Prompted by a shortage of female job applicants and the experiences of our MD Claire, we've been interviewing a series of women about their careers in IT. In this interview, Rebecca Kimber, CEO of e-commerce software company Create.net, explains how she got started, and why opportunities for women in the sector should start at an early age.
What did you study at university?
I studied Computing at Brighton University.
How did you get into a career in IT?
I've always been interested in computers, since my dad bought our first PC in 1990. I studied computing at college, and started an NVQ at a website design and internet marketing company in the late 90s, where I learnt SEO and online marketing skills. That was my first real taste of the internet and working with computers. Since then I've been addicted. From there I applied for university to further - and broaden - my knowledge. I taught myself to code websites.
Do you enjoy it?
I love what we do and what Create.net is about - breaking down technical barriers to enable anyone to start a successful business online with our website building tools. We've helped over 31,000 people start their own websites and get their businesses successfully online.
I can't imagine a career that doesn't involve using a computer. Although these days my role is substantially less 'technical': anything from accounting to talking to customers, planning the strategy for the next quarter to investigating a technical issue, or helping out a member of the team. Every day is different and there are always new challenges.
Do you know any other women (friends, peers, relatives) who work in IT?
Aside from everyone here at Create, there's a strong community of women from tech companies in Brighton who are working hard to support each other and encourage more women into the sector.
Would you recommend IT as a career to girls who are thinking about their future?
Definitely. Tech touches everything these days and you'll learn invaluable, transferrable skills along the way which will give you an understanding of how things work. It's an exciting growing industry full of opportunity which is impacting so many sectors.
In the words of Martha Lane Fox: “Digital skills are now essential for education and employment: we know that you're 25% more likely to get work when you have web skills and, once in that job, you'll earn 10% more."
What's the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into IT?
Learn as much as you can and don't be afraid to teach yourself what you need to know. Lots of companies in IT don't require qualifications so it's never too late to start. Additionally, lots of courses can get out of date quite quickly with the tech that they teach, so learning under your own direction with the most up-to-date information will give you a competitive edge.
How can we encourage more girls and women to consider a technology career?
We need to inspire them earlier on. I was the only girl on the Computing A-Level course at my college and although many more women are choosing STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) related topics these days, they are still under-represented at all levels. Tech offers such a wide range of jobs and opportunities, in a vast array of industries.
We need to move away from the depiction of people who work in technology as geeks. Being a geek may now be cool once you get to university and beyond, but it doesn't help breakdown the stereotypes and peer-pressure that exists in schools.
All STEM sectors are working hard to showcase women in inspiring and senior positions to continue to break down barriers in these industries, but there's still more that can be done in this area. Role models have been shown to have a positive influence on women, so showcasing the achievements of women in these areas - not only to our university students, but at younger ages - will encourage more women to make these career choices.
Employers and organisations also play an important role: they need to better understand why women aren't considering a career in these industries and to use this information to improve their current recruitment marketing and business positioning. Everything from the words used in job adverts to the working environment should be under scrutiny to attract more female talent.
Read more in our Women in IT series, and share your views with @weareideal using #WomenInIT.
We'd love to hear from more female job applicants. If you want to join us, take a look at our current jobs, and get in touch with HR@ideal.co.uk to tell us why you're the Ideal candidate.
Header image: Victor Björkund/Flickr, Creative Commons