March 27th marks Mother’s Day in the UK and at Connex One, we have some of the best mums leading the tech industry forward. With a growing awareness of the importance of women in technology – it has become a pivotal point for tech companies to attract more women and girls to the industry.
As of 2022, women hold just 26.7% of tech-related jobs. Although the tech industry is still predominantly male dominated, evidence points to women in leading positions increasing ROI by more than 66% and representing purchasing power of an estimated $5 trillion.
To celebrate this year’s Mother’s Day at Connex One, we caught up with four of our UK team’s mums to discuss their roles at Connex One, their experiences working in tech and ask how they’re navigating the balance of being a mum and progressing their careers in a competitive industry.
We spoke to new mother Kayleigh Reid (CMO), expectant mother Claire McCrae (Software Testing Manager), and long-time mothers Heather Lawler (Director of Customer Service Management) and Sarah Reynolds (Team Lead and Full Stack Developer) who all shared different perspectives, expectations and experiences whilst being or becoming a mum.
Q: How did you begin your career in the tech industry?
Claire McCrae (expecting mother): I originally came from a call centre in another company. I ended up being frustrated and bored within that role as it came to a point where there was just nothing left more to learn. I spoke to some friends and did a bit of research into testing engineering roles and found it very interesting. From there, I applied for an internal role, and from the research I did and the transferrable skills I had gained, I was successful in my new role.
Moving up through the levels, I have always been looking at how and where we can make improvements. For me, what better way than becoming a manager in the field to be able to shape the roles and disciplines within the company?
Sarah Reynolds (mother to Samantha, 30):
I’ve been interested in computers since I first taught myself to code when I was 8 years old. As computing wasn’t taught in school when I was there, I came back to it as a mature student, which meant I had to do a 3 year HND or 5+ HNC evening course before I could go onto the degree course.
I was allowed to take the fast track HND course so I finished it in 2 years, so that I could complete my degree when my daughter was finishing primary school. That way if we needed to move for my new position I wouldn’t have to disrupt her schooling.
Q: Did becoming a mother change your priorities? Has it made you think differently about your career?
Kayleigh Reid (mother to Elliot, 1 month old):
My career has always been something I worked hard at, and was really passionate about. I put a lot of time and effort into getting a degree and continued to receive a post graduate diploma, so it is something I don’t want to just give up but by becoming a mum you realise that your priorities shift. Your normal day-to-day routine however changes massively.
Heather Lawler (mother to Aiden, 28, Megan, 26, Joel, 15):
I’ve been a mum for a very long time, my oldest is now 28. I just had to work more to be able to afford them. When I became a mum, my priority was to provide for them which meant I had to go back to work. I was not in a position to be able to stay at home.
I wanted a good work-life balance more than anything at that point, with a decent salary to provide for them. I decided to switch careers and work for Barclays Bank working night shifts for ten years. This allowed me to be with my kids at home whilst they were awake in the day, and then work at night.
Q: How did you feel about juggling work/life balance as a mother?
Heather Lawler: When my kids were younger, the work/life balance was me working at night, and being with my children during the day. This was extremely tough with broken sleep patterns, but once they got older, and my previous role became redundant after ten years, I no longer needed to work the night shifts as the children were in school. I switched over to a 9-5 job and things became more manageable.
Kayleigh Reid: Personally, the struggle today is trying to consider how I will manage the balance of working all day and using my strategic brain as I work with multiple teams, as well as now being responsible for taking care of a human life.
Claire McCrae: For me, family always comes first, as it does for a lot of people in the company. So far, Connex One has been accommodating for any flexibility I might need, where I will be able to work the time back. I am sure with the help of my wife, and continued support of the business, we will be able to juggle work-life between us just fine.
Sarah Reynolds: As my daughter Samantha was at secondary school, it was much easier as things such as after school childcare weren’t needed. Plus several of the roles I had during this time had a component of remote working, which again made things easier. I always made sure that my work stayed in the office area I had at home, as that made it easier to keep things separated, and also helped Samantha and her friends to know when I could and couldn’t be available.
Unfortunately there were roles which weren’t as understanding, if I needed to take time off due to my daughter being ill, or in some cases just checking in with her on my phone, which resulted in me not staying at those companies very long. As much as I love what I do, my first concern always has been, and will be, my daughter and due to not having family I could call on this, has sometimes caused complications in my working life.
Q: Do you think there’s enough representation of working mums in tech?
Kayleigh Reid: Traditionally, technology industries are heavily focused around STEM subjects that are usually led by men, but as this gender balance continues to shift further, women are seeking long-term employee commitments which focus around strong maternity policies and a good work-life balance.
Many women struggle with the fear of ‘taking their foot off the gas’ to have a family, fearing that their career will not be there for them when they return. For this reason, companies need to communicate their commitment to a strong maternity policy, and allow women to have the opportunity to have both a career and a family.
Heather Lawler: Absolutely not – I think it’s always been a male dominated industry and I don’t think a lot of females have felt comfortable in the industry because it has been heavily male dominated. Times are however changing and we are seeing a lot of females coming into the tech world over recent years.
When I first joined the support team here at Connex One, there was only one female and today, we have an additional 2 females so things are starting to rapidly change which is wonderful.
Sarah Reynolds: I think there is much more representation of women in general in my career. Previous to working at Connex I only ever worked with a maximum of 2 other women in roles, and in many cases I was the only woman. When I started at Connex One 5 years ago, I was only the second woman in the company and now we have many more across our different teams, so I’ve definitely seen and noticed it change.
10 years ago when I was having interviews, I remember being told that they only agreed to see me as they’d never heard of a female developer before. I’m really enjoying the diversity of the development teams at Connex One and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to progress.
Claire McCrae: I don’t think there is enough representation of women in tech, let alone working mums in tech to be honest. I am hoping we can change that soon.
Q: Has working in the tech industry changed your outlook on becoming a mother?
Heather Lawler: Not really. I just think this is one of the most exciting industries I’ve worked in. I have worked in the banking sector, online retail, and travel industry. The tech environment is so fast-paced and ever-changing it’s constantly keeping your mind working. As technology evolves so quickly you need to be more adaptable in this industry than any other.
My daughter is 26, and she’s in a tech environment which is something she fell into. She’s a senior project manager of developers working on deployment of websites and her career has taken her to Dubai. So I guess she’s followed in what I’ve done, she’s looked at the sort of career I’ve taken through customer service, and a tech environment. I think its important for females to know that you can go into a tech environment and not have technical expertise. I came in as a customer service manager with no tech background, however, I can ensure that the customers who I encounter with are satisfied with the tech that our company delivers. You can continue to learn on the job, I know I have.
Kayleigh Reid: I am personally excited about the two journeys that I now embark on- the first becoming a first-time mother, and the journey when I return to my career at Connex One. Having the opportunity to balance both when I return is something I am excited for.
Being part of the rapid growth phase of the company, with plans to open up offices in multiple international locations, and an ambition to be IPO listed this year, puts the marketing department at the forefront of the business. I feel proud to be a leader in the business, and proud to be the mum to Elliot at home. Being in the tech industry, you can see how rapidly things change and that makes me excited about the world of opportunities out there for him. However, I want him to be able to make his own decisions in life.
Facilitating a leading work/life balance for mothers
Connex One has been rolling out numerous efforts in hopes of diversifying the tech industry over time, leaving behind the “brogrammer” stereotype, starting with an industry leading maternity policy for new and expectant mothers in our teams.