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From left to right: Snehal Malhotra, Magdalena Krön and Charlotte Haines.

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Only 30% of people working in the technology sector are women. Ahead of the announcement today of the TechWomen50 Awards winners, we talk to the eight Barclays employees named in the power list about working in a field that shapes the world – and why everyone should consider a career in tech.

When it comes to technology, Carol Morris has a simple message: “It’s not just for boys.” The Cloud Business Engagement Lead, who is based at Barclays’ innovation centre at Radbroke, Cheshire, continues: “It’s a vast subject and there are so many different roles from the ones you might initially think of as technology jobs such as coding.

“There’s something for every skill set, it’s well paid and the prevalence of dynamic and remote working makes it a flexible and interesting industry.”

The seven other women who have been nominated alongside Morris in this year’s WeAreTheCity TechWomen50 awards – the winners of which will be announced today – would agree with her assessment. But it’s a message that’s proving surprisingly difficult to communicate.  

Overcoming barriers

According to recent research, only 3% of young women say a career in tech is their first choice, just 16% have had a career in tech suggested to them – compared with 33% of boys and men – and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women.

For Snehal Malhotra, AVP in Identification and Access Management, it’s partly about role models. “How many of us know Melinda Gates in her former role at Microsoft or PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi? Girls need inspiration, someone to relate to. They need to share their experiences and be inspired on a recurring basis.”

Gemma Trebble, UX Design Principal, says there can be issues with the level of support that start-ups in particular are able to offer to female employees. While women might be successful in their applications, worries about whether a relatively young company can offer essentials like maternity leave and flexible working might put them off accepting offers.

I have disagreed with various managers over the years who wanted to set me a three or five year plan when I never really had a long-term goal in mind, other than to keep learning, keep improving and find interesting and challenging roles

She also thinks it’s about public perception of the industry. “The people you see who have founded successful start-ups tend to be men in the kind of Steve Jobs dress-down uniform. Women are trying to join in with a culture that’s already been established, and that’s not always easy – though it is changing.”

The way in

The women’s routes into the industry were many and varied. While Malhotra and Magdalena Krön, Head of Rise London, studied tech-related subjects at university, Sonal Shah, VP PMO Manager in IB Strategic & Regulatory Change , left a senior job in management to retrain. “I had no knowledge or experience in IT, but knew I wanted to move into this dynamic and varied industry,” she says. “After an MSc in Computing and IT, I made the career change and I’ve never looked back!”

Morris says always staying flexible has worked to her advantage. “I have disagreed with various managers over the years who wanted to set me a three or five year plan when I never really had a long-term goal in mind, other than to keep learning, keep improving and find interesting and challenging roles,” she says.

“If you have a clear idea of where you want to go that’s great, but not everyone does, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ve enjoyed every role and I’m still learning new things and feeling challenged – learning keeps you fresh!”

Kamila Piorowska, Agile Coach, discovered ‘agile’ approaches after working in technology for an investment bank. “I realised I wanted agile transformation to become my full time role. Luckily, at Barclays, I was supported and currently have my ‘dream’ job.”

Jodie Gilbert, Head of Cyber Strategy, helped develop Barclays’ Digital Eagles project, tasked with embedding a digital culture across the bank, as well as rolling out digital skills to the wider population through Barclays’ 18,000 Digital Eagles. “I have a personal passion for digital – as society moves to a connected digital world, there so much scope to make a positive difference.”

There are gender-based challenges that you will face, but these can be overcome. Have confidence in yourself, take risks, find your passion and work hard for it.”

From left to right: Sonal Shah, Gemma Trebble.

Inspiring the next generation

So what would the ‘super 8’ say to a young woman considering a career in tech? “Follow your heart and do whatever you are passionate about,” says Piorowska. “If you are passionate about coding, go and start coding. Don’t listen to others who say it’s too difficult.” Malhotra adds: “There are gender-based challenges that you will face, but these can be overcome. Have confidence in yourself, take risks, find your passion and work hard for it.”

Gilbert encourages girls “never to think you are not good enough or don’t have what it takes to start a career in tech”. “If you’re passionate or even curious about a career in tech, don’t be afraid to explore that option,” she says. Expanding on that sentiment, Shah adds: “As someone who disliked sciences and maths at school, I know it’s still possible, in this very wide-ranging industry, to have an interesting and fulfilling career, whilst making a difference.

“There are lots of jobs in tech – there is a need to break the misconception that it’s all about coding, or even that coding is not chic, cool or fun! I am so passionate about encouraging young women and girls into this industry – we need to start now to change the gender balance.”

“There is a perception that to work in technology you need to be a developer, but development is just one role within technology,” agrees Charlotte Haines, Digital Security Programme Manager. “Find an area that interests you and then explore it to find the role that suits you – you don’t have to work out both on day one.”

Trebble says it’s the tech industry that’s doing most to shape the world we live in. “If you want to work with people and make a difference to people’s lives, take a look at the number of technology start-ups creating innovative solutions that respond to human and social challenges. Working in tech is an empowering career choice.”

Krön warns young people not to expect it to be easy. “Challenge is your greatest teacher,” she says. “Always take the opportunity to learn – technology is ever evolving and it can be overwhelming to try to keep up. Start small and build up your knowledge. Every challenge will teach you something.”

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