It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) this Sunday 8 March. To mark the day, we’ve spoken to some of the most influential women in technology, and searched far and wide to bring you the best networking groups to join, courses to sign up for and resources to make use of to get ahead in the industry.
Equality, diversity and inclusion have become big buzzwords across the tech sector recently, which has led to the launch of dozens of new groups and events promising to empower women in tech. But this sudden influx makes it difficult to pinpoint the groups actually worth joining, events worth attending and people worth listening to.
Here’s our rundown of the ones that offer the most potential to impact your career, with a particular focus on some under-the-radar resources that have real, practical value.
If there are any amazing ones you feel I’ve missed off, please do share the details in the comments section.
WeAreTechWomen is a sister site of women’s career development site WeAreTheCity, both founded by Vanessa Vallely OBE. Vallely says with the huge rise and focus on women in technology, there was a need to have a distinct site for all those tech-focused campaigns, networks and events.
There are only 17 percent of women in tech in the UK and that’s not good enough. It’s a very slow-growing industry in terms of its diversity. The plan was with WeAreTechWomen, we want to give women access to all the resources that are out there to drive their own career. If firms are not doing it at the pace that we want and we risk losing those women, what are the things that they can do themselves.
A lot of these women have got legacy skills. What we are trying to do is when there are head of innovation and director of AI roles, that the women are ready to step up and take those roles.
WeAreTechWomen launched four years ago, and already has 18,000 members.
Vallely‘s hot tip: Build relationships
If you want to get ahead, you need people. Having that army of people who can support you in your career is absolutely paramount.
Vallely’s recommendation for people to follow on Twitter
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO of Stemettes
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK
Debbie Forster MBE, co-founder and CEO for the Tech Talent Charter
When Beckie Taylor, CEO of Tech Returners, was on maternity leave with her son, she spent time wondering if she was the only one who felt alone during her leave, lacking the confidence to go back to work, and feeling guilty about balancing work-life and parenthood.
I decided to do something, and set up WIT North (Women in Technology). Through that initiative I met many amazing women, rich with talent and passionate about the technology sector, but facing common issues including lack of support, recognition and understanding regarding returning from a career break.
Tech Returners was borne from Taylor’s desire to change things for people who had taken time out from working, as a way to offer the right support and opportunities for development - and not just for individuals, but also to educate employers.
We are forever hearing about the digital, or tech, skills gap, and we are passionate about the fact that the talent is out there. Businesses simply aren’t looking in the right place or applying a forward-thinking attitude to attracting tech talent. We’re here to educate them on the amazing untapped talent pool, which is the returner market, full of passionate and driven individuals with a wealth of transferable skills and industry experience.
Taylor’s hot tip: Focus on you, and only you
Don’t feel you need to be someone you are not and focus on your own path without getting distracted by the direction of others. Understand your own strengths and how to adapt them in different situations and environments. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the noise of others but keep focused on your path.
Kathryn Rose founded the wiseHer because she never wanted another woman to feel alone in their business or career journey again, as she had experienced.
10 years ago, I was a Wall Street sales leader and about to give birth to my first child. Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, everything upended. The mortgage market melted down and around the same time my mom had a brain aneurysm that left her paraplegic. In the span of three months I lost my job, almost lost my mom and had a brand new baby.
Fast forward a decade, and with nine books and a successful career in tech sales under her belt, Rose wanted to build something to help other women thrive.
I decided to set wiseHer up as a social enterprise - expert mentors provide access at reduced rates, and we take a portion of our proceeds and give it back to women in the form of grants to help them accelerate their business or career growth.
The organization launched in October 2019, and already has a global Fortune 100 company offering wiseHer’s services to its own employees, and two universities buying calls for their students to access experts.
Rose’s hot tip: Build your tribe
So many companies have employee resource groups that focus on building women up. Join one and contribute and lift as you climb - we can't do this alone.
Rose’s recommendation for another great group to join
Women in Tech Global is a great community, they are a collaboration partner with wiseHer and have chapters all over the world.
Tech Women Today
Tech Women Today (TWT) is a global platform, which showcases women in technology and serves as a resource for non-technical female entrepreneurs seeking to grow and scale their businesses by leveraging technology.
The platform spotlights women in technology, female entrepreneurs and TWT allies who are trailblazers in their respective sectors and businesses; showcases the achievements of women applying technology to advance their careers and/or businesses; and highlights initiatives and projects that offer the opportunity to connect with others.
Its founder Cecilia Harvey wanted to expand the definition of what we consider to be a ‘Woman in Tech’.
You don’t have to be a coder or programmer in order to be considered a woman in technology.
On our Tech Women Today YouTube channel, we launched a series of interviews with powerful female tech entrepreneurs and senior leaders in order to dispel myths, and share advice with up and coming women in tech.
Harvey’s hot tip: Create Options for Yourself
Nothing is going to be handed to you. I wanted more for myself. I wanted to be an industry leader and influencer. So I created those options for myself. I made the decision to leave a job that was comfortable and safe in order to have a career that provided me with a spectrum of opportunities and provided the purpose and fulfillment that I desired.
Merici Vinton set up Ada’s List in 2013 as an email-based community for women working in technology and digital. Named for computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, the list currently has over 7,000 worldwide members, who get the opportunity to share job listings, announce conference panels and calls for submissions, get informal mentoring and share details of tech-related events.
Ada’s List is now planning to launch a new channel specifically targeting women on boards. It has also just launched a paid-for partners program, aimed at medium to large sized companies that want to enhance or kickstart their women in tech strategies.
Vinton’s recommendations for other great organizations:
23 Code Street, a coding school for women and non-binary people based in London. For every paying student, it teaches digital skills to a woman in the slums of India.
Ada Ventures, a technology VC fund aimed at making funding available regardless of race, gender or background.
wiseHer, an Ada’s List partner.
Heather Black set up Supermums in late 2016 as a way to get women retrained and back to work after having children.
The original target was to have 200 mums on the Salesforce admin training programme by 2020; that goal has already been reached and the new target is 500 parents by 2022. Supermums is now running in the US and other countries in Europe, and has trained a few dads as well as women.
Mentoring has helped Supermums achieve its successes, as Black explains:
Each trainee has a mentor throughout their journey, who checks on their progress and gives them assurance. We then have senior consultants on work experience projects to give the parents guidance in these real-life work roles. We also have fortnightly coaching, which covers more of the positive mindset and confidence attributes such as issues with imposter syndrome.
Black’s hot tip: Don’t let ‘technology’ put you off
Many immediately think of coders or programmers and are put off from even investigating the sector. In reality, technology organisations have everything from roles in project management, business analytics, sales and customer success. It’s always worth people exploring what the different skill sets are and what the opportunities are for them.
Black’s recommendation for great mentors
Different business and leadership coaches have mentored me throughout my career, in particular Charl Wasdon, Ruth Cusby and Katelyn Brias. And Marc Benioff sets the benchmark of how tech, business and social purpose can all work hand in hand.
Ivanti’s Women in Tech programme began in September 2017 with the launch of @TheTechieGirls, a Twitter community that raises awareness of the need for diversity in the industry.
The firm has since launched a Women in Technology blog and an annual women in tech survey. Ivanti Director of Field Marketing, Sarah Lewis, says the resources were launched to give women the opportunity to network and learn from one another.
Lewis’s hot tip: Support network
Build a supportive network to help you, which can include anyone from a mentor, to a senior sponsor and even a brag-buddy.
Lewis’s recommendation for an event to attend
Women of Silicon Roundabout, which is an amazing event where you can grow your network, expand your knowledge and chat to other inspirational women in the industry.