Joined in: 2019
Job title: Pre-Sales Consultant
International Women's Day is a day used to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and to advocate for gender equality. Alice is a co-founder of our Women's Network and talks about what the day means to her.
The 8th March is International Women’s Day (IWD) and the theme this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’. I’m fortunate that Advanced is serious about Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace and in providing a voice for all of our colleagues. International Women’s Day allows us to celebrate the achievements of women but it also encourages us to look to the future, and there is still a long way to go before women are truly equal in the workplace.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and journey to Advanced?
When I started working at Advanced I was halfway through my Master’s degree at the University of Birmingham where I studied International Development. I had also just finished an internship where I travelled to Lebanon to undertake research with orphans and widows from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. I was looking for a full-time job and was lucky that I was able to work at Advanced and continue studying and completing my dissertation research.
I joined in an entry-level role and had no previous experience in neither pre-sales nor software solutions. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to get up to speed on the job and what was expected of me. Now, almost two years later I’m the pre-sales lead on one of our biggest finance solutions and get to work on lots of different projects with stakeholders from across the business, including the Diversity & Inclusion networks.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
The most important part of International Women’s Day is the feeling of unity and solidarity with women across the world. It allows everyone to come together and reflect on the achievements of women and the progress we’ve made since the start of the women’s rights movement. It also gives us an opportunity to look to the future at what we want to achieve and focus discussions on how we’re going to do it.
I love that Advanced is celebrating IWD this year. STEM has been seen as a typically male industry for a long time and there’s still a low number of women working in tech, so it feels like a really significant step for us to mark the day with fundraising and awareness-raising activities.
Why did you want to get involved in helping with the Women’s Network?
The Women’s Network was started off the back of a number of conversations I had with colleagues about the lack of women in tech and some of the experiences of discrimination and bias we’ve come across throughout our working lives. A group of us got together and decided what we wanted to achieve and how we were going to do it. This coincided with Advanced’s increased focus on Diversity & Inclusion, so we were able to get support from senior leadership to set the group up.
For me, the main reason I wanted to be a part of the Women’s Network was to provide a safe space for women to share their stories and experiences because I think it’s the first step towards actually being able to address the issues we face. I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve wished there was someone I could talk to without going down the formal route of raising a complaint with HR.
It’s also a great opportunity for women across the business and at different levels to network and share tips for success. I’ve already learned so much from women in Advanced who have been working in the technology industry for a lot longer than me and I think it will help me to go further in my career.
What are the biggest barriers for success for women in the workplace?
Where do I start?! I think one of the biggest issues is that the barriers to success don’t just begin when you reach working age. At school, girls haven’t been encouraged to pursue certain professions (STEM) and often boys are raised to be more competitive and ambitious. There’s also a lack of female role models in some industries for girls to look up to, which can make it hard for them to imagine working in a certain place.
Within the workplace, unconscious bias is a huge issue. In a study by Shape Talent, they reported that men are more likely to be hired than women, leadership positions are more likely to be filled by men and networking opportunities are more accessible to men.
Our expectations of women’s behaviour are different too, which Caroline Criado Perez does a great job of outlining in Invisible Women. In it, she notes that women are often criticised for being overbearing or bossy whereas men don’t experience this. There are a number of studies that show successful women are seen as less likeable, so it almost feels like you have to make the decision between pursuing a successful career or being liked. Women are also much more likely to face everyday sexism and micro-aggressions; even little things like demeaning comments or being interrupted and talked over can make going about your day-to-day job feel more challenging.
Finally, women can be penalised for taking maternity leave or for needing time off to take care of others. As women are more often primary caregivers there can be a ‘motherhood penalty’ where women aren’t able to take on bigger projects or are passed up for promotions because employers are worried that they will be less committed than a man.
So clearly, there are a lot of barriers that can prevent women from being successful, and they all feed into one another which can make it difficult to know where to start when trying to address them.
What do you want the Women’s Network to look like in a year's time?
In a year's time I would hope that the network has expanded to reach more women across the business. We currently have 140 people in the network and our bi-weekly calls have very good attendance but I’d like to see this increase.
In my opinion, the best thing about the network at the moment is that we have provided a safe space to share experiences and I’ve been blown away by how open and honest a lot of people have been when talking about the bias and discrimination they have faced throughout their careers. I hope we’ll be able to continue sharing our stories, supporting each other with any challenges we face and advocating for change in the workplace.
I also hope we’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities to help the wider community by fundraising for women’s charities and even running events in schools to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers.
Can you suggest any ways we can Choose To Challenge?
My best advice for anyone who wants to challenge any kind of bias or discrimination is just to not be afraid. If you personally experience it, tell somebody about it. If you witness it, don’t be scared to speak up and call out unfair behavior.
We’re all responsible for making sure our workplace is inclusive, not just on International Women’s Day and not just for women, but for everybody.