WED Asks – Silka Patel

Increasing gender diversity and encouraging women into the tech sector has been a topic in the news for many years, yet women still remain largely under-represented in IT and Tech focused roles.

At Women Empowering Defence we know the importance and value of increasing diversity in the workplace and want to encourage more women into the tech industry.

Silka Patel is a strategic marketing expert with 25 years’ experience of working within the technology industry and is the Social Value Manager at Leidos UK. Silka set up Scotland Women in Technology (SwiT) which is now in its 15th year, championing women in the technology sector.

We have interviewed Silka to share her journey, advice and experience to help put the spotlight on women in technology with the hope to inspire more women into tech and leadership roles.

What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?

The need for gender equality in the tech sector. I’ve been in the sector for twenty five years now and it still surprises me to this day when I look around the room and I do not see people who look like me and that’s not just from a gender perspective but also from an ethnicity perspective as well, so everything I do to support women and empower women into tech sector comes from that reality of we’re nowhere near where we need to be.

How did you get into the technology sector?

It’s actually interesting because I accidentally fell into the technology sector; it wasn’t a career path that I actively chose but I’m glad I did. My background is in travel and tourism and it’s what I studied at university, it was marketing within the travel sector, but I graduated the month that 911 unfortunately happened and that closed the travel sector off to me as an option as no one was recruiting or hiring, and therefore technology found me with the transferable skills that I have. I remember the agency saying to me if you can sell travel, and you can sell a dream, you’ll be able to do just fine in technology.

Why do you think there are still so few females in the technology sector?

I think it’s down to stereotyping and that still exists today. The first image you often think of if you ask a younger lady or a girl “what does a person in technology look like”, the response you often get is a description of a young man or boy or an older gentleman often white in a lab coat with glasses locked in a room for hours on end. I think there’s a lot to be done to break those stereotypes down and I think that women have got a role to play in being active leaders and role models to show what a lucrative career in technology could look like, because the options are so diverse and so inclusive that it shouldn’t be a door that women are still closing from an early age.

And how do you think we can achieve a more diverse future in tech?

I think active role modelling is something that needs to happen to get to that point where women see other girls and other women in the roles, doing the roles that they think that they could go on to do. It’s that “you can’t be what you can’t see” attitude and it’s so critical from a young age but also we have to think about transferable skills as well, like myself, there are ways that you can reskill and retrain into the tech sector and there are organisations like the company I work for Leidos, or the organisation that I started 15 years ago Scotland Women In Technology, that are creating programmes to upskill women into the technology industry because the pathways are so diverse full of much opportunity.

What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress in this industry?

The number one thing is networks! You’ve got to spend time on developing your networks and surrounding yourself with active, positive coaches, mentors, and sponsors. That is the way that we will progress together in this industry; women supporting other women is fundamental but also surrounding yourself with a powerful network that’s fully inclusive is the way to get around, to become successful in this industry. I wouldn’t be any where I am today without the power of my network – it is key!

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