Women In Tech—The Token Argument

How To Close The Gender Gap In Tech

By Ania Kubow

I stumbled into being a Woman in tech.

I was 24 when I started my first e-commerce business in 2014. We were using a ‘ready to use’ online selling platform which was very basic in terms of user experience and I felt stifled by the limited design template options available to me. I decided to self-teach myself html and CSS coding to create the exact website look and feel I wanted. There was no thought behind it but simply a means to an end of achieving a certain aesthetic that I yearned for my brand, that was outside the parameters of what was allowed.

As time passed, more obstacles came my way in terms of the vision I wanted for my website and user experience. Before I knew it, I was teaching myself R programming.

It was never a case of me deciding to study tech at university and see where it would take me as a career, but now as I find myself using tech programming more and more on a daily basis, I ask myself, why didn’t I consider that career path?

London is increasingly demanding highly developed skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) from young graduates. As reports from the Greater London Authority reveal, few young people in London are leaving school with A-levels in this area, particularly young women. In London, there are nearly 40,000 digital technology businesses, representing one fifth of the UK’s tech businesses, and there is a huge demand for digitally-skilled talent that is ready for the workplace. Increasing the number of women working in digital occupations could significantly address this demand. Currently, only 17 per cent of the digital workforce is made up of women.

I must admit, before I stumbled into being a woman in tech as I co-founded an insurtech app last year, I had no idea of the abysmal statistics. I felt uncomfortable calling myself a woman in tech — surely person in tech would be the correct term to use? Why should my gender have anything to do with my achievement and skill set? Is this not another version of discrimination and token-isation? I actively avoided any recognition or press article that would ask me questions like ‘How does it feel to work in an all-male dominated environment.’ Ever since I remember I have worked in all male dominated roles and not even blinked an eyelid over it. I started my career as an oil broker in the financial markets of London, and did that for 6 years before joining the Tech world. If anything, I have no idea what it’s like to work with all women — yet I have never been asked that question to this day.

It was when I met a university student last year that my mind set changed, and I now understand the need to celebrate the movement for women in STEM. We were discussing the low numbers of girls taking on the subjects and why. That was when it hit me. I studied Maths and Physics at school, yet at careers day when it came to decide on applications for University, my role models were Architects and Product Designers, who deeply affected my motivation to choose Architecture and Engineering as courses to study at University. Had there been some inspiring, limit-breaking woman killing it in Tech, would I have chosen the same?

We need those brilliant minds in the Tech World, just as much as in Architecture and Engineering. I am now proud to support and call myself a Woman in Tech, and hope the movement inspires plenty of young girls to go down this amazing and fulfilling career path, just as I am now. We need to stop women from being afraid of being labelled a ‘Token’ as I was, and make them realise that young girls need great role models in the industry to start closing the substantial gender gap.

Ania Kubow

Co-founder at Nimbla.com

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