In the week of International Women's Day, we continue our female-focused coverage with the first in a series of profiles featuring women who are succeeding in the technology world. Despite working in what are generally male-dominated environments, they are great models for the future.
Blazing a trail
Claireypoppins is how Claire Gray, a highly experienced leader and technology project manager, has been described by her colleagues. “You come in, you change things, you make it happen and then you disappear into the night.”
And here’s why. Gray’s ability to understand the intricate technicalities and successfully communicate them to a wide range of audiences is a rare find in the tech sector. Traditionally dominated by men, the tech industry is known for its jargon, action and focus on things rather than people.
“Taking time to understand something and explain it is more associated with females than males,” says Gray. “Women tend to think of the bigger picture. They probably even communicate too much, but it means that they’re prepared for every eventuality and as a result, generally not affected by curveballs.”
You don’t need to lose your femininity, but you may need to make adjustments
Gray has spent most of her working life in male-dominated environments. As a self-confessed tomboy and a confident individual this hasn’t been an issue, although there have obviously been moments where the heavily masculine environment has had an impact on the conversation and working atmosphere.
“You don’t need to lose your femininity, but you may need to make adjustments,” she says, adding that the key is to ensure you are good at what you do and can stand your ground. You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.
“There’s no harm in taking a step back and taking time to ensure that everyone understands what’s going on,” says Gray. “Women are often afraid to ask what they think is a stupid question, when in fact there is no such thing as a stupid question. You aren’t going to look stupid if you ask a question that will help you understand something more clearly and do a better job.”
It would be great to have more females to address the balance
Having worked in 12 different, mainly tech-related roles, Gray has encountered a wide range of mainly male-dominated work environments. She has had both positive and negative experiences. In one firm, which she describes as an ‘old boys club’, she recalls being told to “leave it to the boys as she wasn’t techy enough.” She ended up taking the issue to the male CEO, who was horrified, but struggled to change things so she left.
“It’s very much a company by company situation and I’ve worked in lots of organisations where there has been no difference between males and females,” she says, adding that in her current place of work there are five women in a total workforce of almost 60. “There’s a lot of joviality and jokes, but I never feel that anyone is looking down on me because I’m female. It would be great to have more females here though to address the balance.”
For Gray, being female in a male-dominated environment may be easier than for others. She’s at the top of her game and is confident in her ability. The key to success, she believes, is to be yourself and be open. Immerse yourself in the role and (unless you have to) don’t take a job just because it pays the bills – make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.
We are crying out for more women
“It’s a tough world breaking into IT as a female, but we are crying out for more women,” she says, adding that out of 70 applications for an open position in her current firm, only one was from a woman. “We need to get the message out that just because it’s IT it’s not scary”
“It is in fact a gender-neutral industry that has been branded as male-orientated. Everything should be an open opportunity for everyone.”
by Claire Shoesmith
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