Women’s roles in the workplace have come a long way. There are now more women choosing typical ‘men’s’ careers than ever before with record numbers of female plumbers, builders and women choosing the military. However, there is still a very small percentage of women choosing careers in the IT and Technology sector. Research suggests that it may be a lack of confidence and a lack powerful female role models preventing from women applying for IT positions that have been previously occupied by men. Lucy Bramley is an IT specialist at Microsoft in the UK and has worked there for more than 20 years. Here’s what she thinks will make the difference in the tech workplace.
“I am in the tech sector and it’s an industry in which there are typically very few women so we’re focused on gender diversity at the moment. Microsoft in the UK is now at 35% women but even fewer in the more technical divisions. We need to encourage more women into the business and also improve our racial profile. We also need to better understand what disabilities people may have, and how they might impact their work.”
Despite the fact that the tech sector in the UK is booming, a report from Nominet shows that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK’s economy. Making sure there is diversity within teams is crucial for any business in creating a balanced leadership, inspiring creativity and addressing issues left previously unconsidered.
Lucy believes professional coach training could be the key to redressing the gender gap in technology companies. She thinks that this key skill should be compulsory learning for all managers in order to improve the confidence of women within their teams and to recruit new female tech employees.
Lucy says “These are all areas where professional coaching can help. We need to help people realise what they can do, not what they are unable to do. As a woman, I might look at the tech sector and find it intimidating. It’s full of white men of a certain age. Coaching can help improve confidence to overcome these fears, but also we can coach the existing employees to be more inclusive and make it an environment that is more appropriate for a broader set of people. This is a common problem across many industries. People tend to hire people that fit their own image – people who we feel physically and psychologically more comfortable with.”
In September 2019, Lucy completed a Professional Coach Training Certification with acclaimed coaching trainers in the UK #RideTheWave. She undertook the course to help manage her team at Microsoft to overcome their self-doubt in the workplace due to their gender. Although Lucy attended the course in person, all #RideTheWave courses are available online and are attracting interest from budding new professional coaches all over the world.
Course Director and Co-Founder of #RideTheWave , Lucy Mullins, has won a number of award for her work in the technology sector and was named Innovator of the Year at the Women in IT awards She comments: “As in other industries, women working in tech often won’t apply for a job if they don’t feel they’re 100% qualified and have exactly the right experience. As a result, women end up staying put or moving horizontally where their male peers progress. Coaching is a very powerful tool to help change this.”
But, is it possible for any manager in any organization to become a good professional coach? Lucy Bramley believes it is, but there are a few fundamental characteristics which can help create great coaches. “Good listening skills, because it’s not about you, it’s about them. You’ve got to listen to what they’re saying but you’ve also got to be curious about what they’re not saying. In a friendly and empathetic way, try and get them to open up to the issues they might be having. It’s really important to understand the system they live and work in.”
“It’s not just about them and you, it’s about all the interactions they are having in their day-to-day lives and how it impacts upon them. We’ve all got here somehow and we’ve all got these stories that make up who we are! You therefore have to be very aware of yourself, so even when I’m coaching other people, I am learning about myself as well. I love that about coaching. I’m trying not to give people advice but I often feel so inspired, I take ideas away from coaching sessions myself. The best characteristics are a willingness to learn, listening skills and understanding life’s bigger picture.”