What it means to me to be a woman working in tech

By Hannah Scarffe on 19th March 2019

Following International Women’s Day (read our previous blog post here), it prompted discussion in the office about the role of women in tech.

Production Director Jayne Hartley is currently studying towards her Institute of Directors Certificate in Company Direction and has recently celebrated seven years with PDMS.

Jayne shares her career journey to date and her views about working as a woman in the male-dominated technology sector.

How were you brought-up to view the role of a female in the workplace?

As a young girl, I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted to be and that my gender would not hold me back. I have always been hugely ambitious and pushed hard for a career and for success. I am very fortunate to have a very supportive family which makes achieving my professional ambitions much easier.

Tell us about your early years working in the technology sector…

My first role working in technology was in 1999 as an Information Analyst at Barnet Health Authority in London where I was lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor. He guided me in selecting my postgraduate degree, which was a significant game-changer for me in terms of increasing my career opportunity but also in building my confidence to be ambitious in the male-dominated technology sector.

In 2001, I joined my first software house as a Business Analyst. This was when I noticed the difference in the roles men and women were working in. There were some highly skilled women working in business analysis and software testing roles, but almost all of the development roles were filled by men, as were the senior technical director and management positions. This was the pattern in the subsequent roles I took up in other software houses.

What changes have you seen between your first job and 2019?

Since my first job, I have seen an increase in women working at a senior level in technology companies. Many of the great business analysts and software testers I worked with in 2001 are achieving great things at a senior level. I believe, this is testament to the females of ‘Generation X‘ who have aimed high and not let their gender hold them back. It used to be that a woman would have to choose between a career or a family. My generation have wanted both professional success and family life – this has meant that workplaces and attitudes have had to change.

When I moved back home to the Isle of Man and became a mum, I did not lose any of my ambition, I knew I wanted to continue to pursue my career. However, because of my past experience, I believed to be successful I needed to be less female! I was very strict about keeping my work life and my personal life separate, I did not talk about my family when I was at work and I certainly did not feel comfortable putting a photograph of my children on my desk. I somehow thought it would give the impression of weakness or sentimentality and that it could be perceived as me not being fully committed to my career.  I doubt a male colleague would ever reach that same conclusion. My eldest child was seven years old when I finally put a photograph of my family on my desk!

I now feel able and confident to talk openly in the workplace about my family, about being a mum and the challenges this brings, including running a busy work schedule, studying and also co-ordinating sleep-overs! I believe it is important that women in the workplace can be open and honest and that the environment supports this. The answer to improving the workplace for women, certainly is not women behaving more like men! The diversity and alternate perspective women can bring is vital to every business.

The technology sector is still male-dominated and to a certain extent, still lags behind gender balance. I was proud to learn that at PDMS, we are well above the industry average with 10% more female employees than the rest of the UK technology sector.

What are your hopes for women in the workplace in 2019 and beyond?

My hope for the future is that women feel comfortable to work in a job and in the sector that is right for them and their skill set. This year’s International Women’s Day focused on #balanceforbetter which strongly aligns with my values as a working female. I believe that people should be in the position they are best suited to, regardless of gender (or age, race etc.) and that women should not be appointed to positions to fill a quota. I was immensely proud to be appointed to the board at PDMS, and I know that this is based on my skills and experience, not because of my gender.