A few weeks ago, I was stepping into a pair of hot pink heels and heading off to the Women in IT Awards in London, unsure of what exactly the night had in store. As I would quickly learn, companies of all sizes and structures (from start-ups to multinational banks) would pour into Grosvenor House for the event. And as the evening unfolded, I would find inspiration in nearly every speaker and guest I encountered. Here’s a look at my favourite moments and takeaways from the night…
Challenge the Status Quo
Too often, we talk about challenging the status quo without putting any action or power behind these words. Tracey Neville — Head Coach of England’s Netball team and the awards’ keynote speaker — reminded me of how much we can accomplish when we channel our energy into shifting the status quo and rewriting the societal narrative around women’s “roles.”
At present, less than 25 percent of all STEM-related careers in the United Kingdom are occupied by women (a number which, presumably, is even lower amongst those in IT fields, as reported by the WISE Campaign). But it’s impossible to make change and redress the gender imbalance without making moves — in the world of sports, in technology, and beyond.
It’s something we’re actively working on here at Index Exchange, both in our hiring strategy and via internal initiatives. While we’re proud to say that our London team is more than 50 percent female, and we aim to elevate the women on our engineering teams at every turn (even launching an internal community group dedicated to this cause, aptly titled ‘Women in ENG’), we understand there is still a way to go.
Instead of growing frustrated at dismal statistics, however, we must empower ourselves (and each other) to swim against the tide and shift our industry’s thinking.
Celebrate Yourself (And Others)
In the theme of empowerment, the Women in IT Awards also inspired me to actively champion the women in my own life, both in and outside of the office (myself included).
Some women up for awards had just returned from maternity leave, a flock of cheerleading colleagues by their side. Others had put themselves forward, recognising and proudly touting their own accomplishments. While I have no doubt that each woman would have been thrilled to take home an award, there was no sense of cut-throat competition or envy in the air. Everyone was keen to chat and clap and salute one another, lifting the entire crowd up with a sense of mutual respect and camaraderie.
Again, this is something we’ve worked into the heartbeat of our company culture at Index Exchange — encouraging care, appreciation, and support for others. Recognising our employees’ achievements is a top priority, whether we’re toasting to new chapters and new titles or, quite literally, shining a spotlight on our team members for brilliant work at company-wide events.
Of course, it’s far too easy to forget to celebrate ourselves, even as we’re celebrating others. Words like “self-care” have become especially buzzy in recent years, but I feel we have to take this one step further and practice self appreciation as well. Another important lesson from the evening.
Champion the Little Ones
…and I mean “little ones” in every sense. From tiny, just-launched companies to young women, it’s important to remember that the greatest, most disruptive change often starts on a much smaller scale, which several speakers noted throughout the night.
First and foremost, we have to ensure that we’re encouraging women and girls to explore technology at an early age. If we’re ever going to create a balanced workforce, we must work to cultivate a new generation of tech talent.
Further, it’s imperative that companies throughout the tech ecosystem — regardless of their size or stature — understand that they, too, can have an impact. Fires start with sparks, after all, and we all have the capacity to make that spark happen.