As we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2021 we take the time to learn and grow from inspirational women in STEM who are all around us. We hope by engaging in these conversations we can promote positive change and make STEM careers accessible for more women.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your background and career to date?
I’m Deputy Director, Head of Digital Transformation at Scottish Government. I’ve held a number of senior posts across government, spending the majority of my career working for UK Government. I started my career at the age of 16 at the most junior level. I didn’t enjoy school, that way of learning wasn’t for me. It didn’t suit my thought pattern. Questioning the rules wasn’t encouraged and that wasn’t a good learning environment for me.
So I started work, as a painfully shy 16 year old girl and, without me realising it at the time, I had a fantastic manager. That manager actively encouraged my questions as to why things were done in a certain way and listened to my suggestions. And, after only 1 year I was offered a promotion. This pattern continued in each role as I continued to question, then incrementally transform, the services I was responsible for. This was long before words such as user focused design or digital transformation were commonplace and agile methodologies hadn’t yet been created.
Q. What attracted you to the STEM sector and what do you think makes it a good place for women?
For me it’s never been about technology but about my passion for transforming public services, often services that people turn to when they’re at their most vulnerable. That passion for designing public services with the people who use them, helping to shape policy, has continued throughout my career and I am lucky to have achieved some extraordinary things
Q. Has there been anyone who has made a positive and lasting impression on your career?
My very first manager who encouraged me to question the status quo. After spending my school years being told ‘Joy must try harder’ and ‘could do better’ I was offered a promotion after only 1 year in the job. Something that I was told was unheard of at that time.
Q. Is there a clear difference in your experiences of being a female in the sector at the beginning of your career and now?
I don’t think so. Having not experienced being a male in the sector it’s difficult to know if the differences are down to being female or not 😊
Q. What role do you think other colleagues have in helping organisations achieve greater gender balance?
By listening to the women in your organisation. By understanding the differences, for example I understand (this may or may not be true) that men are more likely to negotiate a starting salary than women. Organisations should keep that in mind when recruiting to ensure they don’t inadvertently pay a higher rate only to those that negotiate.
Q. How do you think COVID-19 has impacted gender diversity in STEM and the capacity to fulfil potential?
People with STEM skills are more in demand now than ever, which has increased the need for people to find new ways of encouraging all people to move into these roles. That seems to have increased the focus on actively encouraging women into these roles, therefore increasing diversity.
Q. Who do you think are the most inspiring women in STEM today?
I work with inspiring women every day. Many go unnoticed but these women constantly go the extra mile to deliver the best public services possible and improve the lives of the people of Scotland.
Technology allows us to change people’s lives through the services we provide. But being a women in a STEM role doesn’t mean being technically minded. It means having the vision and passion in whatever you’re doing and using technology to make your vision a reality.