This non-traditional route into tech is reassuringly common in Emily’s team at the BBC. “Thinking of my team, only one of us did a Computer Science degree. I don’t know many people who have done that degree! We have a real diversity of background.”
Emily celebrates the benefits of coming from a non-tech background. “Having that creativity you get from an arts or humanities degree is really important especially working in an industry like television.”
Emily is also an accessibility champion working to promote awareness of neurodiversity in the industry. Emily has cared for children with autism and speaks openly about the challenges they can face. “There is a matrix of skills. Where some people will excel in one area, for example, coding, they might be limited in their people skills. If you can’t get through an interview, people will never know the skills you have and the insights you can bring.”
Emily noted the work of Nomensa who develop inclusive UI and UX as well as offer guidance for recruitment teams.
We moved on to discuss the startling gender imbalance in UK Tech and Emily’s experience of that. From 2016 – 2019 the percentage of women making up the UK’s tech workforce has dropped from 18% – 16% while the pool of male workers has jumped by 60,000 — equivalent to a third of the entire female workforce.
“When I started I was the only woman in a team of 8 people. It was really inclusive, however, everyone made a conscious effort to ensure my voice was heard and valued — it was great.”
While Emily’s experience at the BBC is a great one it is potentially an outlier in an industry known for not offering an inclusive environment, something Emily saw at her previous employer.
“I have seen the other side of it — at my previous company, it was totally different. It was your stereotypical boy’s club. I had a really hard time getting developers to work with me and take my inputs seriously.”
Emily goes further. “It can be on your mind (being a woman in tech). Nobody is overtly against women but I would say there are still some microaggressions especially from those who have been in the industry a while.”
Emily talked about what has helped her deal with some of the issues women face in the industry as well as advice for how we can drive change. “Having a thick skin and not being too proud is very helpful. I accept that there is a long way to go for women in tech but you’re not going to change things by shouting at people.”
The new Chief Product Officer that Emily works under is promoting healthy attitudes that we can all take inspiration from. “She reached out and offered her time to everyone. It was great, it encourages people to reach out and talk to one another no matter your position.”