International Women's Day

Philippa Rickard2 March 2021
Image of woman with hand up

I initially joined Covéa as the Head of Delivery in 2019 after hearing Graeme Howard, our CTIO, talk with real energy, drive and passion about how Covéa was transforming as a company. The transformation programme and the culture within Covéa really sounded like something I wanted to be part of. My initial focus was on reinvigorating our Agile and Project delivery teams to ensure quality in delivering our roadmap. Recently, I was promoted to Director of Delivery and am working with our Affinity and Product teams to deliver the Covéa Strategic Roadmap.

I’m proud to be the first female director in the Digital team at Covéa, and hope this shows other women that there are no glass ceilings here and that they can achieve their career goals with us.

I never had a specific career path in mind, but having studied Computer Science at University, the obvious job after graduation was as a programmer, which I did in various industries and in various roles. The profession was an even more male-dominated back then, and at one point, a member of the all-male development team I managed challenged me to prove that I could code – something the male members of the team would never have been asked to prove. . It seems shocking now, but it goes to show what attitudes were like and how women had to prove their ability simply because they were female in a male dominated industry.

Thankfully, things have moved on and women who code are now common place. This means we’re now starting to tackle some of the more nuanced issues around gender balance – like unconscious bias in writing job adverts and specifications. Often job profiles are written by men occupying senior roles who naturally write using language that appeals more to them. We can do all the inspiring school, college and University talks we like, but if we put women off applying for great digital jobs with the language and images we use about them then it’s perhaps setting them up to fail.

Simple changes in how job profiles and adverts are written can make a huge difference in who is more or less likely to apply. At Covéa, we now use Ongig software to check that our job profiles are unbiased in their language, and this is helping us recruit more women into our digital roles at all levels.

It’s important to recognise that gender imbalance cannot just be challenged by women. It’s just as vital for men to believe in the benefits of a diverse industry and for them to influence change too. The power of male allies who talk about and challenge gender imbalance is just as impactful. More so, in many cases, as many senior and decision-making roles across the digital industry are currently filled by men who have the opportunity to really drive change.

A great example of this is Simon Langley, our CISO at Covéa, who is very passionate about equality and has made a real effort to ensure our InfoSec team has a good gender split. Something I’m told is pretty rare as InfoSec is a heavily male dominated specialism in digital and most teams are 100% male.

There are many incredible female pioneers in technology who have found ways to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated environment. The number of women in senior roles is continuing to increase in digital, and I’m hoping this upward trend will continue. We all need to choose to challenge on gender imbalance to ensure that the next generate of women in STEM have all the opportunities their male counterparts do.

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