by Anne Widdop.
I was first inspired to start a career in technology when personal computers were in their infancy, the first ‘Apple Mackintosh’ was a few years away and the internet was decades away. My dad had been given a BBC Micro and no-one had any idea what to do with it. Being good at maths at school, I took on the challenge to learn to programme in BASIC. I wanted to be a scientist, men had landed on the moon in the late 1960’s, and a new world of technology was dawning.
It was a really exciting time.
After securing a job as a trainee programmer on an IBM system 360 (it filled a room, revolutionised industry and had much less computing power than many of today’s toasters) I was in my element. It was a great grounding in the career about to come. I went on to study at Glasgow University and was part of the first Honour Degree course in Computing Science, and the class did have a few females. After a spell in education, I joined IBM and rose through the ranks from software engineer to Global Director responsible for transformation projects across EMEA. I was one of less than 5% of employees to become a Director with a tiny proportion of women at this level. IBM was a great company to work for, it offered the opportunity to travel the world, meet and work with the most outstanding people and work on some of the largest projects around. In 2012, I decided to move on and do something different. I set up my own company and the latest endeavour has taken me into a world of VR, Gaming Technology and AI.
During my career, I have been painfully aware of the gender and diversity imbalance in tech. As part of my give back, I have been a lifelong advocate and campaigner for women in STEM. I established a Women’s Tech Center in Scotland, the for-runner of Equate and vice-chaired UKRI amongst other things. As women in technology, we need to be resilient and have coping mechanisms and I needed these on several occasions.
We need women in technology more than ever – as software engineers, designers, graphic artists, animators, project managers and business leaders.
The tech around today is truly revolutionary, but not without risks.
We need to hear women’s voices and drive the agenda – one which is not just about profit, but about mental health, neurodiversity, fairness and access to digital technology. We need people who care about protecting the next generation from online bullying, pornography and abuse and who put safeguarding at the heart of the metaverse.
Women are outstanding innovators, incredibly resourceful, hardworking and loyal. Great qualities but often overlooked. Many women suffer from a lack of confidence and don’t like being their own PR agent, so often are not promoted.
My plea to anyone considering a career in tech is – go for it and keep pushing! If you haven’t considered a career in tech, look again there are so many different roles in this industry. Don’t be ashamed to talk up your capabilities, bring your enthusiasm and ideas to the fore and continue to break the barriers. And please do give back, help other women up the ladder, encourage girls into technology, we need your advocacy and together we will can change the dynamic.
I’m as passionate about technology as I have ever been and hope to have many more women in my technology company who are ready to really shake up education!
Founder and CEO of Fuze Tech Services and The VR Hive