Our Group Marketing Director, Alex Stone and Head of Cyber, Madeleine Overton-Thickett, have a frank discussion on being a woman in tech, including all things good, the bad and uncertain.
We were delighted to sponsor and speak at the latest installation of the Women in Tech World Series this week. Held online, it brought together directors, owners and influential women from businesses such as Adobe, HP, IBM, IKEA, GlassDoor and Hitachi, to examine the issues faced by women working in the technology industry. Not to mention an inspirational, honest and relatable keynote session with former First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama.
Our Group Marketing Director, Alex Stone and Head of Cyber, Madeleine Overton-Thickett, held a frank discussion on the good, bad and uncertain aspects of being a woman in tech. You can watch the video in full above or read some extracts below.
Opportunities and mentorship
Madeleine: I have to confess it was almost completely by chance that I ended up in cyber. I think quite a few decisions through life during those key stages – A-levels, degree, first graduate jobs, did help me move closer to the cyber security industry. For example, I was very lucky and I had great teachers that pushed me towards maths and science, which we know, it’s no surprise, that it is an issue getting women into STEM subjects.
From there, I developed the skills that we are really looking for in the cyber industry. You’re looking for problem-solvers, you’re looking for people who are creative, people who want to get involved, who want to solve complex issues that clients are facing today.
Multiple pathways into the industry
Madeleine: I came into cyber through technology. I started by designing and building solutions that helped people with their cyber security functions. So I didn’t take a direct route into the industry, but through technology in general. I think that it’s really important to have those different pathways coming in so you’re bringing something new to the industry. Because no one has the same career trajectory. There is no one prescribed path into the industry. In my team we have ex-military, ex-drama students, we have people with history and arts degrees, we have people who have come through IT, traditional routes into the security. It’s an industry that everyone can bring something different to, so that’s a very exciting prospect when you know that you are unique and valuable because you are like no one else in the industry.
Managing unconscious bias
Alex: It’s something that does need to be challenged, but it’s something that you can do in a proactive way. Women can get labelled as emotional and conversely, a man might be labelled as passionate or focused.
For me, my emotions are my strength and that’s something we need to understand. Women are not less capable, we are just as equally capable, but there is no denying the fact that we are different. We have different inherent characteristics to our male colleagues.
And I see those characteristics as strengths that bring collaboration to the table. The conversations, the non-directive styles of working. And I think that’s really enriching for everyone we work with – women and men. So, we can challenge gender bias and we can do it in a healthy way.
Shutting out the noise and being yourself
Madeleine: When I introduced what are considered to be typically feminine approaches, such as more collaboration rather than confrontation, it could be perceived as weak, or not sticking up for my part of the argument.
But there is always going to be that niggling voice in the back of your head telling you that you need to worry about what people will think of you.
I focused on what was important and focused on the results. So, if there was something blocking the success of my team and their ability to succeed in what we had to do, that’s when I would step in and say, “we need to have a conversation about this, or do something differently”.
Until something becomes a problem, you have to get on with you being you, knowing the value you bring and deliver the results.”
The three ‘M’s facing women in tech
Alex: As women, we face three ‘M’s in the workplace – our monthly period, maternity leave and the menopause.
Madeleine: These subjects are becoming less taboo, for example, maternity is no longer taboo. But there are certainly still challenges around it. But with menopause, it’s just not spoken about.
Alex: I imagine we push ourselves so hard as women that we think “taking all that time off, will my job still be there? Is someone going to take my job? Can I come back?” You’re right that we have gotten to a better place with maternity leave, but there are still all these questions.
Normalising the menopause
Madeleine: It’s really important that the menopause is spoken about, because otherwise, you could get to that point and there is no preparation, no sense of support no normalisation of it. At a stage in your career where you should be quite solid and know what to expect, it could really pull the rug out from under you.
I think we owe it to ourselves as women to start having that conversation, to normalise it and to make it more comfortable for men having that conversation too.
Alex: What I have discovered is that our company, Content+Cloud is actually working on a menopause policy, which I find extremely heartening. I know that in this respect, they are way ahead of the curve, particularly in the technology industry, so it’s heartening for me to hear.
Women in Technology World Series
Thank you to the Women in Technology World Series for providing a platform for women in the industry to discuss issues that are sometimes difficult, but always important.
For more information and to join and drive the conversations that matter, visit the event website for information on attending in November 2021.