By Judy Marshall, Manchester Academy Trainer
Judy is an experienced IT professional, who worked for several years in a variety of support roles before becoming a technical trainer. Judy provides both technical and professional skills training to trainees who join the FDM Academy in Manchester.
‘Women in IT’ is definitely a hot topic at the moment. However it hasn’t always been the case and for many years there was no need for such a movement as women were well represented in our field.
When I started my career in IT in the 1980s, I joined ICL with several other women. My first job was in sales support in the City of London, and our graduate intake was a team of women with just one man. After several enjoyable years working as part of the sales team selling computer systems to banks and building societies, I moved into a technical support role in Manchester. The technical support team also had a very strong female majority and we worked for an excellent manager - who also happened to be a woman.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I began to notice the lack of women in IT. I don’t know why the number of women in IT seemed like they'd dropped at that time but my theory is that in the 1990s the use of computers became more widespread, including home use, and they started to be adopted by the male members of households as gadgets. It really became noticeable when I became a Microsoft trainer, teaching Windows administration courses to IT support professionals, as I would rarely get a woman on any of my courses. Most of my colleagues were male and I often felt out of place, particularly in the trainer’s staff room. I believe I provided an example of ‘Women in IT’ not to other women, but to the men I taught, to show them that it isn’t an exclusively male occupation. I am proud to have spent many years ‘flying the flag’ for women in a male dominated and sometimes challenging environment.
It's a joy to work for FDM, a ‘female friendly’ organisation. However we do need to prepare our female consultants for the prospect that not all organisations will be as supportive. In many circumstances they could be the only female in a team, and the other members may not be as tuned into ‘Women in IT’ as their colleagues in FDM. I have lost touch with all the people I joined ICL with, but I still occasionally hear from some of colleagues I worked with in Manchester and many are no longer working in IT.
My hopes are that the drive to promote ‘Women in IT’ will do two things: firstly encourage more young women to start IT careers, and secondly to raise the profile of women as professionals within this industry.
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