Women in Tech Festival Global 2021

If you have worked in the tech industry for some time, you are likely to have noticed the issue with diversity. Information Technology was probably thought of as a male domain, and we can see the consequences of such thinking on a global level now.

67 Bricks strives to be a diverse and inclusive workplace, and we continuously improve our D&I awareness and practices. That is why for the second year in a row we attended the Women in Tech Festival aimed to champion diversity and empower companies and individuals to be allies for underrepresented groups. I did a presentation titled “It’s good to give back” at the event, which I immensely enjoyed, because, as a woman in tech myself, the topic of diversity is very close to my heart, and I take great interest in it.

This blog post gives a summary of some sessions I attended virtually.

Opening Note

The event started with the opening note from the Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Lead of Investec, Zandi Nkhata. She spoke about reasons why women leave the tech industry: 

  • the lack of female role models.
  • experience of microaggressions – that is things people say to you that kind of remind you that you do not belong.  
  • the fact that your experience at a company might vary on whether or not you have an inclusive leader.

She also explained the difference between diversity and inclusion which I think is excellent: diversity is inviting someone to a party and inclusion is asking someone to dance. She also highlighted that only 20% of the workforce in the industry are women.

What can companies do to make their places diverse and inclusive? As an example, Investec’s vision is to make it a place where it is easy for people to be themselves, and to achieve that they set up different networks for people to speak up and listen to their feedback, provide learning and training opportunities about bullying, harassment and discrimination and have an allies programme.

Zandi also mentioned that it’s good to set KPIs with regards to diversity and inclusion, but they are not quotas, you have to be fair in achieving these targets.

Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor

This panel discussion was about career progression – either knowing you’re probably the best candidate for a promotion yet not getting this promotion, or being capable enough but being obstructed by impostor syndrome, not having a career plan or a mentor.

The main point of the discussion was that a person finding themselves not progressing needs to ask themselves: “what is limiting my growth and what is in my control?”. You need to create a career plan and ensure you are in control. The importance of networking for women was highlighted, and events like Women in Tech is a great opportunity to do that. 

Another piece of advice was to focus on progress rather than perfection, and to learn to not be scared of asking questions even if you might think they are stupid (because they are not!).

Employers also have a duty to help with career progression. It is important to create career paths, understand them and enable employees to understand them as well, making it clear what is needed to get from A to B. It’s also vital to identify the strengths of each individual and know the exact purpose of each person in a team.

The panel also spoke about those who are in search of a new job and what question they might want to ask potential employers to decide about the suitability of a company for them; the suggestions were to look at the leadership gender balance and whether the company is doing any work regarding diversity and inclusion, among others.

Companies should not be scared to bring in people outside of the tech industry, reskill them and tap into their wealth of experience and transferable skills because the mixture of these experiences, strengths and insights can enable the team to grow.

How Old Are You?

This was about progressing in your career when you’re older. A lot of the focus here was on menopause awareness. This topic is still taboo, so safe spaces need to be created to make this conversation more visible, allowing people to speak about it without embarrassment. A lot of people still don’t know much about it even though their female relatives or friends might be experiencing menopause.

The speaker suggests that companies start with things like short talks about it in staff meetings. Some employers hold regular menopause cafes, others hold sessions on what to expect during this challenging time.  An emphasis was made on educating men (especially line managers) to feel comfortable about discussing menopause, and strategies for coping with it in all-male environments, which was mainly to push towards diversity and inclusion, having company policies around menopause and working together.

You Do Belong Here

This session was focused on combating impostor syndrome. This is typically associated with women (men do experience it too though) and the panellists shared useful tips that help them to overcome it:

  • Try to understand if it’s impostor syndrome or the culture that doesn’t let you grow. Some level of self-doubt is experienced by everyone.
  • Having a conversation about it helps combat it. It is the manager’s responsibility to create space where people can discuss it.
  • Some people use journaling. For example, you made a mistake, and 5 days later it’s still eating at you, and you still think about what you could have done. So to avoid that, by writing down what happened and what you could do next time, you get it out of your system.
  • Keep a list of your successes to read from time to time.
  • Refresh your CV and bio regularly as it allows you to focus on your achievements.
  • Educate yourself in neuroscience; humans are programmed to think negatively, and understanding this enables you to interpret your behaviour and thoughts.
  • Instead of changing yourself and trying to adopt a new personality type in certain situations to suit someone else, decide for yourself how you want to come across. However, beware if you go too far, If you’re not genuine, it’s not a sensible place to be. The best thing is to be your authentic self.

To sum up, thanks to this year and last year’s events I spoke to several inspiring females and got a bigger picture of what issues exist for women and LGBTQ+ communities in the tech industry, and what we can do to deal with them. I definitely learnt a lot from the Women in Tech Festival 2021. It was also great to realise that we, 67 Bricks, are doing all the right things to be as diverse and inclusive a workplace as we can. I look forward to sharing more of my learnings with my colleagues.

Author: Oksana Horlock

I've been at 67 Bricks for 1.5 years. I started as a Software Developer and then took on the position of Site Reliability Engineer. Some of my interests are AWS, Infrastructure as Code and diversity in tech. In my free time I like to learn languages and practise salsa, bachata and kizomba.