Could becoming an entrepreneur be a route for more women to enter the cyber security sector? The WISDOM group, together with HutZero, an early stage accelerator programme, considered this issue and other strategies to promote women in tech at our recent co-hosted event ‘Driving Innovation through Diversity’ at Winton Group, London.
On June 1st 2017, WISDOM’s London Universities Women in STEM Day was held at the London Mathematical Society in Russell Square, London . The event aimed to connect groups and individuals in London working towards the goal of promoting women in STEM, with interesting speakers from both academia and industry. (Speaker biographies can be seen here.) The event aimed to act as a forum to share ideas, to discuss hurdles and to network; we hoped each attendee would leave with some new ideas they could implement in their workplace and some new contacts.
Back when I was an undergraduate student of Mathematics I remember periodically receiving emails inviting me to a ‘Women in Maths’ event taking place within the department. Most of these events were targeted at early stage mathematicians (undergraduates, PhD students, and postdocs) who were women, and focused on their career. I never attended any of these events, actively selecting to ignore them instead. In this post I want to share some reasons why I avoided these events, and reflect on how I feel differently now.
This week’s Voice and Influence programme was on the topic of Power and Influence. We discussed various social signals that position someone in an authoritative “high” position, versus those for an approachable “low” position. There is a need to recognise when one position is more beneficial to you as an influential voice. As a rule-of-thumb, authoritative signals as a speaker and approachable signals as a listener.
In the fifth instalment of the Voice and Influence training we discussed negotiation. The session began with a video in which Professor Margaret Neale gave her best tips for negotiating successfully. The purpose of this video is to propose a new way of thinking about negotiation: most people view negotiation as an adversarial process, but Professor Neale wants to change the frame of thinking. Negotiation is problem solving, and problem solving is collaborative! A summary of the talk is given below.
What is the difference between positive action and positive discrimination?
“Positive action is when an employer takes steps to help or encourage certain groups of people with different needs, or who are disadvantaged in some way, access work or training. Positive action is lawful under the Equality Act. For example, an employer could organise an open day for people from a particular ethnic background if they’re under-represented in the employer’s workforce. This wouldn’t be unlawful discrimination under the Act.” (Citizens advice 2017)
I felt like it was time to write something for the WISDOM blog after a topical BBC article was published recently regarding feminine, sexualised AI bots such as Amazon’s Ask Alexa, or Microsoft’s Cortana, or even — as some Big Bang Theory fans may recall — Siri.
I am not going to speculate on what subtle everyday sexism might feel like to a victim, but what I can do is discuss one example of the sexualisation, and therefore depersonalisation, of women in geekdom.
Yesterday we held the third session of WISDOM’s edition of the Voice and Influence program. The topic was levelling the playing field, and we learned how to recognize and counteract stereotypes in order to reduce bias, i.e., to reduce errors when making decisions.
On Tuesday 31st January we had the second session of the Voice & Influence program. This time the topic was about building effective networks – very timely for me as I approach the end of my PhD and think about finding a job.
We learnt about the three different kinds of networks: operational (day-to-day relationships at work), personal (friends, family and informal relationships), and strategic, the most important for career advancement. We learnt three properties of good strategic networks: they are broad (it is helpful to have a diverse range of contacts, not just ‘people like me’); connective (contain people with links to other groups), and dynamic.
We had some useful group discussion about networking experiences, how to network effectively, and how to appropriately maintain professional relationships. We also discussed a list of tips explaining how not to be a network leech. We decided some of these tips may be less appropriate in an academic setting (such as paying for someone’s help a second time you seek it), but found some very applicable, such as preparing a list of questions in advance.
I found it particularly useful to hear advice from the group on how they use LinkedIn to support their networking, which is something I will take forward and use myself. We also reflected on the importance of noticing one’s own value to the network, which helps to balance the perceived inauthenticity or coldness of trying to connect with someone you identify as valuable to you. As I look back on my PhD, I have found networking easier as I have progressed, and one reason for this is that I feel like I now have more to offer the community. However, perhaps I should have begun valuing myself sooner!
Our next session will be Tuesday 14th February, 4pm, in the Large Boardroom, Founders. All postgraduate students and staff in the School of Mathematics and Information Security are welcome to attend, and we hope to see many of you there.