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June 15, 2017  2:25 PM

GUEST BLOG: What is being done to encourage more women into tech?

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"gender pay gap", "pay gap", "women in IT", "women in tech", Diversity, IT jobs, IT recruitment, Stem

In this guest post Shirley Wood, training and support director at education technology solutions organisation, Jisc, looks at the positive efforts being made to encourage more women into tech

While statistics prove there are fewer women than men employed in tech, engineering or science companies, it isn’t all bad news. Much is being done to highlight the difference and redress the balance – and in doing so, to bridge the UK’s technical skills gap.

UK facts and figures

Firstly, let’s provide some context.

Last year, only 18% of ICT professionals working in the UK were female, even though women currently make up almost half (47%) of the workforce.

According to a government report of 2015, in the digital industries, just 26% of jobs were held by women, down from 33% in 2002. In IT, the figure was even lower at 16%, and in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) just 13% of jobs were held by women.

This could be because fewer girls than boys are getting involved in Stem education — just 7% of girls take computer studies A-level courses. And only 17% of those studying computer science in higher education are women, which is the lowest percentage in any field except for engineering and technology, where female students make up just 15% of enrolments. Of those that do take STEM subjects, only half (51%) actually go on to do STEM-related jobs.

There is some evidence to show that gender stereotyping is affecting girls’ choices. Management consultancy company Accenture conducted research (2015) which found that 60% of 12-year-old girls thought STEM subjects were too difficult, with 47% of girls claiming these types of activities suited their male counterparts better.

What’s being done to encourage more women into tech?

Quite a lot, actually. Some steps taken include:

  • TechUK has a women in tech programme aligned to the European e-Skills for Jobs project, which aims to raise awareness of the e-skills gap across Europe.
  • Women in Stem is a Government-backed call to action created in 2013, which asked organisations to work together to boost female participation in technology and engineering. Its website with lots of aspirational and inspirational blogs and articles.
  • In 2016, Accenture partnered with charity Stemettes to stage a multi-city event in the UK and Ireland aimed at encouraging schoolgirls to consider Stem careers. The children were taught coding, took part in workshops demonstrating Stem skills and computational thinking, and attended panels where women in the relevant industries spoke about their careers.
  • British Gas launched a women in tech network (2016) to enable its female employees working in Stem roles to network and collaborate.
  • KPMG launched an initiative in March 2017 to encourage more women into tech. It will use inclusive job descriptions, peer-to-peer Q and A sessions as part of the interview process and targeted advertising across traditional and social media. The company has also launched a Tech Insight Week for women, and plans to work more closely with recruiters to provide greater insight into its tech brand.
  • Although not specifically aimed at women, in January 2017, Microsoft announced the launch of programmes for developing digital literacy, digital skills and cloud skills across the UK. The programme aims to reach more than 560,000 people by 2020.

Yes, you can!

One point that’s made over and over when researching the dearth of women in technology is the lack of role models, but there are efforts to rectify that problem, too.  Speaking to an audience of women at the WeAreTheCity 2016 technology conference (and quoted in Computer Weekly), Jacqueline de Rojas, executive vice-president for Europe at Sage and president of techUK, reminded tech professionals they are the role models that girls and young women will be looking towards.

“You are a role model whether you choose to be or not,” she said. But imposter syndrome (when accomplished individuals are unable to accept their own abilities) is often associated with women in the IT industry, preventing many from speaking up about their achievements and encouraging others to pursue tech jobs.

De Rojas advised women in tech to overcome negative self-image through sharing experiences and learning from one another. She added: “It doesn’t take a lifetime of coaching or relationships to inspire or be inspired. It is possible to create outstanding careers from a position of extreme adversity.”

At Jisc, we have many excellent role models. Two of them, Frances Burton and Susan Bowen, have recently written blogs about being a woman in tech for Computer Weekly’s WITsend blog.

New Jisc trustee, Susan, who is vice president and general manager at Cogeco Peer 1, writes about her love of computers and coding from a young age and enthuses about the opportunities her career presented to travel the world.

She adds: “My experience within the industry and the inspiration around me gave me the drive and desire to make a difference in the sector. I wanted to give something back to an industry that had given me so much and to also address the imbalance for women in technology. So I joined the techUK Board, where I am currently chair for the Women in Tech Council.”

Meanwhile, Jisc’s security services group manager, Frances Burton, doesn’t ever think of herself as a woman in tech, but a person in tech, partly thanks to her supportive parents and a forward-thinking mixed school where boys and girls all took woodwork, metalwork, cookery and sewing.

After school, Frances studied fashion and ended up with a career in technology almost by accident. She explains: “My journey started when, looking for paid employment after fashion college, I landed an office junior job with the Atomic Energy Authority. The AEA computing division had developed one of the first text-based databases and I was chosen to demonstrate this new technology simply because I could touch type! It turned out I had a bit of an aptitude for this technology and my path was set.”

As for me, I never thought twice about going into a technology career as, at the time, there were more openings in that area. At school, I always saw it as a challenge to do science and maths subjects, as did a number of other girls at my school who went into engineering and science.

When I first started work, there were a significant number of women in the area I worked in, but I have seen the proportion of women reduce over the years, except in what are seen as the “softer” areas such as training and support.

What about the pay gap?

By April 2018, all employers with more than 250 staff will have to publish details of their gender pay gap, based on data from April 2017.

We already know that UK women in all roles earn on average 13.9% less than their male counterparts, and, according to research from recruitment firm Hired, women in the UK technology industry are paid on average 9% less than their male counterparts.

How does Jisc compare?

I am happy to report that Jisc’s 2016 staff survey results showed the gender split across the organisation is broadly equal overall, with 52% male to 48% female.

However, there is a lower proportion of women within the 35 to 44 age group, the 55 to 64 category and the over 65s.  Within the latter two, the ratio of male to female staff is more than double.

Within the executive leadership team of nine, only one is female, while the group senior leadership team comprises 17 women and 28 men.

In terms of pay, Jisc statistics (2016) Jisc show that the average salary for male employees is £45,633 compared to £34,522 for females, and the average hourly rate for males is £25.03, compared to £20.87 for females.

So, while there’s clearly more work to be done in terms of the gender and pay gap in the sector in general, it’s clear that strong efforts are being made to achieve a better balance.

May 26, 2017  9:26 AM

GUEST BLOG: Being a female tech leader

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"women in IT", "women in tech", Coding, Computing, Digital skills, Diversity, IT skills

In this guest post, Susan Bowen, vice president and general manager at Cogeco Peer 1  and new trustee at education technology solutions organisation Jisc, explains her journey into the technology industry and how she became a female tech leader.

When it came to my A-level choices, I chose to study English and economics with a plan to work in the big city (I grew up in South Wales and had never visited London). But then I found a subject that interested me even more, and one I was good at: computing.

It was the first time I’d studied computing as an academic subject rather than an enjoyable, passing interest. I found it fascinating and got a buzz from it.

I also enjoyed writing code. In those days I would buy computing magazines and copy the code to a BBC Microcomputer, delving deeper and deeper into the workings of computer systems. With every new lesson I saw the great potential computing could have in the future.

Having missed the required A-level grades for English and economics, my computing grade gave me the opportunity to study computer science at Portsmouth University (the university clearing process served me well!).

After graduation, I started working for Electronic Data Systems, which is where my career in technology took a surprising turn.

At school it was never explained that a career in IT could lead to travelling and working on some incredibly exciting projects – but it did! I got to code fixes for the millennium bug, alter banking code that everyone now uses and travel the world at the same time. I’ve been lucky enough to visit places like Singapore and work out of the World Trade Center, New York.

This job gave me the skills I needed to join Hewlett Packard, where I worked with many inspirational leaders, including Meg Whitman. Nearly 17 years later, it led me to my current role at Cogeco Peer 1, where I head up the Europe, Middle East and Africa teams.

My experience within the industry and the inspiration around me gave me the drive and desire to make a difference in the sector. I wanted to give something back to an industry that had given me so much and to also address the imbalance for women in technology. So I joined the techUK Board, where I am currently chair for the Women in Tech Council.

Being a leader isn’t about taking all the praise for yourself; it is about working as a team and sharing the glory with those who are learning with you and producing incredible work.

During my time at Cogeco Peer 1, I have been honoured to oversee some remarkable people and projects, and I come in day after day ready to embrace the next challenge, knowing I have a strong team behind me.

Likewise, there is a strong team at Jisc, which is leading the charge in ensuring that the higher and further education sector is embracing new technology and producing a digitally savvy workforce for the future.

It is for this reason that I am excited to start work at Jisc as a new trustee. With with more than 25 years in the industry, my experience could be valuable and I am looking forward to helping maintain this forward momentum.

Companies like Jisc help make the UK a world leader in the higher education and research sector, which is a key contributor to the economy, and this is an exciting time to become involved.

When I first started studying computing I could see the potential in the industry and, as I began to learn more, I could see its potential for me too. It is this potential that I want to encourage in all students who want to start a career in technology.

May 22, 2017  4:12 PM

Sanderson and Code First: Girls – facing my coding fears

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"technology careers", "women in IT", "women in tech", Coding, IT careers, IT education, IT skills, Programming

When Sanderson Hotel London invited me to a Code First: Girls introduction to coding event (including free cocktails) I decided to see if code still gave me the cold sweats it did at university

Something not many people know about the current business editor of Computer Weekly is that I can programme in Java.

Whenever people ask me about my degree in Computer Science I don’t offer up that much in reply, and those three years of university prompted me to turn my back on the idea of being a coder and become a journalist instead.

When someone reached out to my colleague Cliff to ask if he wanted to attend an evening course on an “Introduction to Coding and the Web” he passed it on to me and I gritted my teeth.

The thought of being back in a learning environment to write code was giving me heart palpitations and flash backs – sitting in a room of mostly men, not understanding what had been explained but also not wanting to ask for help.

I was almost certain I wouldn’t meet the standard of the other women attending the session, that I wouldn’t remember anything from university and that I would be asked to give my degree back after being laughed out of the room.

I’d been told that the class, called “Cocktails and Coding”, was aimed at those who were interested in learning more about “the coding world” but might be too afraid to sign up to an official class.

I don’t think the woman who informed me of this knew that she’d reassured me rather than put me off.

As soon as I walked in I saw a few women with laptops and it suddenly dawned on me I should have brought mine – if we’re going to learn to code, we would need a laptop surely?

At that point it was a good job there were cocktails, because I can imagine I wasn’t the only one whose nerves were getting the better of them – there were lots of other women who had come alone too.

Sanderson provided two free cocktails for each Code First: Girls guests, and although I didn’t have a whole one to myself I tried one and it was GOOD.

Each of the women who had chosen to take part were at a different stage in their coding journey – some had never coded before, others had been using massive online open courses (moocs) to start learning programming languages.

One of the women told me she worked in a technology company where all of the coders were men. She was then quick to tell me that she worked in the marketing department, but that coding intrigued her and she’d signed up for an online coding course as well as the Code First: Girls session to learn more about it.

Her drive for coming to the event was meeting other people who were interested in technology.

Another lady had quit her job and wanted to create her own website – she told me her friends are “petrified” of tech but that “it’s coming” and we should strive to be ahead of the curve rather than be left behind.

One of the other ladies told me: “Just because I am a young girl doesn’t mean I can’t learn to code!”

But unfortunately when I finished university that’s not how I felt.

I made it through my degree but I still don’t consider myself a coder or programmer – when I left university I also couldn’t have told you how to get a job in programming or the credentials you might need to do so.

It was also unclear what other roles you could go in to with the skills I had learnt – all I knew is I never wanted to write another line of Java ever again.

It was negative stereotyping in the industry that put me off of it altogether, and it seemed the male-dominated and competitive environment I had experience during my final year at university was a milder version of what I could expect of an IT career in the “real world”.

That negative view people have of the industry is exactly why events like this exist – the course had been designed by Code First: Girls and hosted by Sanderson Hotel London to create a “safe space” for women to learn more about technology, the digital landscape and coding without feeling like they can’t ask questions.

Aptly we were all led into a meeting room called “The Boardroom” – I doubt many other boardrooms had seen an all-female group.

It wasn’t long before I discovered we didn’t need a laptop at all for the session, instead Code First: Girls CEO Amali de Alwis led a presentation on the structure of the web, why and how it was created, what peer-to-peer networks are and the difference between coders and programmers.

De Alwis claimed coders use languages such as HTML or CSS which define layout and content, whereas programmers usually use a language that give software or hardware instructions  – this particularly interested me and helped me to shed a little light on my university experience.

Many of the girls on my course were shunned by the boys for using HTML as the code for their final year project, and the men would often mutter “it’s not coding” or that HTML was not a “real language”.

De Alwis confirmed there is often “snobbery” around web development, and whether web developers are coders or programmers but that it was just as important, and that she considered it an art as well as a skill.

According to De Alwis, Code First: Girls actually encourages people learning to code to start with web development as it is more accessible, and because you can see most of the code that goes into websites without needing any special tools – this is available to everyone through their browsers.

Throughout the Code First Girls: session, people asked questions without fear of ridicule, and De Alwis made is clear that the growing IT skills gap is a cause for concern in the UK technology industry – we can’t afford to be discounting half of the population in our efforts to close this gap.

“We focus on one thing and that’s getting women into tech and entrepreneurship,” she explained.

“I know it’s always a bit scary and I know that being a developer isn’t for everyone.”

I left the session with a new found ease and a link to the Code First: Girls free online taster materials – I may never want to touch Java again, and programming might not be for me, but I could still be a coder if I wanted to.

Women are still in the minority in the IT industry, but there are people out there who are trying to make the environment better for women in the technology industry and there are safe spaces popping up in which people can ask questions without feeling intimidated.

April 24, 2017  11:39 AM

GUEST BLOG: Raising girls as people

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"technology careers", "women in IT", "women in tech", Careers, IT careers, Stem

In this guest post Frances Burton, security services group manager at education technology solutions charity, Jisc, explains what it’s like to be a “woman in technology” and why we should be raising people rather than raising girls.

Apparently, I’m a woman in technology, although I’ve never thought of it this way; I think of myself as a person who works in technology. It wasn’t a choice I made from school, either – I’m of an era where you tended to fall into IT rather than choose it as a career, so it kind of chose me.

My journey started when, looking for paid employment after fashion college, I landed an office junior job with the Atomic Energy Authority. The AEA computing division had developed one of the first text-based databases and I was chosen to demonstrate this new technology simply because I could touch type! It turned out I had a bit of an aptitude for this technology and my path was set.

I’m the youngest of four children, with an older sister and two older brothers. Our parents always told us that we could do anything so long as we were prepared to study, and they were very supportive of our choices. They also encouraged us to make the most of the opportunities that came our way and that’s how I’ve continued my career path.

My opportunities led to work in developing databases, finance dashboards and pc support and eventually I gave in and did an BSc in information and communication technology.

I wasn’t raised as a girl as such; I was raised as a person, encouraged to play to my strengths and to make decisions for myself taking account of my likes and dislikes.

Consequently, I didn’t select subjects at school on whether they were more popular with one gender or another. My school was also very forward-thinking for the time and girls and boys all took woodwork, metalwork, cookery and sewing.

From my own experience, I feel that teaching should be about giving people as many opportunities as possible to develop their own strengths and self-awareness so they can recognise and make the most of the opportunities that come their way, to know that learning never stops and that studying can carry on for long as you want.

I’m often asked which women influenced me and, to be perfectly honest, there are many people on the list of influencers, not all women, but the top two women would be:

1. Mo Molam, whose tenacity of character achieved a sea change in Northern Ireland politics that many, many politicians before had failed to do. I believe the difference was that she wasn’t driven by doing a good job in politics, but by truly wanting to end the conflict.

2. Debbie Harry, mainly because she is soooo cool! Also, overcoming addiction is an achievement, but having achieved her fame she gave it up to nurse her boyfriend back to health and then had the strength and security of self to know that the relationship had changed.

I have never experienced prejudice or barriers as a woman in anything. I don’t know if that’s because it doesn’t happen or whether I just never see it, but I certainly have never looked for it.

I hear people talking about how we must make sure that the balance of speakers between men and women should be more towards equal. To me, gender is an irrelevance, if you have a good speaker, addressing a relevant subject it should make no difference if they are male or female any more than if they may be disabled, LGBT or of a particular race, creed or religion. I’m told that this is “positive discrimination”; I’m very clear that I don’t believe there is such thing as positive discrimination, as selection automatically discriminates against someone.

I look forward to the day people are encouraged to follow their own career paths based on their own abilities and aptitude, where their physical attributes and culture are of no consideration.

January 30, 2017  2:30 PM

GUEST BLOG: Why tech needs to think seriously about targets and quotas

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"women in IT", "women in tech", equality, IT jobs, IT recruitment, quotas, targets

In this guest blog Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls and winner of the Women in IT Awards -Skills Initiative of the Year award, explains why the technology industry needs to consider targets and quotas for diversity more carefully. 

Targets  and quotas. There I said it. The dreaded T’s and Q’s, that stand for ‘giving people an unfair advantage that they don’t deserve’ and ‘allowing less qualified individuals to get a one-up on the more qualified individuals that would be able to do the job’. Don’t they?

I have had many conversations about this with individuals across the tech industry about why we as tech employers should or shouldn’t use quotas and targets. It’s not an easy topic. Partially because people don’t always understand what these concepts really mean, sometimes it’s because of confusion about the legal status around deploying them, but often it’s because people are worried it will set an unfair precedent for hiring individuals who are not up for the job.

So, what is this really about and should it be something that we should be considering as a company?

What’s the difference between Quotas and Targets?

Targets are specific measurable objectives, usually voluntarily set by an organisation at their own discretion. These targets are often created with a specific timeframe in which they are to be achieved, and the organisation sets its own repercussions for what happens if a target isn’t met.

Quotas are a little different. They are usually mandatory, non-negotiable, and set by an external body (e.g. government), and enforced by an external body to the company.

Should we consider either of these mechanisms, and if so why?

Quotas are a bigger question to address than targets, as they do usually require legal standing and third party monitoring to be implemented. So, if we start with the (somewhat) simpler topic of targets, the simple answer is yes, I think we should be using them in our companies, and this is why – They work.

In the UK, we’ve been trying to tackle women’s equality and participation in the workplace for a couple of hundred years now, and the reality is most of this change hasn’t happened naturally without pressure and the setting of goals.

And it’s not like we’re uncomfortable setting targets other parts of our businesses. We set targets on revenue and employee churn, so why are we so uncomfortable setting targets for our people? Surely if we’re saying that diversity is important to the success for our businesses, we should be brave and set ourselves some targets to achieve this?

One reason I hear cited most often is that we feel that we would be giving people an unfair advantage. I don’t believe this has to be the case, and here are the reasons why.

1. The tech industry already has historic bias

We need to come to terms with the fact that the tech industry has historic biases (for many reasons) towards recruiting men from a certain background.

These are often competent individuals who are indeed able to do the job, but they aren’t the only individuals capable of doing the job. If we want fully staff our growing tech talent needs and tackle gender (and other) diversity in our tech workforce, we will need to put more time, effort and focus on talent from underrepresented groups. And communicating this extra focus will require conviction to speak about why you as a company are taking this approach, and at times, answer some challenging questions because – to anonymously quote a man I met recently who runs an amazing boy’s development organisation – ‘to those in privilege, equality can sometimes feel like oppression’.

2. Just because you set targets, it doesn’t mean you have to hire people who are substandard.

It may however mean you need to look harder to find diverse talent, and in some cases, re-evaluate what your selection criteria are and if they truly represent what someone needs to be successful in a role. There is amazing female technical talent out there, and if you cannot find someone to even be considered for a role, this should be a flag to you that your current talent approach needs a rethink. Remember that setting targets isn’t about saying ‘this is something we can easily do’.

It is rather about saying ‘this is where we want to be’. You can then use your targets as a way to trigger an honest evaluation of how your talent processes work, and work backward to implement the changes that will help you find those qualified people and achieve those targets.

So, do targets work?

Targets if set well can be incredibly effective. We’ve seen examples in politics such as the Labour party employed a few years ago, as well as those used in Norway and Sweden to increase the numbers of women in parliament.

But it’s not only in politics that organisations have successfully used targets to drive diversity. In 2010, Agile focused software consultancy ‘Thoughtworks’ introduced targets for the company’s US head office which mandated that its graduate intake be at least 50% women, and that the gender balance in senior appointments be improved.

In 2012, the company hired 200 graduates worldwide. Sixty per cent of those graduates were women, and Thoughtworks now has over 33% women in its workforce, with roughly a third of their global leadership team also women (including their CTO).

The legal bits
An important question – are targets legal? The specific legal standing ultimately comes down to whether you’re employing ‘positive discrimination’ (which is illegal) or ‘positive (or affirmative) action (which is legal).

You can read the full definition of differences here, but my (non-legal professional) take on this is as follows:
• Once you have set your employment selection criteria for a role, you cannot hire someone solely based on the fact that they are a minority (and do so against more qualified individuals who are also being considered).

• You can set selection criteria that permits you to recruit qualified and diverse candidates, as well as run different activities to support the recruitment of minorities, as long as when they are considered for the role, they are done so to the same criteria as other non-minority candidates.

And this is where setting targets such as applying the Rooney Rule come into play. You should not select a female candidate only because she is a woman, but you can set yourself targets such as to employ the Rooney rule to ensure that you include diverse and qualified talent during the selection process, and so increase the probability of hiring diversely.

What next?

If you embark on this, I can promise you this will be an at times challenging, but ultimately incredibly rewarding journey to take your company on. Targets aren’t the only mechanisms you can employ, and there are organisations such as the industry group Tech Talent Charter which has published some helpful starting points with case studies on the various ways you can go about doing this.

Beyond that, do have a chat with your peers. There are very few companies who do this perfectly, but there are many who do bits of this well. Share your own challenges and successes, and learn from each other. Be brave and be honest with yourself, and have faith in your ability to change. Not only will you transform your business for the better, but you’ll be enabling bright and talented individuals to have rewarding and stimulating careers. Make diversity a part of your corporate legacy – you won’t regret it.

January 30, 2017  2:12 PM

GUEST BLOGS: How tech careers can fuel the change you want to see

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"technology careers", "women in IT", Diversity, IT careers, NHS

In this guest blog Beverley Bryant, director of digital transformation at NHS Digital and winner of the Women in IT Awards Digital Leader of the Year award, discusses how tech careers can help people to create solutions for problems they care about.

I didn’t start my career in technology – I did a degree in Japanese and started out as a translator. I moved into my technology career to fulfil a desire to bring about change and to deliver innovative and creative solutions to problems.

Working in health means that I can use my skills to make the NHS a better place for both staff and patients. That’s what gets me up in the morning and what keeps me going throughout the day.

There is so much scope in technology careers, particularly within the NHS. Over recent years I have seen the numbers of talented women entering the sector rise, but it has taken a bit longer for us to see a real critical mass of women in leadership positions.

I am thrilled to say that is changing and I am proud particularly of the inspiring and innovative women we have working at NHS Digital. These leaders are empowering a new generation of female talent and they are demonstrating that our services work better when they are designed and delivered by a diverse group of people.

Our workforce come from a wide range of professions and backgrounds: architects, data scientists, business analysts and release managers work alongside UX designers, commercial experts, strategists and statisticians.  Our current work on the development of NHS.uk is a melting-pot of creativity.

For the technology sector to continue to thrive and innovate, it is essential that women play a greater role in decision making and product development. Real innovation comes when you bring different ideas and ways of working together. You can’t achieve transformative change if you only have one demographic (usually men, aged between 40 and 60) sitting around the table.

I am passionate about supporting the women in my own organisation to progress, and to nurture and encourage talent wherever I find it. It’s important for leaders to regularly reflect and think about when they last shared their experience or offered a ladder up to somebody else. That continual cycle of growth and development means that good people stay and become the leaders of tomorrow.

One of the practical things I have done is to get involved in Healthtech Women, an independent group set up to support women in health technology careers. In NHS Digital we also have a growing and thriving Women’s Network, offering support and development and a space to share ideas at all levels.

But this change isn’t just about women. Another thing I have been delighted about at NHS Digital is that both men and women enthusiastically recognise each other’s contribution and that people are genuinely judged on the talent, commitment and unique perspectives that they bring to the table, regardless of gender or any other demographic.

I hope that awards like Women in Technology and articles like this, help women to see that technology careers are a great choice. They offer scope for advancement; enable you to solve real world problems; and allow for some serious problem solving and creativity. Even better, working in health and care technology gives us a unique opportunity to work on national systems that will touch all our lives and will make the NHS work better for everyone.

All of this adds up to make NHS Digital an inspiring, creative, technologically driven and people oriented organisation.

January 30, 2017  1:42 PM

GUEST BLOG: How diverse tech cultures create the dream team

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
Diversity, immigration, IT jobs, IT recruitment

In this guest post Brynne Kennedy, CEO and founder of MOVE Guides and Women in IT Awards finalist, discusses how diverse tech cultures create the perfect breeding ground for innovation

I recently attended a conference with technology founders from Silicon Valley, New York, London and other global hubs. I was not surprised to find that the diversity of the crowd resembled that of the UN General Assembly.

Having started successful tech companies in healthcare, finance, HR, retail and more –  I loved hearing how these entrepreneurs leveraged their unique cultural experiences and global awareness to tackle some of the world’s most challenging issues. Many of these entrepreneurs moved to the U.S. to pursue their business dreams as they knew no such opportunities would be afforded to them in their own countries. Which brings me to the very important – and timely topic – of immigration and how to bring together diverse cultures in the workplace.

According to research by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have founded more than half of US technology startups that are valued at $1bn or more. Similarly, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants – and these companies employ more than 10 million people around the world. This isn’t new but it seems more relevant than ever before.

Research shows that immigrants are more likely to recognise and develop successful business ideas. They are able to transfer their knowledge across borders and cultures, can examine challenges from a different perspective and can use their diverse experiences to drive creativity.

These characteristics also apply to developing diverse workforces. The benefits of having multiple nationalities at a company are not only about skills – but the cross-cultural understanding, varying perspectives and global networks that comes from diversity in backgrounds and nationalities. This fosters innovation, risk-taking and problem solving – as well as tolerance – in technology companies.

By placing a specific emphasis on recruiting the most skilled candidates from anywhere in the world, companies can foster a culture that has many perspectives, constructive debate and a strong growth mindset –  all things that are often an outcome of global mobility and diversity.

I believe there should be a more open, global and equal world where it is easier for employers to move their employees around the world. The right immigration policies can be the greatest form of economic empowerment for individuals, catalyst for entrepreneurship and are critical to multinational companies meeting their business objectives. As businesses continue to rapidly expand into new markets and seek opportunities across borders, the companies that are able to get the right talent to the right place at the right time will be more successful.

A multicultural workforce is the tech industry’s core competitive advantage. And companies around the world must continue to welcome people from many nationalities and backgrounds to drive innovation and cross-cultural understanding.

January 30, 2017  10:10 AM

WIIT Awards: MI6 chief reproaches “Bond” stereotype to encourage women into tech

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"women in IT", "women in tech"

MI6 head Alex Younger spoke to more than 1000 business and tech specialists at the awards ceremony for the 2017 annual women in IT awards.

Younger claimed the secret intelligence service is increasingly in need of technology specialists as tech continues to cause disruption at a rapid pace.

Using the awards as an opportunity to pitch to the mostly female crowd about the roles available in MI6, Younger claimed increasing the number of women who choose IT roles is important for the industry.

He said: “As the head of a human intelligence organisation, but with technology right at its heart, I am delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate my support for an event which recognises the outstanding contribution by women in the IT industry, a contribution I am determined to grow and enhance in the Secret Intelligence Service to make us the best we possibly can be in utilising talent.”

Technology roles often carry a negative stereotype, with many women choosing not to pursue careers in technology as a result of these pre-conceived notions of how people in technology look and act.

Younger spoke out against the James Bond stereotype that is often attached to MI6 officers and claimed this often causes the same issue within the agency whereby only a certain type of person applies for roles.

He said: “The more different people you have in the room, in these high-pressure circumstances in which we operate, the better the decisions. So, success for me is a deeper, broader range of technological skills in MI6 and more diversity, in particular more women.”

The Women in IT Awards, which is organised by Information Age, aims to showcase some of the great women in the technology industry.

The winners of the 2017 Women in IT Awards are:

Advocate of the Year

Bernadette Andrietti, Intel

Highly commended: Vicki Cadman, BT

Business Leader of the Year

Sophie Harrison, Panaseer

Business Role Model of the Year

Wendy Tan-White, Entrepreneur First

CIO of the Year

Maggie van’t Hoff, Shell

Highly commended: Alison FitzGerald, London City Airport

Digital Leader of the Year

Beverley Bryant, NHS Digital

e-Skills Initiative of the Year

Amali de Alwis, Code First: Girls

Highly commended: Accenture

Editor’s Choice

Vladlena Benson, Kingston University

Employer of the Year


Highly commended: Thoughtworks

Entrepreneur of the Year

Brynne Herbert, Move Guides

Highly commended: Nancy Cruickshank, MyShowcase

Future CIO of the Year

Claire Priestley, City, University of London

Global Leader of the Year

Bethany Mayer, Ixia

Highly commended: Yasaman Hadjibashi, Barclays Africa Group

Innovator of the Year

Estelle Lloyd, Azoomee

Highly commended: Joanna Wake, RAW Digital Training

Rising Star of the Year

Harriet Lester, Internet Watch Foundation

Highly commended: Eleanor Harding, Twitter

Security Champion of the Year

Michele Hansom, Transport for London

Transformation of the Year

Helen Gowler, Avon

Woman of the Year

Alison Ross, Auto Trader

Teentech founder and CEO Maggie Philbin

presented the awards, and in a bid to demonstrate how women’s paths into an IT career are different to men’s she asked all of the women in the room who did not intend to have a career in IT to stand up.

With a majority of the room upstanding, Philbin urged: “We’ve got to do better than just falling into careers by accident.”

Phibin claimed the industry needs to do more to fill the gender and skills gaps in tech roles.

January 9, 2017  7:48 PM

Everywoman announces 2017 FDM Everywoman in Tech Awards finalists

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
"tech skills", "women in IT", "women in tech", entrepreneurs, IT careers, IT skills, Startups, tech startups

Everywoman has announced the women who are finalists in the 2017 FDM Everywoman in Tech Awards.

The Awards are held each year by Everywoman to showcase and celebrate the many women who are making a difference in the technology sector.

Women of all levels across the IT sector are acknowledged as part of the awards, including women who have been in the industry for years, students or startup entrepreneurs, each who have either made huge strides in their career and the industry or who have the potential to make a huge impact on the sector.

A panel of technology experts chose the 33 finalists from the hundreds of entries originally submitted.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of Everywoman, said: “Seven years ago we began to showcase the  exceptional women working in technology in response to the industry’s concern over a lack of female talent and role models. Today we are delighted to see the gender divide closing, but despite this our Awards continue to play an important part in celebrating role models at every stage of the journey from students up to senior leaders. The calibre and quality of this year’s nominations was impressive with all those nominated demonstrating a commitment to making a difference not only within their organisations but within local communities, schools and the future of the technology sector.”

The finalists for this year’s FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards are:

Rising Star Award for a woman under the age of 26 who has excelled in her tech career and contribution to the sector, sponsored by T-Systems.

  • Jade Carlotta-Jones, software engineer for BP
  • Gabrielle Corria, resource and recruitment lead at CGI
  • Charlotte Hutchinson, technical consultant for IBM Cloud at IBM

Team Leader Award for a woman who has greatly contributed to her organisations success through teamwork, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

  • Silke Eggert, global head of opportunity programme management and demand management at Vodafone Group Services Limited
  • Lisa Reed, development team manager at Sage
  • Catriona Simmonds, director of business architecture at American Express

Software Engineer Award for a woman who has used software engineering to make a difference, sponsored by American Express.

  • Maxine Glennerster, senior developer at Deloitte Digital
  • Elizabeth Irwin, insight analyst for QueryClic
  • Lisa Kelly, principal technical lead at BP International

The One to Watch Award  for an individual under 20 who has been encouraging girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem), sponsored by CA Technologies.

  • Kodi Gledhill, engineering apprentice at Coca-Cola European Partners
  • Ellora James, student at Wick High School
  • Amy Naden, student at the Royal Masonic School for Girls

Leader Award for a woman in a senior technology role in an organisation who is making a contribution to the firm’s strategic direction, sponsored by BP.

  • Dana Berceanu, head of connectivity and security practice at Vodafone Group Services Limited
  • Alice Cooper, global head of credit and interest rates derivatives IT at BNP Paribas
  • Vicky Higgin, head of corporate information services at National Grid

Academic Award for a woman in academia who has made a contribution and long-term impact to Stem sponsored by Dell.

  • Muffy Calder, vice-principal and head of the college of science and engineering at the University of Glasgow
  • Semali Perera, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Bath
  • Sarah Spurgeon, professor of control engineering and head of the department of electronic and electrical engineering at the University College London

Start-up Founder of the Year Award for an inspirational woman who has founded a startup business, sponsored by Barclays.

  • Nell Bennett, co-founder and design director of doppel
  • Sophie Deen, founder and CEO of Bright Little Labs
  • Sarah Hesz and Katie Massie–Taylor, founders of Mush

Innovator Award for a woman who is using technology creatively, sponsored by Equiniti.

  • Kim Antoniou, founder of Kafoodle
  • Kate Newhouse, CEO of  Doctor Care Anywhere
  • Megan Lucero, data journalism editor for The Times and Sunday Times

Entrepreneur Award  for the owner or operator of a tech business which aims to inspire others to start a technology venture, sponsored by Arm Holdings.

  • Emily Brooke, founder and CEO of Blaze
  • Sarah McVittie and Donna North, co-Founders of Dressipi
  • Joanne Smith, group CEO of RecordSure

Digital Star Award for a woman excelling in a digital role, sponsored by CGI

  • Ljiljana Holden, lead software engineer at Aviva
  • Chi Igboaka, global head of performance marketing at Travelex
  • Amanda Mulquiney, digital marketing manager at Maginus

Inspiration Award for a man or woman who is committed to encouraging and progressing women working in tech, sponsored by VMware.

  • Beverley Dean, founder and CEO at Special iApps C.I.C.
  • Mivy James, head of consulting – national security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
  • Sophie Newton, COO of Brainlabs

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on February 9 2017.

The Awards ceremony will follow the annual Everywoman in Technology Forum, supported by partners Dell and Worldpay, where 600 business leaders and tech professionals will take part in a day of career building workshops specifically for women in the technology industry.

Speakers will include:

  • Nick Jenkins – founder ofcom
  • Karen Quintos – executive vice president and chief customer officer at Dell
  • Ariane Gorin – senior vice president and general manager atExpedia 
  • Fatima Zada – director of technology and innovation at Harvey Nichols 
  • Niki Dow – senior director, technical communications at ARM
  • Annemie Ress – founder of PurpleBeach 
  • Chi Onwurah – shadow minister for culture and the digital economy
  • Stephanie Davies – director and founder ofLaughology 
  • Richard Davies – director atI Like Mondays 
  • Shivvy Jervis – tech and digital futurist
  • Kate Jack – head of UK, innogy Innovation Hub
  • Elspeth Briscoe, founder and CEO, MyOnlineSchool




January 9, 2017  3:38 PM

GUEST BLOG: Northern tech industry must recognise weaknesses

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald

In this contributed blog post Katie Gallagher, managing director at the North West’s digital trade association Manchester Digital, claims the Northern tech industry needs to start recognising its mistakes so it can work on fixing them 

Earlier this year we consulted our 500-strong membership base of businesses on the issues that matter to them most in the North’s digital tech sector. This research, teamed with an in-depth SWOT analysis of the industry, led to the creation of our new, five areas of focus strategy – its aim to ensure our upcoming activity is in tune with exactly what the industry wants and needs.

This intervention is much needed. While there has been a will across all political parties to re-balance the geography of the economy through initiatives such as Tech North and the Northern Powerhouse, there’s still work to be done. It’s encouraging that Prime Minister Teresa May has appointed a Northern Powerhouse minister, but we are still to see this translate into any on the ground, meaningful support. Devolution, at least for Manchester, seems to be progressing but we are yet to see the impact of Brexit on the economy as a whole. Despite these setbacks the technology sector continues to grow and thrive. Now, we must not lose pace over removing and addressing the barriers that hinder its growth.

As well as political and economic pressures, the landscape is ever changing. Digital work is increasingly moving in-house which will create further challenges for many service businesses, and there is a constant demand for new skills and faster methods of working. These constant changes mean the way our businesses function are in constant flux.

So what were our members’ key issues?

Infrastructure, the digital ecosystem, skills, leadership, and profile and promotion came out as key concerns of our research – areas we’ll seek to prioritise and support over coming months and years. Numerous points need addressing in each of these areas – all of which, in the essence of brevity, I won’t discuss in this blog post.

Instead, I’ll focus on one area which to some extent underpins the rest, and one we think with some tweaking and support can really create a step-change in the region’s industry: the digital ecosystem. The sector as it stands is fragmented in terms of how the different parts of the community interact. This, in some ways, is symptomatic of an industry that is growing quickly, and could be viewed as a a measure of success. But we believe there is significant growth and benefit to be had from closer collaboration. We have to ensure the ecosystem is properly optimised for businesses of all sizes – an ongoing job, which all parts of the industry need to pull together and work on.

In general, collaboration between different parts of industry, diversification and the ability to adapt, and cohesion between industry and education need to be improved. This is not unique to the North West and most other industries suffer from the same problems – ours just moves so much faster. We also need to work far harder to encourage innovation and knowledge sharing between different sized companies and develop a deeper understanding of their supply chains. To avoid these issues becoming overwhelming and to ensure a healthy ecosystem is created and sustained, we should prioritise:

  • Collaboration between different parts of the industry, to encourage knowledge-sharing and joint working
  • Creating a simplified procurement process and providing help for smaller companies to bid for larger projects
  • Providing quality support for tech businesses and start ups who need advice on growing, diversifying and scaling
  • Fostering better relationships between education and industry and rethinking how we work with academia to make it easier for businesses to get the talent and services they need from higher and further education
  • Better communication of the needs of digital businesses to the agencies and public sector organisations who are charged with supporting our industry

Addressing the above points will prove increasingly crucial if the sector is to grow and evolve as it should, failure to understand and adapt in such a rapidly changing industry landscape could be disastrous. By prioritising the areas where we believe we can make the most impact – growing a healthy ecosystem being one of the core aspects of this – the sector will be able to properly optimise the results of the intense interest currently being focussed on our region. This can’t be done through a singular approach – instead, by working collaboratively with businesses, education, and the public sector to ensure we’re getting it right.

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