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Why we still need to talk about women in tech

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According to Tech Nation(opens new window), only 26% of workers in the tech industry are women. What's more, according to the Women's Engineering Society(opens new window), less than 17% of engineers in the UK are women. So it’s clear that we still need to talk about women in tech.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we share a personal and inspirational story from our Software Engineer, Karoline Lende(opens new window), as she discusses the importance of attracting women into the tech industry and how she is working to drive equity in the workplace.

My story

When I was 4 years old, I got a train set for Christmas. I was thrilled and couldn't wait to start playing with it, but I was also conflicted. On the box there was a picture of a boy, and disappointed and confused, I had to ask my parents: 'Is this a toy for boys?'. Luckily, they were able to convince me that it was only a picture, and that it was perfectly okay for a girl to play with a train set.

Little did I know, it wouldn't be the last time I'd feel like I wanted to do something that society branded as more suitable for a man.

In school I enjoyed studying maths and physics, where I could work out the true answer to a problem using logic and facts. I figured the best opportunity for me to apply these concepts in my professional career would be by becoming an Engineer, and I decided to study Civil Engineering at Imperial College. In my class of around 70 students, there were only 10 women (and this was actually quite a good ratio for Imperial!). So much of what we learned at university was based on theories and research developed by famous engineers and mathematicians - Brunel, Bernoulli, Skempton, Smeaton - they were all men.

Fast forwarding to my first graduate job in an engineering consultancy, I was intrigued to hear my employer proudly say that the graduate intake was nearly 50% women. However, I never saw this same ratio in more senior positions, which were largely dominated by men. In fact, I had to work for more than 6 years before I finally had a manager who was a woman. Whilst I don’t feel like I have ever been unfairly treated in my professional career, evidence suggests that a number of issues exist - resulting in women being less likely to pursue a career in engineering or tech.

I love working as a Software Engineer. I relish the methodical and logical approach to problem solving, combined with a philosophy of incremental improvement to build a robust and user-friendly product. Over the years I have gotten to work with so many talented and intelligent people, and there is unlimited potential for learning new skills, which I find incredibly motivating. I see no reason why there should be more men than women working in these types of roles.

In my view, we are nowhere near where we should be when it comes to equity in tech. So, what am I doing about it?

My three actions to embrace equity

Trying to address the problem of equity in tech can feel daunting. I find it helpful to identify areas where I personally can have an impact, and to celebrate the little wins. This Women’s History Month, these are the actions I’m focussing on:

  1. Try to be a role model

Children form perceptions of engineering and tech at a young age. By engaging with students of all ages, we can inspire them to dream of careers they might have never heard of. I have been a STEM ambassador for several years, and I try to participate in volunteering activities when I can. At Multiverse we get two paid volunteering days per year, which is such a great encouragement.

Role models are useful not just in school, but at all stages of your life and career. Therefore, I have recently joined the Multiverse mentoring programme, where I get the opportunity to support women software engineering apprentices.

2. Be curious and critical

I have come to realise that the reason we only hear about famous engineers and scientists who are men, is not because women equivalents don't exist. They do, and I am constantly working to educate myself on women role models like Marie Curie and Katherine Johnson(opens new window), and try to make it more of a norm to talk about them.

However much we wish otherwise, we all have biases. These are often unconscious, but I try my best to be aware of my own biases and think twice about what I say and do. One technique I've started using is always referring to interview candidates as "they" when writing feedback. I feel this really helps prevent prejudice and biased decisions.

3. Be the change you want to see

At the end of the day, I can't complain about poor representation if I'm not trying to do anything about it. Sometimes, that means putting myself out of my comfort zone. Last year I went to a tech conference and felt that the gender balance of the speakers was poor. This year, I am going to be a speaker at that conference. Although this makes me nervous, I hope it can inspire other women to step forward as well, demonstrating the value of actively trying to be the change that I want to see in the world.

I am also one of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) champions for the Multiverse Product & Tech team. We meet regularly to plan initiatives to improve DEI. For instance, we’re hosting an event at Multiverse in April(opens new window) in collaboration with MotherBoard, focusing on supporting women and particularly mothers in tech.

Embracing equity at Multiverse

At Multiverse, we are working hard to create the change we want to see in the outside world, inside Multiverse. We’re proud that 55% of our UK team identify as women, and this increases to 64% of our Global Leadership Team (director level and above). In our Product & Tech team 31% identify as women - while this is higher than the UK tech industry(opens new window) as a whole, we know we need to do more.

We have identified that the core challenge in hiring more women into our Product & Tech team is at the top of the recruitment funnel. To address this, we’re building a sourcing and recruitment marketing strategy to attract a diverse group of candidates, and we’re investing in early talent through our in-house Software Engineering apprenticeship scheme. We know that supporting more women to enter technical roles is just one part of the journey and we’re also working to develop our internal talent into the next tech leaders, through our Leadership Accelerator.

We’re currently expanding our amazing Product & Tech team, and have a number of roles to be filled. If you are looking for a role at a company where DEI is front and centre, don’t hesitate to apply today.

What’s next?

I feel like I’ve come a long way since unwrapping my train set all those years ago. I know that we are not done fighting this battle, but I see that increasingly we are talking about it, and our employers are working hard to do something about it. At Multiverse, embracing equity is at the top of the agenda - both internally in the organisation and in society as a whole. We are on a mission to build an outstanding alternative to university via professional apprenticeships, creating a diverse group of future leaders. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of that journey.

I know there is always more we can do to help elevate and advance gender parity in technology and engineering. Regardless of your gender, what are you going to do this Women's History Month to embrace equity?

Karoline Lende, Software Engineer

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