November 18, 2020

1673 words 8 mins read

Women in tech: becoming a role model

Women in tech: becoming a role model

As an under-represented group, there are fewer role models for women to follow and a lack of clear routes to get them to where they might want to be in the world of science and technology, says Anne-Marie Imafidon who co-founded the charity Stemettes in 2013 to help young women and non-binary people to open doors that might appear to be closed to them. Since then, Stemettes has supported 45,000 in

dividuals aged between 5 and 25 in their pursuit of educational qualifications and careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). During the Women in Tech Festival Global this week, organised by Computing and CRN, Anne-Marie interviewed three women who have benefited from their involvement with Stemettes and who are giving back as mentors and volunteers, as such becoming much-needed role models for the next generation.

Nenne Ofochebe For Nnenne Ofochebe, a Microsoft Azure consultant/developer, lifelong techie and recent Computer Science graduate, one issue was about not knowing what roles were out there, what the difference is between a software developer and a software engineer for example. “When people asked me what I wanted to do I said I wanted to work in tech but that’s not really a role,” she said, adding that universities don’t always do a great job in helping students to bridge the gap between academic life and work, which is where having a mentor to provide an insight the other side can be extremely helpful. For Soumya Singh, a software engineer at Deutsche Bank who started as an intern, the main difficulty was trying to fit in at university. Arriving from India and also being female, she didn’t at first find much in common with other Computer Science students at Durham, the vast majority of whom were male. “I felt like I needed to fit in a certain mould, or have a very specific kind of hobbies or skillset in order to feel like I’m an accomplished technologist.” she said.

Soumya Singh “We had a bunch of 19-year-old guys in hoodies and all they did is sit and code all day. I felt like in order to be a good technologist I needed to be working on two side projects alongside my lectures and coursework, and that I should be eating code and breathing code and sleeping code.” Socialising generally involved pizza and beer, she went on, and even then, the talk would be about code, and how the only ‘real’ jobs were coding for a big tech firm. “That’s the only representation of a technologist that you see, and I think it’s propagated by the media as well. It can really make you feel out of place.” It was only after Soumya took an internship with Deutsche Bank that she realised a tech career could be varied and multifaceted. She puts this blind spot down to lazy stereotyping a lack of visible role models to counter it.

Folashade Shoyoye Folashade Shoyoye, a civil engineer at Costain who is currently working on the Thames Tideway Project, urged managers to take the time to listen to young starters and answer their queries. “If we question it’s because we’re trying to understand a little bit more, so they need to take it easy and take the time. I think the most important thing is having the time to explain things, that’s what helps people develop.” With a strong altruistic drive, Folashade originally wanted to be a doctor but switched to civil engineering after realising the subjects that interested her most were maths, design and art, recently obtaining an M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering at Imperial College. She’s now involved with Stemettes to help younger generations find a path to what they really want to do. “What I’m doing right now is still helping people because once you’ve cleaned up the Thames, you’ve built out resistance for the future so it’s great,” she said. See also: ‘We don’t put women on the leadership team’ - Jacqueline do Rojas on her triumph over adversity Nnenne has been a mentor with Stemettes for five years. She joined Azure both for the intellectual challenge and because she feels cloud is the future and wanted to build a specialism for herself. Fortunately, too, she loves it. “I literally woke up on Saturday just thinking about why [a script she’d written] wasn’t working and I had to fix it,” she laughed. “I really enjoy it, it’s not a pressure but I have a genuine passion for it.” Anne-Marie Imafidon said that young graduates who come through mentoring and training schemes like those offered by Stemettes tend to stick around for longer because they are better equipped to understand their roles and how they can get involved and make progress. Organisations wishing to participate can partner with Stemettes ( - as Deutsche Bank and others have done - provide funding for training courses, help to judge hackathons or provide rooms (in better times) for training. In the current climate there’s a shortage of laptops and donations are welcome, she said. Meanwhile, women and non-binary people with a STEM background or working in tech can become mentors or volunteers, and men are welcome to get involved with interview training and advising on CVs.

Author: Leonard)

Date: 2020-12-02


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