Last month, we attended the TechWomen50 awards, which focuses solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognises the impact that champions, companies and networks have on leading the way. With a raft of guest speakers from some of the biggest names in tech, including Santander, Bloomberg, PwC, SAP, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Capgemini, Worldpay, Barclays, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Olive Wyman and Amazon, aiming to capture the minds and inspire the hearts of fifty of tech’s most promising female talent, the event was always going to serve as a rallying cry for the next generation.
And rally we did. By the end of the evening, the excitement and the pride in the room was tangible, and as some winners (and their supporters) queued to have their photos taken on the stage, others filtered down to the networking area of the impressive CodeNode event space to discuss each other’s achievements and debate the future of women in tech. So what topics did TechWomen50’s speakers stir up?
Mentorship and development
Find a mentor, and become a mentor. It is only through working together that the talent pipeline can be strengthened. Act as a representative of women in STEM and champion other women in the industry, and they in turn will champion you. It is no coincidence that organisations with more women at a senior level have greater female representation throughout the business. At the same time, mentorship is important for skills development and keeping pace with the changing needs of the tech sector. Invest in your career development now and help other women along the way.
Speak up, speak out
While recent events in the media threatened to cast long shadows over women’s place in the world, the speakers were quick to reclaim power by reinforcing the importance of speaking up. Be proud, they urged, and be sharp and unapologetic. Own your success and don’t doubt your talent, especially when others doubt you. Speaking up is a chain reaction too, and the more of a united front women show, the less poor practice will slip through the cracks.
Encouraging women into STEM starts at an early age and is the responsibility of everyone who works in the industry. The winners were encouraged to be active in their community and encourage their peers to work in STEM. Go into schools, attend networking events, become a mentor, be vocal about your achievements – representing was the first step to engaging women in the conversation about a career in STEM.
Women cannot change the tech landscape by themselves; men must also become part of the fight. Men can help by stepping down on male-only interview panels or guest speaking panels (or “manels”) and by mentoring women in their careers. By the same token, women must step-up and accept opportunities to be on panels – it’s a dual effort and one cannot exist without the other. In the battle to futureproof the UK against impending STEM skill shortages, it has become an imperative for everyone in tech to create a more balanced workforce.
For all the excitement of the event, however, there remained an undercurrent of anticipation. Each punchy, promising message carried with it a deeper meaning – an understanding that for all the strength in the room, for all the talent and the resilience, the future would still be an uphill struggle. It highlighted the fact that celebrating fifty sharp female minds in tech, deserved recognition. That it wasn’t a given. That those talented women in the room, the future of the UK’s tech scene, weren’t enough.
Far from simply serving to celebrate the achievements of those present, each speech prompted feelings of inspiration and pride, and served as the call to arms for women who would hopefully one day be in a position to enact change. It was a rallying cry in its truest form – full of conviction, pride and hope. As we reflect on where those women are now, one month on, we can’t help but feel confident about the future of tech resting in their hands. With these sort of events championing their every step, and with the knowledge and backing of some of the industry’s tech giants behind them, they’re well on their way.
Want to see more lessons learnt from events? Then check out our blog on Diversity in Tech. Or maybe you’d like to know what we’re doing to support a balanced workforce? In which case, take a look at our Cultivating Career Equality campaign.