We interviewed Catherine Le Roux, Director of Product Development at Precisely (EngageOne) on her thoughts and experience on women in tech.
My job today is very different to what it was 25 years ago. When I first started in this industry, I was a software developer, developing and maintaining a desktop application for our print application using C programming language. Through on the job training and with the support of some great mentors, my job and responsibilities have evolved over the years and today I manage several product teams across multiple geographies. I work directly with Software Developers, Product Managers, UX and Support to provide our clients with best service possible and products which allow them to meet their business need. I am also responsible for driving many of the continuous improvement across the Engineering group.
I was mainly encouraged by my parents who were constantly telling me that computers were the key to the future. My mum was an accountant and was having to retrain her brain from using her old-fashioned calculator, pen, and paper to using a computer. My dad’s job was also shifting in that more and more of the manual tasks that his job entailed were now being automated.
My brother had already started his career in Engineering and always had a project on the go at home. It all looked really cool and I started joining in. It was good to see the results of what we were doing straight away; the experiment either worked, did what you asked it to do or it didn’t! It was fun and exciting.
I chose technology subjects from when I was in Secondary school. I really enjoyed what we were learning, mostly about electronics at the time. As I moved to higher education (Baccalauréat in France), I continued with all the STEM disciplines. That’s where I was first introduced to computer programming. This was also the beginning of my journey in a male dominated environment as there were just two girls in a class of 30 students. From there I did a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (a two-year post-secondary national professional degree) in Computer Science with English as an added option. It was a brand-new course and though they did advertise it well (trying to make it appealing to young women), enrolment was low and I was the only girl on the course. I continued my studies and went on to gain a Degree in Computer Science in the UK. The course was an excellent foundation for having a career in IT.
Only a few short work experiences but enough to know that I had chosen a pathway which was right for me and which I enjoyed. I have been in the same industry throughout my entire career, just took on various roles.
There is definitely a much lower number of women overall working in these industries, and particularly in Software Development. There still seem to be a failure to attract women in these roles, I can’t think of reasons why other than most probably do not know what the job entails.
We still have gender stereotypes, yes; women need to ignore them. But it’s not that easy.
There are plenty of initiatives and work being done to remove these stereotypes and we have seen signs that things are changing for the best. Most IT and Engineering companies are now promoting diversity and inclusion in the workforce, equal job opportunities and various campaigns to attract and retain women in tech.
We should do more to try understanding and hearing from girls and women of all age groups why they are not choosing or did not choose technology related courses. We can then work through addressing these issues or fears women may have. In discussing the subject with many younger girls (including my own daughters), it would appear there are a lot of misconceptions and a lack of understanding of what it means to work in IT or Engineering (My youngest once described engineering as a job where you wear horrible over all suits in factory and get dirty). By the time young women must choose options at secondary school, they have already ruled out a lot of them simply because they have been branded as courses or subjects for the boys.
Younger children are curious, they want to know how everything works so why not have more experiment and fun workshops at primary school? Technology is behind all the devices they use and play with every day so let’s show them how it works.
There should also be much more marketing about the types of roles available, more Careers Fairs and Work Experiences for young adults – not just one day that might define your career path.
Quite the opposite. There are so many initiatives and focus right now on getting leading Engineering and IT companies to have an inclusive and diverse workforce that women have equal opportunities. Women should grab these opportunities and have the confidence to apply for these jobs.
We should continue to celebrate the achievements of female engineers, share more inspirational stories of women who have been successful in IT roles.
We need more role models like (young) influencers on social medias who have already started a career in IT or Engineering. It is important for young women to see people like themselves following their dreams in technology careers.
We should continue to raise awareness of how rewarding a career in tech can be for all genders. The benefits of working in IT are better than in most other careers, and not just financially. It can give you the flexibility to work from home and if you are fortunate enough, you can have working hours which can be suited to a better work/life balance. There is a wide variety of jobs, great job prospects and endless opportunities to diversify your skills or your role in this fast-changing industry.
Find out what motivates you and always have a can-do attitude, you will achieve great things in these types of industries just as you would in any others.
Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone when faced with new challenges. With so many new emerging technologies come new emerging related jobs, new opportunities.
Find other people in similar jobs and befriend each other, work on building relationships and network of women’s role models which are already in key positions in IT or Engineering and who can support you developing the skills that you need to thrive in these exciting careers. Most companies will have their own networking group, sign up! In Precisely we have a network of Women in Technology, it is dedicated to empowering women in tech and provide us with the support we need to develop and grow our careers through a number of program offerings like guest speaking events, shadowing opportunities, and mentorships.
And have the confidence to apply for any of the jobs you like, even if you don’t feel like you don’t’ tick all the boxes!