We recently interviewed Josephine Healy, Associate – Venture Capital and Technology at Osborne Clarke LLP on her thoughts and experience on Women in Tech.
I am a solicitor at a leading London based technology firm where I advise on mergers and acquisitions and venture capital fundraisings in the Technology, Media and Communications sector. My role is varied and very people based which is one of the reasons that I decided to specialise in corporate law.
Inherently growing up, and living, in London, I was always exposed to the city and the buzz of living in a technology hub. I found that whilst studying, new technology and innovation was something that I found engaging and intriguing. In terms of venture capital and working with start-ups this is something that I fell into and I’ve never looked back. My first boss when I qualified as a solicitor specialised in advising on venture matters and immediately it was something that I knew I enjoyed. You can really see the impact that you can make on a founder that has worked from scratch to build up a business or a company and given it their all to develop a new piece of tech which is addressing inefficiencies or being innovative. Some of the ideas are so smart and it’s exciting to be advising those at the forefront of it!
I studied Law at university with aspirations to be a criminal barrister (I think that I watched one too many true crime episodes). By graduation, I realised that I had developed an interest in corporate law and decided to pursue the path of qualifying as a Solicitor rather than a Barrister. Unusually compared to lots of other jurisdictions in the world, in England, budding lawyers must decide whether they want to become a Solicitor or a Barrister and the career paths diverge after university. After graduation, I went on to study the Legal Practice Course (a mandatory course to qualification) and took electives specialising in Business and Acquisitions Law as well as Intellectual Property.
I was lucky in that I managed to gain experience in a number of different legal areas before committing to becoming a Corporate law specialist. I started with some work experience schemes at local law firms before moving to getting experience in large firms headquartered in London. I also spent a few weeks at the European Commission which was a whole new perspective!
I spent 2 years training to qualify as a Solicitor where I gained experience in Real Estate law, Employment law, Corporate Law and spent 6 months working for Thomas Cook Group plc in their in-house legal team which helped me see things from a more commercial perspective and in the eyes of a client.
There is definitely underrepresentation of females in the tech sector generally and within my direct line of work, within senior positions with law firms and senior positions in technology companies. There are lots of great initiatives being undertaken to improve this and awareness is definitely on the increase with a feeling that firms are making a real effort to tackle the inequality in gender in senior positions. It will be a work in progress but I am hopeful that we will continue to see improvement in this area and I am a strong advocate for initiatives which strive to include females in tech from a junior stage of their careers.
It has become very clear that diversity at all levels of an organisation and industry is beneficial to everyone and that it is a business enabler. Some stereotypes for women in senior positions or those that are seeking to climb to those positions do definitely still exist but I think it’s important to see past those and focus on how you want to conduct yourself at work and in a way that is true to your character. Ultimately, hard work pays off and I don’t think that there is a one size fits all way to succeed in your career in any gender.
Everyone needs to feel comfortable that they can study whatever they want to and that there is no longer a stereotype of what gender or what type of person and from what type of background a person has to be to study a certain course of pursue a certain career.
I think education plays a large part in ensuring that both young women and men feel that they have equal opportunities to go into any career of their choosing and that more could be done at an early stage to shift stereotypes.
A knock-on effect of there being fewer women than men in senior positions in certain industries is also that women can find it hard to find mentors or see people like them in roles that they aspire to. There are some great initiatives out there trying to better some of these issues but ultimately, until there is better diversity at senior levels of organisations then there will always be barriers for women, albeit that some of these may be a mental barrier.
There are some initiatives out there specifically designed to encourage women into tech whether that is government funding for females or mentor and peer support. What I think can make a huge personal impact is encouragement from those already in the tech industry and women making themselves visible to younger females considering a career in tech. I think promotion from those that are already in the industry can have a huge impact and grow huge amounts of confidence. You can never underestimate the power of women supporting other women – it can make a huge impact.
Don’t sell yourself short. It has been well hypothesised that women have a tendency to underestimate their capability and downplay their success. My advice to my younger self and other women at the start of their careers is to be confident and don’t put barriers up for yourself. I remember thinking of applying for a role but almost talking myself out of it because I didn’t have enough experience. I persevered past my inner critic and got the job – how silly it would have been to give that up because I was convinced that it wasn’t worth applying because I had no chance! My other advice would be to acknowledge mistakes, learn from them and move on – it doesn’t do anyone any good to focus on mistakes but it’s more about what you can learn from them and… believe it or not, most mistakes are fixable.