Women in Technology

| minute read

The technology industry continues to be male dominated, with women facing a series of barriers preventing them from being able to pursue a career with the right level of support, acceptance, and progression. However, there has been a growing awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion, with efforts to increase the number of women in tech. According to the government-funded growth network Tech Nation, nearly three million people, or 9% of the UK workforce, are employed in the tech industry, but women make up just 26% of those in the tech workforce.  [1]  This figure is a reminder that there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in society. 

At Sopra Steria, we have always valued diversity and boast a team of talented female leaders and mentors with inspiring stories of overcoming obstacles and shaping their careers. The fourth in our series of short articles is with Tessa Hughes, Senior Technical Architect and Claire Willmington, Strategy Director. These are two of our most passionate supporters of encouraging women to achieve their potential and in this article, these women talk about their experiences and what needs to be done to increase the number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and tech careers.   

Diversity drives innovation and will help address the skills gap 

Increasing the opportunities for women to pursue careers in technical roles isn’t just about promoting gender equality and inclusion for the sake of it, it’s also essential to drive innovation. Innovation thrives on diverse perspectives and ideas. By increasing the number of women in tech careers, we can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table driving innovation.  

Diversity in the workplace is crucial in order to ensure that we are designing, implementing and managing technology that works for everyone. There are numerous well-publicised cases of technology products and services that proved to be biased – not intentionally, but because of an oversight in designing and testing for different user needs. One way to prevent this is to have more diverse teams.  

The demand for skilled workers with knowledge of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and data science is rising and there is a risk that it will outpace supply. By casting a wider net for these roles – and investing in new training, retraining and upskilling programmes specifically for underrepresented groups, organisations not only improve diversity, but they also solve a core business problem.  

The evolving landscape of women in Technology

The challenge for women in tech is twofold: persuading more women to choose technology and STEM subjects as a career and ensuring that they have the right workplace support to pursue that career. Research shows that young girls are just as interested as boys in technology and science subjects until about age 11, when this starts to dwindle. The reasons are complex, but some of them include confidence, lack of role models and peer pressure.  [2]  

Later, the difficulties women face in pursuing STEM and tech careers continue to include confidence issues and gendered perceptions about who is naturally “good” at tech, as well as the career challenges faced by women in all sectors, such as how to balance career and family commitments in a society that still largely place those commitments disproportionately with women. Promoting flexible work arrangements for all people can help both men and women balance work and family life is one way to address this challenge. As more men see this as an option for them, it will enable women to also have more career options.  

Mentorship programmes and networking opportunities can also help women navigate the challenges of building a career in tech. Prioritising diversity and inclusion will not only help women access equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace, but it will also help the industry become more inclusive for other underrepresented groups. Education around factors such as unconscious bias, pay equity and cultural difference – for example, acknowledging holidays of all cultures – all play an important part in building a fairer, more inclusive future for the industry.  

Reflections from women in Technology Sopra Steria 

Tessa Hughes 

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

“I would recommend getting at least one mentor. I have got a technical-based mentor who supports me on a technical task level, and I have got a career mentor, who supports me from a professional development perspective. My career mentor gave me the confidence to apply for my current role as a Senior Technical Architect. I would not have put myself forward for the role as I did not think I met all the requirements. I read the job description and I picked out all the things that I couldn’t do, and he explained to me that I need to focus on the things I can do, and I can learn the rest whilst doing the job. I think it’s important to have the confidence to ask for a mentor or seek out someone and ask for help or guidance. Sometimes we almost try to hide away and try to get on with it to avoid embarrassment. But instead asking for help doesn’t show weakness, instead it shows that you’re strong in your own abilities and you know where you need to improve. So, for me to offer any advice, it is to get a mentor and utilise them to support you through your development. Asking for advice should not be seen as a weakness.”


Claire Willmington  

Could you tell us a bit about Sopra Steria’s diversity and inclusion initiatives you’ve been a part of? 

“Sopra Steria’s Aerospace Defence and Security Business are taking part in programmes like CyberFirst, promoting events at schools for young people about cybersecurity careers and gives them an insight to a career in technology that they might not have otherwise considered. We currently sponsor a couple of schools one of which is Stroud High School for girls and are looking to increase sponsorship in 2023, by engaging with the students it raises awareness of STEM and cyber technology career opportunities to inspire the next generation into the industry.  

I am also part of our Neurodiversity Committee, as a parent of 2 dyslexic girls I have learnt so much about the benefits neurodiversity can bring in the workplace and some of the adjustments required to provide a better experienceBy mentoring in this area, I provide advice on tools, ways of working and how to better inform neurotypicals of the rewards and challenges they face.  

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? 

“Being female in this industry I have had to adopt different characteristics and behaviours in the workplace, as well as a higher level of resilience, to maintain my confidence and achieve promotions.   Having mentors at different stages of my career and a support network enabled me to recognise and make the necessary adjustments and I hope some of these learnings is what I am now passing onto the next generation of female colleagues.  

Overall, even though there has been progress in getting more women into tech roles, there is still work to be done to make the sector more inclusive and equitable for everyone. At Sopra Steria, we value diversity and inclusion as key factors in success and growth. We can help ensure that the sector is prepared to meet future demands and continue to spur innovation and growth by promoting diversity and inclusion and providing support for women who might experience difficulties in pursuing tech careers.  

[1] DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN UK TECH An exploration of tech founders, employees and leaders ,  TECHNATION 

[2] Institute for Fiscal Studies: “How can we increase girls’ uptake of maths and physics A-Level?”, 2017.  R149%2520with%2520cover.1.pdf (ifs.org.uk)



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