Rumours: Woman in Tech
Fleetwood Mac wrote arguably one of the world’s best-selling albums of all time; Rumours in 1977. It is well known that the band were struggling with “interpersonal issues” at the time of recording and these difficulties heavily influenced the content of the album. Having been in the Recruitment Industry for a while, 2019 marked a change for me and I made the move into the Technology Sector. This has been one of the best decisions of my life and I have loved being a part of this innovative, dynamic and exciting industry; in which changes seem to come so thick and fast you hold on with your fingertips!
One of things that was apparent from day one, was that for the first time in my life, I was a distinct minority. I walked into an office of men; as the only women in the business. It took all of about a week for me to identify that this was not an unusual coincidence but a hot topic within the Tech Industry. Many of my friends have called me brave and nervously asked me how I am coping in the office. The truth is that within my team, I have received the warmest of welcomes, never talked more about haircuts or shoes, had such great colleagues that I consider friends. In fact, the only time I notice that I am a woman is really when the queue for the toilet is significantly shorter for once. I am having the time of my life!
However, this was seemingly not the case for a lot of my female counter parts in the industry. Very quickly I found myself surrounded by rumours of inequality, imbalance and an uphill struggle. Song titles from the previously mentioned album Rumours such as; I Don’t Want To Know, Dreams, Never Going Back Again, Go Your Own Way and Gold Dust Women suddenly felt like the underscore for this new industry I had entered. As for the rumours about how tough being in Woman in Tech is, you only have to do a quick google search to ascertain that this is actually fact and an international problem. Many companies are trying to address this, Sky have launched a scholarship for Outstanding Women in Tech with a £25k bursary. A pioneering organisation that I met up with at NAB in April is Rise: a not-for-profit organisation advocating gender diversity within the broadcast industry. They have established a successful mentoring program and are launching Rise Awards at IBC in September 2019.
Within my own role at neuco, working within the Content and Media, Connectivity, Communication and Cyber Security sectors; the lack of women in roles and available to proactively head hunt was glaringly obvious. Regularly clients ask what they can do to address this, and the issue of diversity is clearly at the forefront of most people’s mind.
Whilst at NAB in April, I was greeted by a sea of suited men, this was the first time that I became fully aware of the lack of diversity. 160 Countries were represented, and the final attendance was 92, 912 however out of 50+ face to face meetings, I met with only one woman and there was only a handful of other women in attendance. The rumours of inequality hit me square in the face and certainly were no longer merely rumours but a harsh truth. Furthermore, I felt different, I felt smaller, I felt like I had to prove myself, like I was going to have to metaphorically shout to make myself heard and gain the same level of respect as my male counter parts. To be a woman in this industry is at times intimidating and you have to be courageous. Recognising these emotions within myself is fascinating because not one of the men I interacted with was unfriendly, unwelcoming or was directly rude. There were a couple of crude comments however my interactions were overwhelmingly positive. If anything, many people said to me how encouraging it was to see a young Women at the show.
So, this made me question: Why are there so few women in this industry? Why is this such a difficult experience and sensitive subject for so many people? And how can we turn this into something that is not even an issue that needs to be discussed?
I fundamentally believe that this has to be approached in a few different ways. In a previous life I worked in education, and from my own experience at school, which is only just over a decade ago… (I tell myself that I am still young!) I can confidentially say that right from starting school in the Foundation Years, girls are not given enough exposure to STEM subjects. There is not enough career advice or education about where STEM subjects can lead, and I certainly had no idea where I could have ended up if I had pursued STEM options. I do add the caveat however that there is a national shortage of teachers for STEM subjects, so possibly this is a deeper problem within the educational system.
Secondly Mentoring has to play a key part. In a world of social media and filtered photos in which female success is depicted as a small number on the scales and a glowing tan; a strong, real life, personal relationship with somebody who can assist and encourage young women in navigating foreign territory is a must. This is where schemes such as The Rise Mentoring Program will be integral to implementing change.
Finally I believe, possibly controversially, that there has to be a mindset adjustment on both sides. Men in the industry have to realise that this is a tough place for women to enter into. That women do have different approaches, different needs and different outlooks. That sometimes old cultures and ways have to be changed, “banter” has to be appropriate, pay has to be equal and respect has to be freely given based on who a person is and what they do; not on their gender, race, disability or anything else. Equally I think women need to take responsibility to be the change they want to see. A sickly-sweet cliché? Perhaps. But if women want to see an equal work place arena, they also cannot judge men on their gender or race. I have heard women describe the industry as “stale, pale and male”, and I am not sure if this attitude is healthy either.
In 2018 Rumours was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry being deemed “culturally, historically and artistically significant” by the Library of Congress. My hope is that throughout my career within the Tech Industry, I will see a shift in which diversity and gender inequality is not a hot topic of conversation and that the inclusion and promotion of Women in Tech in the next few years, like the great Fleetwood Mac Rumours Album will be classed as culturally, historically and artistically significant for the industry.