Celebrated on 8 March every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) was first marked by the United Nations in 1975 and celebrates women’s achievements.
The day marks a call for action for boosting gender parity and includes a range activities such as political rallies, and conferences. This year’s theme is aimed at working towards a more gender inclusive working world.
Yahoo News UK asked five women leading the charge in the historically male-dominated science and tech world about how they worked their way into their current roles and what challenges they faced along the way. Here’s what they told us…
What does your current job involve?
“I’m the CEO and one of two founders of Pivigo, a data science marketplace and training provider. We connect freelancing data scientists with organisations and businesses looking to become more data driven on our online platform. As CEO of a start-up I tend to get involved in everything that goes on in the business.”
What route did you take to your current role?
“Oh, a very long one. I decided when I was 13 years old that I wanted to become an astronomer, and from there it was a straight path to my PhD in Astrophysics. I continued with two more science positions before I finally came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would.
“I ended up doing an MBA at Cranfield School of Management in the UK, just to learn about business and figure out what my place in industry was going to be. I would never have thought it would be as an entrepreneur, although perhaps I should have known given that I am in fact a fourth-generation female entrepreneur in my family.”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
“Starting a tech business as a female PhD graduate was not easy. There is a lot of prejudice towards women still, unfortunately, and on top of that also towards academics. It has taken me several years of hard work to earn a certain level of respect in the industry, and to prove that I can do business as well as anyone in this industry.
“Fortunately, outright examples of discrimination are still rare, but they do happen. Most recently I tried to network with a VC at an event who clearly only had interest in the male CEO of another start-up that was standing next to me. Still, I do find that these individuals come around quickly once they do listen to me and understand that I have something of relevance to say, and that I can say it with authority.”
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into a similar role?
“Just do it! If you are new to starting a business, make sure you have access to advice. If you don’t have a co-founder, this could be via an accelerator programme, via your University, or via your wider network. Also set yourself a goal and a decision point. For example, decide how many clients you want to have, or how far you want to get with your product launch, by a certain date and agree with yourself to evaluate at that point whether it is worth continuing or not. That way you are taking a calculated risk, and whether it works or not you will have gathered incredibly valuable experience.”
You can read the full article at Yahoo News UK (originally published 8 March 2017).