What does it mean to be a woman and work in tech?

Author Asha Morzaria
June 18, 2024

What is it like to work in tech? But more specifically what does it mean to be a woman and work in tech? Taylor Root Director, Asha Morzaria, recently discussed just this with Adam Baldwin and learnt more about his role as General Counsel at the not-for-profit organisation, Girls in Tech.

Before we learn more about Girls in Tech, I’d be interested to hear what you’ve seen are some current common misconceptions or myths about women in tech?

One of the biggest myths is that “you have to code to work in tech”. Given that male students still outnumber female students by over 4:1 in most computer science and engineering courses, this misconception can have a big impact in attracting female talent into tech. People often assume that careers in tech require a background in engineering or skills as a developer. However, tech is a broad church, meaning that ‘working in tech’ can include anything from marketing, to compliance and (of course) many legal specialties. From our experience, as long as you have an interest in tech, there will be a career path from pretty much any skillset! Given that 7 of the 10 largest companies in the world are founded in tech, there are so many opportunities in this space that go beyond the code.

Tell us more about Girls in Tech (GiT)

Girls in Tech was started in 2007 by Adriana Gascoigne in San Francisco. It has grown into a global nonprofit organisation, dedicated to eliminating the gender gap in tech. We have over 120,000 members across 35 chapters. The Girls in Tech London chapter was established in 2022, by two incredible MBA graduates from London Business School; Eliška Pokorná and Domitille Bret. We have built an experienced board with expertise and interest in tech and tech-adjacent industries. Taking on the global Girls in Tech mission, we have delivered some amazing events here in London and have quickly built a super community of members and corporate partners.

Could you speak about a couple of the specific initiatives or programs GiT implemented to promote gender diversity, inclusion in the technology sector?

We have been very fortunate to partner with some of the best and brightest in London. Our launch event in September 2022 was a particular highlight, hosting over 100 women in Samsung UK’s extremely cool KX office. We had speakers from London Business School, Google, Amazon and Accenture, inspiring the audience about the potential routes into tech and their own journeys. Following the launch, we have hosted a range of events and initiatives, both in-person and on-line. Typically, we work with our corporate partners to complement and turbo-charge their own initiatives in this space.  Our initial attention for 2023 was on career building and networking, with our partner events focusing on entering tech and building out your career. This year, we want to look at mid-career pivots, along with aiming to launch a bespoke mentoring programme this year, leveraging our growing membership and corporate partners to better connect women in the industry.

What organisations and businesses do you regularly partner with?

We have built a great network of partners, targeting both tech and tech-adjacent companies. We worked with global businesses including Amazon Web Services, Mastercard, Samsung, Foundry and BNP Paribas. We also regularly connect and collaborate with local universities and authorities, including London Business School and the City of London Corporation. Girls in Tech is well-place to add experience to the great work that these businesses are already doing in this space. Equally, as a charity, it gives us a great insight to how the industry is evolving and how our members need to adapt to maximize their own career potential.

What is your role at Girls in Tech?

I joined Girls in Tech, London as their General Counsel, tasked with handling anything that could fall within a legal umbrella. Needless to say, it is a large umbrella! My largest initial task was securing our incorporation as a charity at the Charities Commission, along with handling much of the regulatory and compliance administration that goes along with being a charity. Professionally, it has been extremely rewarding and good first-hand experience of acting as a General Counsel in a smaller environment.

How can corporates and individuals support organisations like Girls in Tech and/or get involved?

We have lots of opportunities for members and partners alike. Any women either in tech or interested in tech are welcome to join the Girls in Tech global community, and gain access to a super network of inspiring women. We have many events in London open to our members, which are advertised across our social channels. If you would like to become a part of the community, please visit our website – https://london.girlsintech.org/ – where you can find more information about becoming a member for free, and the initiatives and programmes we are currently running.

We are also always on the lookout for prospective volunteers, to join us and help shape our future plans. As noted above, tech is a broad offering, so we welcome volunteers from all levels of experience and industry. I would personally welcome a chat with any lawyers or law firms interested in CSR and pro bono opportunities, willing to help shape the charity as we grow. 

Finally, our corporate partners are essential to our success, so if you are interested in working with us, then our growing (and busy!) partnerships team can discuss the ways we can collaborate together. From sponsorships, hosting sessions or providing access to existing internal communities, the opportunities are vast. Please reach out to me on adam.baldwin@girlsintech.org and I would love to make the connection!

It has been great having my employer on board during this journey, with Girls in Tech launching a successful partnership with BNP Paribas here in London. Corporate Social Responsibility at BNP Paribas is one of its real strengths, so it was great to gain their support in this process. We have a number of volunteer days that we can dedicate to charitable causes each year; it has been extremely rewarding using this time to support Girls in Tech. 

How can educational institutions and industry partners collaborate to provide more opportunities for girls and young women to explore and pursue opportunities in the technology sector? 

It is great that there are so many visible efforts from education institutions and industry in attracting women into tech; including brilliant marketing campaigns, scholarships for women and specific graduate recruitment campaigns. However, I feel there needs to be more effort is translating the positive communication into jobs for women in tech, especially at a senior level. There remains massive gender pay gaps across tech and tech-adjacent industries, which shows that problems remain. So from a practical perspective, I would encourage this focus and delivery on the bottom line.

How do you think men and big companies can help support women both in the hiring process and while working at similar companies? 

I strongly believe that there is an obligation on men to be active and to be visible in this journey. Perhaps in the past, the focus has been on changing and empowering women, rather than addressing the systemic and structural causes of gender inequality. Whilst still arguably positive, it gives the perception that gender issues are exclusively women’s problems to address, absolving men from the responsibility. Men can’t take a back seat in this change. I can sympathize that this may be uncomfortable, and many men are afraid of inadvertently doing the wrong thing, or saying something a little clumsy, albeit with good intentions. I can speak from personal experience in that regard. What I would recommend to men is to start by acting on the small changes within their control. For example, you can refuse to speak on all-male panels, ensure that ‘office housework’ is fairly split, amplify women’s voices in meetings, challenge poor behaviour and use our privilege to enforce a culture of respect.

Companies should ensure that their actions match their words. On International Women’s Day earlier this year, it was encouraging to see so many companies sharing positive and supportive messages. However, unless the Boards of those companies are actively championing closing their own gender pay gap, those messages don’t count for much in my opinion. We are beyond needing awareness; we really need action.

What would your advice be to parents of or in fact role models to girls looking to break into tech or in STEM fields more broadly where there is a significant gender gap?

As a parent of two, we are just starting to experience the stereotypes of gender preference in their education and futures. My son has already determined he will play football for Arsenal and my daughter is adamant she will be a Princess! However, I am optimistic for their eventual careers (if their first choices don’t work out!) as schools seem much better equipped at tackling gender stereotypes and ensuring equal opportunities across all subjects. STEM subjects are receiving particular attention, with revised syllabuses and ways of learning that appeal to boys and girls alike. There are also so many amazing (and importantly, visible) role models for girls to look up in these fields, which perhaps wasn’t the case when I was at school. It is also a great learning journey for parents too, as by taking an active role in their education, I am also re-educating myself in the process. The adage that everyday is a school day, remains true! 

If you are looking to get involved in your community and are interested in considering a Trustee opportunity, you can find out more about the Taylor Root UK Trustee Network here.

We want to reiterate that this is not a paid service and forms part of our referral programme, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. 


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