Picture this in your mind — three people walking into an office: a company IT director, a field operations manager and a computer (CAD) technician.
With just 16% of information technology employees female, and even less than that working in the security sector in the UK, it is not surprising if the majority of people picture men in any or all of the above roles. March 8th is International Women’s Day, and property and security management specialist, VPS, sought out some of their female employees working in traditionally male roles to talk about their careers.
Ellen Shoker is a Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) technician, in her early forties. “As a young CAD technician, I started doing very simple architectural drawings. Before I knew it, I was already doing various drawing disciplines which challenged me to learn more skills.
What I do here in VPS is another type of discipline which I haven’t done before.” Ellen produces technical drawings from engineers’ site surveys, from which the best-fit security solutions can be determined, citing not only where CCTV towers, detectors, analytic and static cameras can be located, but also where there are hidden blind spots, leading to revision of the final security plans for their UK and European clients.
“Speaking from my perspective as a mother, I think one of the biggest issues that I and other working mothers face today is the flexibility of our working schedule. It is difficult balancing work and family life and I believe flexi-time will be able to help.” Ellen says, who not only works in a male-dominated environment, but also has the unusual accolade of two bachelor of science degrees, one in civil engineering and one in architecture.
Kirsty Semple comes from a completely different background from IT. She began her career working as part of a ‘clean & clear’ team, specializing in removing waste, both regular and hazardous, before becoming a Supervisor. Last year she gained promotion to Field Operations Manager. “I’m proud of becoming an FOM. To succeed, you have to work hard, show willingness to be quick off the mark to own and solve any issues that come up in this very intense area to manage. The security business is still very much a man’s environment, and there is still a battle to show that women can do the exact same jobs, sometimes better”
Back in the world of IT, Jody Appleton started out in a project office role on a Y2K programme, at the time when there was a global concern about the impact of Millennium bug, at Barclays Technology Services.
“But it was a three year stint as Chief of Staff to the new Aviva Group CIO that gave me the opportunity to learn so much and helped me understand that there isn’t any business that can run effectively without technology and that IT is truly an enabler. After a further stint in the insurance sector, I was contacted by the headhunter leading the search for Group IT Director for VPS, and so here I am!”
“I would advise young women interested in IT to check out some of the options available like ‘Girls who Code’, Barclays Digital Eagles and so on. There are two big issues for women in the workplace — we sometimes lack in confidence in our own ability or as our approach tends to be more collaborative and quieter than some of our male colleagues, we can tend to stand back a little. My advice is to be proud of what you have achieved, be confident that you can make a difference, and accept that it’s ok to operate differently to others around you. And secondly I’ve experienced and seen a number occasions when other women have put other women down, rather than providing support. It can be tough out there so you’d hope that the ‘sisterhood’ stood together, but actually there are a number of women that want to score points by pushing down other women – this is not acceptable in my book so don’t be afraid to call it out if you see it or experience it.”
The full interviews with these, and other women, can be seen, updated daily with a new interview, on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/vps-the-vacant-property-specialists/?viewAsMember=true