Carrie Wootten, chief executive of Rise, an organization promoting gender diversity in media technology, has seen progress since the organization was founded in 2017. last five years,” she says. “Our industry and society at large recognize and understand the importance of diversity more broadly. The conversation is easier to have – companies recognize it and understand it and want to support diversity. obstacles and challenges.
When asked what the biggest hurdles are for a woman in tech, Ruth MacLaren, Broadcast Engineer at the BBC, replies: “Honestly, the biggest hurdle is being asked that question. The fact that we are still not being treated as if we deserve to be there on merit rather than fulfilling a quota is so disheartening.
An organization’s culture can have a significant impact on the retention of female tech talent, with more than one person referring to the very masculine “pizza and beer” culture in many organizations.
“We don’t lack diverse talent, we don’t know how to reach and interact with these diverse young talents,” Carrie Wootten, Rise
MacLaren refers to “microaggressions that wear people down all the time”. She talked about “being told I wasn’t ‘feminine’ during welding, being asked to be the one making tea/coffee, being asked to speak to” another engineer” on the phone when I picked up, then hung up when my female shift partner picked up, or being called “darling” and “honey” by people when male colleagues get “sir” or “mate.” If we want women to feel comfortable and included at work, especially in male-dominated environments, we need to end this entrenched difference in language use.
Wootten recounted a conversation about a work experience student who “had such a horrible time at a company because it was so male dominated; the jokes were so derogatory and made her feel so uncomfortable that she’s considering not getting into the industry,” she says. “Because it’s so traditionally male, undoing that culture and undoing those work practices is going to take time. But it is the responsibility of the leaders of these companies to ensure that this happens.
Emma Young, R&D engineer at the BBC, stresses the importance of support networks. “Employee networks for women are important both to improve the employee experience for women and to foster gender diversity. At BBC WiSTEM [a community for women in STEM roles across the BBC]“, she says, “our members have told us that they feel able to seek opportunities in different fields and develop new skills; that they have a support network where they can raise any issue and feel they have a strong voice; and that they see themselves progressing in their career thanks to the initiatives, the mentoring program and the inspiring sessions that we organize.
First described by psychologists in the 1970s, “impostor syndrome” refers to the inability to internalize and accept one’s abilities and success, as well as the feeling that others will identify with you. like an impostor.
Rise published a 2021 women in leadership report which revealed that 75% of the women who responded had suffered from impostor syndrome. “It’s huge,” says Wootten. “As an organization I would say we have to change that. We offer speaking skills training and confidence training. There is information to help companies understand how they can encourage women within their organizations and retain these talents. »
Young points to one cause of impostor syndrome in the industry: “Highly talented young women are still ignoring tech careers because they feel they don’t fit the stereotype of tech genius being a young kid. a reclusive man who eats and breathes lines of code, which is why we need to highlight female role models in tech and regularly engage in outreach, especially before topic choices are made, to demonstrate the wide range of industries and exciting work open to all.
Recruitment, Outreach and Representation
Wootten emphasizes the need for organizations to be active in encouraging diversity. “I’ve had this conversation with a lot of companies, saying they really want diverse candidates, but no one is applying,” she says. “I say we have to get out, we can’t wait. We don’t lack diverse talent, we don’t know how to reach and interact with these diverse young talents. »
“If we want women to feel comfortable and included at work, especially in male-dominated environments, we need to end this entrenched difference in language use,” Ruth MacLaren, BBC
According to Judy Parnall, head of standards and industry at the BBC, representation is an important factor in recruiting young women for technical positions. “Keep it up with positive on-screen role models, mentorship and industry champions. Unless women want to apply, we won’t be able to fill the positions,” she says.
Young emphasizes the importance of messaging. “It’s slowly getting less difficult, but there’s still a long way to go,” she adds. “In any industry, more men are applying for tech roles because there’s simply a larger pool of male graduates and professionals working in tech. There’s also a phenomenon at play where men see the job descriptions differently than women.Where women generally apply for positions where they meet or exceed 100% of the criteria, men generally apply for positions where they meet fewer criteria.
Tiffany Hall, president of Ada. The National College for Digital Skills and the former director of technology, television and the north at the BBC, spoke about the conflict between raising children and career advancement.
“Because many women can’t afford or decide not to have child care, if they have multiple children, they can be off work for 5 to 10 years, and you’re not going to get that number back. years of your career,” she says. “However, even when women have childcare and return to work between pregnancies, I suspect they are disproportionately disadvantaged for the actual time they are out of the workplace.”
Parnall has seen this situation improve recently. “It’s much easier for women to combine tech careers with family – that started to change when fathers started asking for flexible working and so it stopped being a gender issue,” she says. “But the rise of remote and flexible working tools has been transformational. Balancing work and family life has been made easier by being able to work in different places and at different times and removing the need to travel as much.
In the five years since Rise’s inception, Wootten has seen progress. “I think the conversation has changed dramatically,” she concludes. “The scale of the work we’re doing at Rise demonstrates that the industry wants to tackle this problem and wants to see change happen.”
She gave a poignant example of how young women can be engaged through the right outreach. “We go to schools and give workshops to let them know about our industry,” she says. “There was this amazing nine-year-old girl in east London. As she was walking out she tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘That really made me think about what I want to do when I grow up,” and then she literally walked away. I was so shocked. I was like, ‘Okay, okay, brilliant’. So it’s really fascinating that at nine years old, something like that could have that impact, especially with girls.