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Be brave and be bold: Why it’s important for women to see themselves in the media tech industry

TVBEurope talks to three women about their experiences of working in the media tech industry, and the importance of support from their colleagues

The need to encourage more women into media technology is an on-going challenge across the industry.

The idea that media technology is for old white men needs to shift, and advocacy groups such as Rise are hard at work making sure that young women are able to see themselves carving out a career in our sector, through both mentoring and talking to their contemporaries.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021 on 8th March, Rise is hosting an event titled #ChooseToChallenge which will explore what it means to be a woman in the broadcast tech sector. The event’s keynote speaker is Jackie Howes, director of media infrastructure architecture at Discovery. Howes who has over 20 years of experience working in the broadcast industry.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Howes admits it’s been challenging and intimidating to be a woman in a very male world. “To realise you are the only woman in a room full of 20 people is not always a comfortable place to be, especially when you are younger and just starting out,” she tells TVBEurope. “Whenever you are in an atmosphere where you are in the minority, it’s always going to be something that you are aware of, even if it’s at the back of your mind, but this should never be something that stops you striving for what you want.”

Her advice to any woman starting out on a career in the media tech industry is to be brave and be bold. “Figure out what you want and go for it,” she adds. “Educate yourself in the field that you are in and trust in your skillset. If you can, find a mentor – it’s important to find people you can learn from. I’ve been lucky enough to have people who have taught me not just about technology and the world I work in, but also about how to negotiate the workplace.

“Never be afraid to ask questions and learn as much as you can. The most intelligent and brilliant people I have worked with have always been the ones that asks the most questions and are always willing to say they don’t know and need more information. There is no shame in not knowing, use every opportunity you can to gain as much knowledge as you can, and then when you have it – share it. It’s always a pleasure to work with people who are generous with their knowledge.”

Howes adds that she views Rise as a key way to encourage women they are not alone in the industry. “For women starting out in this field it’s important that they see us, that they see women who have worked hard and made it to the top of their field, Rise does this. It allows us to give back, to encourage others through their publications, through their works, and especially through their mentor programme. This is a very direct way that we can help others that can be extremely rewarding to all involved.”

As for her speech on Monday, Howes’s theme is #choosetochallenge, which she describes as a great topic for International Women’s Day, as there’s so much to focus on. “I love how empowering this sounds, and the idea of taking control. We will be looking at when and how we should take control. That’s all I’ll say for now, so listen in to hear more!” she concludes.

Go for it!

Another key part of Rise’s activities is obviously it’s mentoring programme. Nicola Parr and Anna Patching have both been a part of the programme in previous years and are keen to praise the help and support they received from both their mentors and the other mentees.

Having a group of people to share ideas with and talk through the highs and lows is invaluable,” says Patching. “Knowing I have a bunch of incredible women who I can talk to  helps bring perspectives I’d not considered to my challenges, or sometimes validates my opinions. Professionally it’s given me formal and informal mentors to question and act as inspirational role models all demonstrating their own successful careers.”

It’s translated into a real sense  of community, which you can’t underestimate the value of,” adds Parr. “I’ve definitely reflected on these experiences and aim to seize any opportunities I get. Thanks to my mentor’s advice I now have a journal that I contribute to each day – I note down small wins at work and create weekly targets designed to challenge me. Thanks to Rise and the people I have met through the scheme, my confidence has grown hugely, and my communication and leadership skills have improved dramatically. I have witnessed first‐hand the benefits of being part of a networking programme and would recommend them to anyone in the industry.”

As newer members of the media industry, what advice would they offer young women thinking of media technology sector? Patching says it’s important to be confident in your abilities. “Confidence (or the perception of confidence) can open so many doors. It can give you the push to go for a job you’re not sure you’re qualified for, or even just give yourself the little boost to know you are making a valid decision or asking a reasonable question.”

Parr’s advice would be to just go for it! “You have nothing to lose and so much more to gain,” she adds. “The media tech space offers a wide range of careers and there is  something there for everyone, whatever your skills. From working as a camera operator to working on large radio masts, this career path offers hands‐on experience from day one. I hope being a part of Rise can help to break down  some of the assumptions and biases people have towards engineering and technology. Helping to inspire the next  generations of women in media tech is a role I don’t take lightly.”

Registrations for Rise’s #ChooseToChallenge event are still open, more details are available here.

TVBEurope is hosting a special panel looking at the importance of mentoring during the MediaTech 360 Summit. More details on how to register for free are available at the Summit’s website.