The presentations at the Women in IT event that SOCITM launched were great. There were lots of similar stories that reminded the audience, if it needed to be reminded, that the job of getting true diversity in the IT industry is far from over. I covered most of what went on in a previous blog but there were a couple of speakers that I would like to come back to, Vanessa Valley of ‘We are the City’ and Mary McKenna, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor.
Both of them talked about their lives and how they had ended up in tech. Both of them gave useful advice for women who want to grow their careers in the industry, yet that is not why I have come back to them.
Vanessa talked about how women should stop focussing on presentism. Being there isn’t enough. You need to focus on yourself and on growing your network of colleagues and useful contacts. Your personal brand is important, so you need to be authentic and speak up. When opportunities come along that stretch you then you should take them. Indeed you should actively seek them out.
Mary talked about having a vision, communicating it and about being as transparent as you can be. Resilience is vital and you need to be able to keep on working without thinking too much about all the bad stuff, the stuff that might go wrong. You need to learn to make decisions quickly, fail fast and do the right things rather than necessarily the right way. She suggested that quite often women get caught up and are too busy doing the day job, so you need to step back and focus on what is important to you. You need to do less but better.
It was all good stuff yet when Vanessa went on to describe how she suffered from ‘Imposter Syndrome’, (where people despite obvious evidence of their competence, feel that somehow they don’t deserve the success they have achieved and that one day they’ll be found out) it struck me. I suffer from ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and so do many of the people that I have spoken to, men and women.
That got me thinking. Were the things that Vanessa and Mary had described things that women suffered form or needed to do or were they things that anyone who wanted to get on in their job needed to do? Perhaps men have had more opportunity to do them and so have had greater success in pulling them off.
I focus on growing my network of colleagues and my personal brand is important to me. I put a lot of effort into it. When opportunities come along that stretch me, I take them. I have a vision, I talk about it all the time and I try to be as open and honest as I can be. I regularly take the time to step back and focus on what is important to me and the organisation I work for. I try to do the right thing and don’t always get it right.
Solving an issue such as diversity is not easy and I am not suggesting for one moment that women need to be like men to ‘get on’ but perhaps the answer lies in encouraging women to do the things that many men have done, and been allowed to do, for millennia.