Continuing on from my previous post, this week I met Oana Gheorghiu, the Head of Support at Jetstack – a tech startup in London, for another discussion about Women in Tech and her personal experience.
During our discussion, one thing that stood out the most to me, was her view that the issue of women in tech isn’t only because of what happens in the workplace, but part of a bigger issue which stems from the education system onward.
A valid point she mentioned, was that at school (at least when we were both at school..), IT was more of a supplementary subject, which was mandatory, to enhance performance in all others – as opposed to being a standalone subject people could opt for if they were passionate. She thinks this is an issue which should be combated, as many people from a young age aren’t even aware a career in technology is a possibility. Too much focus is put on the S, E and M of STEM, and not enough on the T.
This, she feels, has contributed to the lack of women in the industry, and many, just like herself – have fallen into the industry as opposed to having entered it due to a passion, like many of the men in the industry – something I had never even thought of!
Oana did however have a multitude of positives to say about the industry from her experience which was great to hear! For example, she herself faced no barriers when getting into tech. It was completely accidental, and Rackspace actually approached her themselves. She also says she’s never felt like she’s been subject to discrimination, having managed a team which included some very senior level male engineers.
One area of overlap between Oana’s experience in the industry, and Tash’s, is that she agrees one other reason for women not being overly engaged in the industry is due to their often lack of self confidence/overly harsh self judgement, which makes them think they aren’t qualified enough or don’t have enough experience for a promotion, whereas their male counterparts are less bothered by this, so would apply anyway.
Maybe this is an area of concern that Tech organisations really need to start taking into consideration more in their recruitment processes..?
Finally, one issue she brought up which intrigued me greatly, and I’d like to focus on more so at one point – “is it only women who face issues in the workplace?”
The example she used was when one of the male engineers she had managed previously had requested an extension on his paternity leave. In this example, his wife earns considerably more yearly, so they wanted to switch the dynamic – she returns to work when the baby is very young and he stays at home, ideally meaning there would be some flexibility on maternity/paternity allowances.
However, this wasn’t allowed, and he had to return to work after 1 month of unpaid leave. Not only does this bring up the issue of men in tech, there is also the added concern of “Career vs Family”, which women have faced for decades.
Are we any closer to solving this..?
Will this only be resolved when more flexibility can be granted on maternity and paternity?