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Questions for eight women in tech as we mark International Women’s Day 2022

Advania - Questions for 8 women in tech
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This year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) calls on all of us to #BreakTheBias. Many of the women at Advania have inspiring stories about overcoming bias and achieving great things in a historically male-dominated sector. We asked eight of our women in tech questions about their journeys and achievements so far. 

When it comes to the representation of women in tech careers, the global picture is improving – but a lot of work still needs to be done.  

Deloitte predicts that, at the largest tech companies, the proportion of the workforce that’s female will increase to 33% in 2022 – a rise of two percentage points on the year before. This is encouraging. But it also shows the distance that still needs to be made up to achieve gender balance. 

One of the missions of International Women’s Day (IWD) – which falls today, 8 March – is to “elevate and advance gender parity in technology and celebrate the women forging innovation”. This is a mission that resonates strongly with us at Advania.  

As firm believers in equality, diversity and inclusion, we’re committed to investing in a workforce that reflects our society. In the last two years, we’ve launched initiatives to increase entry-level recruitment and to raise awareness of key issues including menopause. In one quarter last year, 75% of our senior hires were female. We need to do more – and our Diversity and Inclusion Board meets regularly to keep us driving forward on this issue. 

Our women in tech answer questions on bias and their careers 

We’re immensely proud of the brilliant women who’ve chosen careers at Advania. To mark IWD 2022, we asked eight of our women in tech questions on the theme of this year’s celebration: #BreakTheBias. Their answers are broad-ranging, enlightening and inspiring. We’re delighted to share them with you today. 

Jo-Ann Frais, Account Manager, Mid-market Sales Team, London

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias?

My only negative experience in my last role was around a male sales manager. He made what I would class as a really sexist comment in the board room in our sales meeting. I let myself down – I didn’t call him out on it and ask him to repeat it again for the whole room to hear it fully. 

He would not have made this comment to a man – I’m convinced of it. I regret not standing up for myself, but I needed the job. Actually, I’m not sure I do regret the comment as it led me here, and I’m having a blast. 

You work in a male-dominated discipline (sales) in a male-dominated industry. What challenges have you faced as a woman in that environment and how did you deal with them? 

It has genuinely never occurred to me in my 47 years that being a girl would hold me back in anything I chose to do. I have never, ever felt I have not been given a role based on my gender. Nor would I wish to be awarded a role based on my gender, due to having to fulfil a quota.

I have felt (hopefully not naively) that I have been awarded roles based on my previous experience and how I’ve portrayed myself in interview. My whole career has been in predominantly male environments. I don’t see men and women; I see people. So, I can talk positively about being a female working for great businesses that see employing females as a positive thing. 

Educationally I went to a mixed school, and we were never made to believe there were things we could or could not do based on gender – again a really positive experience.  

I’m an army daughter: we are confident, resilient and inclusive, knowing at any moment it could be us posted to a new country, into a new school, having to make new friends – we always made the newbie feel welcome knowing it could be us next. Diversity, inclusion and equality has perhaps been drummed into me, as again I don’t see colour gender or orientation. I see people. 


Tarryn Kerchhoff, Support Services Team Manager, Shared Service Desk, Cape Town 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias?

I would have changed my working environment by speaking up and not being complacent with the injustice. When we accept gender bias in the workplace as women, we become part of the problem. It is our responsibility to speak up and break the bias and ensure that change happens not just for us but for future generations.  

You’ve held a senior IT role for over 16 years now and you joined Advania six months ago. In your LinkedIn profile you acknowledge that the IT industry has both its challenges and rewards. We’d love to hear about a positive experience you have had as a woman in tech. 

Working at Advania over the past six months has been a phenomenal experience for me as a woman in tech. This company has a superb support structure and I have the freedom to grow. My innovations, concerns and thoughts are always heard and I am treated with respect and dignity. I am proud to say that my portfolio has grown immensely in this short period and it is all thanks to the culture and great leadership that Advania has. 


Laura Sandiford, Associate Service Transition Manager, London 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

Being able to see clear routes and options for progression, and women in those roles.  

During lockdown, research showed that in two-parent households, women were more likely to be carrying the burden of childcare and domestic chores, even when both parents were working. As a parent to two toddlers, was that the case for you? And if so, how well do you feel Advania has supported you through that time? 

Lockdown parenting was definitely a rollercoaster – going from my partner and I working our full-time jobs and full time childcare when nurseries closed, to being on maternity leave in lockdown and then returning to work in a pandemic – so our situation has changed a lot over this time. 

When lockdown first hit, we split things fairly equally and would juggle wherever we could. Now that I’ve returned to work following maternity leave, I do take on the majority of childcare and domestic chores alongside work. 

Advania has been incredibly flexible, which has supported me throughout lockdowns. Obviously, my work still needs to be done, but the flexibility I’ve been given around working hours and location has helped make my return to work much easier and less stressful, and means I can work around childcare logistics. 

Melissa Manuel, Senior Process Analyst, Major Incident Management, Cape Town 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

As a woman in this arena, there was (and still is) an unconscious bias to conform to what is dominant in any workplace. A bias I challenged on more than one occasion was the perception that I was too delicate or meek to tackle high-level assignments.  

Looking back, one thing I would change is not to underestimate the significant contribution and diversity I bring to the room.

As a woman of colour in the technology industry in South Africa, you must have felt at times that you have had two or even more barriers or biases to break through! Can we ask you about a time when you felt the need to, and were able to, challenge a bias that you were faced with at work? 

Being a woman of colour (WOC) in South Africa, I became used to being classed as part of the minority. Working in the vastly male-dominated tech industry, nothing quite prepared me to be a WOC in an organisation with a global staff and client base.  

I still recall the chilling feeling I had on my first day when it quickly became apparent that I was the only female in our team.  

It was quite daunting to prepare myself mentally for the high possibility that I’d be the only one who looks or sounds different in meetings and conference calls. 

I believe I have the relevant knowledge, skills and expertise to succeed in this space and that I was not hired so HR could check a box on the company’s B-BBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) scorecard. 

Katie Barrington, Mirus Senior Client Manager, Sales, Milton Keynes 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

I wish there had been even one woman in a technical or leadership role when I first started at Mirus! While I enjoy the job I’m doing, it’s frustrating not to know whether this would have had an effect on my career path. 

Having seen this start to change over the last ten years, I’m hopeful that the balance will start to shift eventually but progress still seems slow. It would be interesting to know what more can done to encourage a greater number of females through the Mirus Apprentice Accelerator Scheme – definitely something to think about!  

When Mirus joined the Advania family you went from being part of a 100+ person organisation to one of over 900 people. Based on your experience as a woman in a technology services organisation, and being a parent, can you tell us how being part of a larger company may have changed that experience and what support would you look for as a working parent? 

The senior team at Mirus were very supportive when I returned to work on a part-time basis after my first maternity leave, so I was a bit concerned that this might change when we became part of the Advania Group. Luckily it didn’t and when the pandemic came it opened up a whole new world of hybrid working that has helped me balance work and family life in a more productive way.  

Lockdown life also changed the perception of flexible and homeworking on a mass scale, making it easier for men and women to share the responsibilities and joys of parenting on a more equal footing, or at least have more options than they did before without having to feel judged or pushing against the status quo.  

As the demands of my role as a Client Manager and as a parent aren’t static, I’ve had to adapt to different working schedules and ways of working over the last few years. This wouldn’t have worked if I’d had to fit into a specific mould. I have instead always felt empowered to speak up and ask for change when it’s needed. 

One of the biggest benefits I’ve seen since moving from a smaller company to a larger organisation is when I put forward a case for a maternity package last year, which was reviewed and changed for the Advania Group as a whole. 

The typically unspoken bias here is that, to my knowledge, there was no proactive drive for change before I spoke out or a precedent had been set. Seeing more women in leadership roles, which I know continues to grow within the Advania Group, should help to change this.  

Sam Berger, Head of Service Transition and Project Management, London 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

I’ve only faced gender bias once in my career and it was at a client where I and my female colleague walked into a room of men to discuss their IT. You could see right away because of the way we looked, and the fact that we were female, that they had written us off. I am glad to say that as soon as I started talking they soon revised their opinion and you could see them taking us seriously.  

So I would say, don’t let people’s assumptions about you make you feel as if you don’t belong in the room.

Your role is fast-paced, challenging, senior and highly technical. It’s great to see that your team is over 50% female, which bucks the trend in the technology industry as a whole! What was it that attracted you to this type of role and how do you encourage other women to break into them? 

I have been in IT since I graduated university and have been lucky enough to have some great female leadership for the majority of my career, but what attracted me to this specific role was the ability to demonstrate my skillset to the full and ensure the best client experience. I also saw it as a natural evolution in my career path. 

I am really proud to lead a team that is over 50% female. Having positive female leadership in my career gave me the confidence to know I could also succeed and be a female leader. I support all of my team but encourage women to break into these male-dominated roles by seeking out female leaders in IT and trying to be the best leader I can. 

I also strongly believe that if you have all the right attributes to be successful in this role, it has no direct impact whether you are male or female. 

Kate Hutchinson, Head of Business Applications, Manchester 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

I would have spoken more to other women in the technology industry and shown them my support, and discuss how we can encourage more women into technology businesses.  

It may have been a good idea to set up support groups to encourage new ideas and allow women to see how their career can develop in their chosen fields. 

You manage a primarily male team in a technical and leadership role. Can you share with us any challenges or highlights you have had as a people leader of a mostly male team? 

I have always enjoyed working in a team and promoting positivity and an element of ‘fun’ into our working lives. I have been lucky enough to work in some fantastic teams, consisting of extraordinarily talented women and men, and have always felt that I have had respect all round due to my knowledge and teamwork. 

My leadership style is relatively relaxed; my team know they can always speak to me and I have encouraged working together to enjoy what we are doing as a team and with our clients. 

Everyone has an important part to play in Business Applications; we all have different skillsets and experiences. Being male or female has not presented any significant issues in that regard. 

Donnay Strydom, Technical Specialist, Security & Networks, Cape Town 

Looking back on your career, what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias? 

I’ve had two completely different working experiences in my career.   

The first experience: my voice was never heard as the team was predominately male and did not feel IT was the space for women. Career progression was never an option in that space. Being young, I accepted it and never stood my ground with the team. I wish I had been more outspoken and stronger, but we learn and grow from those experiences.

My second experience is ultimately the best and that is within Advania. I walked into a team/company where they listened to me, respected and asked my opinion from the get-go. I have learnt and grown so much over the past six years being in an environment where everyone is equal. 

I would say to any women entering the IT space: be confident and respect yourself enough to have your own opinion, and in the same breath own up to your mistakes when you make them. Work hard and highlight your skills. 

You are part of a team the keeps our clients’ businesses and their data safe. In such a technical role, can you tell us about your experience of working with your male colleagues, in terms of your voice and the ‘airtime’ given to your knowledge? 

I’ve been lucky enough to have that open channel and build good relationships within the team and company.   

I am comfortable to give my opinion on any issues and they are met with respect, be it that it’s something they will or will not explore. 

I have been exposed to so many skilled individuals that have helped me grow and I can honestly say have given me the knowledge and skills I am able to pass along to others. It’s honestly all about teamwork at the end of the day. 

Find out more about working at Advania

That wraps up our 8+8 for International Women’s Day 2022. We hope that you’ve found these stories from our women in tech careers to be insightful and inspiring. At Advania, we believe that what sets us apart is the mindset of our people. If you’re interested in learning more about working with us, visit our careers page for information and vacancies.

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