Cirque Du CIO

It is widely acknowledged that there is a shortage of women in senior STEM roles across public and private sectors. Much has been written about how to engage with the next generation of IT leaders to encourage uptake of women into the tech industry, without many concrete ideas of what needs to change.

Increasingly the few female CIOs or tech leaders who do acknowledge their status as the minority gender represented at board level, have written books, articles and given interviews on their top tips for ‘surviving’ or ‘making it to the top’. The question is, do I want to simply ‘survive’ my career, or actively enjoy it?

The recent announcement by tech giant Facebook that they are offering to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs under the guise of being touted as a benefit for employees, sends a strong message that having a career and raising a family are mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much to dispel any fears the next generation of IT staff may have about choosing a career in tech.

As a Deputy CIO for a medium-sized public sector organisation, who recently returned from maternity leave, the pressure faced with the desire to start a family and balancing a demanding job is significant. With a high level of personal planning I am able to continue my job, but this is on a knife-edge; one late meeting or train sends a meticulously planned routine into freefall.

My desire to continue to progress in work as well as ensuring a happy home life is a conundrum. Increasingly I use mobile working applications such as Google Hub which assists with being able to have face-to-face meetings via video and offline access to documents which means I can sync between office and home seamlessly. This goes some way to easing the juggling act along with having the support of a proactive team who have their own busy schedules to manage.

The consumerisation of technology has enabled people to maximise efficiency of their time; technology which was formerly accessed via personal devices, such as smart phones has now blurred into working life. Bring Your Own Device policies are now commonplace in most organisations, all of which assists employees to balance their working lives, whether that’s working from home, using Bluetooth technology in their car to make phone calls on the move or remote access to work via a mobile device.

The proliferation of smart phone apps offers ways in which small scale technology products pushes the market on both at home and work. During pregnancy I tracked the growth and milestones of my baby using an app, I now use a video baby monitor which uses wireless technology to connect to a handset which offers colour video whilst monitoring the room temperature and breathing pattern of my (hopefully) sleeping baby on-screen. Whilst seemingly small scale in terms of function, the cumulative effect of these innovations saves me valuable time and offers peace of mind.

Reflecting this on to the lives of the next generation of technology leaders; does the increase in devices and apps offer a ‘helping hand’ which actually makes a career in technology a great choice for young women considering their career choices. From fridges being able to automatically re-order groceries online to synced calendars with other family members, technology may not be a panacea but it is certainly innovating quickly enough to make a real difference.

On balance, there is no silver bullet to ensuring women are equally represented in C-level jobs; naturally it should always be the best person for the job; employers may need to do more to acknowledge that when we get there we may have an ipad in one hand and wireless HD baby monitor in the other.

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Guest information

With 10 years experience in the healthcare sector, I have expertise in portfolio, programme and project management, business analysis, business case development, public sector procurement team leadership and IT strategy. I am the Head of Knowledge & Information for the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN). I work and deputise for the CIO of the IS Directorate and oversee the delivery of programmes of work using a variety of technologies. I lead a team of technology-focused staff to deliver Information Systems solutions to support clinical research.

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  • Richard C

    A great blog piece Jenny, looking forward to seeing the wireless HD baby monitor in meetings… Its amazing to think how the world has changed, the pace it has changed and how that is speeding up, what will the ‘norm’ be in 15 years I wonder?