I'm really pleased to have been announced as a category finalist in the Business Woman of the Future category at the 2013 Women of the Future Awards, in association with Shell. My specific area of "business" is technology and it's an area where the lack of women is even more pressing than in business in general.
You will find a lot of articles that talk about the issues for women in technology. You'll also find a lot of suggestions for things we can do better - whether it's "leaning in" at the individual level, as very sensibly suggested by Sheryl Sandberg, or giving more young girls computers and training at a very early age.
But there's another angle that I think is missing. As a female working in tech I find that day in day out I come across a large number of advantages for women over working in other areas, which makes the gap between how many women work in tech and how many women ought to be working in tech even more extreme.
To redress this balance, here are my top five reasons why tech is a great industry for women to work in.
About twenty years ago it was a sad and lonely life for women working in tech. As a result, they created support organisations so they could meet up and remind themselves that they weren't alone. Women starting in tech nowadays have lots to choose from, from formal mentoring schemes such as MentorSET, to informal dinner meetups with the like of Girl Geek Dinners.
Women are just starting to burst through to the top of tech organisations. Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandburg has increased her visibility with her book "Lean In" and her (fairly) recent TED talk, while Marissa Mayer of Yahoo seems unable to keep out of the news, both good and bad. Either way, she's showing that the top jobs in tech are not just for the boys.
Technology is a new sector, and attracts young people with correspondingly modern attitudes. Dress codes are open, workspaces are cool and management styles are output rather than hours focussed. In some other industries being "macho" is still considered a bonus, but not in tech. As one of my (male) coder friends said "I see it as all of us on the same side against the alpha males."
The top top benefit of working in technology is the flexibility that most tech workplaces offer. If you need time to look after your children then working part-time, condensed weeks or from home are all really common options. What's more, the men do it too, so you won't get singled out as a "problem case".
There's also flexibility to be had in job roles, which are often more female friendly than people expect. As internet connectivity expands to cover fridges, garages, tables and glasses, so functionality becomes more complex and comprehensive. Paradoxically, as more can be delivered, we demand slicker, simpler and easier to use interfaces. Many key roles in technology - designer, product owner, user-interface expert, user-engagement expert, start-up founder and advocate - do not require you to be able to understand code and do require heavy doses of people skills.
Money and career
Finally, there's that old chestnut. How much money do you take home at the end of the week? Technology is a booming sector, which means that entry level jobs are well paid and career options (and hence how much you might get paid in the future) are even better. This combined with the working flexibility means that you can have a part-time job in tech and still take home more than you would do full time elsewhere.
Zoe Cunningham has been shortlisted for the 2013 Women of the Future Awards.
For further information click here.
The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 13 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.
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