Women in technology: Where are we? Why aren’t we here? - Maintel

Women in technology: Where are we? Why aren’t we here?

8th March 2022
By: Mira Willett, Head of Solutions Design 

We believe it’s important that we celebrate women every day, not just on International Women’s Day. Therefore, we are launching a brand new series, shining a spotlight on our internal female talent, to celebrate women in technology.

To launch this series, we caught up with Mira Willett, Head of Solutions Design at Maintel to talk about opportunities, challenges and difficulties recruiting women in technology.

From a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by technology. I started out in technical training and as a Telecoms Engineer, and from there have always worked within a tech environment. I joined Maintel 11 years ago in a presales capacity and have gone from team member to leading that team for the last seven years in various capacities.

Throughout my tenure as a manager, I’ve had to recruit and during that time I’ve probably only ever seen two CVs from women. Last year I recruited for two roles externally – not a single female CV. They were all male. I am absolutely shocked that there are not enough women being put forward. Is it that there aren’t enough women wanting those positions, or that the recruiters aren’t bringing us their CVs?  I wouldn’t hire a woman just because she’s a woman, she would have to meet the brief in terms of role requirements and be a good fit for the business, but I don’t get a chance as they’re not being presented to me.

It’s great fun working with men, they have a slightly different perspective on things, but I think the dynamic is better when you have a balance of men and women.

I don’t know if Telecoms is seen as a difficult industry? When I go to events there might be four women and 50, 60, or 70 men in the room and you think, where are they? Where are the women? Why aren’t we here?

Our area (solutions design) is definitely technical – it’s not just about pricing, it’s about design, and understanding technology and integration. We profile new opportunities and large bids, and we also launch quite a lot of services and products as a company. I have a lot of interaction with the R&D team, with the product team, and operations to support the sales team in explaining to the customer how a solution will flow end to end.

Now I’ve moved into a managerial position I’m no longer a design authority. But you have to stay on top of the changes happening in vendors’ technology, what’s happening in the market, how that fits the Maintel business, the value add we can provide to our customers, and where we see opportunities with those solutions.

There are obstacles everywhere for women in technology, and that’s probably the reason there are not that many of us.

15 years ago, there were loads of challenges for women. You had to go to the office and do five full days or you lost your job which was a really big conflict for me when my kids were little. With more flexibility and working from home I’m hoping that won’t be the case for the new generations.

I’ve also had lots of other obstacles, especially early on. From customers you’re talking to addressing your male colleague (when they’re not the techie) to people making a beeline through all the men to ask me where the printer is. It’s a little bit uncomfortable as you don’t want to be rude – some women maybe aren’t as thick skinned as I am.

But there has also been a lot of respect in the industry from colleagues and suppliers who are cognisant of who I am, where I am, and what I do.

I didn’t get where I am through favours or because I knew somebody or my looks. It was really sheer hard work and determination. I now have two ladies in my team of 23 people, and I do as much as I can to boost their confidence and help them build their skillset and improve what they know.

Maintel is trying as much as it possibly can to raise the female profile, but I think it’s difficult if you’re relying just on hiring. The only way we can probably shift it is sponsoring females from school into apprenticeships.

What advice would I give to those women considering a career in technology? I say just embrace it, have confidence and give it a go.

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