A survey by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, found 45% of women working in IT believe their gender is the main barrier to getting ahead in their career, and when it comes to getting that all important first job in IT, almost a third of women (30%) thought their gender is their biggest barrier, compared with only 4% of men asked the same question. Whilst these are sobering findings, not all women in IT have had a negative experience. Here’s the case study of one such woman.

Rubi KaurRubi Kaur is a Senior Solutions Architect for Vodafone. She finds technical solutions to business problems. This, she says, ‘empowers businesses to be fully connected in a digital world.’

She has spent over twenty years working in the communication industry and has often been the only woman in her team. Her experience has been positive, which she puts down to the forward-thinking culture of the multinational companies who employed her: ‘I have worked for some of the most advanced communications companies, ‘she says, ‘and they understand that diversity is the key, not only to a happier workforce, but also to helping the company itself thrive.’

Inside the statistics

Currently, only around 17 percent of the workforce in IT is female - but making a company diverse is good for business, says Rubi: ‘If we don’t innovate, we’ll miss opportunities. We’re missing out on talent - we have a huge skills gap in IT and confining ourselves to a very small talent pool can’t be the way forward. We need fresh ideas and different perspectives to develop new products and services, and to resolve wider issues in society for the benefit of all. To do this, we need a diverse talent pool.’  

Making the IT industry attractive

Attracting and retaining more women in IT is not rocket science she says: ‘It’s about having the right culture with supportive HR policies that foster greater diversity and this has to be driven from the top to the bottom of the company.’

Rubi started off on a technology graduate scheme: ‘At the start of my career I was nearly always the only woman in a team of men, but I really did have supportive team members around me. They just saw me as another person, someone who could do the job well. We all had the same goals and we worked well together.’

Fighting stereotypes and unconscious bias

Rubi adds: ‘For many women, work place unconscious bias and stereotyping are still issues. Fundamentally, to attract more women, businesses must work harder to change this. My experience shows it is possible.’ She cites her current employer, Vodafone as an example of good practice. Thirty one per cent of its management and leadership roles globally are filled by women, it has a 42% female board, and at least half the graduates it hires are women.

Rubi adds ‘One of the key reasons businesses should increase the number of women in management is that they become visible role models and mentors to young girls who aspire to get into in technology and become leaders themselves.’

Positive and visible

Rubi serves on the committee for BCS Women, which provides networking opportunities for all BCS professional women working in IT around the world. She believes it’s important to offer guidance and advice to the next generation. 

‘Those of us who are already in technology... we need to be ambassadors to the younger girls doing STEM subjects at school or university. We need to show them we are real women who work in technology, which is an incredibly exciting area with fascinating careers in all industry areas. Working in technology is not just about being a coder.’

Rubi is still very enthusiastic about what she does: ‘I’m the classic case of being the only girl in the computer science class, who had a passion for science and technology and decided that was the job for me at a young age. I’m so glad I did because it’s the industry I want to remain in, as I still find the tech industry a wonderful, exciting and stimulating career.’

Read our other case study - Diversity: Finding a first job made harder