Technology is a fantastic industry to work in with a wealth of opportunities for women.
I think one of the factors that puts young women off the technology industry is a misunderstanding of the career opportunities available. Technology is not just about gaming or coding. There is a huge range of career paths available to young women. I am a Technology Lawyer and I love it!
The nature of the technology sector means that it is constantly and quickly evolving. Businesses and individuals who provide or consume technology services need to be creative, insightful and adapt well to change. Communication and networking is key - something many women find to be a natural skill.
Many studies have been conducted on the benefits of gender diversity (i.e. a balance of men and women). This is especially apparent in research on the number of women represented on company boards. Research reported that companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.
Women and men think, work, buy and respond differently. If women and men are not equally represented in an industry, the industry is failing to properly consider half of its potential customers, competitors and opportunities.
The technology industry is hugely competitive and businesses battle to recruit the best possible talent. Women represent half of the potential talent pool. To remain competitive businesses need to ensure that they are getting access to as much of this talent pool as possible. To do this, women need to be encouraged to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities available in the technology sector. Only around 30% of the 7 million people working in the information and communication technology sector in the EU are women.
The technology sector is growing so rapidly the job prospects are extensive. Around 120,000 new sector jobs are created in the EU each year. It is estimated that there may be a lack of 900,000 skilled information technology and communication workers in 2020.
Nearly 50% of young women studying GCSEs and A Levels are sitting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects. However, only 12% of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics workforce are women. Why do so few women continue in these careers?
My own career path to become a Technology Lawyer has been a winding journey!
I first started to consider careers when I was 17 years old and deciding what A Levels to take. I had always been interested in engineering. My Dad worked as a car mechanic and, from a young age, I was fascinated by Dad's ability to understand and fix everything (I still am!). I chose to pursue engineering and selected Physics, Mathematics, Art and ICT at AS Level. I can't remember why I selected ICT, however, that year it was by far my favourite subject. I learnt the basics of ICT and built a website for my end of year project. It wasn't long after this and I was working for family and friends developing websites and advising on how to get on top of Google (known as search engine optimisation).
However, that year I struggled with my other subjects and overall I was disappointed with my AS Level results. I took the hard decision to move colleges and prepared to retake the year. ICT was now not an option and I swapped to Law.
I went on to study Law at university whilst continuing to manage websites and provide search engine optimisation advice. The projects I worked on grew and I pulled together a small team including a programmer and graphic designer. My role was sales, project management, content writing and everything else! I continued to teach myself HTML and spent hours learning to use Photoshop, Dreamweaver and a selection of other applications. It was the perfect part-time job - flexible hours and I really loved it!
It sounds strange now but at this point not once had I seriously considered a career in technology. As far as combining law and technology, it hadn't crossed my mind that this was an option. It wasn't until another three years later, when I started working for Ashfords that I realised my two favourite subjects actually worked together perfectly!
From there on everything fell into place very quickly. My genuine interest in and understanding of technology has meant that I can quickly understand the risks and considerations in technology contracts and transactions. The combination of technology and law and the skills I had been knowingly developing as a child (rebuilding car engines with Dad in the garage!) have been instrumental to my success as a Technology Lawyer.
The first step for any young women considering a career in technology is to find a mentor.
Having a mentor does not have to be anything formal just a friend to talk about the challenges, provide encouragement and discuss experiences. Throughout my career path I have been incredibly lucky to benefit from several female mentors many of whom continue to help me today. I know many friends and colleagues who would be delighted to help young women looking to embark upon a career in this exciting and rewarding industry.
Don't overlook the opportunities available to you and take advantage of the support and guidance available!
Jenny is a Technology Lawyer specialising in commercial technology and outsourcing. Her experience includes IT sourcing, technology transformation, cloud computing and enterprise software.
Jenny's advice spans all phases of the sourcing cycle. She has experience of the practicalities and issues in the implementation of major transformation projects and roll-out of big ticket outsourcing transactions. Resulting in Jenny being well-placed to provide pragmatic and relevant advice at initial transaction structuring and contract negotiation stages.
Jenny has a particular interest in emerging technology sourcing models. This interest has sparked her growing practice in cloudsourcing and enterprise software. Software licenses and maintenance contracts consume almost one third of IT budgets. Jenny enjoys working with businesses to help increase the efficiencies and create economies in such spending.
Jenny has worked with Creditcall Limited, Gemalto NV, Post Office Limited, Sensus UK Limited, South West Grid for Learning Trust and SurveyMonkey.
Jenny is resolute in understanding the context in which she provides legal advice. Jenny has taken PRINCE 2 (Foundation) and ITIL (Foundation) qualifications. Jenny has also completed PCI Awareness Training with the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council.