#ThisIsGoodCall: Kate Masson – Women in STEM. Is this a term I identify with?

On International Women’s Day 2023, GoodCall’s CEO reflects on her role and place in the tech industry, and what it means to her.

The 2023 International Women’s Day is celebrating the theme of DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. My degree from Dundee University is Anatomical and Physiological Studies, and I’m the CEO of a not-for-profit tech company, GoodCall Mobile CIC. On paper ‘Women in Tech or STEM’ should be a term I feel confident to identify with and feel accomplished in. But I’m not sure that I always do.

Recently I was invited to speak at a Cyber Security event to talk about GoodCall and our employability strategies to help support individuals, furthest from the job market, in to sustainable, meaningful employment in tech. Asked to come along and describe how our hybrid models and flexible working policies help my team to balance their work with life; and our success in bringing women into tech because of these policies. But the ironic part? On the initial call on Microsoft Teams, where I was invited to attend the event; sat at my kitchen table (how very 2020 of me), I neglected to mention that I was 7 months pregnant.

As waddled my way into the event, and although I am ashamed to say it now, I felt self-conscious of my growing bump; I was hit with a huge wave of imposter syndrome. I worried that I would be judged as unsuitable, perhaps undeserving, to be in the room. The narrative in my head “oh she’ll be going off soon, not worth networking with”.

By the time I had left that two-day conference I had made brilliant connections; people and companies willing to put their time and money into young people and women, people furthest from the job market, to help build towards equity and equality through GoodCall. Groundingly, I realised my anxieties had been misplaced. But on my train home, as I rubbed and apologised to my bump, it led me to question; why were those anxieties there in the first place?

In an ever growing technically dependent world, underrepresentation in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to women’s participation in tech design and governance. The gender inequality statistics in the tech industry are stark. Only 1 in 5 of the workforces are female, and only 5% of leaders are women. These stats can make you feel out of place. A silent message of being outnumbered – unwelcome even? But is this because women truly aren’t welcome in the industry? Maybe historically, but my experience is that this is changing. Slowly.

Gender parity in tech should be important to all of us, not just women. Male allies in my organisation and networking opportunities including the conference last week, have challenged the gender inequality demons in my own head. My experience (and I recognise that this won’t be the experience of all) is that most males in the room have been delighted, maybe relived to see women and diversity in the industry. They recognise the inequality that exists, often ashamed of it.

The digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality. As women, we will at times have to sit in the ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling yet still push ourselves to participate. My confidence of being a woman in in the changing dynamics of the industry will grow where I feel trust that I don’t have to apologise for my dual role of CEO and ‘Mum’. I’m a role model, challenging what has gone before me. I have a 5-year-old daughter and I want her to believe that with hard work and willingness to learn and reflect, she can and deserves to achieve what she wants; whether that be in tech or otherwise. And that there’s no need to be ashamed by this ambition. It’s ok to want both career success and to be a good parent; this is within her privilege. And mine.

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