Women in Tech: in conversation with Siobhan Brookman

| minute read

At Sopra Steria, we have always valued diversity and we’re lucky enough to have a great team of female leaders and mentors, each of whom have their own stories to tell about overcoming challenges and creating opportunities that have shaped their careers, and their lives. 

The second in our series of short interviews is with Siobhan Brookman, Executive Client Director DWP & DEFRA who is also the Chair of Women's Inclusive Network (WIN). Siobhan passionately supports gender diversity initiatives in communities we work and live in, and this discussion will showcase her thoughts on supporting the development of female talent, tackling challenges women face in the technology industry today and the initiatives she has been a part of to support the progression of women in the workplace.

How do you mentor and support the development of female talent within your team?

My team is a predominantly a matrix team, that means they do not all report to me directly, but I still feel an obligation to mentor and support them. A high performing team depends on everyone feeling they play a part and add value, so I always encourage the women in the team to keep challenging themselves but to seek support and guidance from the rest of the team if they need it. I encourage them to build a strong network of contacts around them, so they always have the support they need and to not be afraid to ask for help. I tell them not to sit and struggle and don’t try to be someone they are not. Be themselves and be professional but do not loose who they are along the way, be authentic and let your personality shine through. I also tell all the people I mentor to take control of their careers; they are the master of their own destiny. So, decide what you want and go for it!    

Why do you think it is important for more women to join the tech industry?

It simply is about balance, men and women are different, both bring something different, and we need to embrace the benefits that this difference brings. If there is more gender balance in the tech industry we can deliver better products, solutions, and better relationships with our customers. A more balanced business is a better business. 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

My biggest challenge has been myself, always fearing being judged, being liked, being less confident than I should be. Once I overcame these thoughts (and I still have them sometimes) I felt free, and I could really find fulfilled achievement and happiness in my career.       

What do you think are the major challenges that women in technology face today, and how would you overcome them?

I think the challenge is not that there are no jobs or that there are not promotional opportunities once they are in an organisation, there are both. So, I think it is about getting noticed. People push back on recruiting women by saying “I want to give the best person the job” and I agree with that’s how it should be, so women in tech need to make sure they are the best person for the job. How do they do that? That could take me a long time to address but if I were to try and be concise, I would say

  1. Have a strategy, think about what you need to do to achieve the goal - That job or opportunity!
  2. Have an action plan, how are you going to execute what you need to do to achieve that goal.
  3. Have a contact strategy, who knows you? who can promote you? How can you influence the person who can give an opportunity to you.
  4. Think about what your key skills are, (both hard and soft skills) and how these can be used to raise your profile.
  5. Get a coach! We all perform better with a coach; it does not matter who you are or what level you are – it does not need to cost a lot of money; a coach can be your best friend! If you think about it all athletes have a coach, and if we are to be business athletes then we need a coach!      

Can you provide some thoughts on how to make the workplace more inclusive and diverse for women in technology?

My number 1 thing would be that I think all shortlists for jobs, vacancies, project opportunities should be inclusive and diverse. There should be balance in all shortlists, only then will that present a fair chance, and equity to all.

What advice would you offer to women starting their careers in technology to help them succeed?

Be bold, be curious and seek out opportunities. Open your mind to spotting opportunities. Also, take time to get to know people and build a strong network. Be clear about what you want to achieve, have a plan, and don’t ever give up. Finally, above all, believe in yourself!

Do you have any initiatives in mind you’d like us to focus on in terms of Women in Tech/STEM?

I would say to promote initiatives that create fairness in the workplace and initiatives that put a spotlight on the importance of better balance. Events that educate on the benefits of creating employee value (getting people wanting to work for you) and showing that if executed well, this can save time, money and see an improvement in your business result.   

What initiatives have you been a part of to support the progression of women in the digital industry and break gender bias in the workplace and how do you evaluate the success of these?

I am the Chairperson for WIN, our Women's inclusive Network. We strive to provide a supportive platform for women, giving learning and development opportunities and providing role models. We have increased our membership by over 300% in the last 18 months and we are starting to show that by being involved in D&I Networks and championing our initiatives that this can help accelerate your confidence and your career. The increase in our membership levels tells us we are making an impact.

I have also created initiatives in the past, such as Women in Red at Vodafone, a programme that put the spotlight on inspiring women in the business, this contributed to Vodafone becoming a top 50 employer for Women and celebrated role models in the business. I have now presented a similar proposal at Sopra Steria and am pleased that we will be launching a second Inspiring Women Awards Campaign in 2023. These campaigns make our women feel valued and it also helps to share the female experience, creating role models.   

Do you have any closing thoughts on International Women's Day?

I think it is important to mention the theme of International Women's Day in 2023 – #Embracing Equity. I think we should all take a moment consider a World free of bias and discrimination and that with a little effort, from a few, we can create a world where difference is valued and celebrated.

About Siobhan Brookman

Siobhan joined Sopra Steria in July 2020 as an Executive Client Director for DWP & DEFRA and is also the Chair of Women's Inclusive Network (WIN).

Prior to this Siobhan joined Vodafone in June 2012 and led the Northern Europe Bid Management function. Before joining Vodafone, Siobhan ran her own consultancy firm delivering international business improvement and growth initiatives (BIG) and placed a number of senior executives in the telecommunication industry.

Siobhan started her career at IBM and had 15 successful years before moving to AT&T when IBM sold their Network Services venture in 1999. Since then Siobhan worked for T-Systems as a Business Development Manager, Interoute as Vice President of Business Operations, and BT Global Service as a Deal Maker.

Siobhan is recognised as having an inspiring management style and excels at building high performing teams. Siobhan believes that good leadership, as part of an effective and professional team, where individual strengths can be developed is one of the most important elements of creating a winning culture.

On a personal level, Siobhan has a passion for challenging and exhilarating sports – she crossed the Atlantic, from Bermuda to Gibraltar, aged 21 in a 49 foot yacht. She is a keen downhill skier and spends much of her spare time taking part in equestrian pursuits on her 16.1hh Irish Sport horse, Ozzie.  



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