The Women in Technology Excellence Awards offer a superb opportunity to celebrate the success of women working in the technology sector
The Women in Technology Excellence Awards are open for nominations of outstanding women from around the world across categories including Digital Leader, Role Model and Transformation Leader of The Year. These awards offer up a superb opportunity to not just celebrate the success of women working in the technology sector, but to acknowledge the fact that many of those working in it have had to put extraordinary amounts of work in not just to push back the boundaries constructed around what women can achieve in technology back but to tear them down completely.
However, as several former winners of awards and judges of this years' event have emphasised throughout the course of a number of interviews over the last few weeks some of the most successful women when reflecting on earlier stages of their career, tend not to focus on the challenges they might have faced. They simply say that they just got on with it, delivering to the best of their ability.
What has been notable throughout these interviews is just how often the words "lucky" and "fortunate" crop up. Just as history tends to minimise the achievements of feminist pioneers (shouty ladies who were pushing at an already open door because society was already changing,) women who have achieved highly within the technology sphere, share in some cases, a tendency towards minimising their own achievements instead of celebrating and broadcasting them to their advantage. It is this emphasis on pragmatism, and perhaps a greater willingness to put their career success at least partly down to luck, which can sometimes lead to women forgetting to nominate themselves for prizes and recognition.
Michelle Slee, Agile Delivery Manager at DVLA and present holder of Role Model of The Year for Public Sector and Universities recognises this characterisation.
"A number of people nominated me but when I was shortlisted, I was asked to complete a form with the reasons why I deserved to win. That does make you reflect; the questions are quite thought-provoking. I thought about my career and particularly that year of work through the lens of being a role model. I also wrote about my own journey into coding."
It wasn't until Slee won the Role Model award that she realised how much her work had meant to other people.
"People contacted me afterwards and they said such lovely things. You don't really know what people think of you, you just get on with it and work hard. I've always been professional and conscientious. For me that's just a way of living my life and doing my job. But then all of a sudden people were saying such lovely things and I didn't know they thought that about me."
Slee jokes that the good wishes "don't last," as work pressures reassert themselves but the boost to confidence proves a more enduring legacy.
Nominating themselves for awards is something that many women feel instinctively uncomfortable with - a fact underlined by how few of our winners in previous years have taken this route. However, there are creative ways to overcome this tendency. Alice Genevois, Senior Data Science Manager at Lloyds Banking Group won the Role Model of The Year for Financial Services in 2020 and is one of this years' judges explains her approach.
"What I did was approach one of my colleagues and said, I really think we should apply for this, so why don't I nominate you and you nominate me? You know, even if you're amazing people are not just going to go and nominate you - that's really rare. You need to ask them, you need to say that this is an award I think I could win, would you mind nominating me? Or nominate yourself I'm all for that. Why not?"
Why not indeed? It is something that many men wouldn't think twice about doing, quite understandably. The nominations process itself encourages reflection on accomplishments and this in itself can be a really valuable process because some of us have a habit of forgetting.
Ursula Dolton, CTO at British Heart Foundation, agrees.
"Trying to write down your achievements and promote yourself - that's something we don't always do well. It made me stop and realise that oh I've done all these things! Just seeing the information written down gives you a moment of satisfaction and confidence. Normally, you're constantly busy, you're constantly trying to do the next thing and you never have the time for that wow moment."
Whilst many previous winners are already flying high in their chosen fields it is important to note that many are earlier on in their careers. These awards are accessible to women throughout their career - not just those already at the pinnacle. Examples of awards that women at varying stages of their career can win include Graduate, Rising Star, Software Engineer, Team Leader and Role Model.
Working within a global enterprise can make visibility a challenge. Winning one of these awards at an earlier stage in your career can really enhance your visibility within an organisation.
Perhaps the most important reason to nominate yourself and other women is that ultimately, it raises us all. Genevois sets out this reasoning perfectly.
"Women tend to not put themselves forward and sometimes even hesitate to put others forward, whereas men are not shy of doing that. But if you help someone else shine you will shine as well and that in turns helps all the other women in your organisation."
So don't hesitate - nominate!