So is policy intrinsically a 'pink' job, and tech a 'blue' job (bearing in mind that pink was a 'boys' colour until the 1920s...)? Surely not. This attitude is out dated, and dangerous. It has created an imbalance in society that is proving hard to shift.
The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is about achieving a better diverse balance in the work place and we need to reflect that in our teams and in senior leadership positions. This should prevent groupthink and achieve better outcomes for our people and customers.
This isn’t just my view, it’s shared by one of the highest ranking women on Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck, who said “there was no doubt that had we had more diversity of thought, perspective, education, gender, color, the [2008 banking] crisis would have been less severe.” It is also a something which is objectively evidenced, for example McKinsey’s has proved that more diverse boards generate more profit.
Why then, am I still often the lone woman in a room full of white men?
Disappointingly, I think the lack of balance comes back not only to historic and structural imbalances in society, but something much more alarming - assumptions about performance based on what we objectively look, or sound like: something that really shouldn’t have a place in today’s world.
I may have succeeded in making it to the Senior Civil Service, but I’ve had feedback that my voice is too high pitched, I am still often ignored by some I come in contact with who assume I’m there to take a note; just as bad once I’ve explained who I am, some meeting attendees will not make eye contact with me or address points to others in the room; more maddeningly still, a man will often make the same point I’ve already made in a meeting, and get the credit for new insight!
All that said, it is changing. I’ve recently joined the Security Profession, based in Digital and Technology (D&T). I am delighted that these areas are actively recruiting women. And I am making an impact, simply by being a different gender in a traditionally male dominated environment, by being a role model, and perhaps by having a different perspective on issues.
But we need to do more. Key to getting a better balance is developing a diverse pipeline of talent and to make traditionally viewed ‘male’ roles attractive to people from more diverse backgrounds and vice versa. For example, we don’t publicise enough that in Security and D&T, you have greater control over your work and can work anywhere, offering lots of flexibility – perfect for working parents and carers. We each need to take responsibility for spotting, nurturing and championing people. Recent female recruits into my cyber team include an apprentice straight from school and a long-standing civil servant wanting a change of career.
Mentoring and coaching are great ways of championing people. I’ve always chosen a female mentor, as I thought they would ‘understand’ me better. However, my last mentor was a man, and gave me a completely different perspective on issues and encouraged me to do things that I wouldn’t naturally have done. This is an example of why it is important to ensure diverse voices are heard and our accepted ways of doing things are challenged.
Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers