I believe the technology sector is a great place for women to work - technology is everywhere, influencing every area of life and business. It is a huge growth area and I want to see more women succeeding and achieving in technology careers. IT offers such a wealth of opportunity - after all, no sector of industry can survive without technology in some form.
So how can female technology professionals really succeed and achieve? There are the obvious solutions including working hard to gain a promotion and meeting objectives in order to move into the next pay bracket but those are just the standard building blocks to career success. Progressing in a predominantly male sector can be challenging but by utilising the multiple career boosting options available to you, it can really pay off.
Don’t underestimate the power of a network. Networking is something you need to do right from the start of your career. It should be part and parcel of your professional life - you can join a professional body, like the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, a specific network for your specialism or something locally where you live and make sure you’re part of a women’s network too.
With social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and particularly LinkedIn at your fingertips, it is easier than ever to keep in touch with old contacts, friends and colleagues. Your LinkedIn profile is a great tool to showcase your abilities and experience for the business world to see. It also gives colleagues the chance to publically acknowledge their appreciation of your work by recommending you.
Many people have also found jobs through Twitter so ensure you fill out your bio with what you do - and if you’re looking for a new opportunity, say so! Also, remember that your network doesn’t just consist of the people you know but friends of friends and their friends too - think of the ‘seven degrees of separation’ experiment.
The more people you connect with the more doors you could open. Face-to-face networking events are also incredibly useful ways of meeting new people, getting advice from those who may have been in your position before and expanding your network.
Don’t be afraid to move positions if the time is right or a good opportunity comes along, and remember that a job specification is just a wish list - aim high. Women often underestimate their abilities - anecdotally most men will put themselves forward for a position if they tick 40-50% of the boxes, most women will only do so if they tick 80%.
As such men tend to change jobs more often than women, they are perhaps more are often promoted above women and enjoy more pay rises; they go after the opportunities. Recent figures have showed that it may be almost 100 years before we have truly equal pay - it’s time for women to play a part in changing that - by asking for more. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Find a mentor
Getting regular advice and guidance from a mentor that you trust and respect is a fantastic way to progress your career. Someone more senior than you, who will have once been in your shoes, will be able to offer words of wisdom that may prove very helpful. Even better is finding a sponsor - someone within your company who will root for you, promote your work and push you for promotion.
Women tend to be good at finding mentors, but not so many have sponsors, who will speak up for them and actively work to progress their careers. Women can feel quite isolated as they might be the only female in their department or team, so it is very powerful to have people looking out for you. The more people you know in your sector, the more people you can call on for help when you need it.
Self-promotion is OK. The relatively small number of women working in technology should mean it's easier for women to build a profile but in reality the opposite is often true. Many women struggle with selling themselves and their achievements; but this is crucial if you want to be in the running for a promotion.
Women are much less ready to put themselves forward for promotion - they will tell you what they haven’t done, and point out the gaps on their CV - which is directly opposite to what men will do. So make sure you share your successes and believe in yourself - it really is half the battle.
Your technical skills will speak for themselves but to get on you really need to focus on promoting yourself: speak at events, write a blog, provide comments to journalists - take all opportunities to let people know what you're doing.
Keep in touch
The technology industry loses a huge number of talented women who find it hard to get back into jobs after a career break. Technology changes so quickly with new releases and new software which means it is really important to keep your skills up to date.
Unfortunately there are no easy answers to being out of the industry for a number of years but for me this is one of the biggest problems facing the technology profession and its female talent. I’d love to see employers running 'return to work' schemes to help women get their technical skills back up to date after a career break and back into the industry.
Make the right choices
It may sound obvious, but think carefully about your career choices. Make sure you’re working at a company where you’re happy. If you want to take a particular career path, choose an employer where that progression is possible and supported. And whatever the culture of a workplace, it's important to be authentic to yourself.
Technology is a great and exciting industry to work in, with so many options and opportunities. You don’t have to act like a man to succeed in a male dominated industry - confidence, self-belief, doing a good job and being seen to be doing a good job are key to successful career progression.
Maggie Berry is the Founder of the Women in Technology Network and Executive Director for Europe for WEConnect International, a global organisation supporting supplier diversity in procurement and helping majority owned women businesses to connect into the corporate supply chain.
She has responsibility for the management, leadership and development of WEConnect International’s activity in Europe and her role involves developing corporate and public sector support as well as growing a network of majority owned women’s businesses across the UK and Europe.
In her ‘spare time’ she runs the Women in Technology Network, a network for women working in the IT industry in the UK which Maggie set up in 2005 and which grew to a membership of 14,000 - you can follow her on Twitter: @womenintech.
She is a Freeman of the Information Technologists' Company and supports many initiatives to increase the number of women working and achieving in technology careers including BCSWomen and WiTT. Maggie is also a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2012 and a member of their Global Agenda Council on Employment.