We have always made a deliberate effort to hire the best person for each job, irrespective of gender, nationality or background. As a result, Quant stands out in our sector, with women making up more than 40% of our team. To mark International Women’s Day 2023, we spoke to some of them about what it’s like being a woman in technology.

Tech needs women

There is some truth to technology’s reputation as a male-dominated sector. “Tech can be a foreign place for a woman,” says Soelene Justus, our Senior Product Marketing Manager. “There are still not enough role models or advocates.” Larissa Soares, one of our Backend Developers, notes. “There are still environments where female opinions are not valued as highly as male ones.”

Thankfully, this reputation is rooted in the past rather than the future. “Now women are visible more than ever and have proved that they are equally competent as men,” says Shereen George, another of our Backend Developers. Natasha Boyton-West, our Head of Product Design, shares Shereen’s optimism: “I think it’s still male dominated because previous generations’ women didn’t have the same opportunities – but it is changing.”

That change is happening in no small part because of how valuable it is to have women on the team. “Women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table, which can help companies develop innovative solutions and strategies,” says Firouzeh Hejazi, a Backend Developer. Mahsa Bayat, a fellow Backend Developer, illustrates why that matters: “it can help organisations better understand and serve their diverse customer base, and lead to better decision-making.” As Soelene says, it ultimately comes down to good business strategy: “how important is it to consider what half the world’s population wants and understand their needs?” Extrapolating the benefit, Larissa believes that “giving women more space in industry means giving them more space in society.”

Although there is progress still to be made on equity for women, it is worth pausing to look back at the positive change that has already happened. Our team all agree: things are moving in the right direction. “On the first IT course I took there were only two female students in a class of 40. Today, there are a lot of women in leadership positions in IT,” says Larissa. Mahsa agrees noting that “there has been an increase in the number of women working in tech, and more women are taking on leadership roles in the industry.” Some note even swifter change: “throughout my career, I’ve seen more women than men in the leadership teams, and they’ve all been amazing at their job. That has always been an inspiration for me,” says Shereen.

In some ways technology is no different to other sectors. “I think many of these challenges are not unique to the tech industry and may be present in other sectors as well,” says Mahsa. “The disadvantage of the system towards women can be found in many other sectors. It is a mirror of how our society sees and treats women,” adds Larissa. 

That said, technology does have specific characteristics for women – some negative but many positive. “It is still developing and new technologies or approaches are appearing every day. This can add pressure to prove that you know your stuff,” says Natasha. On the other hand, “there is a strong focus on problem-solving and collaboration, which can be rewarding for women who enjoy working in teams and finding creative solutions to complex challenges,” says Firouzeh. “It is not as aggressive as other industries, and women have better chances of progress solely based on their abilities,” adds Soelene.

Paving the way

Some of the women at Quant have been passionate about technology from an early age. “I was always interested in tech and how innovative and impactful it can be,” says Mahsa. “When I was younger, I was curious about how computers could display information that was previously only available in books,” adds Larissa. Others found their passion a little later. “I hated my IT classes at school, they were always pretty boring and dry. It wasn’t until I started working that I realised I actually understood different technology systems more than I thought,” says Natasha. “Now I am in product and the more technical the product for me, the better. I love learning about new technologies and how it can help add value to customers.” For Soelene, it was an evolution. “Earlier in my career, I saw finance as being that facilitator,” she says. “Then, it became obvious to me that it is technology that now moves people and the world.”

Regardless of how, where or when they found their passion for technology, we’re now fortunate to have these women on the Quant team. But what attracted them to join us? “I really wanted to become part of this amazing company,” says Firouzeh. “Quant has an amazing culture that treats every individual with respect. Your opinions are valued. And that’s what I love about working at Quant,” adds Shereen. “I really liked that Quant was a start-up and they wanted to build something that no other company had built. Quant is a pioneer,” says Mahsa. To Soelene, the recruitment process was decisive. “Quant found me and saw what really mattered – my passion for learning and making a difference. Beyond being inspired by our vision and our CEO’s journey, the group of people I met during the interview made a difference in my decision.”

How can technology firms encourage women into the industry? “Female role models and mentors can be incredibly important for women,” says Mahsa. Firouzeh agrees: “Mentorship and sponsorship programs can provide women with the support, guidance, and connections they need to succeed in the industry.” But there’s more to it than that. “It needs to be an ‘all ideas are welcome’ environment. Women can sometimes lack confidence to speak up with their ideas, I know I do,” suggests Natasha. “We need more women in senior roles to shine the light on the pathway,” adds Soelene.

What advice does our team have for other women thinking about getting into the technology sector? “The tech industry in constantly evolving and setbacks and failures are a part of the process. Stay resilient, persevere through challenges and learn from your mistakes,” says Mahsa. “It’s important to understand your worth and the value you bring to a company,” counsels Natasha. “The tech industry is much more open to factoring in your EQ. How we interact with one another can sometimes be the thing that pushes us further,” suggests Soelene.

Embracing equity

International Women’s Day reminds us that equity is fundamental to creating a world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Our conversation with Quant’s team highlights that having female role models is an important part of achieving this. One of Mahsa’s role models is Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer. “Lovelace’s pioneering work in computer programming and her prescient vision of the possibilities of computing have inspired me. She is an important role model because she broke barriers and paved the way for women to pursue careers in computing and technology.” Some are lucky to have role models in their own lives. “I worked for a female leader in finance who taught me how to take educated risks. She also made me, her assistant, sit at the table with all the senior people at the company – awkward times, but I grew more and more confident,” says Soelene. “There are a few senior women at Quant that I look up to and often listen to for advice based on their experiences,” add Natasha. “Every female with whom I have worked in the field has been an inspiration to me. I always look to them as role models and sources of inspiration,” recalls Larissa.

Technology and education has a huge part to play in helping women achieve and become role models for the next generation. “In order to ensure technology is not dominated by a single group in the future, we need to start in the education system and put processes in place to show that anyone can have a career in technology,” says Natasha. And, as Firouzeh notes, women’s opportunities vary greatly depending on their background. “Online education platforms and other digital learning tools can provide flexible and accessible learning opportunities for women who may face barriers to traditional education, such as geographic location, family responsibilities, or financial constraints.”

“One of the primary gateways to technology is education. Offering opportunities that bridge the gap between the industry and the women who want to work in it is a crucial step in assisting women in remaining in the field,” believes Larissa.

Takeaways for all

There is so much women and men can learn from each other. That they are of equal competence and value to a company is not in doubt. But simply acknowledging this fact is not enough. Perhaps the most important message to come out of our conversation with the Quant team is how important it is for us all to have empathy for one another. “We are constantly questioned about our knowledge and how much we deserve to be where we are,” says Larissa. “As a result, we must work twice as hard in order to be taken seriously.”

“Real change comes from humility and vulnerability”, concludes Soelene. “It’s about respecting different ways of thinking, behaving and doing. Women and men often have different professional styles; we need mutual understanding and respect.”

Back to Perspectives

“Giving women more space in the industry means giving them more space in society.”

Larissa Soares
Backend Developer
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