Other people’s opinions are theirs to express but they have no reflection on your ability, as a woman, to do the job.
I started my last Tech Watch article with a fun fact so I thought I would do something similar this time. But I won’t wax lyrical about data insights and the possibility of a data revolution.
Instead, as part of Mortgage Strategy’s commitment to the BBC’s 50:50 campaign, I’m going to talk about my experiences in two fields that are, traditionally, male dominated: technology and finance.
Many women are making their mark in finance and tech
So, here’s the fun fact: for every 102 men in the world, there are 100 women. Not quite a 50:50 split, but close enough.
The other thing that occurred to me when I started thinking about this piece was that people were bound to ask: being a woman, what barriers have you had to overcome in your career?
Now, I know there are many women who have either been overlooked or had to overcome all sorts in their working life. Whether it’s discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay or opportunities for progression, there are many hurdles for women.
Our board is made up of three women and two men. For a tech company this certainly bucks the trend
My experience, however, has been a little different. I have never questioned if I could do the job; I’ve just gone out and done it. So, for me it’s been the environment I’ve chosen and my own attitude that have carried me through, with little to restrain me.
Just do it
The chief thing about working for yourself is that there is no one else to hold you back.
When I was a mortgage adviser, I never thought anyone would look at me and think, ‘I’m not getting advice from a woman.’ I just went out there and did it. In some ways being a woman was an advantage, especially when I was talking to families about sensitive subjects regarding protection.
Similarly, when I had the idea for Knowledge Bank, it didn’t occur to me that being female would put unnecessary barriers in my way. I knew I had a good idea, but I also knew I couldn’t design and bring the product to market without the help of a very skilled programmer. Without him none of it would have been possible; his expertise and my idea working in synergy. But not once did I think I was a woman in a man’s world.
People were bound to ask: being a woman, what barriers have you had to overcome in your career?
Fast-forward four and a half years and Knowledge Bank’s workforce, at the time of writing, has a 50:50 split of men and women. Not, it has to be said, by design; just because we gave each position to the best person at the time. Our board is made up of three women and two men, and is probably something we should shout about more than we do. For a tech company this certainly bucks the trend.
I would never have put myself out there as a role model, but I’ve had such positive reactions from other women in the industry that I take it seriously. Many emails and calls tell me they have been inspired by reading about me and Knowledge Bank. I’m very proud of that. If I’ve inspired just one woman, even though it was never my goal, everything I’ve done has been worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few occasions when I have been taken aback at the insensitivity or downright chauvinistic comments I’ve received over the years. On the whole, though, I have never felt my gender had a bearing on my ability to do the job. I’ve always thought other people’s opinions were theirs to have but they had no reflection on my actual ability.
Not once did I think I was a woman working in a man’s world
Am I working in male-dominated arenas? Unfortunately, the answer is still yes. However, things are changing and with initiatives like the Women in Finance Charter the future looks good. I’ve never let my gender hold me back and I’m really happy that many other women are making their mark in both finance and tech.
There is a brilliant quote from US businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg: “In the future, there will be no women leaders, just leaders.” Wouldn’t that be great?
Nicola Firth is chief executive of Knowledge Bank