International Womens Day

International Women’s Day

Guest Author: Araventhy McRaethanan, Software Developer at Zupa talks stereotypes, skills, opportunities, and advice.

“Being someone who identifies as a woman and is both British and a second generation immigrant of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, it is important to me that when we look at celebrating women and their achievements, that all perspectives, cultural and social are taken into account. I feel that International Women’s Day encourages this, inspiring festivals such as Women of the World for example and bringing to the foreground women who have made or are making a difference for rights, equality and support through innovative ideas and actions.

What does the International Women’s Day mean to you? (The 2019 theme is #BalanceforBetter)

For me, it is a day of both individual and the collective celebration of women’s achievements, reflecting its part in a wider feminist movement. A large part of this is also recognising how adept we are at addressing and dealing with intersectional issues caused by the gender imbalance, in what I would hope eventually achieves gender equity.

On a more individual level, it is a day for me to introspect and look back on what I have achieved and what I would like to achieve; but to also look around and see what support is out there at the moment whether it’s for professional mentorship, training or like-minded women. Alternatively, it is also a good reminder to assess whether I am now able to help and support other women, either through their careers or through other means – both are ways to help other women and the gender gap on a one-to-one basis.

I am glad that there is momentum aided by days such as International Women’s Day with people willing to talk about problems like the gender digital divide, gender pay gap, parental leave and on a wider scope, the many aspects of achieving gender equality through gender equity – it is an important push towards discussion and innovation. Through collaborating with other women and allies, we can work on issues raised within a patriarchal society, affecting those who identify as women.

How did you choose to become a Software Developer?

I studied Mathematics and Physics at university and software development didn’t feature until a bit later. I think a lot of it had to do with not being aware of the variety of opportunities available within the technology sector. It was only after graduating that I started looking into the sector in more depth that I then saw the similarities in skills I had grown up with and refined over the years – logic, analysis, problem-solving, abstract thought and creativity. The dynamic and intellectual challenges, as well as the wide-ranging possibilities of working and progressing as a Software Developer in a world with a continuing dependence on technology that has a proven track record of leaping forward in creative applications, was hardly a role I could turn down.

In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up careers in technology?

It is incredibly important that women have careers in technology. The technology sector is a growing entity and will continue to inform our society’s growth and its trajectory. If the people working and building the infrastructure within the technology sector is not from a diverse range of backgrounds, the future will continue to be biased towards the experiences of the boards and the creators who define the path – and within this sector, it is particularly a male-dominated one. This will and has already disadvantaged a wide range of people that rely on technology as the systems are not built for them. We know that women (as well as many other groups that should not be dismissed) are disadvantaged in the workplace, but the more women that decide that a career in technology is the right path for them, they will be able to progress in the sector and be in a position to inform the future development of applications and software that play such a vital part in our lives.

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to developers generally?

Unfortunately, the stereotype does continue to exist and does play a part into whether certain groups of people see development as a career option – and still impacts those already in development. In addition to the existing double standards and misogyny that I’ve experienced within the business and development world, the media plays an important factor in shaping this stereotype of mainly men of a particular mindset succeeding within the tech sector – and from what I know, what you see growing up informs what opportunities you may seek for yourself and how others perceive you.

Films such as Hidden Figures and Black Panther, both with incredibly strong and clever women of colour inspire and help reject the male-dominated stereotype in technology. High profile interviews and videos with women online such as record-breaking tennis player Serena Williams and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti continue to break stereotypes in other sectors. There is a lot more that could be done to break the stereotype for developers, particularly in the media.

What I wish I had known earlier: Network with other women in the technology industry.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in technology?

There is a plethora of resources and think pieces on the internet by more eloquent and inspiring women for advice which I would encourage any woman thinking about pursuing a career in technology to read.

From my experience, the most important piece of advice that I can impart is one that I wish I had known earlier: Network with other women in the technology industry. There are numerous meetups and regular get-togethers in areas throughout the country that do not require previous experience in software engineering to be a part of. The resources that they provide, the experiences of women who have been in the industry longer than you, the support and understanding provided and the prospect of collaboration with other fantastic women will help you along in your career as well as guide you through the obstacles you may face. Although there is still a way to go for balance in the workplace, there is a lot of opportunity for growth if you go outside your comfort zone and seek other equally brilliant women within the technology sector.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

As a woman thinking about your career, the world is your oyster. You have the ability to learn, grow and apply yourself and although there are industries that are male-dominated, we are at a point in our lives where women before us have laid the first stepping stone (and more) in addition to the organisations and charities braced to challenge inequality. So pave your path and remember there is no such thing as failure; read fail as your first attempt at learning – and learning is growth.

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As told to James Waldron, Content Manager