Sisters are doing IT for themselves

The IT industry is a healthy, fast-moving and vibrant place to work. But why are women still turned off by tech?

She came from a land down under but has risen to the heady heights of a historically male-dominated world. But how did she do it and what advice does she have for her sisterhood, and the industry at large, in terms of levelling the IT gender playing field?

Name: Dr Glenda Stone

Occupation: Founder and chief executive of Aurora

Qualifications: Dip. Teach; B.Ed, M.Ed, honorary doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University

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CV: Teacher in the Australian outback in the late 80s; European Businesswoman of the Year 2002; Pioneer of the Nation (awarded by HM the Queen) 2003; Board member Womankind International 2004-2007; Co-chair of UK Government's Women's Enterprise Taskforce (three-year term until 2009); chairs Aurora's Businesswomen's Network, The Times' Where Women Want To Work Top 50, the BlackBerry Women & Technology Awards; sits on a number of business start-ups award panels and business/technology-related committees.

Message to other women: "Go for it. IT is absolutely the hub of the business universe. It's exciting, innovative and hugely rewarding."

Glenda believes that the whole tech industry is in need of a PR makeover to educate women into the kinds of roles available to them as she believes that girls at school aren't shown the integration of business with technology.

"What I mean by that is that they're seeing technology as programming, which is surely just one strand of technology. It would be like someone saying 'I don't want to go into finance because I don't like insurance' or 'I don't want to go into retail because I don't like supermarkets.' Unfortunately, a lot of women see technology as that one strand and don't see IT as design, innovation, business development, competitive research and so on."

As a chief executive, manager and entrepreneur many people in the industry look to Glenda as a role model as she has achieved so much and highlights the possibilities of an industry often fraught with impossibilities for females. But who are her role models?

"We've always had role models in the tech sector. Carly Fiorina was a very controversial role model but was also very visible. It's unusual to see a woman so senior in the tech sector so it's often the case that someone who stands out and is criticised a lot draws more attention to them and what they do in their career," she says.

She adds: "I've always believed you should have many role models for many different reasons rather than just one. Some [of my role models] have been short term, some mid term but I don't think I've had any long term. If I'm interested, I will search them out of draw on my very extensive network and tap into them on an as-needs basis. I don't always buy into the fact that you need a highly formal or strict [mentor] relationship."

Glenda believes that the industry has changed over the last five years, offering women much more choice than before both in what they do and how they do it.

Although she's an advocate for the advancement of women, her attitude and manner are far from hard-done by. Interestingly, she believes one of the biggest challenges she has faced isn't to do with gender at all.

Instead, she says, one of the key things she's had to get her head round is identifying her focus and maintaining it on a core business area, avoiding the temptation to do more. "Do something well and really master that before moving onto the next thing," she says. "Often in business, there will be many opportunities and you have to pick one."

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Glenda is very upbeat and her positive, can-do attitude has now doubt also been a contributing factor in getting her where she is today.

"In my opinion there is no better sector to work in than the tech sector when it comes to gender. It is so fast-moving and innovative that no-one gives a hoot whether you're wearing trousers or a skirt - it's all about the quality of your mind and your ability to output," she says. "If you're male or female, who care. Or anything in-between, who cares."

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