I've always wondered why more women aren't interested in a career in technology, because I've always found it inspiring, exciting, and rewarding.
My father was heavily into science fiction, and I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, going to conventions and being totally inspired by this genre. The impossible, the fantastical, the futuristic, and technology makes the impossible possible every day, so why wouldn't everyone want to work in technology?
I think people, particularly women, perceive technology as physical; a device such as an iPhone or laptop or a software programme like Oracle. There's an assumption that you need to know how to code and understand computers to work in technology. This couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, there are roles in technology that involve coding, but the majority of roles are business led and outcome focused. They require other skills; the ability to relate the potential technology solution to a business problem, to articulate the outcome for a client and what transformation the technology enables within their business.
At Accenture, we actively encourage people to join us from a wider variety of backgrounds, each with different skill sets and experiences - business or creative skills, rather than solely technical ones. The diversity of thought and perspective proves truly valuable to innovation and differentiation in the market. We've found in a recent study, that an inclusive culture—one that is not only diverse on paper, but that enables everyone to have a voice—is the way to unlock opportunities for women who are studying and working in technology.
This presents a freedom to focus on the outcomes that the technology can deliver, the business benefits it can bring and the difference technology can make to people's lives and the wider world.
We need to change the perception of technology from a thing, to an enabler or outcome; what it can do for a business, not what great features it has. There should be less expectation around core technical skills and focus more on the business experience. This change of mindset needs to come much earlier on for women. We can all play a part in educating the younger population on the options available to them.
The other challenge women in technology face is the lack of flexibility or the perceived lack of flexibility in IT roles. From personal experience in my solution lead role, I know first-hand how challenging balancing family with a demanding IT job can be. There are perceived expectations to be responsive during "normal" working hours.
We need senior women role models in technology to have the option of working part time or flexible hours. That will help to demonstrate that it's possible to have a family and a career, and that you don't have to choose, you can have both. To do this we need companies to embrace a truly flexible working schedule and set expectations with our clients that match our own.
Perception is reality so let's make reality change perception.