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Driving Diversity: Why Women Are Essential for the Future of Technology

As we commemorate Women’s Day, it’s an opportune moment to shine a spotlight on the remarkable women who are at the forefront of driving innovation and shaping the tech landscape in the UK, particularly within Yo Telecom. 

In order to gain deeper insights into the tech landscape and the role of women within it, we embarked on a journey of exploration through studies and reports facilitated by UNESCO. Our objective was to uncover the ways in which women are making meaningful contributions to the tech field, while also delving into their achievements, perspectives, and challenges. The outcomes of our investigation proved to be truly captivating. 

Entering into this endeavour, we were well aware of the expanding and significant role women are playing in science, research, and innovation within the sector. As highlighted in UNESCO’s recent report, “Cracking the Code: Girls’ and Women’s Education in STEM” it’s evident that women are increasingly becoming integral to the tech landscape. However, despite promising signs, there remains a considerable distance to traverse. For instance, while 9 out of 10 women endorse pursuing a career in tech, 2 out of 5 have encountered some form of discrimination in their professional environments.

The report comprised anonymous online interviews with 108 women employed in the tech sector. These interviews, consisting of 12 carefully crafted questions, delved into topics such as equal opportunity access, workplace discrimination, organisational gender dynamics, strategies to bolster female representation in tech, and the impact of marriage on tech careers. 

This initiative not only provided valuable insights but also aided us at Yo Telecom in comprehending the position of women in tech and the roles they currently occupy. We are deeply committed to championing the cause of women in STEM and fostering an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion.

Our research revealed that 83% of participants have dedicated a decade or more to the technology sector, while 42% of the remaining respondents have been employed for a duration ranging from two to five years.

Looking Ahead: Embracing Technology

Women pinpointed three primary motivations for pursuing careers in tech: recognition of technology as the future, the opportunity for continuous learning within the field, and the allure of competitive compensation. This underscores their desire to engage in meaningful work, continuously enhance their skills, and secure financial stability.

Recommendations and Perceptions

A staggering 9 out of 10 respondents expressed a strong likelihood of recommending a career in tech to friends or relatives. Moreover, over eight in ten agreed that fostering gender equality within their companies, and by extension, the industry at large, would yield substantial benefits. Additionally, almost half of the respondents concurred that the gender pay gap is no longer a prevalent issue.

Navigating the Challenges

While 41% of participants admitted to experiencing work-related stress, 45% reported frequent feelings of happiness, inspiration, and excitement in their tech roles. This dichotomy suggests that while the demands of the field can be taxing, the sense of accomplishment derived from overcoming challenges is prevalent among respondents.

Promoting Women in STEM

The majority of respondents emphasised the necessity for company-driven initiatives aimed at bolstering female representation in technology-related roles. They advocated for early encouragement of girls to pursue STEM subjects through the implementation of additional training programs, mentoring opportunities, returnships, and flexible work schedules.

Addressing the Gender Imbalance

Views on gender imbalances in the tech sector varied greatly. While some acknowledged a gender gap in their companies, others believed their organisations were actively working to address it. Interestingly, a portion perceived their companies as already having achieved a fair gender balance. Furthermore, while some women acknowledged the industry-wide gender disparity, others remained indifferent. Among those who recognized the imbalance, opinions differed on its root causes, with some attributing it to employer practices and others citing societal influences. Moreover, many respondents who acknowledged the gender gap estimated that achieving gender diversity within the tech industry would be a gradual process, potentially taking up to a decade.

Addressing Discrimination, Marriage, and Gender Stereotypes

A notable portion of respondents disclosed experiencing discrimination or gender bias in terms of salary (40%) and position or designation (32%). Moreover, 69% felt that gender stereotypes had negatively impacted their work, while 41% believed marriage hindered women’s career progression. Similarly, a significant proportion expressed the belief that women should prioritise family over work.

Respondents depicted their tech roles as both challenging and rewarding, advocating for other women to pursue similar careers. While many perceive progress in bridging the gender gap, they stressed the importance of continued support for women and girls in STEM fields. Nevertheless, significant hurdles persist, with discrimination in pay and position prevalent, and the pervasive influence of gender stereotypes. Furthermore, concerns regarding the impact of marriage on careers were echoed by many. Despite these challenges, there is evident progress worth celebrating, though the journey towards full gender equality in tech remains ongoing.

Linda Tigrine

Chief Operating Officer at Yo Telecom

Linda Tigrine, an English Literature graduate from the University of Southampton, has made a significant impact during her six-year tenure at Yo Telecom.  Starting in Provisioning and Leasing roles, she showcased adaptability and versatility, leading to her appointment as Chief Operating Officer at just 23.

Linda’s rise within the organisation attests to her exceptional leadership and strategic acumen. As COO, she played a pivotal role in steering Yo Telecom to new heights. Beyond her executive role, Linda remains committed to innovation, shaping the future of the telecommunications industry. Linda acknowledges, “I can’t deny growing up within a system where gender bias or discrimination existed.” However, she asserts that her career and success aren’t dictated by these factors. Overcoming them has been part of her journey. Despite often being the only woman in countless meetings, she attributes her ability to hold her ground not to her gender, but to her expertise, hard work, dedication, and the extensive hours she’s dedicated to mastering her craft.

Discussing technology and women in the UK, Linda highlights, “We’re aware of the underrepresentation of women in tech, spanning leadership and non-executive roles. However, this also signifies notable opportunities. Research consistently demonstrates that companies with a higher proportion of women in leadership positions experience significant boosts in profitability. There’s no disparity in ambition between women and men, and women are more inclined than their male counterparts to recognize the importance of their technical expertise in fostering development”

When providing advice to the next generation of female tech entrepreneurs, Linda underscores the significance of certain qualities. In the workplace, women tend to prioritise collaboration, teamwork, and fostering relationships. By creating a supportive environment where individuals can leverage their strengths and contribute meaningfully, women leaders in tech and other industries can distinguish themselves in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving landscape. Leveraging their innate abilities to persevere, achieve, be curious, confident, empathetic, and take risks, women in the workplace can embody the essential qualities of effective leaders.

Zia Hawtin 

Head of HR at Yo Telecom

Zia Hawtin is a human resources professional with over 29 years of senior management experience in small to large organisations including FTSE 100 Companies. Zia is passionate about building strategies and initiatives focused on solving business and people challenges.  Zia applies a simplistic and uncomplicated work ethic to create practical solutions which are adaptable to organisational change. Through building strong business partnerships Zia has developed inclusive working cultures which embraces diversity and equality.

Zia emphasises the importance of starting at the school level, where there’s a noticeable increase in young girls opting for STEM subjects. She accentuates the significance of encouraging these girls to continue their pursuits in university or through apprenticeships. This commitment to fostering interest in STEM is reflected in YoTelecoms involvement in donations like Wonder Foundation, which specifically targets young girls in schools, offering them education. These initiatives aim to broaden horizons and introduce young girls to career paths they may not have considered before.

Furthermore, Zia stresses the importance of providing opportunities for women interested in re-skilling for roles within the technology sector. She believes in offering additional support and attention to female technologists within organisations, recognizing their likely minority status within the field.

In Hawtin’s view, diversity and inclusion are akin to a three-sided triangle. She says that while recruitment is crucial, equal attention must be given to retention and reputation. By excelling in retention efforts, organisations can enhance their reputation, thus attracting more than their fair share of female talent.

Zia’s ultimate goal is for Yo Telecom to surpass its portion of the current market in exceptional female technologists. However, she asserts that achieving this requires addressing both inclusivity and recruitment accessibility. This entails offering flexible working conditions, comprehensive support, mentoring, promotion, and ongoing assistance to women in tech roles.

Inspired by the remarkable stories and insights shared by women in tech, we invite you to join us in driving diversity and innovation forward. 

Whether you’re an experienced professional seeking new opportunities or someone considering a career in technology, YoTelecom welcomes you to be a part of our inclusive community. 

If you’re passionate about making a difference and shaping the future of technology, we encourage you to explore our career opportunities or reach out to us via email. 

Let’s continue to empower each other and build a more diverse and inclusive tech industry together. Happy International Women’s Day!

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