Ada Lovelace Day

Today is the 24th March and the day of the 2010 Budget. But that’s not all – it’s also Ada Lovelace Day – a day to celebrate the achievements of women in technology, in the name of one of the world’s first computer programmers from the 19th century. We, like thousands of others pledged to blog about the subject today – so that’s what we are doing!

The idea is that today, everyone blogs about a woman in IT that they admire. However over the past few years I have met so many impressive women from the technology world that it’s impossible to pick just one to blog about. So instead I am going to write about ‘the ultimate woman in IT’ – what qualities and characteristics I admire in female technologists and have seen in many women that I have met. So here they are:

  • Skilled – good women in the IT sector have both strong technical skill but also superior soft skills that enable them to do their job well
  • Strong – some would argue that to be a woman in IT you have to be ‘one of the boys’. But I don’t think this is the case – you need to gain merit as a female. However to do this you do need to be pragmatic, strong willed and determined.
  • Sharing – I think it’s important for women in IT to network – share information, contacts and stories. Some female techies don’t want to be recognised as a role model and don’t like being labeled as a ‘woman in IT’. For me it’s important that as many women as possible stand and be counted and share their experiences to encourage others, whether it’s through events, mentoring, school visits or any other means. This can provide great inspiration.
  • Nice! – It’s not a very good descriptor but it applies to any sector – people want to deal with people who are ‘nice’. This means approachable, happy to give advice or speak on a panel and thinking about other people.
  • Passion – The best women in IT that I have met have all had this trait – IT is not just a job, it’s a major part of their life.
  • Supportive – Time and time again we hear women in IT say they would like more support from female bosses and colleagues. The most admirable women in IT will do just this and collaborate, not compete.

Those are my qualities of the ultimate woman in IT. Some examples of great women in IT can be found on our role models page here: Who is your most admired woman in IT?


The future of women in IT

There is some great technology out there but unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future (hopefully a female technologist will invent one!) However if we did have one, we’d use it to see where women in IT would be in the future.

A report by the Government Equalities Office says that almost two thirds of UK businesses are missing out on female talent and suffering as a consequence. It also revealed that if we continue at the current rate of progress it will take 60 years for there to be an equal number of men and women in senior roles! If the government has recognised that this needs to change (which it seems it has with Gordon Brown saying there are too few women in Britain’s boardrooms), then shouldn’t we be doing more about it?

In our recent survey we asked our female technologists what they thought would happen to women in IT over the next five years – we got some interesting and different answers:

  • Shortage of new entrants because Science and Technology is not popular in schools, not seen as a girl-thing.
  • More women in very senior roles.
  • I think the number of women will increase as the younger generation is very much the digital native generation; however the level to which it increases relies on our intervention now.
  • They will continue to lead & be innovative but will not always get credit for it or equality of pay.
  • There will be more in the industry, more start up IT businesses with women CEOs.
  • One respondent simply said “not much”.

Which crystal ball prediction do you agree with? And what would you like to see done to give women in IT a boost?

Pay and recognition

Not only is today Internation Women’s Day, it’s also the fifth birthday of, so we asked the women in our network what their ‘birthday wish’ for women in IT would be. The top answers were: a closing of the gender pay gap, more respect and more support in the workplace from both employers and fellow employees.

One respondent said “[I wish] that people would assume [women in IT] have interesting, innovative and strategic thinking without them having to work so hard to constantly establish credibility”. Another said she wished that women would “support each other rather than compete”.

The needs of working mums were also addressed with calls for women to be openly recognised as doing a great job even if in part-time work, as well as for more workplace benefits options surrounding things like childcare. Other wishes were for more role models for women in IT, more women in senior IT positions and for women to trust their own skills and abilities more.

As one respondent pointed out, it has been 40 years since the Equal Pay Act and although we’ve made progress we still haven’t closed the gender pay gap, so that’s definitely a big hope for the future. These results show that we still have a way to go until women are on a par with men in the IT world but what’s great is that these ‘wishes’ are realistic ones that are within our reach. Since womenintechnology was established five years ago women have made great advances in the sector. We’re looking forward to the next five years and what will happen next!