The Journey for Women to IT Leadership- The Challenge for Equality in Technology

As we reflect on last week’s International Women’s Day, we must also reflect candidly on some of the issues that were raised surrounding opportunities for women in the tech industry.

Harvey Nash’s 2020 CIO survey found that just 10% of IT leaders in the UK are female, and like its penchant for constant progression, the digital sector must also seek to build upon its diversity in the workforce and ensure equal career opportunities.

There are few better examples for aspiring female tech leaders than Mignon Mapplebeck, a CIO of both SEE Consultancy and Digital WoW specialising in AI and analytics, who started her career as an aspiring computer scientist whilst studying in the 1990’s.

Mignon said: “The creative element of computer programming and developing software was where my early interest peaked.

“I got my first role in BI whilst studying computer science and awarded an Oracle sponsorship which was a platform into data warehousing and more senior BI roles.”

In 2019 Mignon was placed in the Top 3 in Women in Tech UK’s entrepreneurship category in the WinTech Series awards and although she recognises the opportunities given to her by the senior figures she has worked with, there have been challenges to overcome to get where she is today, which many will be able to relate to.

Wintech Awards
The WinTech Award series, recognising the achievements of women in tech

“Overall I've had positive experiences, but occasionally I have faced different treatment due to bias or having to tick so many more boxes for a similar role.” Mignon said.

“It has resulted in me having to work harder and having to navigate my career path differently with enthusiasm, credibility, positivity, patience and tenacity.”

Mignon Mapplebeck, Associate CIO at Digital WoW andSEE

Clair Elliot, Director of Service Delivery at Newcastle University, has followed a slightly different career path and after leading the delivery of transformative business change in various industries, she is enjoying her first leadership role in IT at the Russell Group university, adding valued insight into what its like in technology comparatively to other areas of organisations.

Clair’s experience so far has been very positive, stating: “The university champions the ED&I agenda and recognises the benefits this brings to any team within any organisation.

“For any service or organisation to be successful, it needs to make sure it’s representative. Different people bring different perspectives.”

Clair Elliot, Director of Service Delivery at Newcastle University

As Clair describes her current workplace’s commitment to equal opportunity, it is encouraging that organisations are embracing this more often, but she did acknowledge that balance, particularly around family life, can impact women more than men in regards to their career.

“ I guess there is a male dominance in many, if not most, sectors – for me, my career has always been about finding the right balance (and sometimes compromise) for me and my family.  I think that’s the real challenge for many women as everyone’s balance is different.”

It is fascinating to gain insight into the career paths of women in senior IT positions , when they are still underrepresented in director and C-level positions.

As both Clair and Mignon highlighted, diversity in leadership positions in terms of background, race, gender and thought, make for more adaptable and dynamic organisations, which harness even more importance in the digital age.

Inclusion360 D&I
Inclusion360 thought-leadership on attracting diversity

Open conversations around diversity are more frequent and movements such as Harvey Nash’s Inclusion360 network, aimed at encouraging better-balance in workspaces through collaboration and sharing of ideas, are helping businesses to incorporate practices and initiatives that will help facilitate this.

Whilst this is very promising, more needs to be done to help businesses ensure full inclusivity.

If you are interested in speaking to us about our blog or are interested in contributing please get in touch with Stephen Linsley or by emailing: Stephen.Linsley@HarveyNash.com and look out for our next tech space_ event.

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