We are thrilled to be supporting International Women’s Day 2020 by celebrating some of the women at 4C in a special four part blog series.
In the third part of the series, we’ve asked Lisa Spicker, Delivery Consultant in our Core Clouds team to discuss what IWD means to her, the gender balance and what the sector can do to promote equality.
What does International Women’s day mean for you?
For me, International Women’s Day is a celebration of all women and their achievements. I think it’s important to remember that the day is not just about recognising prominent, well-known women, but also the women around you - friends, family, and colleagues. It’s also a good time to reflect on the fact that gender inequality is still an issue facing billions of women worldwide and we’ve got to keep fighting to change that.
Who is your biggest influence and/or icon?
I think my biggest influences are my friends - they’re a pretty varied group, some of whom I’ve known since I was 10, others I’ve met in the last 5 years, but they never fail to inspire me. Whether it’s deciding to go back to university, changing career completely, or packing up their lives to move to a new city (or country!), they’re women who are always thinking about what their next step is, and they’re not afraid to make those big decisions to get there. We’re not scared to challenge each other and I think a lot of my opinions on feminism and women’s issues have been formed by the debates we’ve had and the experiences we’ve shared. To me, they are role models for going after what you want, for constantly reassessing your goals, and adjusting your life to make sure you’re on the right track.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
I haven’t really faced any barriers at 4C based on gender, but I think there are some wider social pressures that might put women off going for jobs in the tech sector. I know some of my friends were surprised when I told them I was pursuing a career in tech, partly because it’s a male dominated industry, but also because, in their words, “you weren’t very good at IT at school”. This idea that you need specific skills before you can even attempt a job in tech is probably discouraging women from applying - there are so many varied jobs in the technology sector and so many opportunities to learn new skills, that it doesn’t matter what your background is. One of my first projects at 4C basically involved a crash course in Excel, not something I expected when I took a job in Salesforce consulting!
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in tech consulting?
I can only speak about the role I do now, but I’d want women considering a career in tech to know how varied it is. In any one week I might be involved in requirements gathering workshops with customers, building solutions in Salesforce, delivering training, creating documentation, or training for a certification. There’s a lot to learn beyond just the obvious systems training (in this case Salesforce), and there are a lot of really knowledgeable people to learn from. Look beyond what you think are the “standard” jobs in tech and you’ll see that there are lots of opportunities and different career paths to follow.
What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in the tech industry?
I think one of the biggest issues for women in tech is simply how male dominated the industry is - only 17% of employees in the tech sector are women, and only 5% are in leadership positions. I think there are a few ways that organisations can make a difference here: changes to parental leave policies (so that leave can be shared equally between parents), more flexible working hours, writing job specs to appeal to women. These issues are by no means specific to tech, but the industry lags quite far behind others in terms of gender balance.
How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
I think it’s really important and I think the way to do it is quite simple - just be kind to each other. Particularly in an industry where the number of women is low, it can often feel like we’re being pitted against each other rather than being each other’s champions. You don’t need to tear other women down to achieve your goals - they are the best allies you can have, because they understand what it’s like to exist in the space you’re in, and they’ve probably had similar experiences to you. Other women are also your best source of information and advice - if you want to find out how someone got to their current position, or you’d like some training in an area you know they specialise in, why not go and ask them?
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
I think my message is, “believe in what you can do”. I think we as women have a tendency to underplay our skills and the impact we have on our environment. A great example of this is some advice I’ve been given in the last couple of years - you don’t need to be able to do everything on a job spec to be able to do the job. There’s research out there that suggests women tend to want to fill all the requirements of a new job role that they’re applying for, and if they don’t, they won’t even bother applying (if you’re interested, LinkedIn published a blog post last year discussing how men and women take a different approach when applying for jobs). There’s work for organiations to do in changing the way they write job roles, but in the meantime, remember that if you’re choosing to go into a new role, it should be challenging and offer you opportunities to learn something new. If you can already do everything in the role, it’s too easy for you! The skills you don’t have, you can learn, and you’ll probably find you’re able to do things that seemed completely alien to you, simply because of all the experience you have. Don’t limit yourself - you are way more than a set of requirements on a job spec.