International Women's Day: In conversation with Vickie Allen, founder of the DevelopHER Awards
In celebration of International Women’s Day we decided to interview Vickie Allen, founder of the DevelopHER Awards, an annual non-profit organization that aims to acknowledge the efforts of women across all areas of technology. Vickie has regularly been attending and speaking at events promoting gender equality and ran the first DevelopHER Awards in 2015 with over 150 attendees.
Hi Vickie, it’s great to chat with you! Could you share a little bit about yourself and what encouraged you to start the DevelopHER Awards?
I have been working in the tech industry for over 10 years now, but back when I first started out in 2012, I was disappointed to see the lack of women in the industry in my job as well as at local networking events, so I was determined to do something to address it.
Did you have a specific goal in mind when you first started?
I decided to start an awards ceremony to celebrate the incredible women who are in the industry but also to help create role models and inspire others to consider a career in technology too.
Tell us what inspired you to work in the digital and tech industry.
I never really knew what I wanted to do when I was growing up, I had a love of Spanish, and I had enjoyed messing around with Photoshop and styling my Myspace page during my teens, and I guess I was lucky because I sort of fell into tech with an Apprenticeship from a big local employer and found a love for coding, but I definitely didn’t have it all figured out at all and it could have turned out very differently.
Where do you see the DevelopHER Awards taking women in tech in the next few years?
I would love to keep building the incredible community we have and to see those that have won awards to continue smashing it and to continue inspiring the next generation.
Data shows that women represent just 26% of the workforce in the tech industry, and only 5% of leadership positions are held by women. What do you think digital and tech employers can do to offer women more of the right-fit opportunities they seek in the world of work?
This is a difficult question to answer, as ‘right-fit’ is different for everyone and that applies far more widely than just the tech industry, but I’m to continue trying to challenge the stereotypes that surround a lot of roles in tech and to encourage companies to actively think about how they can make their hiring process more appealing to a wider audience.
In your experience, and that of women in tech subscribing to the DevelopHER Awards, what are the top 3 challenges women experience in progressing their careers in technology?
I think the same as any other industry, women often leave the workforce to have children, and in tech, which seems to move at such a fast pace, it can be hard for them to regain a foot in the industry if they wish to return after a number of years.
I think that imposter syndrome plays a major part in preventing women from progressing their , a form of self-sabotage almost, where we simply feel like we are a fraud and waiting to be found out. This might stop us from speaking up, or applying for a promotion or external vacancy as we are afraid of not being good enough.
Lastly, and sort of linked to my previous point, there is a statistic from Hewlett Packard that says that on average men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.
If there is 1 piece of advice you would give to young women in the digital/tech industry, what would it be?
My advice would be to take up space. We need to increase the visibility of women in tech as much as possible and you never know who you might inspire just by being you. And if you ever feel alone then there are fantastic communities of women in tech out there so don’t be afraid to reach out and make some new friends.