Exclusive CTO Q&A: Alison Vincent believes the industry is truly changing for the better when it comes to diversity and women in tech.
Boasting 25 years’ experience in international leadership of software projects, women in business is a topic championed by Vincent. She is an Ambassador for Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) and Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEMnet) ensuring on-going technical talent in the workforce.
Continuing CBR’s Women in Tech series, Ellie Burns sat down with Vincent to hear her thoughts on working in a male-centric environment and how the industry does appear to be really changing when it comes to women working in tech.
EB: What attracted you to a career in technology?
AV: I was attracted to a career in technology for a number of reasons. When I began at University, computers were just beginning to arrive on the scene. Early on, I understood the importance of computing and the impact it could have on the industry, I recognised its potential to transform the world and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of it.
Fundamentally, I saw that it would be a key trend and I wanted to catch it early and be involved in something I knew would change the way we operate on a social, professional and even economical level.
EB: What were your biggest challenges with being a woman working in technology?
AV: There are three challenges that I found being a women working in the technology industry, these are:
– Being taken seriously
– Struggling to have my voice heard
– A lack of female role models when I started in the business
EB: How did you overcome these challenges?
AV: I used a number of techniques to overcome these challenges and position myself as one of the leading women in technology.
To ensure I was being taken seriously in the business role, I adopted a specific dress code that denoted power and professionalism. I believe that this is something that the younger generation has to be aware of. It is a delicate balance between fashion, business and femininity, which is by no means easy, but can make a real difference in a women’s perception in the workplace.
Making sure that your voice was heard in a large organisation or busy team for me is all about being persistent without being aggressive. Whether it is cultural or tone of voice, men sometimes have a reputation for talking over women. In this instance, women must be persistent, assertive and tenacious in their approach.
When I first started in the technology business nearly 25 years ago, there weren’t many female role models; however this is not the case now. There are some strong and inspirational women leading the technology sector and providing a variety of role models for a new generation to aspire to become.
EB: Despite many diversity programmes and employee workplace initiatives, the gender ratio in technology is still skewed – why?
AV: While the gender ratio may still be skewed, there is no denying that it is improving.
Although there has been an emphasis placed on women’s networks and organised support groups for women to share experience, I believe there needs to be stricter guidelines on hiring, not just in relation to gender, but across the board in terms of ensuring diversity in business. An example of this is making sure that the interview panel has the right mix of experience and diversity from across the company.
At Cisco, we are encouraging this approach at the early stages of interview, in order to make sure that we employ the most talented people and bring together diverse groups that can drive the creativity and innovation that we are proud of. This is a tactic that other organisations must follow in order to achieve that gender diversity.