We interviewed Mel Hodge, Data Consultant at The Rank Group on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
I’m a data-specialist; so anything to do with how data is captured, managed, stored or shared. I am quite technical and will happily write code when I need but I also spend a lot of time working with people, understanding and analysing their requirements.
It was an accident! I did a little coding as part of another course and really enjoyed it so signed up for evening classes where I heard about a local company looking for apprentice programmers. No looking back after that, programmer, analyst/programmer, system designer, system architect then I found my skills naturally pushed me towards data management and governance which was also easier to fit around my family. I followed a traditional technical path, many women find their way into tech careers via other routes but those women tend not to have the ‘hard-core’ tech skills that come with a STEM education.
No, physics/materials science, I wanted to be a forensic scientist.
Not in my first role; I’ve worked in IT now since 1992.
Yes, the best companies I’ve worked for are those that have set out to employ a more balanced workforce where everyone was valued for their unique skills. Even men are adversely affected by a male-oriented, macho culture.
More women need to be involved in the recruitment process given that like recruits like.
Yes, I think women are discouraged from studying IT/tech in the first place by a number of factors, subtle messages starting at school push young women away. Girls were discouraged from studying STEM subjects, even TV shows like the IT Crowd made IT workers out to be geeky male losers. It is quite tough turning up to a course to find you are the lone female with a cohort of 150 males, some of whom are happy to tell you that there’s no place for you. Sadly, although there is a lot of work going into encouraging more girls to look at STEM subjects, not much is being done to dispel the sexist attitudes held by some male colleagues and new stereotypes are perpetuated and this attitude is getting worse.
More women in tech would attract more women; more obvious role models that are prepared to talk to young women about their experiences. Also, better education in schools, such as teaching coding as part of computer science rather than the ICT-style stuff. I suppose telling women about the breadth of career available and how tech careers are lucrative, flexible and challenging might help as long as that doesn’t mean the perpetuation of ‘girls become business analysts and testers; boys become technical architects and developers’.
Largely, male attitudes and then some internalised misogyny.
Talk to girls in schools, teach interesting topics, like programming and systems design, rather than administrative skills like using word processors and spreadsheets.
I have a 15-year-old daughter, studying Computer Science; I asked her this question and she said ‘female teachers’ and that not being the only girl would make things easier. When she opted for the course in the first place she wasn’t aware of any other girls going for it and knows that this fear actively discouraged other girls.
All of us that work in tech have some obligations to those that would follow, maybe if we did more to address the stereotypes in the first place, girls would feel more encouraged to take those first steps. Not everyone wants to be a pathfinder.