Cassy Calvert, Test Services Manager at BJSS, celebrates women in IT, and in software testing in particular.
Close your eyes and think about a software tester… Let me guess, a thirty-something male?
That’s the stereotypical view people have on the software development industry, but times are changing. Women are becoming an ever increasing presence in what is traditionally considered an all-male industry and even more importantly, will help the industry innovate.
Disruption is key to innovation
Disruption causes industries to rethink how they’ve worked for years, even decades. The iPhone is a good example of this. Twenty years ago, mobile phones were just grey boxes with call and text functionality. They had very limited access to the internet – at an agonising 9600Kbits/s. Then 3G launched. Apple used the technology to launch the iPhone, the first consumer smartphone, changing the mobile phone industry forever and kicking off a new rage for smart devices.
Businesses are always looking for this moment – the next big thing that will disrupt the market. Many are missing the obvious: the role women play in technology.
Following the pioneers
There haven’t been many female pioneers in the world of technology, let alone within software development. However the ones who have succeeded have led the industry. Judy Faulkner for example is the founder and chief executive of Epic Systems, a privately-held healthcare software provider.
Listed 722nd on the Forbes list of World billionaires, Judy’s business stores the medical information of more than half of the entire US population. A true pioneer, she started the organisation in 1979 when computing, let alone equality for women, was in its infancy.
Pioneers like Judy have led the way demonstrating that technology areas such as software development are not a male only business. Women, with the required skills, can succeed.
In 1979 this level of success would have been virtually unheard of. We now have more equality between the sexes and the education system available to deliver the required skills. So for young girls on their educational journey, there should be nothing holding them back.
One of my colleagues is an example of this. Sarah Johnston took her first steps towards the software development industry without previous consideration. Having studied Maths, Further Maths, Graphics and Art at A Level, Sarah’s creative and analytical talents secured her a place at the University of York on a four year Masters in Maths.
Sarah became interested in software development at a career fair and applied to the BJSS Academy, a graduate programme to help university leavers land a role in technology.
Sarah’s education, analytical talents and work at the BJSS Academy secured her a role as Test Engineer where she is flourishing. Without the education and graduate programme in place, the opportunity for Sarah to get a job in software development, or even consider it as a career path, would have been non-existent and the industry could now be without her talent.
First step on the ladder
Women might have been underrepresented in technology, but the stereotype of men being dominant in software development is rapidly disappearing. The next rung on the ladder will be disruption of the industry.
Many companies now create a welcoming environment for women and encourage diversity. Combine this with more opportunities and a more attractive educational system, and we will see an increase of women in technology.
This disruption will hopefully encourage more female students to consider software development as a career, strengthen the female position even further and improve the overall industry.
Roundtable on women in testing
In the January 2016 issue of TEST Magazine, you can read a full roundtable article discussing, amongst other things, advice for women interesting in getting into software testing.
“I think IT has been a man’s world in the past but I do believe times are changing. Women are now more empowered within their careers and have many more equal opportunities open to them. We just need to be pushing forward all of the time within our organisations and communities. Never shy away from an opportunity, if you think the job fits, go for it and be a role model for your colleagues,” said Donna Firks, Test Manager at New Look.
“I was quite clueless about computers and IT until I joined university; we need to ensure children are educated in technical skills from a young age. The positive trend has already started in schools, my nieces are being taught programming in primary school, this will remove barriers to entry and allow all to make a choice of IT as a career,” said Asia Shazad, QA Manager, Hotels.com.
Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.