"Be you. If you’re anything other than authentic in a leadership role, you won’t bring people along with you"
STEM subjects - those especially valued in the tech trade - tend to be much more popular among school-age boys than girls. Whether that is down to social pressure or a lack of representation, the fact remains that the pipeline for females into IT is a thin one.
That is why it is so important for potential applicants to the industry to have strong role models, who are both visibile and visibily accepted. That is why we have not just one, but four Role Model of the Year categories at the upcoming Women in Tech Excellence Awards.
Sophie Hussey, head of service management at financial services firm Lowell, is a finalist in the Role Model of the Year: Financial Services category, and prior to the Awards on the 24th November, we talked to her about her own route into the sector.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
I'm passionate about supporting women in tech and increasing diversity in the industry, so having an organisation focusing efforts on encouraging and inspiring women to join the tech industry is fantastic. The world runs on technology and historically it's been a challenging industry for women to get into, so it's important for both individuals and organisations to encourage more women and girls to consider careers in the technology sphere.
How did you get into IT industry?
It wasn't a career I initially gravitated towards; I did a business degree and when I was looking for my first job I applied for a role on a service desk. The role required either IT experience or a degree qualification, I had the degree and experience in customer services, so it felt like a good fit. I got the job and worked my way through the ranks, gaining knowledge and experience as I went.
Why do you think the IT industry is mainly male?
I think it's a cultural and societal thing more than anything else, similar to boys' toys and girls' toys. It can be really isolating for girls taking IT at school, as it's a subject which for some reason boys seem to gravitate to more than girls. I'm not sure whether that's social pressure or representation within the industry, but being in the minority can work to your advantage in some respects.
There's also a legacy factor: traditionally it's been a male-dominated industry where senior leadership roles are filled by men, so there's a big job to do to inspire women to work in the industry. Companies and industry leaders need to go out to schools to inspire children to get into tech, regardless of their gender. Children learn so much more at school and that's where change will happen.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in your career?
You get to a point where you realise you don't need to apologise for being you - this is something I've learnt through my career. Be assertive; find the confidence to voice your opinion and say what you think, stand by your opinion and most importantly, work with the facts.
What are your three top tips for women looking to start a career in IT?
Be bold, be brave, be you.
If you're interested in a role, be brave and go for it. If you have an opinion be bold and voice it, there's no harm in being assertive and standing up for what you want to do.
Most importantly, be you. If you're anything other than authentic in a leadership role you won't bring people along with you and the whole point in leadership is motivating those around you.