Our head of transformation and operations, Carol McGrotty, makes up part of the 19% of women who work in the tech sector.

This month, she shared her thoughts with TechBlast on what it means to have a career in a typically male-dominated industry, insights into her own experiences throughout her 20-year tenure, and why females mustn’t underestimate their worth.

If you didn’t catch the write-up, now’s your chance…

‘I’m great at my job – and I’m not ashamed to admit it’

Carol McGrotty makes up part of the 19% of women who work in the tech sector, and says females mustn’t underestimate their worth.

I’m great at what I do – and I can confidently write that down.

I’m not boastful or arrogant, but I didn’t want to say, ‘my name is Carol and I have imposter syndrome’.

Estimates vary, but it’s thought that women account for between 19-26 per cent of the tech sector. Straight away, it means we’re a minority group – so it’s really important we don’t fall into the trap of underestimating our values and skills.

By way of background, I’m in charge of digital transformation and operations at a Yorkshire-based tech firm called Vapour Cloud.

I have a rich portfolio of experience which is continually expanding, a comprehensive network of industry connections, plus I’m incredibly tenacious and passionate. The fact Vapour sought me out directly to join the business in 2013 is testament to my expertise.

Yet, imposter syndrome has long been a struggle I’ve had to manage – and that’s something I see time and again in other successful women, particularly when speaking in public.

In such a male-dominated industry, it can be difficult not to buy into the messages circulated by others, and the need to constantly remind myself of the value I’m bringing to the table becomes tiring at the best of times.

In my case, I joined the tech sector in 2000, swapping my career in insurance to help deliver projects to enterprise and public sector customers, whilst also contributing to process improvement workstreams and breakthrough product launches.

With a strong network of female leaders around me from the outset, my own drive and curiosity quickly translated into a desire to follow in the footsteps of my own mentors and empower a similar culture of inclusivity as my trajectory developed.

But while I’ve undoubtedly had an easier ride than most as a woman in the tech realm, many doubts have still managed to cast a shadow on my success.

Luckily, I can’t recall any direct examples of misogyny, but walking into a professional event as the only woman in the room naturally induces immense pressures to prove my worth – without coming across as ‘too much’, ‘challenging’, or being seen as a ‘diversity hire’.

For a movement that was created to address the lack of female representation throughout the industry, I fear that ‘women in tech’ can actually sometimes play into many of the shallow debates and preconceived ideas about gender.

But in the split-second of struggle, I remind myself just how necessary it is the bang the drum for all forms of equality and diversity in our space.

By nature, interacting with a more diverse team forces individuals to consider viewpoints beyond their own – and often, women maintain a ‘softer’ skillset that affords a crucial element of control and rationality.

The trouble is, such excellence is seen as so much of a pre-requisite for women, that it is undervalued, whereas it can feel that men are often considered to be exceptional in their role if they master the art of communication, for example.

In such a fast-paced industry, built on the need for constant innovation, women’s innate ability to ‘put the brakes on’ and look at the wider picture – accounting for everything from feasibility and longevity, to external viewpoints and impacts on ESG factors – is key. Your tech strategy shouldn’t just be based on ROI, after all.

It goes without saying that mentorship from female leads will continue to play a significant role in closing the gender gap, but more importantly, it’s about facilitating a career path with ample progression opportunities – with education on what this might look like being the starting point to incite and inspire change.

In a generation so involved in tech, such a limited number understand what a career in the industry actually means – with visions of laptops and IT hacks dominating the perspectives of our younger generations.

Allowing college students to spend time with engineers and experience different departments to expand prospects and ignite passions they might not have previously had continues to be a major driver in broadening horizons.

Careers in beauty and cosmetics, nursing and midwifery, and teaching, are all options – just as they are for young male students. And only by facilitating these ideas can we achieve the dream of complete gender parity in any and all industries.

Organisations need to take a leaf out of Girlguiding UK’s book. In a bid to involve more girls in technology – after research found more than half (52%) of girls and women between the ages of 11 and 21 believed that STEM was for boys – a whole host of new activities have been introduced to the curriculum. New additions will see Rainbows embark on an app-related course, Brownies learn coding, and Guides delve deeper into the world of chatbots.

With such initiatives, we can break gender biases from an early age and empower girls – and boys – to think about their interests, and eventually career prospects, with a more open mind.

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