Joanne Shand, Corporate Accounts Director, Satigo

Joanne Shand, Corporate Accounts Director at Satigo, an IT industry recruitment specialist, says the approach that some tech employers are taking to women returning to work, is breaking down outdated and biased attitudes leading to greater flexibility.

I had the good fortune of attending a Cogeco Peer 1 hosted roundtable on the subject of women in technology. I say good fortune because this is a dynamic area in which previously entrenched attitudes are changing, and many organisations are becoming more accommodating and flexible.

But let me first qualify myself. I work as a Corporate Accounts Director at Satigo, an IT industry recruitment specialist, which ranks among its customers some of the biggest tech companies in the UK.

In a sense, at Satigo we are on the front line because we can see how the issues around women in technology play out in real life. There is some great work going on to encourage women into technology careers, and this became clear during the roundtable discussion.

But what about the obstacles that the women who are already in technology face, when they have been out of the industry for a while and want to return? What if they have taken time out to have a child, or care for an elderly relative?

We used to hear all the time that there was a ‘bias’, we could even say a benevolent bias in some cases, whereby women returning to the industry would be treated as though they couldn’t handle the pressures. Or their workload might lead to stress. As a result, they would often be marginalised or side lined.

This is changing. We are now seeing technology companies making more of an effort, for instance, by helping keep women connected and engaged during their time out of the office. This attitude is informed by a new understanding. Essentially, tech companies are realising that ‘we are all in this together’. In order to succeed, they need to show greater flexibility regardless of gender.

In practice, this has led to a genuine welcome for women returning to the workplace and more flexible options. For instance, they might be offered job shares to help ease back into roles, or part-time roles, as well as opportunities to work from home depending on their preferences. Women are also being given opportunities to change roles or move upwards in the organisation if that is what they want.

Where the tech industry goes others often follow. As such, it’s encouraging to see some companies taking a lead in this area, breaking down gender stereotypes and being flexible and accommodating. Hopefully, more will follow suit.

Watch the video to see what Joanne and the other industry leaders have to say about the obstacles to retaining women in tech.