Choosing a career in a male dominated industry can be challenging but be sure to believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Remember, if you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito!
Those are some inspirational words from this week’s interviewee, Sheila Flavell who is Chief Operating Officer, with an award-winning international IT services provider called FDM Group. The company supplies effective and innovative IT solutions to over 200 clients worldwide! Sheila’s job see her spending the majority of her time travelling around the world spearheading her company’s expansion programme. She is responsible for overseeing Operations, Recruitment, Marketing, Human Resources, and Academy worldwide as well as planning ways to gain more clients. I asked Sheila what she likes most about her job:
Every day is a new challenge and with each day, I can make a difference to someone’s life and career; I have the opportunity to help others on their own journey to success.
I also enjoy leading our Women in IT campaign that we launched in 2011. This campaign encourages females to choose a career in IT and we hold a number of undergraduate and graduate events, in addition to hosting events for executive women in the industry to discuss how we can drive gender diversity as leaders.
Alongside this, we also introduced our Female Champions initiative, which allows every female in FDM to have a mentor, if they choose, to develop their professional growth. As a result, we have seen a huge rise in female applicants and have created a more nurturing and supportive environment for our female consultants and staff.
Sheila hadn’t always planned to work in the IT industry, but she has always wanted to work with people. She originally wanted to go to a PE college but was too young at the time and decided to join the police force in Glasgow. Shortly after she became a police officer, the city introduced equal pay which spurred on the men on the force to put women on foot patrol. This had never happened before so it was a big step for them and she found herself on the toughest and roughest streets of the city to ‘prove her worth’; that women deserved equal pay! Sheila then worked in Middle East for 12 years for an international airline company. She told me about how her experiences here differed from those in the UK:
This was a huge cultural change for me: men can have four wives while women can have only one husband, women can’t drive in some states while men have no limitations. So my first two roles were firmly in male dominated environments and it was there that I learned the skills necessary to take me on my own path to success. There was a minimum technological movement there and when I arrived back to the UK I felt as though life had continued whilst I was 12 years behind everyone else! I developed a thirst for technology and needed to play catch up.
Following this she has worked in IT services for the past 20 years, which is another male dominated environment. This is probably where her passion for promoting women in IT has derived from. She has five children and her three eldest girls all work at FDM; one in New York, one in Hong Kong and one in London: “We have promoted this industry to our own kids as one that they can have a fantastic career in.”