When I heard that the theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was #BeBoldForChange, I was really excited. I passionately believe that by living bolder lives, we can make bigger, faster changes to gender parity — and in tech, this can’t come soon enough.
Whichever way you look at the statistics, the news isn’t good: women make up only 30% of the seven million people working in Europe’s technology sector, and they are especially under-represented in decision-making positions.1 In the US, only 26% of the computing workforce is female — a drop from 36% in 1991.2 And in the UK, women hold only 17% of technology jobs — with only 1 in 10 in leadership positions.3
Role models are critical if change is to happen. Women and girls around the world need to know what is possible so that they can fulfil their potential in the workplace.
That is why those of us who can live boldly must do so. We can’t afford to worry about what others will think of our choices or conform to the status quo in case we are chastised for speaking out. We must share our experiences — as I’m about to do here — and encourage others to share their experiences also.
For me, living a bold life means many things. Firstly, it means being able to say no. I made a decision to say no when there are unnecessary demands that would reduce the quantity and quality of time that I spend with my children. Undoubtedly, I take quite seriously the responsibilities that come with my role as EY’s Global Data Analytics Leader. But I am also a single mother, and there are precious few things that so important that they stop me reading bedtime stories to my boys.
Being bold also means stretching yourself and facing challenges head-on. After leaving school, I combined a Master’s degree in Mathematics with an economics course. At the same time, I was working part-time in IT support with the technology company Front Porch Digital, which was later acquired by Oracle. Was it very hard work? Yes, of course. But the statistical analysis skills that I developed at that time set me on the path to where I am today.
Another important part of being bold is refusing to let your age, gender, sexuality or background get in the way of what you want to do. When I was an executive at Santander, I was often the only woman at meetings, but I didn’t let that bother me. I became EY’s youngest Spanish partner after I built up a new Advisory service based on advanced customer management. I believe you are never too young, too old or too different to achieve your goals.
Then, of course, there is a link between boldness and new ideas. Only by being bold will you expand the boundaries of life. In my role at EY, I have brought together a really diverse group of people — a global team of leading class data scientists, and business and technology professionals — to create one of the organization’s most dynamic innovation centres, which is located in Madrid. And here we are now using artificial intelligence to help our clients accelerate down the path of becoming smart, data-driven companies, with immersive journeys designed to stimulate conversations and show clients how they can enhance their businesses through data and innovation.
Finally, being bold means being bold for others. It means being a coach, a mentor, a leader and a visionary. It means making a difference to the world. So I set up a car sales business in Ethiopia that helps more women in that country to go to university, by giving them financial support and work experience. To date, more than 20 women have benefited from the not-for-profit scheme.
In support of International Women’s Day 2017, I would conclude: whatever your role in technology — or, in fact, any sector — we, as women, should be the role models we want to see. And that means living boldly all the time — starting now.
EY member firms are committed to supporting the achievement of gender parity. Find out more about the activities of our #WomenFastForward platform.
1Where are the women in tech? 3 charts that reveal the gender gap”, World Economic Forum website: weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/where-are-the-women-in-computing/
2“Balancing the genders in STEM”, Women in Technology blog, womenintechnology.org/index.php?option=com_dailyplanetblog&view=entry&year=2016&month=05&day=25&id=1:balancing-the-genders-in-stem
3“Gender equality in the tech sector will benefit the global economy”, Financial Times, ft.com/content/e2f8ad0a-bdd6-11e5-9fdb-87b8d15baec2
Legal disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author only and do not represent the views of any of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited.