Women in tech are not quite the unicorns they used to be, but much more needs to be done. We spoke to Melin Edomwonyi, a newly appointed female director at one of Europe’s leading WordPress agencies, Illustrate Digital, to hear how she got into the industry and her views on what more needs to be done to attract women in tech.
According to the Office of National Statistics, just 16.8% of those working in the technology sector are female, while only 10% of these are at executive level. This is why Illustrate Digital’s achievement of having a majority female board of directors is particularly unique.
Getting into the stride of her new role of User Experience (UX) director, Melin joined the Illustrate Digital team five years ago as a part-time UX Designer. Tech is one of the industry’s that has been largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, something that Melin acknowledged when we caught up with her:
“I know this is a difficult time for many of us, so I feel especially proud and grateful to be leading as part of a business that can still thrive at this time.”
So, how did she get into the industry, what’s it like working in a male dominated industry and what would she say to other women who would like to get into the tech space, but are not sure? Read our Q&A with Melin Edomwonyi.
What does it mean to you being a woman in tech?
It means that there’s a lot of work to be done so that this sort of question doesn’t need to be asked in future. Questions such as ‘what does working in tech mean to you?’ rather than ‘what does being a woman in tech mean to you?’ should be asked instead.
How does it feel working in a male dominated field?
It can be quite challenging sometimes, but so much easier and enjoyable when you have a team that supports you and respects you for the work that you do. That makes unpleasant experiences less important.
Was working in technology your first career choice?
My first career choice was graphic design. I found out early on in my career that I was a kind of designer that enjoyed adding to my skillset as the world evolved. I started designing websites pretty much straight after I graduated. This meant that I was designing websites, learning and researching techniques to communicate the looks I wanted to achieve with developers. This was a time when personal websites were still rare. From then on, I delved into branding, social media management and finally full circle, delving deeper into UX Design.
What made you choose this job role?
I’m passionate about design and people. I have grown a lot as a designer, but I’ve also discovered my passion for helping people, and bringing the best out of people. So, my new role hopefully will allow me to keep being creative while building our design team, by training and working alongside creatives with mixed experienced.
I truly believe that we as women need to know our worth and what we bring to the table, without worrying about who else is involved or what they think about us.
Was the thought of going into such a male-dominated industry off-putting?
In all honesty I never thought about it this way. I’m of course reminded of this fact now and then via personal experiences or in the media, but I truly believe that we as women need to know our worth and what we bring to the table, without worrying about who else is involved or what they think about us. I don’t believe in focusing on this fact, I believe in being aware of it but focusing on my work, and how I and the people around me can be better at it.
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to go into the tech industry?
Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Create your own space if none is given to you. Don’t let the traditional way of doing business stop you from being yourself.
Who is your female in tech inspiration and why?
Unfortunately, I don’t have many heros specifically in UX (which speaks volumes in itself), but Tina Roth-Eisnberg is a woman I really admire. She has been a great leader to look up to in the way we can use digital to create communities and find new ways of doing businesses. She shows me every day how to lead with our hearts, with honesty, with creativity and with love.
If they see people who look like them, they hopefully won’t find the tech industry so threatening.
What steps do you think should be taken to attract more women in tech?
There needs to be more representation of women at events, in magazines, in news, in films and in ads. Women need to be okay to be under the spotlight, we need to be more verbal and particularly more active at events. Let’s not wait for people to chase us to do talks, let’s put ourselves forward for things so that the young girls can see their right to have courage, their right to have a say. If they see people who look like them, they hopefully won’t find the tech industry so threatening.