How can we achieve true ‘balance for better’ this International Women’s Day and beyond?
By Michelle Roberts, Director of Partner Panagement, Public Cloud, Ensono
Michelle Roberts, Director of Partner Management, Public Cloud, at Ensono explores this year’s International Women’s Day theme: balance for better. She breaks this down in a couple of ways, discussing the need for more ‘balance’ in the boardroom and in the workplace – particularly in the technology sector. Having women on company boards not only leads to ‘better’ financial performance, but also brings similar talent and expertise to the business, which would have been previously neglected. Ultimately, a ‘better’ balance is fair for everyone.
On girls and STEM subjects
Intervention has to start from the ground up. School-age is where we can start to make the greatest impact on young women’s choices. Girls are sometimes not aware of career choices and become convinced that science and technology are male domains. We need to dispel the myth that computing and the sciences are ‘nerdy’ and lonely. The reality is that STEM fields require creativity and imagination – precisely the same qualities that attract young women into the liberal arts.
Parents, carers, teachers and employers should continue to champion the status of women in STEM as role models for the next generation, and should fight against the negative perceptions that young girls often develop about their abilities in maths and sciences.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, educators should be compelled to champion the status of women in STEM professions to give real-life role models for the next generation of female scientists. Whether it is by organising successful women in technology to offer talks and presentations to schools on their job and their journey, or celebrating the achievements of female pioneers in the field such as Ada Lovelace, Valentina Tereshkova and Grace Murray Hopper. Championing the achievements of women in technology, science and maths can only empower the next generation and it is our duty to remind ourselves of that, not just on International Women’s Day, but throughout the year. It is less about what we do in the workplace and more importantly, what we do before these young women enter the workplace.
Advice for the next generation
Times are changing and there are so many more opportunities available today than ever before. Seek out those experiences, regardless of what the expectation is for you to do as a girl. Schools will play a large role in this by providing those opportunities. Today’s society plays victim to shoehorning girls into certain categories, and moving forward, it should be mandatory for girls to take part in activities that are not necessarily ‘female’.
Schools should offer technology qualifications from an early age - put that option out there and make it available. Technology is by no means a new concept for the next generation of girls. This familiarity should be latched onto as a pathway into a career in STEM.
On women in technology
Women play a significant role in the growth of the tech industry, and to that end, businesses need to be encouraging more women towards roles within the sector.
There are many reasons why businesses lose out on female talent: a lack of flexible working practices and development opportunities, an absence of women in senior positions, and poorly phrased job advertisements can all discourage women from applying to relevant positions. Moreover, whilst business should definitely be encouraging younger women into the tech industry, it’s also crucial that they don’t neglect women who are returning to work after a career break.
For colleagues, the best way to support women is to treat us like any other person: listen, respect our expertise and credibility, and help champion us internally. We shouldn’t feel the need to justify our place in the workplace or explain why we are sitting in that high-powered meeting. This is particularly true in the technology industry where women in an executive meeting will often spend time outlining their credentials, whilst the men won’t necessarily feel the need to do so. This difference in psyche is one which IWD should strive to change. We should believe that we deserve to be in the room and that our voice in conversation is valid. That is not to say that it is a women vs. men situation, and quite often it is not the male influence that inhibits women. Women must take the reins to empower each other and provide that vital support to overcome this.
International Women’s Day is such an important day because what we do right now continues to define the outcomes of future generations of women. Each generation is responsible for paving the way for the next.