Spotlight on Women in Tech: Hannah Palmer-Bownes

  • At License Dashboard we are, and always have been passionate about creating and maintaining a diverse place of work. One of our employees has been working with the Women in Technology Community by building a space where women can support each other, share advice and work to narrow the gender gap.

We asked some esteemed women within the IT industry to tell us a bit about their experiences within the workplace. Here’s what Hannah Palmer-Bownes said:

When did you first start in the IT industry and what drew you to it?

2011. As many people will say, I kind of just fell in to it. I guess looking back and having my interview I was very drawn to the idea of working for a big corporate company and was very excited about learning all things ‘technical’. Something that I didn’t actually think I would be good at or ever make a career out of!

As a woman, have you faced any challenges within working environments?

YES! I found there to be a lot of bullying in some of my work environments. Strangely enough this was from a woman not much older than me at the time. I was young,  21 and I was still in the process of finding myself, who I was as a young adult and finding my feet within this large firm. I found the bullying to be taking place behind my back. For example I was aware of comments made about me.. ‘ She is wearing heels and strutting down the office’ ‘Who does she think she is?’ This person actually held me back from a permanent role when I was contracting as well. I had proof of my stats and achievements that actually proved me to be more than deserving of the perm position, in fact I was top of the achievement board for several months when this was going on. This person was a manager and for some reason did not take a liking to me and judged me on my looks and fashion rather than my ability to do a good job.

Fast forward to a different role, working for a Law Firm in the IT department, I was one of the first younger females to join this team. I found a lot of my male colleagues were quite flirty and inappropriate. I had one male, whom for some reason I never reported, joke about putting a web cam under my desk. Pretty shocking, especially when our industry was supporting lawyers!

It’s now well known that a lot of industries have been highlighted due to pay gaps between men and women, do you think this is the same within the IT industry?

I think in the past 10 years there has been a great improvement in this topic of pay gaps. I personally have never had any issues with equality when it has come to pay and I have been surrounded by successful female IT Managers that are paid equally.  However I also am aware that these woman had been in their roles for a very long time, 20+ years, so I cannot comment on their experience at the start of their career.

In recent years there has been an influx of women in all workplaces, but it’s not equal to men, I read somewhere that men are 30% more likely to be promoted to a managerial position than women. Why do you think this is and what can organizations do to prevent discrimination and maintain equality when looking at hiring, salaries and promotions? 

I think a lot of organisations are still very backwards and the older more established organisations may seem to have a more sexist approach when it comes to hiring or promotions. Going back in time, it was always the men that worked and the females stayed at home as a ‘home maker.’ I would find it very disappointing if any person still has those beliefs, I think its very much diluted, but the fact of why women face discrimination stems from women never having skilled jobs.

Also, I believe that a lot of discrimination when it comes to females can be due to them being mothers or them likely to carry a child and require time off. It can sometimes feel like an inconvenience when its actually a human right. It can be scary for women who are pregnant – having to have that conversation with their boss, not knowing how they may take it. I found when I was pregnant it took away some of the excitement as I was so afraid I may be seen as a nuisance. I think when it comes to employing people, I don’t really know how you can have something in place that can stop discrimination without anonymously applying for jobs and having interviews with HR present. I know some organisations have a point system in place where you get marks for the skills you have or how you answer a question. With enough people conducting the interview I think organisations can beat discrimination.

What resources and support are available for women in IT? 

I think if you know where to look you can get support from ACAS and CAB if you ever did feel like you were being mistreated.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt as a women in the IT industry?

Confidence and assertiveness can really get you far, don’t let yourself feel intimidated and take pride in your role. Normally if someone is funny with you its normally because they are threatened or have an old school manner of thinking. As much as you shouldn’t have to, rise above it..unless you feel you are being discriminated against. Always speak up.

Don’t let yourself feel intimidated and take pride in your role.

What is your favourite part of working in the IT industry?

Because of the skills and qualifications I gained at the other huge organisations, I feel I have the ability now to put my ideas to good use in the smaller firm I am now working in. I can dip my toes in to areas I haven’t done so before, like marketing and website building as well as being the Application Support Manager. I enjoyed the perks of travel and training new IT recruits in my previous job. I really just like the buzz of constantly learning new things, at the end of the day Information Technology is the future and its great to be a part of it.

What’s the biggest professional challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

Being made redundant when I was pregnant! Oh but that’s a whole other story..It was not against me or personal, it was the fact that the whole IT department was being outsourced to a different country with cheaper work rates. I overcame this by going and getting all the free legal advice possible and making damn sure I was entitled to my redundancy and my maternity pay, I did get my severance pay and Mat pay in the end.  The stress I was under however in the lead up of not knowing what I was entitled to was pretty bad.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to women starting out in the IT industry?

Push your company to let you do courses in your field, be it ITIL, Prince 2, SQL, Powershell or Exchange etc etc..Knowledge is power at the end of the day. Get involved with as much as you can and keep notes of everything you have done weekly. IT can get be very demanding and chaotic. But by keeping track of your achievements, it helps you keep a record for when it comes to promotions or interviews. If you do feel any prejudice or sly comments by a man or a woman and you do feel it is aimed at you because you are a woman, you have every right to speak to HR. I do find that ACAS and CAB can be more helpful, sometimes HR ( not always the case) have the companies best interest at heart rather than the employees.

Also – Dress how the hell you want to dress!

Dress how the hell you want to dress!

Ben Murden

Ben Murden

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