My name is Gina Gill and I’m the Chief Digital & Information Officer at the Ministry of Justice. This is my first ever blog. I am writing my first ever blog for International Women’s Day because this year’s theme, Choose to Challenge, is one that resonates with me both from a personal and a professional perspective.
I grew up in Glasgow in a big Indian family. While I was absolutely encouraged to work hard, go to university and get a good job, it was in part so that I could find a good husband. My mum was very disappointed that I couldn’t make good round chapatis. I spent a lot of my teenage years challenging (arguing with) my parents about why I was treated differently to my brother – he didn’t have to make chapatis or clean or learn to sew.
I left home and went to study Computer Science at Edinburgh and was one of 5 women on a course that had 120 men on it. I then joined a graduate scheme for a telecoms company and was one of 3 women on a whole floor of developers, before spending most of my career in financial services. And somewhere along the way I lost the drive to challenge.
I didn’t call out the men at university that viewed me as inferior because I wore a skirt; I didn’t address why my male developer colleagues wouldn’t look me in the eye; In banking I accepted that to progress I had to “act like a man”.
My move to the Civil Service almost 3 years ago now was eye opening. On one hand it felt really very male and private school; on the other I was for the first time working somewhere where people talked openly and genuinely about diversity and gender equality. My first impressions were mostly accurate. At the MoJ we put a lot of focus on diversity and in the past 12 months have recruited almost 70 women into our team at all levels. We have one of the most diverse Digital & Technology leadership teams I have ever seen. We have many different mentoring schemes to help improve diversity at senior levels. But we do still have a long way to go – my ambition is for us to have as many women as men in our most technical roles to make sure we are building services that truly work for everyone and don’t accidentally introduce gender bias which means we need to get more women interested in these professions as careers.
My personal pledge is to call out the types of things that I didn’t in the middle part of my career. I know it makes a difference. My mum now doesn’t care about my chapatis (still not round or good), but is proud of the career that I have built. If that doesn’t demonstrate the power of challenge I’m not sure what does!