Despite having written on the topic of women in technology for some time now I'm not actually for more women in IT, but for more diversity as a whole.
I have lost count of the number of businesses who have said they agree that diversity brings greater innovation, yet the industry still fails to reflect this.
The reason I'm pro-diversity is it brings a variety of ideas to the table, instead of having a team that continues to come out with the same thoughts. Diversity doesn't just mean gender or even race, but also class, age, education background, amongst other things. That sounds great, right? A diverse team coming up with innovative idea after idea? And the reason why we don't see this reflected throughout the industry? Unconscious biasness in the hiring process. The old "you hire what you know" chestnut.
I started off my tech journalism career covering data centres and storage - two communities that are incredibly male dominated and I cut my teeth in the industry by covering IT conferences where nine times out of ten I was the only female.
However, being a female wasn't my biggest problem - it was being young, working class and an Essex girl that would prove to be my first challenge.
When I was 11 I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I always wanted to be a writer, something that had been encouraged from a young age, and journalism seemed like a good career choice. When I turned 16 I applied for hundreds of work placements and took them wherever I could claw a few days. I went to university, free-lanced wherever I was offered work and graduated in English Literature, Media Cultures and Journalism. Then finally I was ready for my first role as a reporter.
My first job interview was one that could have deterred me from a career in journalism and to this day I am pleased I chose to ignore it. I was interviewed by the editor of a mobile phone magazine, who I could tell had made up his mind about me before I had even sat down. He asked me where I was from and I said I grew up not far from Chelmsford in Essex to which he replied: "I know Chelmsford. The houses are cheap there." Good start, I thought.
I proceeded to tell him about my experience and where I see myself in five years, etc, etc, and at the end of the interview he said: "Can I be honest with? I wouldn't let you loose with CIOs because of the way you talk." To sum up, the guy thought he had me all sewn up. The dumb, blonde (I was bleach blonde at the time), Essex girl, educated at a comprehensive school from a working class background, that would need a lot of hand holding to understand the world of technology.
I left the interview almost shell-shocked and I wasn't surprised to later hear that he hired someone that was a future reflection of himself - male, middle class, well-spoken and from a well-educated background. A perfect case of unconscious biasness, or even conscious biasness you could argue in this case. He hired what he was familiar with and the candidate he could relate to the most.
I was relieved to meet a fellow Essex girl in tech recently who told me she has had similar experiences, but now holds a senior position at Expedia.
Luckily I am blessed with two wonderful parents who have always told me that I am capable of anything I put my mind to and that I should never feel ashamed of who I am or where I come from. I continued to interview elsewhere and I was eventually hired onto an IT publication by two ladies - who I am eternally grateful to for the chance.
Funnily enough I've only been an Essex girl for 23 years. I started life in Newham, in East London, and I speak with lots of teachers, students and organisations who do some incredible and worthwhile work with young people in this area, encouraging them to consider a career in IT. A career in this sector has influenced me greatly, as I am now training to code myself to expand on my story telling skills through web development, visualisation and data journalism.
As previously mentioned I have two amazing parents who have encouraged me to believe I am not defined by my class, accent, gender or anything else I could be judged on.
One of the ladies who hired me, for my first reporter role, later told me that she chose me because I reminded her of herself. And there is our problem. With the lack of women in the IT industry, how will the few female candidates who do interview be hired if they don't remind their male employers of themselves?
I would encourage every IT employer to consider hiring someone different for a change - you never know they might surprise you. Don't always go for the easy option of what you know and who you think will deliver, as they will only come up with the same ideas your company has always generated. Obviously the candidate must still be suited for the role and show potential at your company, however hiring someone different will add a new dimension to your organisation - one that is diverse and full of new ideas.
Technology is for everyone and every young person deserves a chance to flourish, regardless of their background, class, race or gender.
Kayleigh Bateman is the special projects editor for Computer Weekly and editor of CW Europe. She covers stories about women in technology, IT education, skills and startups. She looks after Computer Weekly's Top 25 Most Influential Women in UK IT list and event. She is also responsible for the CW European User Awards.
Kayleigh originally joined TechTarget as site editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK, before becoming the UK managing editor of TechTarget International. She joined TechTarget from Computer Reseller News UK, where she specialised in virtualisation and storage. Prior to CRN, she attended the University of Hertfordshire, where she studied for her BA in English literature, journalism and media cultures.
In her spare time she is learning web development, visualisation and data journalism at college and online. She also volunteers with the Essex Military Support Association and Operation Shoebox UK.