Celebrating Women in STEM: Ashley Chalmers

7 months ago by Gillian Williamson
5 Ashley Chalmers

Tell us a little bit about you...

My name is ​Ashley Chalmers and I am Head of Applications & Project Delivery, Information Systems at Baillie Gifford.

I studied Computer Science at University and joined a Graduate Software Development programme when I completed my course. Since then I have progressed from developer, to technical leader, to function manager and now head of Applications and Project Delivery at Baillie Gifford. I also carried out analysis, design, test and project management along the way too. I didn’t study computing at school, so University was my first experience of software development and engineering. I found the challenge of it and the gratification of it very exciting. I have always enjoyed problem solving, though wasn’t particularly excellent at math at school. What I quickly realised is that you don’t have to be excellent at math or physics to be able to have a successful career in STEM, the principles of problem solving and logic are enough of a solid base to help you reframe a problem and solve it in a creative way.

Have you faced any obstacles in your leadership journey as a result of being a woman?

Obstacles isn’t the way I would describe things, however parental leave is something that really challenged my confidence and motivation. The excitement of having my boys and the time I spent with them was incredible, the worry about coming back and being able to perform in the same way weighed heavy on me. When I returned to work both times, I masked it very well but it did take me some time to build it back up. I am absolutely delighted that parents now get to share the parental leave and that partners now understand and appreciate the impact this could have on a woman’s career. Personally, I work for a very supportive company and parental leave did not halt my career progression in any way. I was encouraged, developed and given the support I needed to thrive and that helped me build my confidence back and succeed.

​What would you say to women considering a career in the STEM sector?

I would say that the STEM sector has so many varied roles to offer that you shouldn’t be put off by what has been stereotyped. Of course stereotypes exist in all industries but what you don’t get to see when that is the focal point is the breadth of role types across different industries. I work within financial services as an IT professional and the roles that we have include Business Analysis, Project Management, Data Architect, Low Code/No Code Development, User Experience Designer, Software Development, Solution Architect…. The list goes on, but that in itself shows you that you need a real vibrant mix of roles and skills within a STEM sector.

​What can the STEM sector do to help achieve greater gender balance?

I think gender is one of many balances to tackle in STEM, socio-economic and cognitive diversity being up there too. I think as a STEM community we are making lots of effort, giving our time and trying to make positive changes. The reality is that the issue is societal and Scotland needs to do more for young people with regards to access to technology and making STEM topics engaging, which again requires a change on encouraging and rewarding people appropriately for roles teaching STEM curriculums.

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