This particular International Women’s Day theme resonates with me a lot, I used to write a blog at university and my key theme was encouraging to not stereotype.
Growing up I naively didn’t think there were careers that lent towards a gender, because my Dad worked nights he was around when I was and my Mum had her own business. When my Mum got ill, my Dad worked as a midday supervisor (dinner lady) at my school and cared for my Mum, sister and me.
I’m glad I had that as my foundation but I was also ignorant when I got to university. Although there were only a handful of women in my IT A-level class, it wasn’t a problem it was just another lesson, nothing that was dwelled on. The first time I encountered (or maybe was shocked by) a level of bias was during Freshers Week at university. As you do that week, you’re meeting loads of newbies and this one guy asked what course I was doing and when I said Computing he laughed and said “no seriously, what course are you doing?”. This wasn’t the first time there was surprise, so I eventually turned it into a game when I met someone and they asked what course I did, instead I’d ask them what course they thought I did, always answers were English, History etc. Not that they are bad subjects, but Computing always came with surprise and this was the first time I become aware of the bias.
Within my university course when a group project module came up all the women were split up so there was as many groups as possible with one woman. Those women were often the Project Manager’s of the group, myself included. But when now I look at the jobs those women do and they are programmers for large tech companies & banks, data engineers and solution architects… I realise we weren’t leading the technical side of the project but the organisation of it.
For me breaking the bias is trying to lead by example and showcase what I’m doing with the aim that I’m educating 1) what a role in IT actually entails and 2) that diversity in the workplace and IT should be encouraged.
Dispelling the stereotype needs to start at an early age and that’s why I love working with charities such as Founders4Schools, ELSA Next Generation and the WCIT Charity, through which I’ve been able to mentor sixth formers and speak to kids at school in the hope that by being present and talking about my job and what I like to do, I help to put a different lens on working in technology.
I couldn’t break the bias without the support and sponsorship I have had and continue to have from teachers, mentors, colleagues, friends and family. Ally’s of every kind are important.
I encourage everyone to help educate others.