We interviewed Isabella West, CEO at Zoa & Hirestreet on her thoughts and experiences on women in tech.
I am the CEO of two interlinked businesses. One is a B2C fashion rental business, the other is a
technology platform powering other retailers in the world of fashion rental.
My job involves setting business goals and managing/supporting the teams involved to meet them. I
work predominantly in the future – planning & strategising our next steps as a business. Day to day
life can be anything from board meetings with investors to consulting with brands on how to build a rental business.
I 100% fell into it. My background is in consulting & economics. I started a fashion rental business
because I saw the “buy and wear it once” culture peeled by many British fast fashion brands as
wasteful. During the first years of the business, one of our biggest challenges was finding a scalable
technical solution that could power the volume of rentals we were doing.
About a year ago, many large retailers started stating aims to become more circular. We saw a gap
in the market to take our bespoke technical rental solution and to white label it for others to use.
My role within the business means that I get to shape the technology we produce, however it has
been a challenge to quickly up-skill myself to ensure I have an understanding-enough to effectively
manage a strong and driven development team.
I studied Economics and Management at Oxford University as a degree, and before that I did my A
Levels in Maths, Economics, English and Philosophy. I was at an all girls school, and I don’t think IT or
Computer Science were even offered as options back then.
Not specifically. I find that I pick up technology quite quickly, so in my previous roles I have always
tried to embrace new tech where it has helped to make me more efficient. The first time I have
officially worked in technology, I am running the business.
Coming from fashion, where there is great female representation the difference in the tech world is
very stark. 70% of our work force is made up of developers, and in over a year of interviewing newjoiners, I have never had a female candidate put forward for one of our Developer roles (despite
working with leading recruitment agencies).
I don’t think this is the case in 2021, however, change will take time. My generation of females
wasn’t encouraged into tech, and consequentially there are few female tech leaders for young
people to look up to at the moment. However this is slowly changing, and publications like this are
the perfect way to help inspire the next generation.
I think enticing women into tech needs to start at school level. We need to champion females in
technology such that young children become aware of technology as a potential future career path.
Ideally schools would also be able to offer coding clubs, and courses like Computer Science at A Level
– so young females can get a taste of what it might be like to study at a University level.
I haven’t personally experienced any barriers – and I certainly would be very keen to employ more
females in our tech teams. I think the issue stems from a lack of females opting to go down a techeducation and career path due to lack of female tech role models in society.
I think potentially the key issue for women getting into tech is the lack of role models & women’s
tech networks out there to actually inspire people. There are stereotypes that exist around the type
of people who choose a career in tech, and I think we need to break these down and increase
education around what the day in the life of a female in a tech role actually looks like.
Always be the hardest worker in the room. You might be at the start of your career, but attitude is
everything and work ethic does get noticed.