Empowering Women at Tech. Retail Week

September 12, 2018

Tech., powered by Retail Week and the World Retail Congress, is currently taking place in London where over the course of the next two days the leading trends in digital retailing and technology driving them will be debated. With the continued imbalance faced by the industry, gender will take centre stage on Day 2 with YNAP joining the likes of Google, Code First: Girls, Photobox and PWC to discuss Empowering Women in Tech. We sit down with Rosemary Hitchcock, Head of Technology at YNAP, who will be sharing our group’s leadership insights and her personal experience as a leading talent in our tech teams at the event.

It feels like a backward question, but what is it like to be a ‘woman in tech’?

It is true when you look at the industry at large, we women are in the minority, but luckily for me, this isn’t my personal day-to-day experience of tech.

As a female working in technology at YNAP, you are just one of the team. Women now represent two-thirds of employees at YNAP and we are well-above the industry average for female coders.

YNAP has long been dedicated to developing its position as a leading employer for women in search of fashion or technology career paths. As such, one of the group’s three sustainability pillars is dedicated to Empowering Women which features a wide range of initiatives both within YNAP and in partnership with industry. In fact, earlier this year, YNAP was named in the Time ‘Top 50 employers for women’ as a testament to this.

When you look at the lack of gender equality in tech at industry level, what do you see as the solutions?

Of course, half the battle is encouraging younger generations to embrace the opportunities offered by a career in technology which is why, in July this year, we commissioned research of 1,000 young people aged 11-16 years old and their parents. We dishearteningly found that whilst young women are aware of the availability of careers in technology, half hold a belief that they are ‘unexciting’.

We need to get young people and especially girls to understand that a career in tech is not only about gaming or IT infrastructure. We need to show that it is creative and taps into their puzzling-solving abilities.

 Through the lens of fashion, we try to inspire girls from school age up. Via our coding programmes with Imperial College CodeLab they can taste what their future in technology could be. If they can try it out themselves, and show another side of tech, we will hopefully encourage them to develop their skills and interest in tech.

What tips would you give professionals who are looking to help create change?

It is all about taking small steps every day. We are looking at changing an industry-wide issue, but we need to start from the ground-up.

At YNAP, we are lucky to have an actual Women in Tech programme which offers female talent social media forums, speaker events, mentoring and bespoke training to ensure their advancement within the sector.

Another project I’ve been personally involved with – which may seem trivial, but has created a real impact – is rewriting job specs to be more attractive to female candidates; ensuring the wording is more gender neutral, and emphasising soft skills as well as technology capabilities.

We know from experience that promoting equality in the workplace – and particularly in fields such as tech where there is still much progress to be made – does not only create benefits for women, but for all employees!