I was recently invited to host a Women in Technology interactive session at the annual UK ITAM Review Conference and wow, what an amazing experience.

First of all, it was held at Twickenham Stadium in south west London, the home of England Rugby. Being a huge rugby fan, I was excited from the start! I didn’t bump into any of my heroes sadly, but that’s ok because I met some amazing ITAM professionals and women working in technology.

I had created lots of slides and planned a whole bunch of questions to keep the interaction going, and was a little concerned that perhaps people would not be so keen to open up and speak. But I could not have been more wrong!

After about six slides and my first question, it was like opening the floodgates (in a very positive way). So many women in the room were happy to be open and honest about their experiences in ITAM/IT, and the conversation was fun, lively, empowering, and educational.

Some of the things that were discussed included:

  • The importance of offering flexible working—with the caveats that: a) this is not just for parents, and b) the office/team culture means that flexible working can be done without feeling guilty or being “judged”.
  • It’s ok to speak up. We heard a few examples of experiences where women were treated in a certain kind of way due to their gender or perception of their gender, and we also heard great stories of women calling out the behaviour and standing up for themselves. That’s empowering!
  • Be yourself. This came up a few times and many of us had experiences of trying to behave a particular way to try and fit in with a team that is not diverse.  However, learning to be your authentic self is really important – after all, that’s why we want diversity in our organisations.
  • There’s a place for “leaning in”. There has been some controversy around the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg, and whether it is suitable for everyone or even possible, given the financial stability and support system she has in place. However, we had a “Lean In” expert in the room who gave us a fantastic overview of this book and the benefits that can be gained by using it as a tool to initiate women-in-technology discussions.
  • The general feeling in the room was that there are more women in ITAM now than a few years ago, and in fact, the gender-split at ITAM Review conferences is actually fairly even (the ITAM Review conference in Australia last year had a 50/50 split of men and women).
  • Men care about this, too! There were a couple of men in the session who got really involved in the discussions and seemed to really care about diversity, which is both heart-warming and refreshing.

The hour flew by and before I knew it, we were out of time, which is a shame as I could have sat in a room with those women to chat all day long. Now I knew I was having a good time, and there was a lot of fun and laughter, but I didn’t realise how loud we had been until after the session when someone pointed out that they were in a session next door and all they could hear was us laughing and clapping!

At the end of the session we asked, “Is this something you would like to do again?” The group whole-heartedly agreed that it was, which is really exciting as I cannot wait to spend some more time with them!

This session was such an amazing, positive experience and I came away feeling, once again, that I am part of a really strong, powerful, and empowering community that will continue to thrive and grow.