Women in technology share experience in rising to the topPosted: April 24, 2012
Women overall are poorly represented in higher professional positions. However, they are better represented in some top fields like politics, civil service, and law than in technology and engineering. Women scientists especially in the later stage of their career are less likely to attain a distinguished professional position than their male colleagues.
This can be due to family pressure and personal choice, or to a cultural bias of science and technology as a male profession.
Jeanine Long, Head of MIS operations at Thomson Reuters, said, “Women take breaks off work mainly because they are caretakers of children and older parents”.
If these women do not keep on top of developments in their field while they’re away, it can be difficult for them to fit into their role when they resume work.
In most cases, it is women that go on parental leave and not men, Long noted. “Most men have their partners take care of things while most women do not really have”.
A 1999 report on women faculty in science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found there was an unequal distribution of resources between male and female faculty in every variable that was measured: in lab space, salaries, proportion of university funding, and nominations for prizes. That marginalization experienced by female faculty members is one of the visible impacts of bias against women in science.
To attain high ranks, women in science must overcome these barriers, but it can be done. Women can assist themselves by networking – keeping in touch with other women in their profession and not isolating themselves. “Men see networking as part of their career while most women see it as something they do after work or outside their job,” Long says.
In addition, women could benefit from being more comfortable talking openly about their achievements. Farrow Louise, Lifecycle Maintenance & Support consultant at Royal Bank of Scotland, said, “One thing I learnt in taking my second degree in the USA was to sell myself, which is not very British.”
Zoe Cunningham, Operations Manager at Softwire Technology, agreed. “Women need to believe more in themselves and make others believe them,” she said. “Basically everything is possible; anything that has been done before, you can do it.”
To hear more from Long, Farrow and Cunningham about their career experiences, listen to the audio clips below.