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Changing The Game for Working Mums: An Interview With Sophie Creese, Founder of MotherBoard

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Chris Apostolou

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Gender inequality in the workplace has been a major topic of concern for many years - and it’s not only limited to unequal wages. Women continue to face barriers when trying to move into leadership positions and are more likely to face microaggressions in the form of offensive statements or insensitive attitudes related to gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual identity.

When it comes to the tech and data industry, this rings especially true.  A study found that a staggering 48% of women in STEM roles report feelings of discrimination during hiring. Working mothers, in particular, are faced with immense challenges - whether it's being overlooked for promotions, given low-quality tasks, being unfairly treated for requesting more flexible schedules and much more.

Sophie Creese and Amber Rowbottom are on a mission to break this stigma by introducing MotherBoard – a business charter, community, event series, and podcast driving tangible change for working mums in the tech and data industry. Read on to learn more about MotherBoard from Sophie herself.   

Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how MotherBoard came to be?

MotherBoard was created in 2021 to drive positive change for mums working in the tech industry. As a tech recruitment manager by trade, I see the stark reality of the gender pay gap, the lack of female representation in the industry and the issues mothers are facing in the workplace, which is ultimately making women leave their jobs. As a mum myself, I understand the juggle of parenting and how difficult it can be. The fear of speaking up about inequalities with the tech industry has prevented this subject being spoken about openly. So, as an outsider with direct contact with tech companies through my day job I decided that I would kick start that drive for change and take matters into my own hands.

MotherBoard originated as a free online event series to talk about issues mothers were facing in the tech industry, not just the early years of their career when women are more likely to be childless. After all, if we aren’t inclusive of mums, we aren’t inclusive of women. The MotherBoard Charter was created as a solution to allow companies to get involved in MotherBoard through creating positive change themselves. This has separated those who use ‘women in tech’ as a PR tool, and those who actually want to see more women working in the tech industry. 

We are the first open community group that tackles the conversation around motherhood and working in the tech industry. We cover subjects such as miscarriage, infertility, redundancy in pregnancy, sexism, racism and parental bias. As well as practical subjects such as how to find a mentor or a coding course. We are covering the topics that many wouldn’t talk about within a work setting and we are trying to eliminate the taboo around these subjects. 

What excites you the most about MotherBoard? 

Since we launched less than two years ago MotherBoard has grown organically, with our following and engagement growing week on week. We have barely scratched the surface of what can be achieved but people are starting to listen and realising that we all have a part to play in creating positive change. Speaking with leaders to explain that being inclusive goes beyond having a good maternity policy and that in fact, more can be achieved through non-financial policy change paired with genuine, empathetic support. Seeing these leaders take action through signing up to the charter shows that change is coming and over time power in numbers will mean companies will have to get on board with creating change, or they will be left behind. Seeing the lightbulb moment of industry leaders realising it is deplorable that only 19% of the tech work force is female, and then these same leaders deciding to action change and take accountability is very exciting.

Unconscious gender bias has been an issue within the tech space for many years now. In your opinion, what steps can we take to break this stigma and to make the tech industry more inclusive?

There are so many issues mums are facing in the tech industry, with sexism and parent bias being a huge factor in holding women back. But a big barrier in creating change is getting people to understand this isn’t an issue for mums or women to sort out. This is an issue that everyone should be getting involved in – male, female, non-binary. Until we, as a society, respect the roles of both parents as equal and have decent paternity and maternity leave, have more part-time working dads, and have more women being promoted into senior positions we will not create that shift and eliminate bias. We need advocates in the board room, in management meetings and from our peers. We need to sit and reflect with our own biases and have those uncomfortable conversations with ourselves and then take accountability for intentionally going against these biases. We need better maternity leave AND paternity leave, we need flexible working that doesn’t compromise a woman’s ability to climb the career ladder and we need women to receive equal pay.  This is only a small start to what needs to be actioned, the issue is much deeper rooted, but we have to start somewhere!   

What do you envision for the future of MotherBoard?

I hope that the MotherBoard Charter will become a go-to directory, a beacon of empathy and a stamp of approval to separate businesses that want to see transformation, and those that don’t. But the ultimate goal would be for the charter to become obsolete because equity prevails. Sadly, I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime, but maybe it will happen in my daughter’s lifetime.

For our community, I hope that we continue to build and grow a supportive environment for anyone to join that believes in our cause and for our meet-up events to be hosted UK wide.

What advice would you give to mothers (and women in general) who wish to pursue a career in the tech world? 

The industry is changing, there are businesses out there that are already creating positive working environments for women, so try not to be deterred by the lack of female representation. Apprenticeships, coding academy courses and council funded programmes are available for graduates, career changers and returners to work. The industry has moved on and a degree in computer science is no longer essential to do well in the industry. Its never too late to pursue a career in tech and we need talent, there is a massive skill shortage in the UK.

When applying for jobs look out for businesses that are part of positive change initiatives such as the MotherBoard Charter. It is also worth scouting on LinkedIn for median tenures and checking that companies have a wide range of ages of women working within their tech teams. Read Glassdoor reviews and speak with your peers, but also remember no company is going to be perfect, their long-term goals and genuine commitment to change are equally as important.

Most importantly, pursue you dreams and get behind initiatives like MotherBoard. Equity for everyone is our purpose and we can’t wait to see what the year ahead holds!


MotherBoard is powered by ADLIB recruitment and sponsored by not on The high street

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