Maggie Berry is the director of Women In Technology, an online job board and networking forum for women working in the UK technology profession. The network has over 4,500 members, and the job board is helping a wide range of investment banks and technology firms to recruit more women into their IT divisions.
V3.co.uk caught up with Berry to discuss her views on how women can succeed in IT.
Do you believe being a woman in IT makes it hard to succeed?
I believe it can be difficult for women to succeed in IT just like in other male dominated business areas, but there are positives. For example, a woman in a meeting with 30 men will certainly be memorable.
The key issue women have is maternity. A statistic I've never been able to find is the percentage of working women who have children. The technology industry moves so fast, much faster than careers such as accounting and teaching, that time off to have a baby can have a huge impact on a woman's career. Although the government has introduced a lot of legislation that helps women come back to work after taking leave, what if they don't have the skills? It costs a lot of money to train and do a course, and a lot of women can't afford it.
What can a company do to help women succeed in IT, and what can the individual do?
To make it easier for women to enter the workforce again after having children, perhaps companies should offer a graduate-like programme so that women can be brought on board again gradually and trained up. If a woman has been out of work for a while, she tends to lack confidence and, even if the company offering the back-to-work training does not want to offer her a position, at least she would be given the boost she needs to go and apply elsewhere.
A company can also create an internal women's network to give support. Women working for smaller firms can join networks elsewhere, such as those run by my company. Women themselves have to be savvy about their networking activities, get involved in corporate events and make sure they raise their profile.
To what extent are IT departments looking to fill roles specifically with women at the moment?
Most IT departments want to increase their female intake, although of course they can't specifically hire for women because this would be discriminatory. Firms that are really focused on a more equal workforce tend to make themselves look women-friendly with targeted activities and events.
Which firms are particularly women-friendly? And which sectors?
It's hard to name specific firms, although Accenture does spring to mind as having great women-friendly policies. In terms of verticals, the public sector has more of a structure that suits women taking maternity leave or who may need to work from home to look after children. However, sectors such as banking have less of a structure but compensate very well.
Which IT roles are most women-friendly?
Shift roles tend to work well for women. I also know a lot of women who are contractors and can take time out in the summer. In terms of specific roles, I see more women in business analysis and project management than web development. This might sound like a generic statement, but that's because it's true.
How can women make their CVs appeal to a male-dominated environment?
I don't really see much difference between male and female CVs. I do like it when HR departments remove an individual's sex and other personal details from their application to show their commitment to diversity. Because this is becoming increasingly common, I advise women not to use the third person in their CVs.
Can you give any practical tips for women in the workplace?
Women have to be aware that delivering on the job is not enough. They have to present themselves well, interact with the team and make an effort to attend after-work activities. When it comes to dress, I tell women to dress for the job they want, not the one they are in. It's sometimes difficult for women in more casual environments when men can get back in jeans and a blue shirt. Still, it is important to look good, as if you were going to meet a client.
How about practical tips for a woman's management style?
The same good management practice applies to women as it does men. It's a shame that sometimes teams will take well to traits in a man, but will not like those same traits in a woman.
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