Were my flippant last words to the team as I left for last night’s Future of Women in Tech event, writes Sophie Hodgson.

You see, I’m not meaning to diminish the achievements of women that work in tech, far from it. It’s just that generally I’m not a massive fan of ‘women’ events. I feel that they marginalise women still further. But to my surprise and delight, whilst the audience was largely female there were also a number of men. This lifted my spirits, almost as much as the snacks on offer.

The panel – made up of Jeanine Long, Business Program Director, Thomson Reuters; Rebecca Salsbury, Head of Online Production Systems (Future Media Platform), BBC; Irina Voinea, Software Engineer, Facebook and Nazia Tingay, Senior Technical Project Manager, Barclays – talked less about the challenges they face as women and more about their careers, what inspired them and their tips for young women just starting out in IT.

Of course, there were conversations about the issues women face, but they were framed in a much more positive light and as a force for change.

Especially Tingay, who was quietly confident but demonstrated absolute resilience in an example she gave about how male colleagues wouldn’t engage with her when she was tasked with measuring their service levels. So she decided if they wouldn’t come to her, she would go to them and stuck a ruddy big whiteboard in a very public place with a performance top ten. All of a sudden, the male colleagues who had ignored her were flocking to chat with her. Needless to say, one of her top tips for the audience was resilience.

Salsbury, in particular, was articulate and engaging, saying that there was ‘room for everyone in tech’. She also implored the audience to instead of saying no, say maybe, because you never know what opportunities will open up as a result. No, she said, is an easy way out.

This theme of challenging yourself was also picked up by the other panellists, one of whom had gone to Toastmasters in order to perfect her public speaking. When asked for their top tips, collectively they advised:

  • Be resilient
  • Be kind to each other
  • Compete with yourself – not others – because you will bring other skills to the table
  • What is important to you should come out in your work
  • Stick with the people that matter, but don’t be afraid to make changes

What struck me about the panel wasn’t that they were women, but that they were all hugely passionate and successful about what they do. I found them inspiring not because of their gender, but because of what they said and did. They know what they want and aren’t afraid to go out and get it.

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