Looking ahead to International Women’s Day, Marta Raper, senior projects manager at Leeds-based NHS Digital, writes for Digital City about the profile of women in the tech sector following her recent success at the Women in IT Awards in London.
It has been a huge privilege working as a project manager within NHS Digital as it has provided great opportunities for me to tackle major projects that have brought about massive benefits for NHS staff and ultimately to patients.
One of my main projects was bringing about the integration of health and social care enabling local authorities to access demographic data held on Spine which is the ‘backbone’ of all national NHS systems and joins together over 23,000 healthcare IT systems in 20,500 organisations.
It ensures information can be shared securely and is so well used it completes more transactions per day than Mastercard.
This was the biggest ever public sector technology contract to be brought back in-house.
There are a great many women working in the NHS – the world’s fifth biggest employer – but not so many working in IT or the tech sector.
There are many reasons behind this, one possibly being down to the perception that IT is a male forte.
If it is not encouraged as a career option for girls or if there are not many role models, they may not look closely as this being a sector for them to choose to work in, or it may simply be too daunting to accept a job offer in an office where 90 per cent of the team are men.
And yet these are really exciting times to be working in IT and digital technology as without doubt it is a growing sector offering many job opportunities that women of all ages should be looking to take advantage of.
I came into this sector through quite a roundabout route as I worked in the travel industry for four years as a student.
I love languages and have an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Warsaw. As well as speaking English, I speak Polish and German.
I took a job in business management when I arrived in the UK and then got a job with NHS Digital which provided a great platform to learn about the tech sector from highly skilled professionals.
Leeds is fast becoming one of the UK’s top digital cities, which means there are lots of job opportunities for women in and around this area.
NHS Digital is very supportive at helping women progress, although like many other organisations there can be more men than women in senior positions.
There is still probably a level of conscious or unconscious bias towards men in the tech sector, but tech leaders are becoming more aware of that bias and taking measures to attract more women to the sector.
I certainly feel that NHS Digital is leading the way and I was delighted to receive the Editor’s Choice honour at the Women in IT Awards as it not only recognises the hard work myself and my team put in, but also reflects the opportunities NHS Digital extends to those wanting to challenge themselves and make a difference to people’s lives.