“There’s never been a better time for women to work in tech” – The Irish Times
Gillian Moody has had some interesting times in her IT career, including working on an operational Australian Navy submarine and being ‘guarded’ by prison officers while repairing a server in the Mountjoy Jail. Now managing director of Carlow-based cybersecurity firm Stryve, she thinks there’s never been a better time for women to work in tech.
“When I think of the contracts I was going to land in the early 2000s, I was already in the background because I was a woman,” she says. “Many business owners didn’t think women were suited for tech roles because it was a male-dominated industry. Now, incentives for girls to study STEM and gender quotas are leveling the playing field. While women are often still the primary caregivers in the home, there are companies, like Stryve, that genuinely value balance. work/life and foster a culture where women can thrive.
For Moody, who has a young son, that means working a four-day week. “I work Monday through Thursday. I start early, around 6:30am, and all four days are full but that works for me and gives me the right balance to be there for my son. I’ve brought in some of our biggest clients to date, but I’ve never missed any of my son’s games and that’s really important to me,” says Moody, who comes into the office on Mondays to check in with different teams and joined twice – a monthly lunch provided by the company for staff.
“It’s called ‘fika’ from Swedish for come chat and chew, and we use it to catch up and support local businesses by sourcing food,” she says.
Moody’s background in computer applications has allowed her to travel the world as a recent graduate and she has worked on computer support contracts with Walt Disney, Bank of America and Nokia. Back home, she worked in industry before setting up her own business which she then sold and joined Lidl Ireland as an IT systems manager. A career break to have her son followed, and upon her return to the workforce, she joined Stryve in a sales role. Moody then spent three years as general manager of a food distribution company before returning to Stryve in 2021 as general manager.
“I loved the work in the food company, but it required a three-hour commute and it was exhausting,” she says. “I wanted to be closer to home with more flexibility and I also liked the idea of a new challenge. Stryve’s work ticked all the boxes.
Although there are now more women than ever in senior tech positions, women are still vastly underrepresented in the ICT sector. And with only one in five Irish computer science graduates being a woman, that is unlikely to change drastically anytime soon. According to data from CSO’s ICT Value Chain Analysis released in May, only 32% of ICT workers here are women and only 5% of telecommunications engineers are women.
This low female representation is not limited to Ireland. A quick look at Eurostat data for ICT specialists in 2020 shows that of the 34 countries listed, only 11 have a higher percentage of female participation than Ireland, and in most cases this does not is not much. Women are also underrepresented in tech start-ups. Less than 15% of founders in Europe are women.
The CSO’s study sample was just over 5,000 mostly domestic ICT companies, and it highlighted how lucrative a career in tech can be, as employees in the sector have the average annual earnings the highest in the state. Technology workers are also among the most skilled and over 60 per cent of the ICT workforce have a third level qualification. The bulk of jobs in the industry are held by programmers and software development engineers, specialist IT managers, and IT and telecommunications professionals.
Irish companies employ almost half of the over 90,000 people working in the sector, and there is good mobility between multinational and domestic companies, with 20% of those who change jobs moving between foreign multinationals and companies national. As a result, Irish companies benefit from the sharing of knowledge and expertise.
Stryve is one of those Irish tech companies that is doing well. It started operations in 2018 after identifying secure private cloud as a substantial business opportunity. Thanks to the well-publicized public cloud security breaches, its business has grown significantly and the company now has offices in Ireland, Poland, Morocco and Great Britain.
The massive shift to remote working, which has made it imperative for businesses to protect their systems, is also fueling its growth. “When people are in the office and they’re not sure whether to open a suspicious email, they can turn to a colleague for help. When they’re at home, they don’t have that support and that can lead to bad decisions,” Moody says. “I think it’s about educating employees and companies to make sure all their security issues are covered.
“When I first joined Stryve we were seven people. By 2021 that number had grown to 20. Now we are 50 and [have] invested 1 million euros in our UK expansion this year. Ultimately, our ambition is to become Europe’s largest private cloud provider,” says Moody, who will take over the country later this year.