Women in Technology – Polly Purvis

Biography – Polly Purvis, Executive Director of ScotlandIS
Polly started her career with the Royal Bank of Scotland Group working in the City of London. Returning to Scotland she joined Scottish Development Agency’s (now Scottish Enterprise) Small Business Division initially providing early stage venture capital funding, and progressed to acting Director of Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothian’s Company Growth Division. In this role she had special responsibility for development of small business policy.

Following a period in management consultancy with specialist business growth consultants Matrix Management, Polly moved to the Scottish Software Federation, and was actively engaged in the merger which formed ScotlandIS. Polly represents ScotlandIS on the ICT Industry Advisory Group, the eskills UK Scotland board, the Aspekt board at Edinburgh School of Informatics, the Public sector ICT Industry Board, the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing and is a director of dotScot Registry.

Profile of ScotlandIS
The home of expert software, telecomms and IT services businesses, ScotlandIS is the trade body for the ICT industry. It has a remit to raise the profile of the industry, lobby policy makers on relevant issues and support their members.

i) How did you decide upon a career in technology? Did you study science subjects at school/college?

I started my career in financial services and economic development, and fell into technology almost by accident. I studied economics and marketing at University so my understanding of technology is only ‘skin deep’. However as in other disciplines. you’re always learning and I find technology fascinating. However I have to put my hands up on a regular basis and say I don’t understand the intricacies of some of the technology. It makes me wish I’d paid more attention in my Physics lessons at school.

ii) What was the attitude towards technology as a career choice for women from school/college careers advisors?
I didn’t consider it as a career choice at that stage

iii) Have you experienced any discrimination/barriers to progress or would you consider being a woman in a male dominated environment to be an advantage?
Absolutely none. I’ve found the technology industry to be full of really great, interesting people and have never encountered any barriers due to being a woman. I do recognise that it may be very daunting to young women joining a team where they may be the only woman initially, and I think employers need to make sure that they are made comfortable and supported, for example by helping them to build networks across the industry where they will meet other women in technology jobs.

iv) Do you think that there are any differences in attitudes/opportunity for girls choosing a career in technology now compared to when you made your career choices?
There is much more recognition that women like men can do anything they want to. We do need to keep emphasising to young people that the technology industry needs many more women – and the breadth of opportunities available.

v) What, if anything, does your organisation do to encourage more women into the sector?
We’re involved with a number of initiatives that are seeking to encourage more people of either gender to join the industry. We also support the local Girl Geeks groups, and Scottish Women in Technology.

vi) What do you think could be/needs to be done to increase the number of women entering technology businesses?

We need to change the mind sets of the people who influence career choices so they are aware of the fantastic opportunities in the industry. We also need to promote that message directly to young people, through every medium we can.

vii) What do you think can be done to encourage women to stay in technology businesses and to advance to senior/board level positions?
This is a very complex area – the technology sector is a great place to work for women, with considerable flexibility around working patterns, good salaries and benefits packages but I think, as in many other industries, we need to devote more time to mentoring and supporting women in the technology workforce to build worthwhile careers, and to actively promote them to senior positions. The good news is that there is an increasing number of female CEO’s in the industry, particularly in the US. They are providing really valuable role models, but a lot more work needs to be done. Should there be a positive discrimination policy ? Personally, I do think that’s needed but it must be on the basis of merit and not just numbers driven.

viii)Do you think that the increased use of social media/internet technologies make technology in general more acceptable to women/girls?
As social media and internet technologies become increasingly pervasive women increasingly see the potential technology offers, but we do need to keep emphasising what an exciting place the industry is to work in, and the breadth of opportunities it offers

1 Comment on Women in Technology – Polly Purvis

  1. I think that the point is well made that we need to ensure that all young people see this as an area with exciting career opportunities. This is the first time in history where potentially the male of the species does not have a huge start on women. Most of our young people have access to technology from an early age and have a greater understanding of it than many of us who have come to it later in life. We have to ensure that young women understand that they do not have to be just users of the technology but can be involved in its continuing development and design.

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