Asking our women in tech how we can #EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day

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The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March is #EmbraceEquity, which focuses on giving everyone a fair and equitable chance in order to reach equality. In this blog, we catch up with five women in tech from our offices across the UK and South Africa, asking them about their careers so far and what advice they would give for any women looking to follow this path.  

What’s the difference between equity and equality?

It’s important to recognise the difference between equity and equality. They’re often deemed to be synonymous – but while both are important, they’re not the same. 

The need for equality in the workplace is a familiar discussion but simply offering everyone the same opportunities isn’t enough – sometimes equality can be exclusionary rather than inclusive. This is why we need equity.  

When we have equity, we acknowledge that not everyone has the same starting point and some even have an advantage. This means that we have to provide everyone with the right resources to give them a fair and equal chance. 

Let’s look at an example of this in practice. If we are holding a cycling race, we could give everyone an equal opportunity by providing them with the exact same bicycle as their competitors. However, it’s likely that the participants all have varying heights, ages, or even abilities. You could make this equitable by providing them with bicycles that take their needs into account: a smaller one for someone with a shorter frame, or a bicycle adjusted to account for someone’s physical disability, like a handcycle.  

Embracing equity in the workplace 

At Advania, we’re firm believers in equality, diversity and inclusion, with proven commitments to building a workforce that is truly representative of our society. However, this isn’t the picture for many in our industry. Deloitte found that less than a quarter of tech companies have taken on initiatives to support women in their development, leaving them with no opportunities to advance in their career.  

We’re proud to have supported our first cohort of 17 women completing the Women Rising leadership development programme, supported by Microsoft. It’s supported these women, who are already leaders in our organisation, to develop their confidence, authenticity and leadership skills to build on their professional development journey. Read on for some useful insights from Lucy Isaacs, who was part of this first cohort. 

Not only are we supporting our women leaders, but we are also proud to be giving opportunities to apprentices starting out their careers in our Cape Town office. Below, we speak with Laila Salie, who completed her internship and is now a permanent member of our team. Find out below what advice she has for anyone who is starting out. 

Our women in tech answer our questions about equity in the workplace 

We’re so proud of all the amazing women in tech working with us across Advania. For this year’s IWD, we’ve asked five women from different areas of our organisation how we can #EmbraceEquity, reflecting on their careers so far and looking to the future. We’re excited to share with you what they had to say.  

Laila Salie, Service Management Analyst, Cape Town

Thinking about your career so far, what is something you would change to improve equity for women in our sector? 

One of the most important things is to address the gender gap in education and training. This can be done by encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM fields through targeted outreach programs, scholarships and mentorship opportunities.  

Additionally, I think that creating supportive learning environments that are inclusive and welcoming to women is essential. This can include providing safe spaces to ask questions and share their experiences, as well as fostering a culture of respect and support for diversity. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your field? 

If you’re a woman looking to get into the IT field, here are two pieces of advice that I believe can help you achieve success: 

First, seek out a supportive community of other women in the IT field. Join online groups or attend conferences and connect with other women who share your interests and experiences. Having a support system can help you stay motivated and overcome challenges as you pursue your career. 

Second, be confident in yourself and stay persistent! It’s important to believe in yourself and your abilities, and to be persistent in pursuing your goals. Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges or ask for help when you need it. 

Lucy Isaacs, ITSM Team Manager, Cape Town

Thinking about your career so far, what is something you would change to improve equity for women in our sector? 

Firstly, mentorship programmes will build confidence in junior employees and help those who feel daunted by moving into roles dominated by the opposite sex. I think beliefs about gender roles hold women back. The presence of gender inequality still has a major impact on choices made by women, and therefore we should make women reconsider these as positions better suited for them.  

We should survey, or sense check, with a focus on gender inequality and whether bias is still prevalent within specific working areas. This will demonstrate that we’re all together in the fight against gender stereotypes and prejudice, which makes good business sense. We should all personally challenge how outdated our assumptions might be, and constantly check whether they’re still right and appropriate in the given climate or atmosphere. 

Pay levels are still deemed unequal for roles that have traditionally been male dominated, so we need equal pay levels. Also we need to adjust job adverts to exclude certain words and phrases, because some words may be deemed as masculine and tend to attract male candidates. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your field? 

Here’s what I think women looking to get into tech should do: 

  • Each individual has to work on themselves, to change their beliefs about gender roles, as this has the potential to hold them back. 
  • I’d encourage them not to shy away from negotiating the appropriate compensation package. 
  • Select a mentor that’ll help build your confidence, and who’ll provide meaningful ways to build STEM skills.  
  • Look for opportunities for job shadowing so you can learn from those with experience. 
  • Seek opportunities to gain experiences that will cultivate confidence. 

Chamintha Abey, Senior Service Delivery Manager, London

Thinking about your career so far, what is something you would change to improve equity for women in our sector? 

Each one of us is unique, coming from different cultural backgrounds with varying levels of strengths, weaknesses, education and skills. In order to achieve success it is important for companies to recognise the value in supporting women and their individual needs/abilities and offer support and resources tailored for each, rather than a blanket strategy 

Promoting more diversity in hires, supporting and encouraging women to gain more leadership positions within companies, and including female perspectives and feedback when formulating organisational strategies, would help build a better foundation to bring necessary change to promote equity for women in organisations. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your field? 

Do your research! Ensure this is the right fit for you and you can see this being your long-term career. Network and connect with others in the industry. Be alert and recognise the correct opportunities.  

Even if the starting point is not your dream job, always be focused on the end goal and work your way up. The best way to grow is by sharing knowledge, experiences and insights. Invest time in building your network and focus on gaining advocates that would support your career and achieve success.  

Amy Gordon, Solutions Architect

Thinking about your career so far, what is something you would change to improve equity for women in our sector? 

One thing I consistently notice in my sector is the lack of women leaders. This is a complicated thing to work through and understand – I won’t cover this in one paragraph! To start with, however, I would like to see fair and distributed parental leave and more support for working families to work as well as raise their families, and have time for both. With better support and shared carer responsibilities, women will have more opportunities to pursue a leadership role if they wish to. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your field? 

There is a perception that working in IT can be very technical, which put a lot of women off when I was studying and then starting out in the industry. Technology can be very technical, creative or both. You can make it what you want, and a great team is one built of individuals growing into their strengths and adding different angles and skillsets.  

I would advise them to try different focuses and styles of working to see what they enjoy and where they fit in best. Don’t worry about where you start. It is a journey.  

Sol Hossack, Connect Team Manager, London

Thinking about your career so far, what is something you would change to improve equity for women in our sector? 

We need more female role models. The big tech giants are all headed up by men. We should be promoting and celebrating our female leaders in marketing campaigns and in particular in education. Women in tech forums that could be promoted in schools with options for apprenticeships targeted at girls as well as boys. It’s a crucial step to debunk the myth the women don’t do tech as well as the men. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your field? 

When I started working in IT over 20 years ago, technology wasn’t taught to girls in schools. We did Home Ec and the boys learned about computers, but I always had a fascination in how things worked. I would take things apart (like the TV much to my father’s annoyance) and try to rebuild them. I taught myself and put myself through MCITP which gave me a good understanding of Microsoft’s systems. When I moved in telecoms, I started working in broadband faults. I used the principle that if you know how it’s built, you know how to fix it, so I learned everything there was about how broadband was provisioned. Telecoms is a multidisciplined profession with room for growth into leadership to not only guide and mentor a team but also the ability to always learn more as technologies change as the world changes. It’s an exciting field with endless opportunities if you know how it works. Watch, look, listen, and learn, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 

Find out more about working at Advania

We hope you’ve found these answers for our women in tech as insightful and inspiring as we did. At Advania, we believe that the mindset of our people truly sets us apart. If you’d like to find out more about how you can be a part of this, visit our careers page for information and vacancies.

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