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FEATURE


SEX AND


TECHNOLOGY – THE GREAT DIVIDE


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When Diane Kegley started her career in the technology sector 20 years ago, she was warned that she was entering a ‘man’s world.’ But she has always firmly believed that a successful career in technology is due to talent - not gender. Now Chief Marketing Officer at global company, RichRelevance, which works with retailers such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis to offer personalised shopping experiences, she shares her views on why the ‘geeky’ perception of tech jobs needs to be reversed – and why employers need to spread the word at school level.


D


oes elegant code have a gender? Are mega data-sets XX or XY? Of course not. Maths is pure abstraction, and engineering skills can be learned… so why aren’t more women and girls getting into the tech industry?


The issue of gender diversity is rightly a hot topic at the moment, not least because of the efforts of leading executives including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. However, how many young women would recognise Sandberg’s picture? Or be able to reference her work? Facebook’s Chief Operating Offi cer is a great role model that should inspire young women that the technology industry is the place for them. RichRelevance is working hard to meet the challenge of gender parity. Some of our current initiatives include hosting Meet-Ups and Founders’ Happy Hours on site with local developer and start-up communities. These events are designed to foster collaborative learning and offer a chance for all employees to mingle with prospective candidates, who have an opportunity to experience our work environment. We also encourage blog posts that highlight the female perspective of working at a high-tech company, and we ensure that recruiting copy is gender-neutral and focuses on skills and talent.


But, like many tech companies, we have a way to go. Our company’s leadership is 20% female and our total employee statistics skew more male than female (79 women, 170 men). We want to attract the best and brightest irrespective of gender, but male applicants far outnumber female applicants.


Of course, gender balance in tech doesn’t mean that 18 GRADUATE RECRUITER


coding styles or sales quotas will or should change. For me, gender diversity is about striving to have the widest possible pool of opinion and experience on hand to spark innovation. An obvious fi rst step is that we need to ensure that skills and experience speak louder than gender across the board inside the company, from hiring through to appraisals and promotions. We also need to tackle the perception that jobs in tech


are geeky. Lauren Smith, programme manager at Credit Suisse, made an interesting point at a recent Women in Technology roundtable: “Technology was not considered as geeky in the 1970s. There were far more women programmers then, but the media has contributed to its geeky image.” We need to reverse this perception by calling out and celebrating the amazing women doing incredible things in tech. We need to further highlight that it is possible to rise to the top at companies like HP and Facebook and we need to better underscore how technology – from app design to ecommerce – can turn great ideas into businesses. Most importantly, we need to start young and ensure that science, technology, engineering and math education is as engaging as possible... more girls pursuing these careers will mean a more diverse pool of talent. Happily, this is already well in progress through national initiatives like the Big Bang science and engineering fair and RaspberryPi bringing coding into the classroom to encourage girls to challenge traditional shibboleths about their interests and capabilities. Not-for-profi ts, governments and educators are doing a


great job at getting more talent to think about tech. As an industry, we need to work even harder to shake off our ‘only geeks need apply’ perception. Let’s nurture upcoming talent and show today’s kids— boys and girls alike—that the technology industry is an accessible and vibrant sector to work in. Let’s work harder to bring forth shining examples of women in tech. This is crucial if we are going to inspire and educate young people that the technology industry is the place for them.


www.richrelevance.com


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