school were very dry and I had no desire to carry on when they were no longer mandatory.
Since starting my career in a Service Desk role, I have progressed through a few other IT Risk/Identity and Access type roles before ending up here.
There demonstrably is (a quick Google will give the latest figures), and the great work Women In Tech UK are doing in conjunction with Women In Tech movements in private companies everywhere is key to help change that.
Yes, and as with many stereotypes it’s largely a subconscious one. When I was growing up in the 90s the perception of IT was very much white male dominated. My own father was a computer programmer, sifting through black-and-white screens of code. I liked the beige and brown offices and the vending machines of plentiful coffee but I didn’t see a parallel between the work they did and anything I was interested in or good at.
Fast forward to now and I know, purely by accident, that the world of technology is exciting and varied, with many job roles that make use of things like strong communication skills, the ability to streamline a process, a grasp of customer experience, the skill to motivate a team… the list goes on.
I think a lot of this comes down to representation. “If you can see it, you can be it.” The Scully Effect is a great anecdotal example of how a female role model in The X Files enticed many women into STEM type roles. Having more women in tech jobs, in tech courses, teaching tech courses and visible within the world of tech is going to have a powerful effect on young girls growing up.
I also think there is scope to change the way tech is taught. I once took a Powershell training course – dry as dust and taught in a very old-school way with lots of tech jargon. As a keen language student, all I could think was that most scripting languages are languages and could be taught as such, which evidence suggests would be more appealing to female students who already dominate in foreign language study (in 2013, of all UK university languages students, 69% were female (19,775) and 31% were male (8,935)).
Yes, although they may not affect all women equally and they can be overcome. Tech jobs, especially those with highest earning power, often need lengthy training and qualification. Many women don’t study tech qualifications from school as they are still perceived as male-dominated or suitable to males (a vicious circle really), so come to tech later in life. At this point they statistically have more domestic work than men and so less free time to progress training.
I have worked with successful male colleagues who are proud that they completed difficult qualifications in their own free time. This is certainly an achievement to be proud of, but statistically less likely to be feasible for women. The same is true of on-call work, often a factor in tech support roles – I have myself turned down a job offer that would have been great for career development, as it involved some on call work which I could not accommodate due to my childcare responsibilities as a mother.
It can also be alienating working in environments where you are the “odd one out”. Many women in tech are used to being the only female in a meeting, and subconsciously it can be harder to speak up or be heard, especially as assertive behaviour in women can often be perceived negatively (more so than when men exhibit it).
Altogether, there are a few social and cultural factors at play, and being aware of them is the first step to overcoming them – no matter your gender.
At HL, one of the things our Women In Tech committee aim to do is give visibility of the different, varied roles in tech so that more women are aware of the options – it’s not all coding! We share info about our jobs, offer mentoring and coaching, and have even got a quiz we put together matching transferable skills with possible career options in tech.
If you don’t know what you want to do – do something. Do anything. You’ll soon find out what you like and are good at and all experience is good experience along the way. Turn up, have courage and do your best – the rest is window dressing.