The Sheridan Ash of today is a far cry from the 16-year-old girl who left school to escape bullying by classmates who called her “dumbo” because she had trouble learning.
Ash, technology innovation lead at PwC, suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia as a child, and as a result had low self-esteem. Today she heads up PwC’s Women in Technology initiative and founded Tech She Can, a PwC program that offers female-friendly technology education and career lessons to inspire girls and young women—as well as boys and young men—to consider careers in technology.
A dearth of role models
Self-confidence was a big issue for Ash as a child, even more so because she didn’t have many female role models when growing up in England.
“My role models were either women at home or [former prime minister] Margaret Thatcher, who wasn’t a great supporter of women, but at least she was a woman,” she said in a recent installment of the INSPIRE 20 podcast series.
So she had to look for inspiration elsewhere. One of the women who inspired Ash was Wonder Woman, because she was confident and was doing good in the world, saving people and having a positive impact.
“And those things have been really important to me throughout my life,” Sheridan said.
“Becoming confident, getting some self-esteem, and having a positive impact on the world. I feel I’ve done it a little.”
The Inspire 20 Podcast Series
Ash is just one of the many executives taking part in INSPIRE 20, a podcast series, sponsored by Micro Focus, that showcases 20 executives around the world who are making a difference in terms of inclusion and diversity in their organizations, communities, and industries.
In the podcast, Ash explains how she went from leaving school at 16 with undiagnosed dyslexia to becoming a fashion model, then a single mother while working toward her degree at Imperial College. She started at Accenture in its health sector practice 10 years ago and now leads several large technology programs.
She is an advocate for girls and women to follow her career path in tech and talks in the interview about the need for industry to enrich technology education by supporting schools, teachers, and career advisors.
“There’s a role for industry to help develop some materials that support schools and teachers, and at the same time give them what they need to educate and inspire pupils—especially girls—to take up tech subjects and consider tech careers.”
She also discusses the need to influence change at a broader level—in the workplace, in the schools, and in government.
Be determined, look for champions
Ash, who became successful despite the obstacles she faced, offers this solid advice to any woman who’s facing challenges: You need to have grit. “I’m not more clever than the next person, but what has got me to where I am is sheer determination,” she said, “I never give up.”
Men—as well as women—must support women and be their champions, she added.
“Because if it’s mainly men at the top, we need men to support more women coming up. Help them, pull them up the ladder.”