THE BLOG
04/03/2015 12:30 GMT | Updated 04/05/2015 06:59 BST

Don't Be Your Own Worst Enemy at Work

It may be hard to believe, but the world's first computer programmer was a woman.

I've written about Ada Lovelace before, and I truly believe that she deserves her place in history alongside the great technology visionaries that have shaped the landscape of our world today.

Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, Lovelace - it has a nice ring to it.

Although Ada lived in the Victorian era, her legacy is still alive today and is especially relevant as we approach International Women's day on 8 March. This global event, which recognizes the social, economic and political achievements of women throughout history, is designed to inspire and motivate women to progress in areas, where we as a gender, are underrepresented.

We continue to lag behind male peers in starting businesses and women exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) remains worryingly low.

Recent statistics indicate that the number of women in leadership roles across technology has remained largely flat for more than ten years. According to a Gartner study, the number of women currently occupying a CIO role globally is only at 14%, the same as it was in 2004. In Europe, the situation is even worse, with only 11.2% of women taking leadership roles in technology.

As International Women's Day approaches, I continue to question why there is such a lack of gender diversity in technology.

Today, the evolution of technology is knocking down barriers to entry like never before. Yet bringing technology into the heart of business is more than ensuring the IT department is in top shape, it is an essential function across all parts of business, which in turn is presenting the world with an infinite amount of opportunities.

Gartner analysts attempt to offer some explanations to the problem, and cite a rise in a women's intolerance to dealing with challenging workplace situations as a major factor.

Historically, women are likely to pick a company that has strong corporate values, but tend to leave the organization when those values are not followed through at every stage of their time there. When they see men less qualified being promoted above them, they occasionally chose to find another opportunity, and miss out on the prospect of being promoted themselves.

At Avanade, we have an initiative designed to counter that very problem. Focussed on implementing an accelerated programme for women's development, we invite external speakers and mentors to run executive sponsorship and coaching sessions - giving women exposure to other business leaders. We then challenge them around potential business problems they may face in a leadership role based on their learnings.

The programme takes me back to my earlier roles at Oracle and IBM, where I attempted to combine technology with my expertise in business management. I quickly learnt how to integrate business consultancy with programming, project management and engagement with technology; I loved every minute of it. While not conventional, it worked for me and I was able to rise through the ranks.

Gartner's study also points to an issue in the promotion structure across technology organisations, where people are recognised more when they fix a problem after it's happened.

Women tend to identify and rectify problems before they occur and are seen as doing less of the crucial work in bringing a technology solution to market. Men, generally, are seen to be better at the fixing, and thus associate themselves with the hero status internally, which leads to better opportunity. As leaders, we need to acknowledge the important role women play in mitigating risks, which is as vital to an organisation as problem solving.

From the humble foundations that Ada Lovelace set us, my biggest piece of advice for women is to gain more confidence. It's time to break down the barriers that you are setting yourselves.

From the many conversations I have with people in my own organisation, I see women that are holding themselves back every day because of a tendency to over-analyse.

Women, you don't have to be 100% ready to take on something new. In technology, where things are constantly changing, if you hesitate, you will get left behind very quickly.

So I urge you to seize the opportunity. You just may surprise yourself.