11 May 2012
I enjoy reading books by successful people in different types of business. In our very new industry I think we can learn a lot from more established industries. I recently read Strong Woman: Ambition, Grit and a Great Pair of Heels, an autobiography by Karren Brady, a UK businesswoman who became the Managing Director of Birmingham City football club at just 23 years of age. Her story is really inspiring, but I highlighted one quote in particular.
And, if you are the first woman anything, and I'm told I'm the first woman in football, then that's something to take heart from–because you have opened a door. The trick is to hold that door open as wide as possible, for as long as possible, to allow other women to march through it.
I couldn't claim to be the first woman in anything, but I know a thing or two about working in male dominated industries, and this idea of "holding open the door" really appeals to me. When we talk about wanting to get more women into tech, that's exactly what us women who are already here need to do, we need to hold open the door. We need to show that this is a fantastic industry to be involved in, we need to support those who are taking their first steps and we need to be visible so that other women and girls know that they are not alone. That they won't find themselves without female friendship. That they won't have to fight battles just to be accepted.
It is important that we point out as inappropriate the examples of sexism that we do see. However we should also take care to reassure those who might want to walk through the door that these examples are actually few and far between. Yes, sexism has been directed at me, but not often. I don't believe that being a woman has disadvantaged me in my work or career. We need to get a balance between showing that sexism is not welcome here and demonstrating that in general we work in a welcoming and friendly industry. We need to show those looking through the door that most people here are only interested in what you can do, share and contribute, and that there are great opportunities and a whole lot of fun to be had.