Image: Lori MacVittie.
Most of us have likely run into one or two people who don’t take well to women in tech. It’s a sad scenario, but one that is slowly improving as more females take on STEM roles. But change isn’t going to happen overnight, and I think it’s the responsibility of businesses today to create and promote a working environment that is not only welcoming to both men and women, but also encouraging. For example, if an employee experiences discrimination from a colleague – such as condescending management because of someone’s gender – there should be processes in place to help them deal with it, and employees should feel that they can make reports to HR where necessary.
F5 now has a great mentoring scheme in place that is open to everyone and has been a great way to support women in the workplace. Being mentored by another person who has had similar experiences can be extremely useful professionally. We’ve seen effective examples of this with females returning to the workplace after motherhood, and junior staff being mentored by senior women. The programme not only matches employees with likeminded people, but also provides a comfortable way to discuss sensitive matters in confidence.
The most important thing for me, is that data and computers don’t care about gender, so women shouldn’t let it bother them. My advice is, if you’re interested in a STEM career, just do it! Wherever you go, it’s likely that you’ll end up in a male dominated environment and if that makes you uncomfortable then that’s OK. Make sure you find a mentor or friend who you can vent to, and a business or educational body that will provide the right support to help you be successful in your career.
STEM industries have a brand problem, but don’t be put off – if we want change, we need to be the forerunners.