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 experiences working in IT, and asking how the industry can become more attractive and supportive to women. In this interview, makepositive implementation consultant Stephanie Stylianou explains that despite her own mathematical background, the lack of a STEM background - or even a degree - needn't be a barrier.
What did you study at university?
I studied Mathematics and Management at university. I'm not sure how I came about selecting this course, if I am being honest. I was always gifted at mathematics and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects so it seemed like a natural path for me. I proceeded with completing a masters in Occupational Psychology, as I found organisational behaviour, especially how people react to change, to be a subject that fascinated me.
How did you get into a career in IT?
Graduating with a mathematics degree gives you fewer options than you would think. There is no obvious or clear career path such as the one you would get following, let's say, an accounting course. What you do get at the end of a challenging degree like that is an analytical way of thinking that a lot of people lack. IT seemed like a good fit for me as I would be surrounded by like-minded professionals and dealing with 21st-century challenges.
Do you enjoy it?
It's a great industry to be in as it's open to change, if not an instigator of change. I always believed that companies can only grow through change, and business solutions are a great catalyst for accomplishing this. They demand an inward inspection of the as is processes and, more often than not, wishful thinking of the to be processes. This ensures that the implementation is aimed at the strategic future of an organisation, rather than reinforcing the complacency of the past.
Do you know any other women who work in IT?
Before I started working in the industry, not so much. I would say that there is a definite gap in the proportion of women to men, but I feel like it is quickly closing.
From my own experience, across all of the companies I worked in, the women to men ratio has been pretty much 1:1. What I would like to see is more representation in the leadership teams to reflect the fact that women make up half the workforce, but I am very optimistic: I see the industry heading in that direction.
Would you recommend IT to girls who are thinking about their future careers?
Yes, definitely. IT is experiencing rapid global growth, and it will continue to do so as organisations worldwide become increasingly dependent on technology in their operations. Working in IT can be challenging but it can also be intellectually stimulating and creative, so it is a great industry to be in.
What's the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into IT?
Actively look in the industry for a role, make sure that you have a positive attitude to learning new things every day, and research market trends. A lot of people might say you should get a STEM degree, but I have seen people that studied politics, geography and other human sciences go on to have great careers in IT. University degrees may be less relevant than passion and love for what you do, or what you want to do.
How can we encourage more girls and women to consider a 'technical' career?
I would say quite bluntly, give them the option to have a career in IT. People often tend to look for roles that are similar to what their family is doing or their friends are doing. If the environment offers little support and the knowledge is limited, then the uncertainty will cause women to gravitate towards a more safe and conventional path.
IT professions can seem hard to get into if you have not studied computer science, computer engineering or a related degree. They really aren't, though. IT companies and especially women working in IT need to make themselves more visible at career fairs. Companies need to advertise job positions in a way that encourages more girls to pursue a career in IT, and women already in the role should be the champions that drive the change. Those who can should actively pursue the opportunity to mentor younger girls that show an interest, to help them get the experience and contacts they need.
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.