Pledge for Parity discussion

Employers ‘need more flexible culture’

Budge and Heaney
Ann Budge and Rebecca Heaney

More employers need to build greater flexibility into their company culture, it was claimed at a forum held in Edinburgh.

Providing alternatives to office-based work patterns would help attract more females into industries which are dominated by men.

A panel of leading women in technology led a discussion about challenges and opportunities facing females trying to build a career in the sector.

More than a hundred mainly female guests attended the question and answer session, Pledge for Parity at the EICC.

Carolyn Jameson, chief legal officer at search engine company Skyscanner, said flexibility was ingrained into the Edinburgh firm’s operations. She said it was important to make all employees, not just senior staff, feel comfortable about this way of working.

“Skyscanner has cancelled meetings on Wednesdays so people no longer feel under pressure to be in the office, or be called in to the office,” she said.

Rebecca Heaney, technical consultant at Craneware, said: “To work flexibly there has to be a culture of trust so that everyone is clear what is required and that everyone gets the work done.”

The hour-long discussion addressed a number of issues, such as education and the perception of the technology industry as one filled mainly with what Ann Budge said were “geeks, mainly men”.

Ms Heaney, who is also involve in the CodeClan skills academy, said 20% of the initial intake were female and a high number got jobs following the 16-week crash courses in coding.

However, Deloitte, one of the event’s organisers, has predicted that by the end of this year fewer than 25% of information technology jobs in developed countries will be held by women.

Pledge for Parity panel
Panelists Ishbel MacPherson, Ann Budge, Rebecca Heaney, Carolyn Jameson, Elizabeth Gutteridge

Ishbel MacPherson, senior associate at DLA Piper, who led the discussion, said: “The technology sector is booming and there are great opportunities for women at the moment. So what is happening?”

Elizabeth Gutteridge, a forensic partner at Deloitte, say that women not only struggled to break into the sector, they had a higher propensity to leave in the first year.

Ms Budge, the Hearts FC owner,  said women need to stop trying to “justify” themselves and realise there are no barriers to what they can achieve.

She said she had never regarded herself as any different to men when she began her career in technology in the 1970s.

“The glass ceiling is an attitude of mind,” she said. “I didn’t think of myself as a woman in IT, but something does have to change to make women realise they do not have to justify themselves.”

Ms Budge, a co-founder of technology firm Newell & Budge, said that because the industry is so fast moving there was a need to help those who took breaks from work to remain up to speed with developments.

Ms Jameson commended a company which has launched a “stay in touch” app which allows those who do take career breaks and experience other long absences to remain up to date.

An audience member from Erskine school said more girls were interested in technology careers than was popularly believed. She suggested more employers go into schools to help encourage them to pursue their ambitions.

Photos by Terry Murden

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