Interview: Maggie Berry of Women in Technology
Here, Maggie Berry, director of womenintechnology.co.uk, talks to The NextWomen about a growing website, the outstanding attendance to their W-Tech 2009 event and gender issues in I.T.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I run womenintechnology.co.uk, a leading online job board and networking forum for women working in the technology profession in the UK. I’ve been involved since womenintechnology's inception in the autumn of 2004 and I manage all aspects of the website and the networking activities that we organise. Before that my background was in technology recruitment within the financial services sector.
Can you tell me about the site?
Womenintechnology.co.uk is a site for women in all levels of IT - from graduates who are interested in a technology career through to senior managers and also those women who have taken a career break. We list a wide range of IT jobs from technology employers who actively want to recruit women, and candidates can apply directly to the employer through the site. We also provide IT news and we regularly host training and networking events aimed to empower women and help them in their IT careers. We recently held W-Tech 2009, the first dedicated IT recruitment showcase for women, which had over 1200 women registered to attend and was a great success.
How did you come up with the idea?
Five years ago I was working as a recruitment consultant at financial recruiter McGregor Boyall, but wanted to take my career in a different direction. Along with my MD Laurie Boyall, I did some research on diversity which showed a distinct lack of women in IT and from that, womenintechnology.co.uk was born.
We launched the site on International Women’s Day in March 2005 as an information portal for female technologists but within a week of the launch, we were approached by companies who wanted to advertise their IT jobs on the website. Within four months, we set up a job board. On the day it went live, we planned a networking event – but sadly it fell on July 7th 2005; the same day as the London bombings. We rescheduled the launch networking night for two months later and welcomed over 200 women to the first of many successful networking events. Since then the job board has gone from strength to strength. There is also now a dedicated graduate zone and we’re actively working with companies to help them attract more applications from female technologists.
Why do you feel women need this service more than men?
Women in IT are a minority group, working in a sector that is very male dominated. This puts many women off pursuing a career in what is a great industry to work in, so we’re working to try and change this. The women that already work in the sector face a large gender pay gap, challenges around maternity, difficulties with promotion and a generally hard time trying to prove themselves simply because they don’t fit the traditional mould or stereotype.
What is your business model?
We started womenintechnology with one goal in mind: to help women build successful and satisfying careers in the IT industry.
We help women working in or interested in getting into technology, helping them make their next career move and offering advice on getting back into work after a career break, putting together a CV and handling interviews successfully. We offer both an online job board and a complete recruitment service and have all the best jobs with the UK’s leading companies, for women seeking employment at every level from graduate to CIO.
We also work with companies looking to attract, recruit and retain more women into their technology teams, putting diversity at the forefront of their recruitment and employment policies, in part by helping them recruit more female technologists.
Through our regular networking events, both formal and informal, female IT professionals can meet and discuss the issues facing the industry. We also offer in-depth information about the industry, including career development training courses and the latest news and analysis.
Have you felt the effects of the Credit Crunch?
The downturn has meant that the number of jobs on our board has decreased but there are definitely still jobs about, so I think our job board reflects what is happening in the rest of the market. But with regard to the career development side of womenintechnology, I think that the credit crunch has just made women even more determined to gain the knowledge and skills they need to give their careers a big push in the right direction.
How many users do you have?
We have a network of about 5000 women at the moment – a number which is continuously growing.
Where do you see the site in the future?
I’d like to see our network and presence continue to grow so that we can be a really influential force in helping the position of women in IT. After the success of W-Tech I hope that we’ll be able to run similar events in the future and continue to spread the message that more women should enter IT and more companies should champion women in IT. We’re also building up the womenintechnology recruitment service which is the next step forward in our quest for a more gender balanced IT world.
Your LinkedIn profile shows ‘Gender issues in IT’ as one of your specialities. What do you see these issues to be?
There are so many different issues that I could probably write a book, but I’ll try to summarise! The bottom line is that there are just not enough women working in technology, and the number of females entering the profession is falling. And this means the sector is missing out on a wealth of talent.
These issues start at a young age with not enough girls studying science or ‘techy’ subjects and school and seeing IT as boring or geeky. The result of this is that less females are studying these subjects at degree level and less are pursuing IT careers – at present only 1 in 4 IT professionals is female.
Then there’s the gender pay gap with the average woman in IT earning about £300 less a week than their male counterparts. Yes this is in part because there are more men in senior roles, but then why aren’t women being promoted? Women who have had a maternity break can also struggle to get back into the sector with out of date skills and responsibilities that many feel cannot be juggled with an IT career.
Can you give one piece of advice to a woman considering a career in Tech?
Go for it and be confident in your own ability. It’s a great place to work, with opportunities for travel, a great range of exciting job options and a chance to really make a difference to how a business works and to its success.
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