Interviews With UKCloud’s Women in Stem
In 2015, the number of women in the UK employed in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) jobs was just 12.8% of the workforce. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why women seem reluctant to work within STEM. But here at UKCloud we are dedicated to diversity in the workplace; we are proud to be the power behind UK public sector technology which is partly made able by a range of committed highly skilled women across the organisation.
These are their stories…
Nicky Stewart: Commercial Director
I have over 20 years of experience in the civil service, all in IT facing roles. I started on the helpdesk, and went through the majority of ITIL (IT Service management) before moving into a central facing/parliamentary role. In this time, I looked after the development of the annual business planning for what was the Information Technology Services Agency.
In the year 2000, I worked on a huge outsourcing exercise involving the Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) of over 2000 developers to EDS. This gave me a thorough grounding in strategic sourcing, and the issues associated with large PFI deals. I then moved to Cabinet Office, eventually leading the commercial work strand of the G-Cloud programme. Our main contribution was the concept that is now the G-Cloud framework agreement. I left government in 2011, and contracted for a few months before becoming one of UKCloud’s first employees.
My average day at UKCloud varies. When working from our Farnborough office I get in around 8:30, it’s here where I try to get all urgent issues sorted and deal with contracts and queries. I also spend quite a lot of time in London, at meetings and events, in order to try and influence government policy that could impact UKCloud and its market. Sometimes I also spend time with customers. I am also getting UKCloud ready for GDPR.
I think there’s a nature versus nurture argument with why women do not join careers in STEM. In my time at school, it was expected that women would generally go into softer careers, so that’s what most women did. Due to this, I think that the technology workplace became very male-dominated which doesn’t appeal to many women. Even today, women – well known as being better at multi-tasking than men and often also more multi-talented too – choose a career away from the often quite grey-looking STEM workplace as they have so many available options.
As a woman in STEM, I have faced challenges. In my past, I think when organising people, in order to make things happen, it was easy to be pigeon-holed as a glorified secretary. I had to be selective about what I did as to not be perceived as somebody else’s bag person. I think also, you have to be careful about how you present yourself.
I think the workplace generally is improving for women. Over the last 15 years there have been general improvements, such as improved maternity leave and flexible working. Still today though, some organisations are behind the curve with a culture that regards these improvements as a “women’s privilege”. Thankfully UKCloud aren’t one of them.
Alex Cable: Director of Sales
Prior to working at UKCloud, I worked for 20 years in various start-up organisations. I primarily worked with Silicon Valley companies to help them grow in the European market.
At UKCloud my job is incredibly interesting. I run the sales and technical sales teams, so a lot of my time is spent out of the office either with the team, or meeting partners and customers. This allows me to spend lots of time with UK public sector organisations, so that I can help them get the very best out of our technology.
I have seen a lot of changes over time in terms of attitudes towards women in STEM. When I first received careers advice, it was assumed that women would enter maternal careers such as teaching whilst men would go down a more dominant career path. Over time, though, these attitudes have changed and my daughters do not face these same stereotypes. I think as they have seen me work in this industry, they better understand that women are the same as anyone else in this sector and others. I am proud to simply be a person who contributes in the STEM workplace, and I think more women in STEM are viewing themselves in this way.
Luckily, I have faced very few challenges in the workplace. For me I have simply worked hard in the industry for 25 years allowing me to progress. When I first started work 25 years ago, I was very unusual and sometimes this may have helped me stand out from the crowd. On occasion, I have been asked to clean up an office area, despite being in a managerial position – but luckily this has been a rarity and it has certainly never happened at UKCloud.
I’ve always felt if you work as hard as you can and try your best you are able to succeed in the workplace, or at least this has been the case for me.
Overall the STEM workplace is improving for women. Over time women are feeling more able to participate in this sector and so more women are joining. As more women join the workplace it becomes less taboo for them to be there in the first place. I love working in the STEM workplace and at UKCloud, and would recommend it to anyone.
Abigail Boyton: Software Engineer
In terms of my background, I had little knowledge of programming until Year 10 of school, where I had to do a week’s worth of work experience. With little prior interest, I spent this week of experience at a small games company. I was testing games, which I really enjoyed, and then one day I saw someone working on code – from then I was hooked.
I carried on doing work experience at tech companies where I could, and then for my year of industry I worked my placement at UKCloud. It was interesting throughout, and I enjoyed working for a service company that really benefits the customer. After receiving a 1st in my degree from Ashton University, I came back to UKCloud to work as a software engineer
One of the things that I like about working at UKCloud is that you don’t really have an average day. As a programmer, I get to solve unique problems every day, and rarely solve the same problem twice. My role involves working on various projects daily with my team, and attending regular programming meetings. UKCloud is full of really nice people, and offers a friendly culture, making my average day highly enjoyable
I am very happy as a programmer, but I know a lot of women don’t really get involved with a career in STEM. I guess it’s not something that is seen as a ‘girly’ thing to do. There’s an idea of your stereotypical programmer, and this stereotype doesn’t really involve women. For me personally, I didn’t know about programming until I was 16. Across careers and university courses in STEM, there is a complete lack of women. Nobody has looked down on me for being a female programmer, but I am still only one of the few there are.
From what I see, the workplace for women in STEM is getting a lot better, though I have only been within the industry for the past few years. The initiatives to get women into STEM are helping things improve. I think teaching programming at primary school will really help in my area, and I hope women become more involved with careers in STEM.
Are you looking to join a company that is dedicated to supporting women in STEM? If so, visit our careers page and see if there is an opportunity for you to join our team.