There is a stark lack of female leaders in the technology industry.
According to the Harvey Nash Tech Survey, women only account for 10% of leadership roles in IT and tech. According to Lisa Hall, delivery lead at CloudStratex, those that are in positions of leadership may need support.
Hall has more than two decades of experience in finance and tech and, while she has never felt at a disadvantage, says her gender has caused her challenges.
“Earlier in my career, there were very few women in the financial sector. At that point my children were really young and it was a difficult time to try to make progress in my career,” she tells TechBlast.
“I was travelling a lot and my children saw a lot more of their nanny than they did of me for some of those years. That didn’t even feel like a decision that I took – it felt like a necessity in order to occupy those leadership roles. It was a real challenge.
“At the same time, the culture in which I spent those first 20 years was very much one of equality – not diversity – and we were encouraged to be gender blind. I was very lucky that I worked in some very good organisations that were good at that.
“I didn’t feel as though I suffered in any way from any prejudice – but I also didn’t feel that I could discuss any of my motherhood challenges. The culture was about being the same; but the reality was that I didn’t feel my peers had the same challenges as me.
“In the last 10 years, that has changed dramatically: men are increasingly taking parental leave and there is a better culture for work-life balance.”
The need for a supportive voice may not be obvious, she explains.
“When I’ve been in challenging situations, I’ve looked for support and encouragement and what helps me in those situations is to have someone say ‘you can do this, you are capable’ – it’s that supporting voice.
“Women are good at encouraging each other in that way. Yet, when you do that with men, they hear it differently as ‘I don’t think I can do this’. We need that supportive voice – our male colleagues don’t seem to feel the need for it and therefore it’s not understood.
“They read it as a lack of confidence when in reality you’re looking for a boost. I think that does cause a problem for women in leadership positions as they get perceived as less ready, less confident; when in fact they are seeking rightly or wrongly some encouragement.
“I think I only realised this through the work we are doing at StratAspire.”
StratAspire is a female-led initiative which aims to attract female talent and clients to CloudStratex.
“The IT industry was predominantly a male sector and as such I certainly didn’t have any female mentors or networks, so I didn’t have a conversation around some of the things I found challenging,” Hall says of past years.
“StratAspire came out of a desire to encourage, support and help grow confidence within our next generation of women leaders… we call our graduate intake of future leaders our ‘Gen-Ls’. But it became something else very quickly.
“I went on a journey myself as I started to understand diversity rather than equality; I started to understand there were some concepts I hadn’t previously explored and I knew neither probably had my generational peers and certainly not the men I’d been working with over the years.
“We explored topics such as Sheryl Sandberg’s imposter syndrome; we started to realise the power of relatable stories; and we realised we had very relatable role models closer to home.
“We reached out to some amazing inspirational women in our network and started building our own focus group. We knew we had something special at CSX as we already had a 60-40 women-to-male ratio in our Talent Academy and felt we could share that story and encourage more female talent into the industry by raising our profile within the sector and sharing what worked for us.
“We also wanted to encourage a dialogue with our male colleagues and our leadership team supported us by forming a ‘male ally’ movement within the company.
“We now have an active LinkedIn group with many more male members than women, have interviewed some inspirational heavy hitters to gain their opinions and are working towards launching our own website to encourage an open dialogue and debate across our industry peers.”
Hall says she has been inspired by the ‘Gen-Ls’.
“When I started StratAspire I thought I was doing something for them but I have learnt so much from them: the energy that I get now from working in a group of women of all different ages and levels of the organisation is just brilliant – I never understood what it meant to be part of a like-minded community until now.
“In previous years I hadn’t wanted to be in a women’s group because the concept didn’t resonate with me, I felt I had equality. This whole more modern way of looking at diversity has been a real education.
“It’s about being your own authentic person, celebrating differences and finding reasons to bring your own unique skills and perspectives. That’s what I’ve learnt from our ‘Gen-Ls’ and that really inspires me.”