Oct 13 2017   12:22PM GMT

Previous everywoman award winner Sophie Deen talks tech

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald

"women in IT"
"women in tech"

Everywoman has extended the deadline for its FDM everywoman in technology awards to allow more time for nominations – 2016 everywoman Startup Founder of the Year award winner Sophie Deen discusses how her win impacted her business.

Sophie Deen, founder and CEO of Bright Little Labs, had not expected to win the everywoman Startup Founder of the Year award in 2016 – the surprise was visible on her face when she approached the stage to accept it, and clear in the beginning of her brief acceptance speech: “Wow, I didn’t prepare anything.”

The lead up to the 2016 everywoman awards saw Deen Launch the first in her series of books Detective Dot, focused around a young girl who uses tech to solve mysteries.

When working as a paralegal after studying law, Deen realised she wanted to work with children, and that law wasn’t for her.

After experience at a tech startup, Deen began working at Code Club where she helped the Department for Education and Google to develop the new computing curriculum.

Deen noticed the lack of diverse tech role models for kids, and many of the technical characters in the media perpetuated negative tech stereotypes.

“Stereotypes really affect how girls perceive the industry,” Deen says.

“I wanted to make sure ALL kids have access to the same opportunities, and believe that mainstream media offers one of the best routes – just look at Sesame Street. I wanted to create mainstream kids media with diverse characters and inspiring female role models to change this, so I set up Bright Little Labs.”

Realising the increasing importance of digital skills and the impending skills gap – an estimated 2.3 million digital workers will be needed in the UK alone by 2020 – Deen began to brainstorm how to use media to introduce coding and technology to a wide audience in an approachable way.

She explains: “I loved the work developing the new curriculum, but was concerned about the lack of diversity in tech. I thought stories were an excellent lo-fi way to level out access, provide inspiring role models and get the core computing concepts across to everyone.”

Bright Little Labs and its resources aim to “make a new Disney” which Deen admits seems like “a ridiculously ambitious thing to do” but the team is passionate about using stories and media to inspire children to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Since winning the 2016 everywoman Startup Founder of the Year award, Bright Little Labs has raised a seed round, signed a three book deal and won meetings with media companies to discuss creating animations and an interactive platform.

A lack of role models is often cited as a reason girls do not choose Stem subjects and careers, and winning awards like an everywoman award can help to recognise and promote women in tech and female founders.

Winning an everywoman award has given us a lot of credibility, helped me build my own confidence, and opened doors. It’s no longer just my parents who think what we’re doing is great!” Deen says.

“If you’re reading this and you know an entrepreneur – nominate her!”

Nominations are open, and can be submitted until 16 October 2017. Winners will be announced during a ceremony on 8 February 2018 at the London Hilton on Park Lane.

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