Young people's confidence may be more important than qualifications Mumsnet founder tells WATC

Gaining confidence may be more important than gaining qualifications when it comes to a successful career, Justine Roberts the founder of Mumsnet told WeAreTheCity recently.

Justine Roberts is a Sky Academy ambassador and she recently took part in the Sky Academy Starting Out initiative which offers young people experience and employment opportunities to prepare them for the world of work.Justine Roberts

Sky Academy consists of five initiatives that use TV, creativity and sport to support young people in unlocking their potential.  The initiatives are - Sky Sports Living for Sport; Sky Academy Skills Studios; Sky Academy Careers Lab; Sky Academy Starting Out and Sky Academy Scholarships.

Sky Academy launched in November 2013 and has since helped over 250,000 young people across the UK and Ireland.

Sky Academy ran Confidence Month through October to highlight the importance of confidence in young people’s development. The campaign focuses on building practical skills, experience and confidence through unlocking the potential of one million young people by 2020.

The Sky Academy Confidence Month is supported by a host of ambassadors including David Beckham, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Davina McCall, Alfie Deyes, Ella Eyre, Justine Roberts, Melvyn Bragg and Thierry Henry.

Robert’s idea for Mumsnet was to create a website where parents could swap advice about all the things parents talk about.

Speaking to WeAreTheCity recently Roberts said: “I wanted an environment where you can work from home and not be judged for “wussing out.” An environment where you don’t have to pretend that your family isn’t the most important thing in your life. Work is usually a close second to family and that’s the case for most people.”

“As parents on Mumsnet we’re aware of confidence and that it is so important – it’s probably more important than qualifications. So, I was happy to get involved with Sky’s Academy with my Mumsnet hat on.”

Roberts shared her own career journey with the young people taking part in the Sky Academy Starting Out programme, discussing the role of confidence in the workplace and the importance of women working in technology. She said: “In the tech space there is a strong stereotype of geeky males, working in a basement, and this needs rebranding. Tech needs rebranding as a sector.”

She also spoke to the young people about their experiences as part of Sky’s graduate programmes, apprentice schemes and work experience placements. Sky offers accredited, permanent positions for school and university leavers on one to three year paid graduate programmes and apprenticeships.

Women are nervous about being confident, as they think they’ll be seen as being too assertive or brash

Roberts said: “I’ve spent the day with young people discussing how they want to develop in their careers. Skills bring confidence and confidence is key.

“Women are nervous about being confident, as they think they’ll be seen as being too assertive or brash. Whereas men don’t tend to have that. There is an unconscious biasness towards how we judge others.”

Sky Academy recently conducted research in partnership with YouGov of over 1,600 respondents to find that young people are turning to social media for confidence. The research found that over a third (32%) of all social media users aged 11 to 24 claim they are more confident on social media than in person. This figure rises to 47% for those who say they are not confident in themselves.

89% of girls were found to use social media compared to 82% of boys. Of these, 36% of girls said they are more confident on social media than in person, compared to 28% of boys. 63% of girls admitted they are more likely to upload photos on social media compared to 41% of boys. 66% of girls said their confidence is influenced by how attractive they feel.

However, 21% of social media users aged 11-13 claimed other people have written mean or negative things to or about them on social media. Furthermore, 14% of children said the number of friends they have on social media affects their confidence.

Overall, 33% of all young people questioned said they are ‘not confident’ in themselves.

Lucy Carver from Sky Academy said: “Confidence plays a crucial role in helping young people succeed and unlock their potential, and it’s really important that young people feel confident, both in person, and on social media.

“Having worked with over a quarter of a million eight to 24 year olds so far, we know that by providing real experiences, Sky Academy builds skills which ultimately build confidence.  It’s our aim to help one million young people by 2020.”

Fiona Shepherd

Why we should recognise gender bias progress before setting new UK boardroom targets


Fiona Shepherd, CEO of April-Six, shares why we need to recognise the tech sector’s progress on gender bias within UK boardrooms before we set new targets for success.

Outside the entrance to Swansea station there is a quote from Dylan Thomas that simply reads – ‘Ambition Is Critical’. I couldn’t agree more. A constant sense of ambition is what drives so many of us to succeed. For me, it’s been central to everything I have done during my time in the technology sector.

Fiona Shepherd, CEO of April-Six, CompTIABut what about recognition for what we have already achieved? Is it OK to keep pushing for more without a nod to the progress we have made? This week’s figures from the Davies Report into ‘Women on Boards’ have shown that almost 25 percent of all executives in the boardrooms of the FTSE 100 are now female. It’s immediately led to claims that this doesn’t achieve the targets set out by Lord Davies when he began his review; and a series of calls to make this more than 30 percent or consider it a failure of British business.

I agree that balance is required and a more even ratio should always be the target. But I can’t help sense that we’re looking at these numbers in a vacuum, and when you consider them in a broader context, we seem to have missed a real opportunity to recognise how far we have come and celebrate change.

Take the technology sector for example – the sector where I have always focussed my time. A report earlier this year from Ernst and Young showed that when you break down the number of female board members in the FTSE 100 by sector, technology shows that female board level representation is at 24%. A similar report covering the top US 100 technology companies from the Korn/Ferry Institute, an American recruitment research specialist, showed female representation at 14%. This is a huge gap – far bigger than you would expect given the comparative sizes of our economies and technology sectors.

In reality, technology leadership in the UK is booming for women. If we start to pull apart the sector we can see the considerable impact women are now having on the progress of technology in this country. At the Government level key strategic roles are now held by female leaders including Sarah Wilkinson at the Home Office, Baronesses Martha Lane Fox, Pauline Neville Jones and Joanna Shields. These people are defining the pathway for how UK society will experience technology in the coming decades. Within industry, key positions of authority are held by Trudy Norris-Grey, GM at Microsoft; Jane Moran, CIO at Unilever; Susan Cooklin CIO at Network Rail; and Catherine Doran, CIO at Royal Mail to name but a few. And of course we can identify a considerable female entrepreneurial base in the innovation space, including Maggie Philbin, Sherry Coutu, and Dame Wendy Hall.

We have achieved some extraordinary changes in the UK when it comes to the balance of power in the technology sector. The gender bias so often associated with technology is starting to fall back. I agree entirely that we have to strive to do more and ensure that we are making the most of the fantastic cadre of female leaders in the space today but pushing forwards. But whilst we must be ambitious; let’s also recognise how far we have come. Ambition is critical; recognition is vital.

Fiona Shepherd is the CEO of April Six, a global technology marketing agency and sits on the board of the AIM-listed Mission Marketing Group. She has worked in the technology sector for more than 25 years and now leads a global team supporting the B2B marketing needs of some of the world’s largest technology brands.

Cat O'Brien

Women in tech: Work pressures, working flexibly and awareness of social media


Cat O’Brien, Editorial & Social Media Manager at TickX shares her experiences of working in the tech sector.

I guess I’ve always been pretty tech savvy, even as a kid I was into gadgets. I think most millennials are into learning about new technology. From the days where Tamigotchis and Nintendos were the games of choice and Nokia the phones, technology has been laced in our blood since birth. There’s always something newer, faster, smarter. Now kids are playing with Apple technology and the Internet and it’s simply too big and prevalent in society to try and hide it. Kids are too smart.

Cat O'BrianTechnology and social media, like most things, can be used for good and bad. Being totally saturated by the media on our personal devices means we become addicted to finding out new things. The start-up I work for now is very fast-paced which mirrors the culture of today’s hi-tech environment. Because we’re small, we have to learn things quickly and really work around the clock to get results. I think if I was working for a different type of start-up I might resent this, but because we’re all passionate about the app and enjoy the work we do, it doesn’t feel too tasking. You pick stuff up or you let people down and that is an incentive to stay on your toes and continuously learn. You’re speaking with different people everyday, senior management in the entertainment industry, partners, students, press, tech guys, sales guys – it’s a constant flow of information. In this immersive environment it is difficult to pass judgement on people, treat people unequally and create stigmas. Everyone is constantly busy and focused, you don’t have time for inequality: you just have to get stuff done.

At university I studied English with Creative Writing and throughout my course constantly worried about what career I might pursue. I wanted to incorporate the two things I love: writing and art. I had to tailor these skills towards technology and business. I guess you could say that is one benefit of doing a course that is not too specified – it’s easier to apply it. My course at university was predominantly female, as most arts courses are. Similarly, in the world of tech the female to male ratio is very unbalanced. This does cause a stir in offices and for young women who are unaware of the issue of glass ceilings when joining a big corporation it can inhibit innovation and openness. It’s a myth in many people’s eyes, but in certain establishments it is very current. This is where the unfortunately negative association with the word ‘feminist’ comes into play. It means nothing more than the pursuit of equality in all walks of life for women and men. However, if a woman speaks of these things online or in the office it’s often thwarted as feminine propaganda and is not taken seriously.

There are more and more companies signing up for schemes and corporate memberships to tackle this, because their culture does not know how too. Women on Boards was used at my last company, with the aim to put a spotlight on women to join exec or non-exec boards, thus increasing their employability and leadership skills. Their sessions were really thought provoking and encouraging, but one thing that wasn’t encouraging was the lack of men in attendance. What was even less encouraging was the lack of women. Its title being selectively for women had put off their key audience, who saw it as negatively, feminist and elitist.

The nature of the company I work for now is collaborative, trusting and open. We help each other and ask for feedback when possible. In a way, we mentor one another, without patronising our fields of interest or expertise. We are all ready to try new things and work together to find a solution. We are based all over the UK but stay in contact over email, Facebook, Whatsapp, calls and text.

I think there are some really important things to understand when pursuing a career in technology. The standout for me is social media. If you harness it correctly, you can really boost your online profile and help potential employers find you for the perfect role. You have to have a good LinkedIn profile, updated picture and engaging summary about yourself. Get the app on your phone too. So you can reply instantly to messages. And if you’re looking to become a thought leader in your career, creating conversations is key to showcasing your knowledge. For our social strategy we use three main platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For a start-up with a good community and network of followers, knowing these platforms and understanding each individually well is essential. It’s the same for self-promotion. Even if you’re not looking to move on to a new role, having a good ‘online persona’ will work wonders with your employer and potential future recruiters.

CompTIA brings Dream IT programme to UK to inspire girls and create role models

IT trade association CompTIA has brought its Dream IT initiative to UK shores, to create female role models within the tech industry and to promote careers in IT.

The not-for-profit launched the Dream IT programme in the US last year, offering free online resources to inspire young girls to take up careers in tech or to encourage women to switch careers or re-enter the job market. CompTIA claims the US programme is on track to reach 10,000 people this year.Professional-Woman-Careers-400x400

The programme provides ready-to-use presentations and seminars, along with resources for young women to learn about the opportunities a career in IT can offer. The materials are designed to equip role models with the tools needed to present within schools, colleges, universities and careers fares. Articles are included which demonstrate what a career in IT is like and what skills are needed to get started.

Speaking to WeAreTheCity at CompTIA’s recent EMEA Conference in London, Nancy Hammervik, Senior Vice President, Industry Relations at CompTIA, said: "Women are 51% of the population and 60% of graduates are females overall. We are doing the IT industry a great dis-service if we don’t encourage more women to join. Women have been known to be more creative, better leaders and are the primary household buyers – they should share a perspective on products before they go to market.”

"Unfortunately only 9% of girls say they have considered a career in IT, so we have a responsibility as an industry to share what roles in IT look like. You have to interface with technology in every industry, whether it’s fashion, medicine, if you run a restaurant or you’re a coder. We need to take away the fear to ensure tech isn’t seen as a chore."

“The other side of this is that we want the women who are already here to feel good about themselves, empowered and to be able to share that. It’s not just about the women – about 30% of our male members are now on the roster to support with women in IT initiatives.”

She added: “There is an appreciation and frustration from women in the industry who want to give back. They appreciate that they are not in an industry where they are going to be replaced or downgraded and they have a sense of frustration that not many know how great a career in IT can be.”

Estelle Johannes, Director, Member Communities UK at CompTIA, said: “We follow where the need is and we’ve been localising the presentations and the video to ensure it engages the right people. Before the launch there was already a group in the UK who expressed their interested in launching the programme over here.”

“The materials aim to show that there is a place in IT for everybody.”

Cathy Alper, Director, Member Communities US, CompTIA, said: “Ensuring that more women enter the IT industry is hugely important for diversity and helping address the industry-wide skills gap. Women are actually well suited for a career in IT, which requires all sorts of skills, not just programming. Women bring leadership and interpersonal skills, which are a benefit to the IT workplace. In fact last year, we found that 73% of female IT professionals believe that their jobs make good use of their skills.

“We’ve been working closely with our UK member community over the past year to develop these new materials that will help ensure that women and girls hear about the opportunities and benefits of a career in IT.”

Inspirational Woman I Bethany Thomas, Reactor Chemistry Engineer at EDF Energy

Bethany Thomas, aged 23, is a reactor chemistry engineer at EDF Energy. She is a currently a role model in the energy company’s #PrettyCurious campaign.

Tell us about your career history

From a young age, I have always had an interest in how things work; wanting to take objects apart and see what they did.Beth Thomas 3

I first became interested in the energy industry after carrying out a week’s work experience at EDF Energy’s Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station at the age of 15. I remember being taken on a tour of the plant, seeing the turbines and thinking “gosh this is so cool!”

I studied Physics, Chemistry and IT at A-Level and Maths at AS Level. I then went on to study Chemistry at Manchester University.

At the end of the second year of my degree, I carried out a summer placement with EDF Energy at Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station. It was then that I was told about an opening for a Chemistry Apprentice. I secured the position and the company sponsored me while I completed the final year of my degree part-time.

A typical day for me will involve monitoring the performance of the plant, such as the reactor chemistry of the coolant gas and its associated water cooled systems. If there are any problems, I will carry out troubleshooting and work with Operations to return the plant to normal operation. There are no two days are the same and I really enjoy experiencing new challenges to solve.

What is your advice for women who want to pursue STEM careers?

I visited my old secondary school a few months ago, to talk about my career. I was approached by a female student who said that she didn’t know whether to continue her studies in science or in the arts, as she was concerned that science may be ‘too difficult.’

I advised her that science is definitely not out of anyone’s grasp. It’s amazing how much you can do when you get to grips with things. I never thought I’d be in the position I am now and I’m amazed with the things I’ve achieved.

I am keen to progress in my career and would like to go into station management.

Inspirational Woman I Amy Edmundson, Electrical Maintenance Technician at Hinkley Point B

Amy grew up in Bridgwater and was always aware of Hinkley Point B through her own friends and friends of her parents. Her interest in engineering was first sparked at school when she was asked to design a product in a design and technology class, which required her to use and develop a lot of skills and knowledge needed in engineering, such as creativity and science.

Amy went on to join the EDF Energy apprenticeship scheme in 2011, which she felt was a brilliant opportunity to work in a unique and interesting industry – that of nuclear power. She spent the first two years of her apprenticeship at HMS Sultan, a navy base in Portsmouth, which proved to be a great training base for learning a trade, as well as an opportunity to meet new people.

She recently qualified as a maintenance technician. A power station uses lots of electrical equipment and her role involves maintaining and repairing electrical equipment, such as batteries, motors and circuit breakers. Amy is now doing a Higher National Certificate in Electrical, Electronic and Control Principals – her ambition being to develop her skills further and open up other career routes within operations and engineering. Amy is a role model for the EDF Energy #PrettyCurious campaign.

 What’s your career and education history?

I grew up in Bridgwater and was always aware of Hinkley Point B through friends and friends of my parents.

King Alfreds School, where I studied GCSE’s including Science, Design Technology and Maths. I then went to Bridgwater College for 1 Year where I studied AS-Levels in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. I didn’t have much experience in the engineering industry before I joined the apprenticeship scheme in 2011, but my interest was sparked at school. We were asked to design a product in a design and technology class, which employed a lot of techniques that you would apply to engineering such as creativity and science.

I felt that the apprenticeship was not only a brilliant opportunity for me to gain the experience I wanted, but to also allow me to work in such a rare, individual and interesting industry of ‘nuclear power’. It also leads into such a brilliant career path for me, with working on a nuclear power station.Amy Edmundson 4

Tell us about HMS Sultan

I spent my first two years of the apprenticeship carrying out my training at HMS Sultan. During these two years I gained all the basic knowledge and skills which I required to build on and hopefully to become a successful maintenance technician at Hinkley Point B, and maybe C in the future. HMS sultan is a navy base in Portsmouth, and is a great chance to spend time away from home, whilst learning a trade, and meeting new people from across the country!

What are your thoughts on your role?

I recently qualified from my apprenticeship as an Electrical technician. A power station uses lots of electrical equipment and my role involves maintaining and repairing electrical equipment – for example, batteries, motors, circuit breakers.

There are so many opportunities for development within the company. I recently qualified as a maintenance technician after a four year apprenticeship with EDF Energy and am now doing a Higher National Certificate in Electrical, Electronic and Control Principals. My ambition is to join the technical leg of the technician level, as well as having the opportunity to go into a job with operations, engineering, or many other roles. This ability to develop your skills is hugely supported by the company.

As a whole, EDF Energy is a brilliant company to work for, and I am proud to be an employee. I have the opportunity to be involved in such a unique industry, as well as have a great and secure job.

What is your advice for women who want to pursue STEM careers?

Boys and girls all start education at the same level and all have the ability to do well in science. It’s a shame that so many teenage girls don’t think they’re clever enough and think they’re too creative to work in a science-based job. There are so many creative jobs you can do with a science qualification, in many different industries. I hope the #PrettyCurious campaign will encourage more girls and young women to explore the opportunities open to them. Being a woman in the industry can be seen to be difficult, but I can happily say women are not treated differently and it would be great to see more women join our teams.

Don’t ever think that you’re not good enough, women make just as good engineers and scientists as men.

Inspirational Woman I Jenny Griffiths, Computer Scientist and Founder & CEO of Snap Fashion

Jenny Griffiths, Computer Scientist and Founder & CEO of Snap Fashion was interested in Science and ICT, as well as Music and English, but before she went to university she thought she would have to choose to either pursue an Arts or Science career.

She never thought she would invent something which would enable her to keep up with all of her interests and skills – Snap Fashion. The Snap Fashion app and website allows people to take a photo of an item of clothing they like that they see in a magazine or in person, and then the use the app’s visual search technology to find a similar item available they can go and buy on the high street or online. Jenny is currently acting as a spokesperson for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign, and acts as a role model to encourage more girls into STEM careers.

How did you find studying science school?

Science was definitely one of my favourite subjects at school. I preferred Physics but generally really enjoyed the practical side of all of the Sciences and having the chance to be a bit more hands-on and experimental in lessons. I looked forward to Maths and IT classes but also to English and Music, which I studied during my A Levels – I found I could be creative with all of these subjects, just in different ways.

At what age did you first become interested in technology and what was it that excited you?

I’ve always been interested in science and technology, ever since my father took my sister and me on family trips to the Science Museum in London. My parents were never pushy when I was younger – they let me do and learn about what I enjoyed and I think this helped nurture my passion for science. I used to do home experiments and make my own stop motion animation with a friend as I’d always thought I would become an Animator. I think it’s for this reason that I’ve always viewed science and technology as quite playful.

What was your peers’ attitude towards Science, Technology, ICT and Maths when you were growing up?

I did find that as we progressed through school that quite a few girls dropped Maths – I’m not quite sure why – but this didn’t dissuade me from continuing to study it. I gravitated towards something I was good at which is why I studied Science and Maths at school and beyond.

What made you decide to take science subjects for A Level?

It was a no brainer as I really enjoyed these subjects at school. One rule I have always lived by is to ‘know your strengths’, so it made total sense for me to take Maths and Physics, as well as English and Music, on to A Level. By studying Arts and Sciences I also knew I was keeping my options open and could go on to study a variety of courses at university and apply these skills to a range of careers.

Who were your role models when you were growing up?

One person I have always regarded as a role model is British Engineer James Dyson. Over the years he has taken a range of everyday and household products and improved their design and functionality. He has the ability to look at something you didn’t think was broken or could be improved upon and make them so much simpler and more effective.

Did these role models differ from other girls’ your age?

When I was younger I think my role models were very similar to those of other girls my age. I was very into Brit pop and indie music when I was growing up and didn’t necessarily look up to them but enjoyed going to gigs and watching bands have fun on stage, do what they love and produce amazing music all at the same time. That was really inspirational to me and I think it helped drive me to ensuring my future career was something I felt truly passionate about.

What led you to study a technology subject at university?

 I studied Physics, Maths, English and Music at school and so when it came to choosing my degree I was concerned I might have to choose between studying science or a more Arts-related subject. I had also had it at the back of my mind from a young age that I might like to become an Animator or inventor so was interested in finding out what I could do in this area. After researching the science courses on offer at university and what was involved, I became interested in Engineering. As a discipline it involves designing and inventing, which would then allow me to use both my creative and practical skills. I decided Computer Science was the engineering course for me and would get me one step closer to my dream job.

What was the gender split like for your university course?

The gender split at university was definitely skewed towards men – there were 4 or 5 girls and about 100 in my undergraduate degree and 2 girls and 30 boys in my master’s degree! I found at university Computer Science had one of the worst gender biases of all the science subjects and I have never understood why. I was never intimidated by this bit did find it a bit of a culture shock initially.

When you chose your degree did you have a specific career goal in mind?

When I started my course I thought I wanted to become an Animator or become and inventor and create something totally new – I just wasn’t sure what that would be. I studied a wide range of subjects at school so I could keep my options open and thought Computer Science would help open the door to a wide range of possibilities.

Did you ever feel the pressure to study more traditionally ‘girly’ subjects?

I’m not sure you can really call any subject girly or for boys – you should definitely always study and continue to enjoy what you love. I was always good at Science so it was assumed I would go on to study Medicine or Veterinary Science however I always knew that engineering was more me. My enthusiasm for the subject meant that my friends, school and family were all really supportive of my decision.

Were you ever intimidated by the idea that these subjects are traditionally ‘male’?

When I started at university I was slightly surprised by the abilities and skills of the students on my course. A number of the boys had been interested in coding for several years whereas I was starting afresh so it meant I had a lot to learn quite quickly. I didn’t find this intimidating though – I have always known that I and all other girls are just as capable as boys. We all use technology every day and should be able to influence new innovations and developments just as much as boys do. Everyone wants products to be well-designed and to work quickly and girls can bring fresh new approaches and ideas to the fore.

Were you ever tempted to go into a non-technology related career?

I love to write so had considered studying English Literature at university and working towards becoming a journalist. I think this is what I might have done had I gone down an arts-related path at university.

Have you faced any barriers as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

There haven’t been many barriers during my career however as there aren’t many women in technology there have been times when I have stood out. I’ve always been able to turn this on its head and use it to my advantage throughout my career and have become good friends with other women in technology who are all very supportive of each other. I do think it’s important for girls to disregard stereotypes and to continue to do what they like. There will only be more women in technology and science if girls who enjoy it stick with it!

What inspired you to create the app and when did you decide it could be a good idea?

I was inspired to create my app Snap Fashion initially for entirely selfish reasons! I wanted to know where people bought their clothes from and where I could find items to complement the clothes I already had but realised there was no pre-existing easy way to do this. And with everyone carrying smartphones with powerful cameras everywhere with them the raw materials were all already there for me to invent it. I discussed the idea with friends who all said they would download and use the app when it became available, so it was then I knew that I was on my way to creating something that would fill a gap in the market.

What pushed you into working on the app full time?

After university I began working as a Project Manager at an Engineering company which I really enjoyed, and was busy creating the codes and algorithms needed to make my app during the weekends. After winning a competition led by Innovate UK, I knew it was time to start working permanently on my app. I moved to London, began recruiting a team and it was then that my invention became a proper reality rather than just a hobby.

When did you realise you could have a career in technology that combined an unrelated industry like fashion?

I realised quite quickly when I was working on my master’s thesis that there was the potential to design the fashion app I wanted to create – all it required was the right data and coding. I’m so lucky to now be able to code during the day and attend London Fashion Week parties at night. The fashion industry is very pro-technology and is integrating it more and more into the store experience, doing some really cool things on the catwalk and creating new materials and designs using the latest technology.

Who are your female role models within the technology industry?

There are an increasing amount of female technology founders out there that I find inspirational such as Bethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us and Vivian Chan, Co-founder of Sparrho, to name but a few. I consider these women and others within the technology space my role models because they pursued something they were good at and have invented something amazing.

What’s your proudest career moment so far?

My proudest career moment to date has to be receiving an MBE at the end of last year, followed closely by winning the Cisco British Innovation Award the day after I launched Snap Fashion, which was an incredible experience.

How do you think the technology industry will change over the next ten years?

I think things will become much, much faster over the next ten years – just think of the possibilities 3D-printing and smartphone technology bring now and how much things have developed over the past ten years. I think technology will take us places we can’t even imagine and hope more women will be at the forefront inspiring these changes.

For girls who feel science subjects aren’t for them, what would your advice be?

It’s important not to force yourself to do something you fundamentally don’t enjoy, stick to what you’re good at and learn where your strengths lie. That said, it’s important to keep your options open and make sure you definitely don’t like something before you discount it! Science and technology are such broad subjects areas that there is bound to be an area which appeals to you so I would recommend persevering and identifying what areas you like the most.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

A lot of people have told me that if you start a company, even if it fails, ‘that will look good on your CV’. That whole approach to life, not being afraid of failure, has encouraged me to throw myself into a wide range of activities and opportunities because you never know where the skills you accrue might come in handy.

What would be your top five tips for girls wanting to pursue a similar career in Technology?

Know your strengths. I knew I enjoyed and was good at physics so it’s important to identify what you’re good at, stick at it and most important of all, enjoy it.

Always do Maths. Maths is at the root of absolutely everything so I can’t recommend it enough – it helped my create my app but has also greatly helped me run my business.

Don’t be put off by stereotypes. Enjoying science or technology doesn’t make you weird – just make sure you go for what you enjoy.

Keep your options open. I didn’t even know it was possible to have the career that I had when I was growing up. Don’t turn down opportunities to experience and learn about new things as you never know where it may lead.

Find people who want to do it with you. It makes the journey a whole lot easier – it’s hard to succeed as a lone ranger. It’s important to have like-minded people with different skill sets around you to bounce ideas off.

Jenny Griffiths is a 28 year old computer scientist and founder of Snap Fashion, a visual search engine for fashion. Jenny invented Snap Fashion’s fashion-finding technology whilst studying for her Masters in Computer Science at Bristol University, going on to launch the app officially a few years after she graduated in 2012. The Snap Fashion app and website allows people to take a photo of an item of clothing they like that they see in a magazine or in person, and then the use the app’s visual search technology to find a similar item available they can go and buy on the high street or online.

Snap Fashion has already attracted a huge following and receives 250,000 Snaps per month. Plus in August this year, Time Inc, the magazine publisher that’s home to titles such as Marie Claire, invested in Snap Fashion for an undisclosed sum. The app has won a whole raft of awards including Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway Award and Jenny herself received an MBE for her services to Innovation in the Digital Fashion Industry. 

Making, not breaking, the new girl code: Young women get the job done with inventive mobile applications

Bita Milanian, Senior Vice President Marketing Communications at GENBAND, shares why she is in support of non-profit DIY Girls, which encourages young girls to code.

Who says girls can't code? I say, let's lose the saying "throw like a girl" and replace it with "code like a girl."

One of the coolest, technology-focused non-profits I've come across recently is the DIY "Do-It-Yourself” Girls. This organisation's mission is to "increase girls’ interest and success in technology, engineering and making through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships."DIY girls 1

This is a really great initiative. Women in technology are still outnumbered by men, even though we have so many amazing women driving software, mobile, and computing companies. Additionally, salaries for women vs. men in the technology field continue to fall way behind as they do in many industries, however one holds out hope that in the most modern fields there would be more natural equality.

Not only do the girls and young women in the DIY Girls world work on coding and software, they also work in the areas of hardware and emerging fields of 3D printing and interactive textiles using conductive ink technologies.

Since starting up in 2012 in Los Angeles, DIY Girls has:

  • Served nearly 400 girls through programs and workshops
  • Taken 103 5th grade girls through afterschool programs
  • Welcomed over 1,000 women to its Meetup group
  • Won Startup Weekend Edu in LA

Their "Fifth Grade" program was sponsored this year by the California Endowment with a special project asking the girls to design and build interactive games and exhibits that address community health issues. If you want to be truly inspired today, check out their blog on the results.DIY girls 2

My personal favorite from the many creative ideas the girls came up with is "Wheelchair 2.0." Wheelchair 2.0 gives people who can't walk a comfortable, fun and fashionable way to get around. This wheelchair features massage capabilities, a fan and storage. It is fashionable and even lights up when you are traveling at night, and above all makes you feel special, which is important for a person who has lost their ability to walk.

You can support DIYGirls through donations, volunteering, and programs and, for the grown up girls among us, you can join their MeetUp group if you happen to be in the LA area.

I look forward to personally meeting and mentoring DIYGirls and have signed up to spend three hours volunteering at a workshop since I'm an LA resident, and am looking forward to learning at least as much as I can teach - these girls sound amazing!

Socitm launch academy for women leaders in a digital world

The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) has launched a leadership academy to support aspiring female leaders in technology.

The academy called Empowering Women in a Digital World is aimed at women in the tech sector who are looking for personal growth opportunities.  Socitm academy laucnh pic

This programme is made up of a series of three one-day workshops, coaching, mentoring and group project work over three months. The course is facilitated by expert leadership coaches and trainers. Each participant will be assigned both a personal leadership coach and an experienced female mentor for the duration of the programme.

The academy is part of Socitm’s gender equality strategy and ties into the launch of its new women in IT network last month at an event sponsored by Canon in London. The launch event was held to discuss experiences and ideas on how to advance the prospects of women in IT and digital.

The association of IT and digital professionals working for local public services launched the network to give more visibility to women working in technology.

The network is the brainchild of the public sector body’s president Nadira Hussain, who also acts as customer services transformation manager at London Borough Tower Hamlets. She set up the network to continue the research and discussion around the benefits of employing a diverse workforce.

On the launch of the academy Nadira Hussain, Socitm President for 2015-16, said: “I am delighted to announce this new leadership development programme, specifically aimed at women who work in a digital environment.

“This initiative, from the Socitm Leadership Academy, aims to create role models of empowered, self-aware women, who inspire others, lead and collaborate with confidence and challenge the status quo.”

Three key topics covered at the leadership academy will be Authentic Leader – a one day workshop and personal coaching session on how to build confidence in your unique leadership style; Navigating the Landscape – a one day workshop and personal coaching session on utilising resources available to you and collaborating effectively; Optimising Impact – A one day workshop and coaching session on how to become influential and optimise your impact through confidence, courage and clarity.

Speaking at the launch of the women’s network last month was Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Digital Industries, who recently became the Shadow Minister for Digital Industries under Jeremy Corbyn’s new leadership. At the launch she said: “I’m glad that Socitm are doing this and celebrating women in IT, which is something I have always been passionate about.”

She added: “Diversity is not a nice to have, diversity has benefits, and without women in IT we will never know the kind of tech we could really have.”

Places are limited to 20 participants, and will be on first-come, first served basis. The course is aimed primarily at public sector, however Socitm will be considering a limited number of private sector participants. Course materials, refreshments and lunch are included.

Registrations for the course opened 12th October 2015 and will close on 30th November 2015, when payment will be due.

There is a minimum of 12 participants required to run this course, and a maximum of 25.

Academy Prices

Public Sector Corporate members - £1515.00

Public Sector One or more members - £1595.00

Public Sector others - £1750.00

Private Sector Corporate members - £1662.50

Private Sector One or more members - £1750.00

Private Sector others - £1895.00


TechFuture Women’s Network launched to find female mentor and role models in IT

Charity Apps for Good, employer organisation the Tech Partnership, and the consultancy and service provider Capgemini have joined forces to launch the TechFuture Women’s Network.

Tech Partnership is a network of employers that aims to create the skills needed to grow the global digital economy. Founding members include Cisco, BT, Capgemini, Tata Consultancy Services, Telefonica/O2, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM and National Grid.

The TechFuture Women’s Network aims to address the gender imbalance within the technology sector, through a network of role models and mentors.

lcr3cr / Pixabay

Women of all levels, working within digital and technology, are being encouraged to sign up for the network to join a community of individuals who are promoting technology in schools. The community aims to change the way young people learn about technology and to highlight the range of careers on offer to them.

As part of the TechFuture Women’s Network members will be encouraged to join the Apps for Good Expert Community, which shares its skills and knowledge with enthusiastic student teams as they develop ideas for apps for the annual Apps for Good Awards.

Members will also have the opportunity to mentor young women as part of TechFuture Girls clubs, which run after school and at lunchtime for girls aged 10-14.

TechFuture Girls clubs offers activities, games and projects designed to build on girls’ skills and confidence in technology. Mentors are invited to visit the clubs, to support the girls with new perspectives on leaning.

Michelle Perkins, Director, Schools Outreach Programme at Capgemini, said: “If we’re to attract talented young people into tech careers, we need to start early, so working with school age children is vital.

“We know that nothing is more powerful for young people than seeing real-life success – people who are clearly having enjoyable and worthwhile careers – so we hope that female tech specialists will jump at the chance to act as role models. Both boys and girls need to hear and be influenced by women already working in the industry.”

Debbie Forster, co-CEO of Apps for Good, said: “School students really value their interaction with business people, and the positive modelling they provide adds an extra dimension to the Apps for Good programme. We’re delighted to be working with Capgemini, and the other employers of the Tech Partnership, to encourage mentors to join us in schools.”