The impact of technological innovation on our social, political, and economic world is endless. Yet only 5% of leadership positions in technology are held by women. On Wednesday 5 February 2020, I had the pleasure of attending a Women in Tech panel held by the Durham University Women in Business society in collaboration with DUWomen in STEM and CGNE. The aim of the talk was to demystify ‘Tech’ as a buzzword: how it is changing the face of finance, law, and science, and the impact this will have on women now and in the future.
The thought of life after University had always seemed a daunting prospect for me. Moving on from the Durham bubble, away from all my friends, and joining the world of work was something I often hesitated to think about. I was curious to hear from people who had been in the same position as me as a student and had managed to find careers that inspired them. I hoped to gain a better understanding of what the tech industry had to offer for me as a woman in STEM, and some clarity on the different paths available.
The event kicked off with a half-hour panel that covered a range of subjects including the role of technological innovation, issues of gender inequality, and thoughts on where technology could take us in the future. We had the privilege of listening to speakers from across the industry; including representatives from Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Boyds, QuantuMDx, CGG, 11:FS, and SEO. It was refreshing to hear honest perspectives about the learning curve from university to the world of work. Recent Durham graduate (and blogger), Soumya Singh, discussed how her role in Technology at Deutsche bank requires drawing on a whole range of skills beyond those learned in the classroom. Working in industry exposes you to the importance of systematic planning, rigorous quality standards, and keeping a fresh skill set to tackle problems in a sector that is constantly changing. Jennifer Hannant, head of the materials and chemistry team at QuantuMDX, discussed her work in the biotechnology sector, developing a molecular diagnostic lab to address humanitarian health challenges and detect and track emerging pandemics. As a chemistry student myself, it was fascinating to learn about how far Jennifer’s degree had taken her. With the current Covid-19 pandemic having affected lives across the globe, being able to pursue a career that makes a tangible impact seems more relevant now than ever.
The panel discussion was followed by smaller Q&A sessions where we had the opportunity to network directly with the speakers. I was able to ask for advice on finding a career that is the right fit for me and listened intently as Deepa Anikhindi shared how her journey had involved different routes before finding her way to 11:FS. I gained confidence from the knowledge that there’s no right way to go about things and it’s ok not to have everything figured out. It’s important to treat every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow until you find a role that is right for you.
The event ran seamlessly, and each speaker had a unique and exciting experience to share. Durham University Women in Business society did an excellent job of organising such an insightful and engaging session. Having taken up the role of DUWIB 2020/21 Treasurer, I hope to help organise events that inspire others in the same way that panels like this have inspired me. I have realised the importance of helping students to build their networks and feel empowered on their journeys to a fulfilled career. Seeing confidence, leadership, and accomplishment from women working in the technology industry, I came away with the knowledge that I have the ability to transform lives and use technology to shape the world in which we live.