In our lead-up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, we caught up with Michelle Sandford, Service Delivery Manager at Microsoft, who offered her perspectives on how to attract more young women to join—and stay in—the technology sector.
Where have all the girls in technology gone? Michelle posed this question at the recent TEDxPerth event in Australia and offered personal insights into what needs to be done to get more young women to view computer science as a viable career option.
After studying philosophy in university, Michelle went on to earn a Master’s degree in computer science—the young men she shared a house with thought she couldn’t do it because she’s female and an art student, but Michelle went on to prove them wrong. One of only two girls in a class of 40, and having only just purchased her first computer, she was initially intimidated. But, philosophy taught her about the power of choice, perspective and keeping an open mind.
Michelle’s personal convictions and confidence also helped her get through. “When someone tells me something is ‘impossible’, it only makes me wonder why they don’t want me to try… and so I do try. And, I succeed.”
Throughout her career, Michelle’s avid interest in technology has opened up new and exciting opportunities in numerous capacities, from programming databases, installing hardware and training managers and staff, to building relationships in ever more challenging roles. Even today, she draws inspiration from the new apps that are being developed, and wants to create something innovative on her own. “I just need my great big idea!” she quipped.
It is this same zeal for innovation that motivates Michelle to devote her time to empowering the next generation of female coders to discover their passion and make their mark.
“Don’t ever get discouraged by someone telling you that you can’t do it or that you won’t be as good at it as other people,” Michelle declared. “Technology offers young women the opportunity to pursue whatever work they want, and to travel or work flexibly. But first, you need to find your own passion and throw yourself into it completely.”