Cyberella winner announced!

Back in January we launched a competition in conjunction with the National IT Learning Centre to win a free IT training course worth £3000. Entrants simply had to explain in 100 words why they wanted to win. We had some great entries but whittled them down to a short list of eight. NITLC and staff were then shown the short list and asked to vote for our favourite. Centrine from Glasgow was our lucky winner!

Her entry was: “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved computers. So much so that my 5 year old daughter knows how to use the basic side of computers as well. I’m proud of myself for instilling technology in her. I’m a single parent wanting so bad to progress career wise and I just genuinely wish that I was given a chance to prove myself. Winning this course will be a door opening for me in IT. It’ll give me a chance to better not only my future but my daughter’s. Thanks in advance.” [sic]

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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!

Your thoughts wanted

To celebrate womenintechnology’s fifth birthday next month, we want to hear from you! As always, your opinions are important to us, so we want to hear what you think about women in IT today and over the next 5 years. We’ve put a survey of 5 questions together so it should only take 5 minutes to fill out.

So when you’re taking a quick coffee break, click here: and tell us what you think. We’ll be publishing the results in a couple of weeks so check back here soon. Thanks!

The gender pay gap

You may have seen this post on Computer Weekly’s WITsend blog, but in case you missed it, here it is:

Every year we say “a new year, a new start!” And in this case: “a new decade, a new start”. Let’s hope that’s the case when it comes to the dreaded gender pay gap. But results from a survey by indicate that instead of the situation improving, the difference between the pay of men and women in IT is getting bigger.

Just take a look at this graph – the results are quite striking:

Far more women than men are in low paid jobs with the majority (35%) earning less than £25,000 a year, compared to just 14% of men. And interestingly whereas the number of women in this pay bracket has risen since 2008, the number of men has decreased. When it comes to salaries in excess of £40,000 the number of men far exceed the number of women – with the amount of men earning top bucks outnumbering women by more than 2:1.

When it came to bonuses, although more women than men took home extra cash in 2009, men received higher amounts. 65% of women who received bonuses got less than £5000 compared to 47% of men and 10% of the males had bonuses of over £20,001, whereas the number of women receiving that reward was: zero.

It always comes back to the same question: why? The main answer seems to be that many women put their career progression on hold due to family commitments, leaving the top jobs open for the men. The huge difference between maternity and paternity leave allowances doesn’t help this situation either (although that looks like it may change). But it’s not just the women that are missing out here – businesses need the input of women, especially at senior level.

Remote working, schemes to help women back into work after maternity leave, mentoring – these are all practices businesses should be looking at so that we can change the look of the graph above and have more women at the top of IT. As I said before, it’s a new decade – let’s hope it signals a new start!

Women in IT – in Africa!

We’re always going on about why IT is a great place for women to work – opportunities to travel abroad, the chance to make a difference, exciting projects. It’s all very well saying that but sometimes these words can go in one ear and out the other pretty quickly – so it’s great to see examples of real women doing great things with technology.

I recently heard about a partnership between Vodafone and the UN (the long winded version is the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Group Foundation Technology Partnership!) This is a programme which aims to implement technology in developing countries – to allow both general development and to help with disaster relief.

Vodafone works with womenintechnology and they told us about their Secondment programme where their employees are placed with the World Food Programme for a year. They’re given a grant to cover a modest salary and their expenses, all the support they need and the chance to really make a difference to people’s lives. This year, four people are taking part in the programme – one being Salma Farouque from Vodafone Australia who’s now working as an ICT Specialist for Emergency Telecommunications in Kampala, Uganda after spending seven years working as a Solutions Designer in the Technology Division in Sydney.

During her year in Uganda, Salma will work as an IT Specialist, to support co-ordination in countries in the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa region. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the area, the need for emergency security telecommunications is greater than ever and the role Salma is working on this year, will make a huge difference to humanitarian workers from 30 UN agencies and around 100 non government organisations in the region. You can read her blog here.

It’s great to see that working in technology really can make a difference – and it’s even better to see female technologists being involved. Let’s hope we see more schemes like this in the future as it sounds like a brilliant opportunity.