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International Women’s Day 2024: Fiona Thomson, Skills Lead

For International Women’s Day 2024, we’re featuring some of the hardworking and talented women behind the scenes at ScotlandIS.

Read the below interview to find out more about our Skills Lead, Fiona Thomson.

Describe your role at ScotlandIS.

I work within Skills to promote the Scottish tech sector to young people as a career path, provide support to schools via our Digital Critical Friends programme, and work with our members, industry and education institutions via our e-Placement Scotland programme.

I am also a STEM Ambassador, visiting young people to show how exciting technology can be, ensuring our young people know how to keep themselves safe, and discussing the many ways technology impacts everyday life.  

Can you tell us more about your background and how you ended up in this role?

I originally joined ScotlandIS on a short-term contract to provide support and oversight of CyberScotland Week. My background is in customer service and change management, with many years working in larger organisations.

What is the best part about your job in STEM?

I love going into schools to talk to young people about all the ways technology impacts their lives, and how many careers are available within the tech sector for them. I also love showing them the fun kits that are available to give them an insight into tech.   

What has been your experience as a Woman in STEM?

For me, the community has been very accepting. There is a great community working together to ensure that we are all successful. Although there is a high number of males in the sector, and you can see this at conferences and meetings, I have never been made to feel anything other than welcome and knowledgeable.  

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the sector for diversity?

One of the challenges facing not just STEM roles, but any sector that is heavily dominated by males, is the social gender biases that exist within our society. Whether these biases are conscious or unconscious we all have them. Women are caregivers, they are expected to be the ones on call for childcare regardless of the situation at home or work. Both businesses and employees need to be aware of these biases and work to ensure change at home and in the workplace. 

Why do you think it’s important that we have greater gender diversity?

Every single person is different, it’s what makes us human. By having diversity in the workplace, you have unique perspectives which in turn can create creativity and innovation.

However, just having a diverse team will not support this, there also has to be equality and inclusion. Processes and procedures need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they work for all, regardless of characteristics.  

Is there a Woman in STEM that is an inspirational or influential figure to you?

I remember watching Hidden Figures when it was first released and being moved by the women that were not only working in a male dominated field, but were also ethnic minorities. The strength that these woman had to not only work in that environment but also face the discrimination they did is amazing and has always struck me as something that we should all be aware of and work to ensure we are all accepted and valued.   

Fun Facts

Guilty Pleasure

Cats – we live with two cats who are the most amazing, ridiculous and loving creatures. I love that they are more independent, however once you have that relationship with them they are the sweetest, most loving animals. I also find their purrs very soothing, relaxing in the morning with a tea and my cats is bliss!  

When I Was Young, I Wanted to Be…

I always wanted to be a teacher. I’m not sure what type but working with children always interested me. That’s one of the things I love about ScotlandIS – being able to speak to young people and show them how tech can positively impact and influence them is fantastic.

I am also a Scout Leader, having been involved in Scouts since a small child with my parents it’s something that means a lot to me, and being able to share the skills and knowledge I have on a wide range of things is very fulfilling – and it’s a great boost for my mental health.  

Favourite Place You’ve Been

I love the seaside. My dad is from the coast and I have amazing memories of going down to the harbour, watching the boats and eating fish caught that morning. The smell of the sea (most of the time) and the cry of seagulls are a firm memory of childhood.  

One Thing I Can’t Live Without

Reading – a few years ago I would have said books, however most of my reading is now done online. Fantasy is my preferred genre, with the Narnia series being a childhood favourite  

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