Celebrating International Women’s Day.

By
Somo
Date:
06 March 2020
Photograph:
Author placeholder

International Women’s Day (IWD) is Sunday 8th March, and the theme for 2020 is #EachforEqual, equal rights, and representation for women and girls worldwide. The day marks a pivotal point for the advancement of gender equality across the globe.

As a global community, women — and men! — take this day as not only a celebration of women but also a milestone to take stock of the progress made for women’s rights.

Despite some progress, the emerging global consensus is that real change has been painfully slow for the majority of the world’s women and girls. The World Bank’s ‘Women, Business and the Law 2020’ report shows that sadly only seven countries in the world give women and men equal legal work rights. Gender equality is a critical component of economic growth and so at this time, perhaps now more than ever, it is something every nation should be legislating for heavily. 

As an industry, the number of women employed in the digital sector has hovered around sixteen per cent in the UK for the past decade. In the US, that number is twenty-six per cent, however, it drops to a mere eleven per cent of senior leadership tech roles. More needs to be done to diversify the industry as a whole by encouraging more women into STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); providing role models, development and ongoing support to help them stay there. 

So, for this International Women’s Day, we asked colleagues at Somo what equality means to them and how we can encourage more women and girls into the tech industry.

Jocelyn Bull, SVP Digital Culture and Engagement

London

Jocelyn

What is equality to you? Well, it’s about more than equal pay (although that’s important!). To me, equality is about equal access to resources and opportunity. And about equal representation in the decisions that affect us. I think it’s about a celebration of difference and individuality, and about enabling people to be themselves, without the pressure of the roles that society historically places upon us.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? Finding myself in the tech industry was, to be honest, a happy accident. But the reason I’ve stayed for so many years is that I love the energy and entrepreneurialism of the people and businesses in this space.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? By seeing my potential and offering opportunity based on that, not solely on experience. By having faith in me. And by working to set up fair and equal policies around flexible working, benefits and leave.

How can we get more women into tech? For me, I think this goes right back to early education, and how we encourage all kids, and girls in particular, to try out STEM subjects. So many women I think have shied away in the past because it’s seen as a male domain - that has to change.

Mimi Ratcliffe, UX Intern

London

Mimi

What does equality mean to you? That everyone is granted the same rights and opportunities, regardless of background or circumstance.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I’m motivated by understanding how people think and behave, and responding to that thoughtfully and creatively. In pursuing a career that fulfilled this, I found UX Design.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? I’m surrounded by people who are brilliant at what they do, and incredibly supportive. I joined with no industry experience, but from the start I have been received with trust and encouragement, allowing me to learn and build confidence in my role.

How can we get more women into tech? I think that giving a clearer image of what working in tech actually looks like would make it more accessible. Although I attended a school that taught us we were able to succeed in any industry, and actively encouraged girls to pursue STEM subjects, I did feel as though Arts and Sciences were mutually exclusive, and that by pursuing one I was cutting myself off from the other. This isn’t the case, and more transparency around these industries and the variety of work they offer could help encourage women, who may never have previously considered it, to move into Tech.

Naty Gomez, People Experience Manager

Medellín

Naty

What is equality to you? I believe it is the possibility to offer the same conditions and opportunities to all humans so they can thrive in their lives. Equality makes cultures better because people feel motivated, accepted and valued.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I believe the tech industry is a perfect fit for me because it is a fast-growing industry which allows me to learn and adapt quickly. I am the kind of person who really enjoys taking challenges because you become more of a more creative person and you always focus on the solution, not the problem. This is so relevant to me because I know that I am able to impact people’s lives with meaningful work.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? I think by trusting in my abilities and listening to my ideas - Lead with knowledge! - but also, creating the supporting structures (team) so I am able to succeed and make the most out of this work experience.

Ghada Ashkar, Program Manager

Washington D.C.

Ghada

What is equality to you? Equality to me is feeling that my opinion counts both in business and private life. It's about the balance of keeping your feminine side but at the same time being respected in  society as a valued contributor without judgement to your gender. What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? The Tech industry is one of constant innovation and transformation. Having worked on both the consumer side of software and the development side, I always gravitate to the development side. It gives me more insight to the opportunities and challenges that are available behind the scene that the consumer takes a lot of time for granted.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo empowers all individuals to grow and values our contribution without judgement to gender, race, ethnicity - we have very diverse international staff that respect, embrace and learn from each other's differences and come together as one team celebrating the same values.

Britt Chanco, Agile Facilitator

Charleston

Britt

What is equality to you? To me, equality means the same opportunity/treatment for everyone, despite any differences between individuals. 

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? Honestly, I watched my dad in the military while I was growing up, working on airplanes and turning wrenches, which created a "how does this work?" mindset for me and a goal to work on the flight line one day, as well. While going to school to work towards that direction, I took an internship at a software company. One day, we popped champagne and hit pinatas at a company meeting at 12p and I decided right there and then that software was a way for me thrive using my "how does this work" mindset while working in a fun environment and how fulfilling it was to have both of those worlds collide.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo does a wonderful job at hiring good people and these people help me day to day, which helps further my success in my role here at Somo. I'm grateful for my coworkers, because they ALL are incredibly smart and creative in their thinking with different backgrounds that provide interesting perspectives. Somo also empowers me in my role by allowing me the opportunity to try things, without limitations. After working in a government realm where ideas can be somewhat locked down by requirements, having the ability to run with an idea is extremely liberating and rewarding!

Salinder Patel, Finance Controller

London

Salinder

What does equality mean to you? To be treated the way we deserve with equal pay and equal respect.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? The people in tech are amazing, creative and fun. The industry is fast moving and evolving - there’s never a dull moment!

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo does not restrict me, they trust in me and listen to what I have to say. I'm encouraged to progress and give my opinions.

How can we get more women into tech? To give more understanding to the roles available in the industry, and to give more consideration in how roles are advertised. Women in the industry could help spread the word and encourage other women.

Zeina Farha, Head of UX

London

Zeina

What does equality mean to you? For me, in a business context, gender equality is about opportunities and value — that is making sure everyone has the same access and opportunities to achieve, participate and contribute regardless of gender. It also means making sure that those contributions are valued in the same way regardless of gender or background — be that financially or otherwise.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I came to tech from a more traditional marketing/copywriting background and learned along the way that one can learn new skills and explore new career opportunities if they are supported and are in the right environment to do so. I was drawn to tech because the experiences I had were largely positive: I had great mentors, innovation and experimentation was encouraged, and often, the companies I worked for offered flexible work environments.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? The culture and collaborative environment at Somo means that egos and more traditional hierarchical roles are almost non existent. Everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s opinion is valued which makes everyone feel empowered to speak up and contribute without fear or concern that their opinion will be dismissed.

How can we get more women into tech? Getting more women in tech should start from a young age with education programs created and directed specifically at girls, and encouraging those already in STEM programs to continue in those studies. Finding opportunities to support and mentor girls and women in the community to develop the right skills and seek the right jobs can also play a large part in encouraging women to opt for careers in tech. By offering flexible working conditions and development opportunities to their staff, companies can help encourage women who may struggle with a traditional 9-5 routine to pursue careers in tech.

Steph Baisor, VP of Delivery Acceleration

London

Steph B

What does equality mean to you? Equality is about making sure everyone is treated fairly and given fair chances. However, it is not about treating everyone in the same way, but about recognising that individuals' needs are sometimes best met in different ways.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I wanted to work in a fast paced, constantly changing, innovative industry. I wanted to be constantly challenged and never bored!

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? At Somo I am able to take action and make decisions within my role, there is an element of trust but also an understanding of company goals to ensure that my actions are in line with the business.

How can we get more women into tech? Support and foster collaboration not competition.

Dana Leever, Account Director

Washington D.C.

Dana

What does equality mean to you? For me personally, by being born into a white middle-class family I was already placed ahead of others. However, as a woman and a member of the gay community, I am directly impacted by inequities resulting from the one-size-fits-all model.

In a blanket term, ‘equality’ means ‘the same,’ a one-size-fits-all system. To become equal means to ‘measure up’ to a predetermined status quo, and to seamlessly assimilate; inequality, on the other hand, implies exclusion. However in the later part of the 20th century, we’ve seen various liberation movements (women, Black, gay and disabled people) expose flaws in the system. These groups have “achieved” formal equal rights, however inequity still remains. A person can’t be equal (or the same) and different, as difference inevitably means lacking or deficient. We need to acknowledge that equality and difference are not mutually exclusive. We need to make differences visible, not as a means of ostracization, but as expressions of unique identities and experiences that deserve to be celebrated. 

In the current system, there’s a severe lack of “equal opportunity” actually afforded those in need; there is a deficit in the availability of opportunities to improve one's lot in life and systemic barriers that prevent people from being able to take advantage of those opportunities if they are afforded them. The fact IS that we are each profoundly shaped, for better and for worse, by the parents we are born to and who raise us, and by the communities in which we grow up. And, it is those factors that significantly impact our access to truly “equal” opportunities.

That said, we all understand the term “equal opportunity” differently. We differ about how to gauge whether opportunities are indeed equal, and over how much should be done — and by whom — to equalize opportunities. At its root, our ongoing debate about the vitality of the American Dream and the promise of equality of opportunity underlying it is really a debate over what life owes us and what we owe one another. 

We owe it to each other to break down this one-size-fits-all system, and work on building equal opportunity in every facet of life.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? My previous experience was in social media and traditional advertising. With the world undergoing a “digital transformation” I felt inspired to switch my field of focus to technology and join a company that’s driving this evolution. Being part of this movement is exciting and provides an opportunity to make a difference to consumers daily lives, allowing them the freedom to go about their daily tasks when and where they choose because of technology. While social media and advertising can be seen as "evil" and not a benefit to people, technology has the opportunity to change the world as we know it for the better.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo is comprised of extremely smart and talented individuals that come from diverse backgrounds, geographical locations and work experience. This diversity has provided me with ample opportunity to hone my skills and knowledge around the various components of digital products and innovation. The office environment is extremely open and supportive to learning, which has inspired me to diversify and enhance my skill set.

Betsy Hare, Agile Facilitator

Charleston

Betsy

What is equality to you? The word equality contains enough power to start revolutions, empower the powerless, and propel the common man or woman to greatness. Many groups of people have fought for equality throughout history and have made great progress for future generations. To speak candidly, I don’t think that equality is what we should be striving for in today’s world. Equality means to make things equal. That sounds ideal, but so many people from different backgrounds, genders, and races that have been fighting for equality when we really should be pushing forward to a world of equity. We don’t all thrive in the same environments, so why should we push for an equal world? Equity can help bring a society of fairness, so that maybe someday we can strive for societies of equality.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I taught middle school for 5 years and I saw first hand how we were not adequately preparing our students for the tech world that they are growing up in. I became very engaged in the local tech community to try to expose myself to the skills and traits needed for the future. My plan was to take this back to the classroom and pass it onto my students. Well, I fell in love with the culture, forward thinking, and energy in this industry and I ended up leaving the classroom to pursue this. My role as an Agile Facilitator has been a fantastic marriage between educator and tech professional.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo has formed a team that is full of highly motivated, talented, and inclusive people. This team pushes me to think outside the box, actively engage in conversations, and be a creative member of the team. Being able to work with this group of people is truly empowering.

Mike Astle, Chief Technology Officer

Charleston

Mike

What is equality to you? I am a white male middle class American. I have so much privilege that it seems almost pre-ordained that I will be able to achieve whatever it is that I set as my goal, that a state of persistent choice and opportunity is natural. My take is that our society will have reached a state of equality when everybody feels this way - that not only are things stacked against them, but that the world is set up in a way to encourage every individual to succeed on their own terms.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? The Internet provides an unprecedented ability to create a product for immediate global distribution. I was drawn to the idea of being able to reach almost everyone in the world.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo’s diverse client base creates an opportunity to try on a lot of hats working with different product verticals, technical stacks, and product delivery processes. Access to variety is an empowering thing - an opportunity to learn by doing in one or many ways at once.

Kate Bruce, General Legal Counsel

London

Kate

What is equality to you? It is encouraging to see that things are beginning to change for the better to close the gender pay gap within the last 12 months. However, a lot of work still needs to be done. Similarly I believe that the same opportunities should be available for any employee in a business regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, disability, academic background. The only thing that should be taken into account is their capability to fulfil their role. What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I fell upon this job in the tech industry by chance. My husband worked for Somo and took me on a lab tour and to an after work drinks. Everyone was so welcoming and relaxed compared to law firms, so when an In house legal role became available I jumped at the opportunity. It was far different from what I was used to but I loved the forward thinking and fast paced environment immediately.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo is very supportive of woman and in particular working mothers. To be able to have both an amazing job and be a hands on mum at the same time is a rarity. I feel that allowing woman the flexibility creates a well rounded, less stressed individual and therefore enhances ones productivity and development both at work and at home.

How can we get more women into Tech? Unfortunately the tech sector remains predominantly male dominated but I do feel this is gradually changing. I think when people hear tech they think developers (I.e. the social network) and don’t necessarily realise that a tech company still requires lots of other functions to make the company tick such as legal, finance, marketing, HR, recruitment, sales, etc. Tech companies are rightly proud of the tech they produce and promote it at university job fairs, etc but I feel that perhaps promoting the behind the scenes departments of a tech company would help recruit more women

Rebecca Crook, Chief Growth Officer

London

Rebecca

What is equality to you? Equality to me is the fair treatment of all regardless of their gender, race, religion, disability, nationality, age or sexual orientation. I have a real interest in the social mobility of people and am passionate for the tech industry to do more to break down the barriers of social strata in society. Afterall, how can you design digital products and experiences for the masses if they are being designed by the same social audience time and time again.

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I’ve always had an interest in technology and the impact it has on people’s lives so expanding my marketing experience to move into digital transformation was a natural move. I recall early websites which were glorified online brochures. Even imagining that consumers may shop online and conduct all their banking on a phone seemed like light years away and now fast forward 20-years on in my career and it’s here. I love the fast paced nature of the technology sector, always having an eye on the future and what’s next.

How does Somo empower me in your role? It is a well-known fact that women are under-represented across the digital sector, however I have actively for many years spent time outside of work to encourage organisations to think differently about digital and raise the profile for more women and people from under-represented backgrounds to consider a career in digital. Sitting on the Leadership team at Somo I have a privileged position as I oversee the operations of the business, as well as running my own functions day-to-day. However, Somo have been brilliant in enabling me to take time out of the working day to sit on a number of Boards which allows me to use my experience in other industries. It also means I can bring that experience and skills back to Somo.

Lauren Green, Scrum Master

London

Lauren

What is equality to you? Equality is simply everyone having the same opportunities to go after something they want, regardless of gender, race, sexuality or any other factor. The way people are treated and the chances they are given in life should be based on the individual and nothing more. 

What was your inspiration to work in the tech industry? I love change. Technology is an ever changing and advancing industry, so each month is something different. Being able to create things from concept into reality is not something many people get a chance to be a part of in their jobs so that’s pretty cool.

How do you think Somo empowers you in your role? Somo is definitely the most supportive place I’ve worked. With regards to supporting professional development as well as valuing your personal life. I’m always supported in my role and in my opinions, which as a younger woman in the technology field, is not always something I’ve been lucky enough to have. Somo works on innovation ahead of anything else so to be able to be a part of changing technology is amazing. 

How can we get more women into Tech? People focus mainly on the computer science side being the only way you can be involved in the technology industry. Whilst it would be amazing to have more females in that role, there is so much more to it than that. Educating in colleges and universities about the different roles (design, delivery, product, testing) would be a great way to increase the diversity. And, it’s never too late to learn!