Nintendo 1980s Tech

Too few women in tech? Blame 1980s marketing!


nintendo, 1980 tech

Women are rightfully reclaiming their role in the technology sector

Often, the technology industry is held up as one of the very worst for gender diversity, yet it has not always been as male dominated as it is today – in fact, from the 1940s, women led major developments in programming and software development. In 1984, 37% of computer-science majors were women; at the time coding was a considered a rote skill – like typing – and considered more suited to women.

Today, technology is ubiquitous – at home or at the office – often based on consumers pushing for it. Gaming is arguably the main driver fulfilling Bill Gate’s vision for a computer in every home and it is largely, but not deliberately, responsible for the gender skew we see in tech more broadly.

Tech started out gender neutral

In the late 70s and early 80s, as home gaming hit the market, games were gender neutral. Figuring out noughts and crosses or the digitisation of Pong drove the industry – not shoot ‘em ups. In fact, one of the biggest selling personal games ever, in its day, was developed and co-written by a remarkable woman, Lori Cole for Sierra – the Quest for Glory series. So, what went wrong? In a nutshell; marketing happened.

In the early days of consoles and hand-helds (think Asteroid, Avalon, Tetris) the industry almost drowned in low quality, disappointing games but people still wanted to be a part of it. At its peak, the revenues for video games in the US sat at USD 3.2 billion in 1983. By 1985, revenues fell a whopping 97% to approximately USD 100 million. Nintendo stepped in and saved the industry with a quality guarantee, but suddenly marketing appeared in an industry that didn’t know who was buying and playing its games. It hadn’t really been terribly important until then.

Game Boys, not Game Kids

Marketing is about identifying and understanding a target market and, in those days, for reasons not entirely clear, consoles became boy toys and gaming – along with everything else computer software related – evolved with that in mind. Nintendo’s industry saving solution was called a Game Boy. The industry’s male focus for marketing became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Today, only one in four computing jobs is held by a woman. Programming isn't a male or female skill and remembering this is essential to address the tech industry’s widening skills gap. It’s possible that the advent of the smartphone and the plethora of non-gendered games will help attract women back into the industry they helped build. It has exploded – the ability for everyone to have a powerful computer in their pocket, or purse, means technology is everywhere and we want it to work for women. So they should most definitely be in the business, whether its hardware, software or some other aspect.

What companies can do

Of course, these days the tech world is not just about coding: while females need to be encouraged to study more technology-based subjects, there are many things companies can do to attract and retain women. Jobsite was part of a large study last year to explore how we can close the skills gap in the UK, and encouraging women is one key option. It brings other benefits too, including much sought-after diversity of opinion and thought. After all, women are around half of the population, so products, services and solutions need to be designed to include them as well.

More women are entering the tech world and, whilst it may be slower than ideal, there is a definite increase. Just over 30 per cent of female respondents in a Computer Weekly survey last year had been in a tech job for less than five years, compared to 19 per cent of men. In the more experienced part of the IT workforce, 70 per cent of men have been in tech for 10 years or more, compared with just 45 per cent of women. If women can be retained in the sector, this is a positive rebalancing.

Hard & soft skills

Sometimes firms focus too much on technical skills when hiring staff, without considering what other skills are needed for tech roles. Often, as the tech industry has grown, people who could be trained to fill a role are overlooked in favour of the few people who have the specific skills needed to walk straight in, which has led not only to a gender gap, but also a skill one.

Not only are employers often failing to consider soft skills, but many also still suffer from an unconscious bias, making them more likely to hire people who are like them, leaving out the diverse applicants, be it women, older candidates or other less-represented groups.

Retaining women

Once women have joined, it is not enough for companies to sit back and think they have achieved diversity. This is not the full picture and without changes, women will leave the sector.

Women in technology tend to leave the field within ten years and this is often because they feel unsupported to make other life decisions, like having children. If companies have a clearly articulated retraining policy for women in highly technical roles, like coding, they are more likely to return to work after a break to have children. We found that women valued remote working (76 per cent) and career progression opportunities (72 per cent) as key workplace benefits, for example.

Remote working goes a long way to putting an end to the “Dilbert Era” perception of the IT workplace and an increasing number of entrepreneurial tech companies are making the field more attractive to a broader range of people.

The workplace has changed, but there is a clear historical precedent for women doing exceptionally well in technology and bringing them back into the fold solves many challenges for UK businesses. Tech firms that act upon the growing skills shortage by hiring from a more diverse pool of candidates will likely reap the many rewards, leaving those that don’t paying over the odds for the remaining ‘traditional’ applicants left in contention.

Nick GoldAbout the author

Nick Gold is CEO of Jobsite.

Nick joined Jobsite in December 2014 as Chief Executive Officer.

Since 2016 Nick is COO for StepStone UK with overall responsibility for the sales and customer service organisation in the UK market.

Before joining the StepStone Group, Nick held management roles at Sage and Lexis Nexis. He was a member of the management team at Emailvision (now SmartFocus) as the company grew to become one of the world’s largest Email Service Providers in a very competitive market.

Nick holds an undergraduate degree in Management from Liverpool and an MSc in International Business from UMIST.

Geeta Nargund featured

Inspirational Woman: Professor Geeta Nargund | Founder and Medical Director of CREATE Fertility


Professor Geeta Nargund is the Founder and Medical Director of CREATE Fertility, one of the UK’s largest providers of IVF treatments and the only group of clinics in the UK specialising in Natural & Mild IVF. She is also Senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Lead Consultant for Reproductive Medicine Services at St George’s Hospital London.
  1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I became a doctor because I wanted to help people. I felt there were huge opportunities to make a real difference, to both save lives and create lives.

The first test tube baby was front page news around the world. I was a medical student at the time [1978] and decided to specialise in fertility because it was the most exciting area of medical research, and because it can bring people so much happiness. Also it’s really a woman’s field (although it’s often dominated by men), where women can work with women to achieve something great.Dr Geeta Nargund

I heard about the death of a young woman as a result of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), a serious complication of stimulating drugs in IVF when I was a junior doctor. That was the turning point of my career. Conventional IVF treatments use drugs to suppress woman’s menstrual cycle followed by higher doses of stimulating injections. They can have side effects like menopause-like symptoms including serious Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which can be potentially fatal. Conventional stimulated IVF cycles where high number of eggs are collected can lead to an increased risk of low birth weight and prematurity in babies conceived in such cycles with potential long-term health risks for mother and child. I already had concerns about the logic of this – and the financial cost – but when I heard of a young woman dying of complications I thought, we have to find another way.

  1. Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I single-handedly founded a drug free and minimal drug fertility business in an industry dominated by drug companies (largely male-run) and at a time when most IVF units relied on high dose drugs and complex, expensive processes. For those whose businesses rely on high drug-dose IVF, my campaigning for accessible and cheaper IVF has been unwelcome and robustly challenged.

Through my focus on Natural & Mild IVF, I’ve also had to take on a sceptical medical profession. I published the first scientific paper on cumulative live birth rates with Natural Cycle IVF, which proved unequivocally that aggressive high drug dosage is not an essential factor in successful IVF. I co-founded the International Scientific Society ISMAAR to promote a more natural approach in IVF in order to protect the health and safety of women undergoing IVF treatment.

Finally, IVF is an expensive business and organic growth alone wasn’t going to allow CREATE to reach the scale needed to truly improve access for patients. In April 2013, we successfully secured private equity investment to expand Natural and Mild IVF services across the UK and internationally.

  1. What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be brave in pursuing your dreams and do not give up. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work when leading others. Always take a moral high ground in everything you do.

  1. When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

For me it would come down to the candidate who has passion and 100 per cent commitment to their chosen career. It’s also worth remembering that some life experience can go a long way – for example if you didn’t study medicine straight from school, then the door isn’t closed on a medical career. I’ve recently had a former City accountant as a trainee.

  1. How do you manage your own boss?

As I am my own boss, I would say that the best way to manage myself is for me to be conscious of how I use my time. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to take on everything I would like to and I need to be conscious that I have enough energy to take on each task and give 100 per cent to everything I do – particularly when it comes to dealing with patients going through the emotional journey of IVF.

  1. On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m an early riser and with long days ahead of me, a good breakfast is the most important start to see me through until lunchtime. A typical day will end with me getting home and either chatting to friends or switching off by watching something good on TV. My days can be full of highs and lows depending on patient outcomes so it’s important to fully relax before bed so that I’m fresh for the next day.

  1. What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

First and foremost stick to your principles and align yourself with others who share your values. Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings, don’t be apologetic when sharing your ideas and aim to make yourself more visible amongst your colleagues and management.

  1. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with and be mentored by some incredible IVF innovators during my time in the industry, including Sir Robert Edwards, the Nobel Prize winner who successfully pioneered IVF – resulting in the first test tube baby, Louise Brown.

On a day to day basis I work closely with Prof Stuart Campbell, a pioneer of ultrasound diagnosis in medicine and am also associated with Prof Rene Frydman, a pioneer of IVF, and Dr RC Chian who has pioneered ‘In Vitro Maturation (IVM) and vitrification’ - the fast freezing technique that has revolutionised egg freezing success rates.

Working closely with experts who are at the very forefront of industry developments that have the potential to bring joy to so many people is incredibly inspiring. It pushes me to continue to achieve the best outcomes for my patients by disrupting the industry status quo.

  1. Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker

Networking at the right events and with the right people can be extremely valuable in opening up career opportunities or making connections with important people who may become your advisers, mentors and even your friends.

My tips are:

  1. Embrace the opportunity. There is a tendency for people to find networking awkward and to shy away from talking to others. Instead, treat every event as a chance to make potentially valuable new connections
  2. Be well-read and knowledgeable in your area. Having a good and broad knowledge of your subject, as well as current affairs, can be helpful when it comes to making small talk.
  3. Exude confidence. Whether that comes down to dressing in something that makes you feel confident or being bold in making the first move and approaching someone at an event, confidence can really make you stand out.
  1. What does the future hold for you?

As well as continuing to demonstrate the success and benefits of CREATE’s Natural and Mild approach to IVF, I’m working on broader campaigns around fertility and IVF access, including:

Rolling out fertility education in schools: I met recently with Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan, MP to explain why fertility education deserves a place on the national curriculum to ensure that the next generation are informed about their fertility choices. Since then I’ve had a number of positive discussions with schools and will be starting to roll out a fertility education and infertility prevention module in South London this spring with a view to it being taught across UK schools in future. I am proud to deliver this project through our charity Create Health Foundation.

Improving access to fertility funding /ending postcode lottery: I am campaigning for the amount that IVF providers can charge the NHS in England for treatment to be capped by the Government to allow greater access to IVF within the UK. I am calling for a “National Tariff” for IVF cycle. This would help to end the postcode lottery faced by women and couples seeking treatment and I recently met with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Jane Ellison, MP, to discuss this.

Continuing charity work: Through my role in The Walking Egg project, I have been part of the team that pioneered a newly developed IVF method called Simplified Culture System - ‘shoe-box IVF’ that removes the need for an expensive laboratory. It has the potential to halve the cost of IVF and presents a revolutionary step for childless couples globally, and particularly in third world countries where there is little or no access to a laboratory. We are currently working to move this project through to a service stage with abc ivf.


Amazon Echo dot featured

Enough of Alexa – why AI assistants shouldn’t be female on default

Amazon Echo dot AI

By Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft

Have you ever wondered why Alexa was the name chosen by Amazon?

Why not a genderless name like Alex or Ali? All four of the major AI assistants—Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana—speak by default with a female voice. Why, when naming the ‘server,’ did the creators give each one a female name?

Some in the industry claim it has to do consumer preference that both genders respond better to a female-sounding voice over a male one. I disagree. I can’t help wondering if that has more to do with cultural norms and that it reinforces pre-existing gender stereotyping and unconscious bias.

Historically, telephone operators, cashiers and secretaries were predominantly female. And therefore, it follows that when designing a voice for the machine that will operate these tasks in the future, we’d choose a female one; a sound that many perceive as soothing, subservient, compliant, passive and agreeable.

And there are those who’ll argue that women’s voices are easier not just listen to, but also to understand and hear. All of which is untrue. They are myths, as Sarah Zhang calls them. She talks about the reason why these myths persist:

“An oft-cited reason for Siri’s femaleness is the persistence of history. The first voice navigation systems to become widely used were in the cockpits of WWII fighter planes, where female voices supposedly stood out against the low rumble of engines. More recently, though, a 1998 study at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio found the opposite: It’s actually female voices that are less intelligible against the noise inside cockpits, though the difference was tiny and only statistically significant at the highest levels of noise.”

I know you can change Siri’s voice (and we did in our house to an Australian male) but people are inherently lazy and they tend not to change things. The fact that this is the default on over a billion Apple devices is a problem. And it’s worse for Amazon – you cannot even change Alexa’s gender – only her accent. It simply boils down to the fact that it has more to do with gender and perceived roles genders play in society. And it’s part of a larger problem within the tech world.

Does it matter?

The people behind the majority of today’s technological advances — the workers creating the algorithms — are predominantly white and male. And even more importantly, when white male coders assemble data for chatbots, machines are likely to perpetuate inequities found in the real world. They are prone to hard code their own subconscious bias about race, gender and class into algorithms that are designed to mirror human decision making. This has the propensity to amplify existing stereotypes and create a stronger association for male and female-oriented images, behaviors and careers.

Machines learn from masses of data. If that data has gender biases incorporated, it will become part of the algorithm. For example, researchers at Boston University and Microsoft asked the machine learning software to complete the statement “Man is to computer programmer as woman is to …” It replied, “homemaker.” Ugh!

In more depressing news, Wired reported that machines were learning to associate images of kitchens with women. The article stated that research-image collections display a “predictable gender bias in their depiction of activities such as cooking and sports. Images of shopping and washing are linked to women, for example, while coaching and shooting are tied to men.”

Ivana Bartoletti, chair of the Fabian Women’s Network, wrote an excellent article for the Guardian in which she gave more examples of this bias that you can look at right now. Search Google for “unprofessional hairstyles at work.” You are served up a slew of black women with natural hair. Now, search for “professional hairstyles for work” and, you guessed it, it is all coiffed white women! Why is natural hair on black women deemed to be unprofessional whereas natural hair on white women is considered professional?

If you want further proof, try this – search for “women” on Google – and you get three pages of images of white young women before you come to any other racial or ethnic representations!

In the excellent book The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, Clifford Nass reports how BMW was forced to recall one of its cars because male drivers in Germany didn’t trust the female voice offering directions from the car’s navigation system. In Japan, a call centre operated by Fidelity would rely on an automated female voice to give stock quotes but would transfer customers to an automated male voice for transactions.

And this reinforcement of gender clichés can result in women getting targeted unequally for financial loans, medical services, hiring and political campaigns. Such is the danger of the current gender imbalance that, as Erika Hayasaki points out in a report by the National Science and Technology Council, the shortage of women and minorities is “one of the most critical and high-priority challenges for computer science and AI.”

Women in STEM

Of course, these issues are driven and further supported by the lack of women who are working on coding the future. Andrea Keay, director of Silicon Valley Robotics, an industry group that supports the innovation and commercialization of robotics technologies, aptly sums up my concern with such imbalance:

“Inherently having only a section of the population involved in the practice of AI means that we are missing out on a range of inputs and insights. And we are also seeing that AI is, by design, susceptible to learning stereotypes, and then perpetuating them. When things happen and we don’t see a person involved, we are less likely to see that the process may be biased, or wrong. And it’s much harder for us to know how to take action against an algorithm.”

We all know there are very few women, and even fewer women of colour, working in STEM:

13.5 per centof women work in machine learning
18 per cent of software and 21 per cent of computer programmers identify as women
Just 20 per cent of Google tech employees are women
19 per cent of Facebook’s tech employees are female

How do we fix it?

Coders are smart people (most of them). The lack of women in STEM is not some secret plan to ensure the patriarch continues unabated into the fourth industrial revolution. It is happening because people are unaware of how their conscious and subconscious biases are influencing artificial intelligence. Eventually, we will be able to train AI to recognize and self-correct any inherent biases from the author. But we are a long way from this reality.

We need to train coders to recognize their own biases, to improve the AI experience for everyone. We need to get more women in STEM. Only 6.7 per cent of women are pursuing STEM careers and only 25 per cent hold STEM jobs. A perception remains that STEM is male-dominated and super techy. We need to get better at explaining why AI is an excellent career for women, and work hard to attract them into the industry. But that’s a whole other blog post!

Fortunately, some of the work on this has already begun.

Women in Machine Learning is on a mission to increase the number of women in machine learning, help such women succeed professionally and increase the impact of women in the machine learning community. One of the founders, Hanna Wallach is an advocate for “fairness, accountability and transparency” in machine learning. AI4ALL is a non-profit working to increase diversity and inclusion in acritical intelligence. They create pipelines for underrepresented talent through education and mentorship programmes in high schools around the US and Canada. Finally, Women in AI is a global organization of women experts in the field of artificial intelligence who run workshops, networking events and conduct research with a goal of changing the lack of diversity in AI.

About the author

Tara O’Sullivan is the Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft

Anne de Kerchkove featured

Inspirational Woman: Anne de Kerckhove | CEO, Freespee


Anne de Kerchkove - High Res

A self-proclaimed ‘tech start-up addict’, Anne has personally invested in over twenty-five new tech companies, and has set up and invested in three early-stage tech funds throughout her career.

Anne set up and managed her first company at the age of just seventeen. From there, she pursued a career in business and finance, later progressing to a management consultant role within the tech industry and leading five tech start-ups to profitability.

Her current role as CEO of phone and messaging conversation platform, Freespee, focuses on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the customer journey and increase the human element to customer service.

Being such a key figure in what has historically been a very much male-dominated industry, Anne’s passion and belief in diversity across all levels of an organisation has been a driving force throughout her career. She is personally invested in actively inspiring and coaching women to join boards, and in helping men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments. Today Anne mentors over ten founders a year, continually re-investing into the next generation of talent and innovation.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the CEO of Freespee, a leading communication platform that creates and enables conversations between brands and their customers.

I mentor over ten founders a year, as a way of giving back to our start-up community, and am one of the few female executives in the UK to sit on two public company boards in the tech and gaming space

My career began at 17, when I set up my first company - a travelling theatre troupe - whilst studying at McGill university. I then went on to a career in finance before progressing to a management consultant role within the tech industry.

Over the last 15 years, I have helped lead five tech start-ups to profitability and IPO. I don’t have a pension plan or big savings: I reinvest all my money into the next generation of talent and innovation. I have personally invested in over 25 new tech companies and set up and invested in three tech early-stage funds.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all! I studied business at university because I thought it made sense, but quite honestly it bored me to tears. Then I became a banker; it was a fantastic learning experience and I was surrounded by great mentors, but I knew deep down it was just not something I would ever be passionate about. One mentor in particular noticed that I was always asking too many questions; he realised I was not fascinated by finance, but by what we were financing. He transferred me to a new project and innovation financing division, which was amazing. I then quit banking with his blessing and support and went on to pursue a career in management consultancy within the tech industry.

Since then I have known that as long as my path stays aligned with innovation, it is heading in the right direction. It is important to follow your passions and to do what you’re good at - and what you know how to make an impact with.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Within the tech industry, we face challenges every day - from cashflow to growing so fast that you don’t recognise your own employees! No matter what the problem is that you are facing, it is important to take perspective on it, remain level-headed and stay calm.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

One thing that I feel still needs addressing is the gender pay gap. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that those who shout the loudest are those who are most rewarded - and unfortunately it tends to be men that do the shouting. Pay should be based on results, and businesses should embrace a culture that not only celebrates performance, but also builds confidence in women to go for those bigger, higher-paid jobs.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

There is a lot of misconception around these industries. Growing up, I was under the impression that computers were for boys - a myth that must be broken very early on. It is vital that we have the right role models in school  to achieve this. Girls learn faster when they are younger, so it is important that gender neutrality is embedded as early as the age of eight to ten, rather than when they are making educational choices that will affect their careers at 13 to 15.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’d say, do it! My own experience of mentoring others has been amazing. To be able to debate and talk through things with your mentee and help them to make impactful change to their own careers is extremely rewarding.

As I was growing up I was lucky enough to be surrounded by strong female role models. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my mother, sister and grandmother all shaped my behaviour and attitudes.

There is a myth that mentoring will take up a lot of time, but I can say that even if you are catching up just once a month, you will see a change after a single session.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It is difficult to pinpoint a single achievement; I like to think of my whole life as an achievement! Being happy at work, keeping my team motivated and being in the position to motivate and encourage other people are all important things to me.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Gender diversity has been a major driving force throughout my career to date and I hope to continue to actively encourage women to join boards, and help both men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments.

As a leader in tech, I believe that to make things change, you must start from within and lead by example. Only then can you really make an impact.

Nancy Pfund featured

Inspirational Woman: Nancy Pfund | Founder & Managing Director, DBL Partners

Nancy PfundNancy Pfund is an 'impact investor’, investing in cleantech and companies making positive social, economic or environmental change.  

She is founder of DBL Partners, which was one of the early investors in Tesla Motors. It recently released a White Paper urging investors to put money into clean energy projects in Africa, and predicts this area is going to be worth trillions in the near future.

She was also named in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and was commissioned by Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton for several environmental projects.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. We were one of the first venture capitalists to promote social change and environmental improvement, and I’m very proud to have played a part in bringing that to the fore.

I sit on the board of several companies working to do exactly that, including Farmer's Business Network, The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off-Grid Electric, Primus Power, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora. My involvement with Tesla saw me featured by Fortune in its 2014 list of the World's Top 25 Eco-Innovators.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really! The one consistent thread has been my passion for entrepreneurship and innovation and my passion for social change and environmental protection. My various jobs have touched on or both of those over the years. My move to help to create double bottom line investing was a conscious effort to bring both of those things together and create a new, conscious investing approach. So it happened organically.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Many challenges. Many people doubted that this was a good thing to do so it was hard to raise money. Also being a woman in a male-dominated field slowed things down – I encountered a lot of scepticism at first.

Once we launched, it was challenging to find deals that met our criteria and because we had created a new form of investing, we had to educate entrepreneurs on what this meant.

You’ve been commissioned by Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton for several environmental projects. How did this come about?

The Clinton commission was to widen internet access and the Bush one was the first environmental commission on technology. In both cases my work on policy that was embedded in my investment activities spurred mentors from both the public and private sectors, to recommend me for these commissions and coach me on how to be a successful candidate. It was a great privilege to serve two Presidents.

What more can the general public do to help the environment?

Invest in companies that are changing the climate equation. Engage in political activities to make your voice heard on climate change and hold elected officials accountable. Question the status quo when it comes to energy, transportation and infrastructure, and embrace new ways to promote consumer choice rather than relying on the same old same old utility, or car dealer, or agricultural seed supplier.

Vote with your wallet as well. Buy products with an environmental screen or mindset. Walk the walk. Find positive ways to convince your family and friends that, for example, it’s great to drive an EV compared to a regular car. Explain that there is no sacrifice at all in going green.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Quite simply, we need more women in senior positions.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I didn’t have formal mentors although there were many people who helped me along at various periods of my career in significant ways. I think mentoring can play a key role in building gender equality in the workplace. I have mentored a few women and hope that they are bigger and bolder as a result.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Creating the premier impact venture capital firm and helping to create a whole new kind of investing. I’m also incredibly proud to have helped finance and create some of the most iconic companies of the 21st Century so far that combine purpose and profit.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to continue helping to grow the field, continue making DBL successful, and continue building amazing new companies that change our world for the better, create the highest quality jobs, and deliver strong financial returns to investors.

Maria Kaskara, L&Q featured

Inspirational Woman: Maria Kaskara | Graduate Assistant Site Manager, L&Q


Maria Kaskara, L&Q

Maria, 26, is passionate about promoting female roles in the construction industry - in fact she wrote her Master’s dissertation on the differences in managerial competencies between male and female project managers, and when not on site she dedicates time to hosting workshops and talks at local London schools encouraging female students to consider working in the field.

In her role working on new housing developments for L&Q, Maria is responsible for managing the construction of new developments from start to finish and loves that she has the opportunity to play a key role in building a brand new home from the ground up.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am currently working as a Graduate Assistant Site Manager on site at leading property developer L&Q’s new development The Rushgroves in Hendon, as part of L&Q’s graduate scheme.

After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in Greece, I moved to London to complete my Master’s in Project and Enterprise Management at UCL, before joining the L&Q Academy for the construction graduate scheme last September.

I have a number of responsibilities across the site, including conducting health and safety checks, keeping site diaries up to date, attending meetings with sub-contractors and dealing with everyday issues and logistics. I like to get involved with “a bit of everything”, and also implement quality checks, to ensure that construction proceeds in accordance with design drawings and specifications.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I have ever sat down and planned my career but I have always wanted to work in construction and follow in my father’s footsteps and that’s why I decided to study engineering. My passion for engineering continued through my whole university life, so when I graduated I knew that I wanted to work on construction sites and see everything happening in real life.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Every day can be challenging on a construction site. When you’re working on a development like The Rushgroves with 387 homes, there is so much work taking place and everything changes so quickly. Striking the right balance between time, cost and quality is not an easy job but is key to success, so some days on site can become stressful. However, it is great to be challenged and get the job done. This is what I personally find very rewarding in construction.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would like to see more women in senior roles in the construction industry. Construction is very male dominated and I think we still have a long way to go to reduce the gender pay gap and have strong female roles in the highest positions.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have been lucky throughout my career so far to always have people that could give me formal and informal advice and support. I’ve gained so much by observing how my peers respond to certain situations in the workplace and on site and have learned a lot from them.

Since joining L&Q, I have been delivering talks at secondary schools around London, where I inform young people about how I started working in the construction industry, the different roles available to them in the industry and answer questions the students have. I really enjoy passing on my experience to young people and I hope that as a female I can influence more young women who attend my talks to consider construction as a career!

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in construction?

I am currently a member of the National Association of Women in Construction and encouraging more women to consider a career in construction is a huge passion of mine – in fact I wrote my Master’s dissertation on the differences in managerial competencies between male and female project managers! I would certainly encourage more women to consider a career in the industry – I think most people would think of the stereotypical male builder, however there is a huge selection of different design and management roles on offer in which women can excel, and there are construction roles across all sorts of developments – from housing to council planning.

I personally love my job at The Rushgroves because I’m able to spend a good part of my day outside and it’s a very satisfying role, as I’m able to witness the progress of a development of such a great scale from start to finish and play a key role in building brand new homes from the ground up. I also love involving the local community in our work. Recently at The Rushgroves we led a project with art students from Barnet and Southgate College, who created designs for the site hoardings encapsulating three key themes for the town of Hendon - community, environment and the future.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

In the future I would like to continue to develop my career, skills and experience to become a future leader in the construction industry. I have already started to work towards my chartership to become a well-rounded project manager. Inspiring and guiding more girls and women into construction would also be one of my priorities.

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Inspirational Woman: Anna Nasalska-Olczyk | Design & Technical Manager, L&Q


Anna Nasalska-Olczyk

As national treasurer for the NAWIC, Anna, 37, based in London, has discovered a love of mentoring young women in the construction industry and has been mentored herself, in turn meeting a lot of women like her who are passionate about the work they do on site, further driving her to pursue her chosen career path.

Day to day, Anna works with architects and engineers at The Rushgroves, an L&Q development in north London, on the initial designs of a site and follows it through to execution. She facilitates workshops with designers and trades, considering each design element, including structural and mechanical elements and is responsible for ensuring that everyone involved in the process, understands and buys into the design of the buildings. She find it incredibly fulfilling to see families then move into and live in the homes she has worked on, knowing how her design decisions will be contributing to their quality of life.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a Design & Technical Manager for L&Q, a leading residential developer. I have been working at The Rushgroves, a new development in North London since the start of the design process after being approached by L&Q. My role involves working with architects and engineers to design the homes we’re building, and carrying out the designs on site. My day to day role can vary, however this might include attending workshops with designers, builders and product manufacturers considering each design element of structure, mechanical and electrical systems. I work closely with everyone who is involved in the process, to ensure everyone understands the concepts and buys into my designs. This exciting development will offer 387 new homes and is designed with community at its heart.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Growing up I always enjoyed observing how people live and how the built environment can impact people’s lives, as well as their health and development. This interest led me to undertake studies in Architecture and Town Planning. After graduating I worked as an Urban Designer and researcher at the Warsaw University of Technology. Early in my career I was determined to become an architect and design houses, however further on I have recognised the importance of being able to take a design and convert it into a building. The complexity of the subject, together with its design, sustainability and financial elements gave me an opportunity to develop myself professionally. I then went on to complete my engineering studies with a commercially-focused course.

I later took a career break to support my family and when my husband relocated to London we all followed. I took this opportunity to consider my options and decided to go back to university. This time I studied an MSc in Real Estate and Planning at UCL, which focused on the planning and investment required by property developers to create world class architecture in London. Once I graduated I applied for a position on a construction site, and secured a job as a document controller. Working on site I witnessed the process of completing buildings and people starting to use the new space. I worked as a document controller for a year before I stepped up to work in technical and design management.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Studying and adapting to my new role after university as a new mother was a challenge! During this period however I found the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) helpful for meeting a network of likeminded people who were able to help me with adapting to these changes.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I have always had a positive experience on site, I work with a great team! However I know not all are so lucky, and I would love to see more opportunities offered to women. Within the industry I would like to see focus on merit and ability, as is the case at L&Q and The Rushgroves.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

As part of my involvement with the National Association of Women in Construction and RIBA Fluid Mentoring, I have had the opportunity to be a mentor as well as be mentored by others, and I find that it’s a fulfilling and positive resource for all. Being part of an organisation like NAWIC has allowed me to meet lots of interesting people in the industry and find out about all the different opportunities and type of roles on offer. This information is extremely useful when you’re starting out and don’t know what part of the industry is of most interest to you. NAWIC organises regular tours of different building sites which helps us all to learn about different trade skills and techniques. L&Q supports NAWIC initiatives and just recently we organised a visit for members at The Rushgroves.

Being part of NAWIC means I have met lots of other women who are passionate about construction, and this really encouraged me onto the career path I am on now.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in construction?

Construction can be a very fulfilling career, as you can watch your efforts transform an empty site into a place where people can thrive for years to come and it’s definitely something many more young women should be considering. The results of your work are tangible and can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

More young women need to be told early on while they are at school about the benefits of careers in construction and the opportunities open to them. If more of us working in the industry can go into schools and colleges and talk about our work, it could make a tangible difference. Personally, I really enjoyed Maths and Science when I was younger but also have a creative side so would particularly recommend it as a career for young women who are looking for a job which allows them to utilise both of these skills. There are such a variety of management roles which women could be excelling in and I think it’s important that girls know that these options are available to them!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My current focus is to see the project at The Rushgroves through to the end and welcome the residents into their new homes. This role presents lots of design challenges – for example we are creating a neighbourhood space which incorporates some complex solutions to store rainwater and direct the flow back to the nearby Silk Stream – however I am really enjoying finding ways to create a development that puts the residents’ needs at its heart. This will be a great achievement when we reach it, and I’m looking forward to see the final product of our efforts and my designs.

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Inspirational Woman: Angelika Podlinska | Software Engineer, Spicy Mango


Angelika Podlinska

Angelika Podlinska is a Software Engineer at Spicy Mango

Before she embarked on her software engineering apprenticeship, Angelika had been planning to join the armed forces. Having never had much technology training at school, Angelika had had no exposure to the world of tech and didn’t know what to expect. During her course, she was one of only two female members out of 12 and had to adjust to learning new skills and different ways of working. She’s now a respected software engineer at Spicy Mango, leading projects from start to finish and consulting on the evolving technologies in the broadcast arena.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have always been a little bit of a geek and into challenging myself. I hadn’t considered or tried coding until I applied for an apprenticeship with British Airways as a Software Developer. It was a great start to my career as I got to experience the different roles and departments within the company, each with their own unique range of responsibilities. I completed my apprenticeship with a distinction and began to look for a new challenge to build my knowledge further. I started working at Spicy Mango and have loved every minute of it. It presents new challenges and problems to overcome on every project - every day is a school day as they say! I have worked in IT for over four years now.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

A career in technology wasn’t my original intention, we had little exposure to IT at school and I wasn’t aware of the possibilities or what it involved. When I was at school I wanted to be a Police dog handler, as I love working with dogs. However, it was difficult to get into and it doesn’t have the same possibilities or career opportunities. I like to plan for everything, so I can prepare for what’s coming as best I can, but the apprenticeship was a jump into the unknown. At the time I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect but I’m glad I decided to take the leap.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

To begin with the main challenge for me was lack of knowledge. I had to understand how programming worked and how the different areas worked together. Then I had to learn about all the different types of software and possibilities out there. I spent a lot of time researching things I didn’t understand as well as using the knowledge of my mentors to help me progress in my career. It took time and hard work, but it has paid off - I even manage to answer the odd question on stack overflow now!

I believe my challenge is one that everyone faces in this sector; it is the nature of the business. The IT sector is constantly changing, evolving, and developing, new languages, software and new fields of expertise are required. In order to be successful, you not only have to stay on top of this but learn how and where to apply.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I’d like to place more of a focus on equality. We should all be competing fairly with those around us, being measured on how productive we are and the quality of work we produce, not our genders or backgrounds. At the moment there’s an emphasis on increasing the amount of women in tech and while this may prove a positive change in the short term, it’s important that it doesn’t result in discouraging any other people from entering the sector and causing a further divide.

How would you encourage more girls and young women into a career in STEM?

I think it’s important that from an early age both boys and girls are encouraged into STEM careers. This should be taken into account from the very beginning of their educational development, often parents are still drawn to gender stereotypical toys e.g. cars and ‘tech toys’ for boys and dolls for girls. Children should be educated from an early age about the STEM opportunities available, and it’s great to see an increasing amount of toy manufacturers taking this into account with their products. More apprenticeships should be offered in these areas too to help develop their skills.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’ve been a mentor and a mentee. Having a mentor is particularly important when you’re just starting out, it gives you a boost of confidence knowing that there is someone there to guide you if you start to go off track. The best mentors will challenge their mentees and thrive to get the best from those they are working with, helping them to find their unique attributes. I get a real thrill out of introducing those I mentor to new skills and helping them nurture the talents they have. Once you see students succeed in something you’ve mentored them through you get a great sense of pride and joy, and it’s not a one-way relationship, students will also invite you to look at things from different angles and make you question why you do things like you do.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think finding a supportive, innovative company to work with has been my biggest achievement so far. Spicy Mango has so many exciting projects and I feel lucky to work with all of our clients. Aside from the projects, the team is also really inclusive and we all strive to achieve our goals together.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’ve got lots of interesting projects lined up, so I’m really looking forward to getting ‘hands on’ and I’m ready to face all of the challenges that may appear. I love what I do, and I’d like to continue expanding my skills in the tech world. I’m currently in the process of finishing my degree in Computer Science and I’m hoping to take this further in the future, possibly onto a PhD.


HeForShe: Derek Lin | Chief Data Scientist, Exabeam


Derek Lin

Derek is a seasoned data scientist passionate in the art of building data-driven defence against cyber threats and fraud.

Derek holds numerous patents and peer-reviewed publications. He is currently the Chief Data Scientist at Exabeam, building out the data science capacity to Security Information and Event Management (SIEM). Prior to Exabeam, he was the Head of Security Data Science at Pivotal Software, leading consultation projects in data analytics for enterprise security and IT operations. He has also worked at RSA Security, architecting online banking fraud detection.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

Any initiative that strives to create a level playing field, regardless of the game, should be encouraged. I have two young daughters and I see absolutely no reason why the choices they will make and the opportunities that will be open to them will be different because of their gender. Whether that’s in the classroom, on the sports team or in the workplace, I expect them to have the same opportunities as anyone else.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

The question is why not support gender equality in the workplace? There’s a reason why companies spend millions of dollars workplace diversity programmes. It’s been well reported that conforming thinking is not healthy for a company, or the teams within it. There have been numerous studies that show having more women in the workplace actually makes an organisation a better place to work. Ultimately a successful organisation needs diverse opinions and ideas – and women do add different, and valuable, perspectives on problems.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Thanks to the continuing public education effort from promotion groups, organisations, and movements, I think men are in general more perceptive to gender equality conversation.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

If groups/networks using these words make men feel like gender equality isn’t their problem, it’s all the reason we should support such groups/networks. I'm looking forward to the day when there are no reasons for groups to highlight women in particular, but until then we must continue to promote awareness of gender equality.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

There are many things businesses can do to help men feel relevant, and comfortable, in these conversations. I think awareness and education are at the heart of it. One simple, but effective, idea is to tap into the large number of very successful female executives out there, and have them comes speak to your team to share ideas.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I am proud to say that the data science team in Exabeam that I am guiding is gender balanced, at 50-50% women to men.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

No, personally I haven’t. I have come across women from multiple different backgrounds with varying life experiences. Individual women do differ in their attitude to the workplace, but no more or less than men. To me each individual is unique when it comes to mentorship, regardless of gender, and take different paths to progress their growth in their organisation.

Zoe Cunningham featured

Inspirational Woman: Zoe Cunningham | Managing Director, Softwire


Zoe Cunningham is Managing Director of Softwire.

Zoe has been at Softwire since 2000, in which time she has made it her mission to hold every role in the company – developer, project manager, consultant, sales, operations manager and now MD. Under Zoe’s leadership Softwire has placed in the top 25 of 'The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For’ list consistently over the last seven years. Zoe is also a film and theatre actor and was the 2010 World Ladies Backgammon Champion. She has been named as one of the 100 most influential people in Tech City, selected by the BBC as the Brightest Woman in Britain and in 2013 she accompanied former Prime Minister, David Cameron, on his trade delegation to China.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I studied a mathematics degree and then joined my current company Softwire as a graduate coder. I was the 9th team member to join and first female employee. As we were a small business I took the opportunity to work in lots of different roles, culminating in joining the business development team in 2009. This was way out of my comfort zone and consequently ended up being the biggest learning experience of my career. In 2012 I was appointed as Managing Director, reporting to the founders, and now I have broad responsibility across the whole company, which I love.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did! In 2007 I had an epiphany and started working much harder to achieve my career goals. A few years later I realised that I was becoming very successful and perhaps wasn’t setting large enough goals. I took a full Saturday morning to set myself a five year plan. I predicted what the company would look like in five years’ time and what roles would be needed and decided that I would want to be MD – we’d never had an MD prior to that!

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Once you get into management, it’s challenges all the way up! And they get harder as you go, since easier challenges are solved by the managers underneath you. My current challenge is learning how to enhance the sense of purpose in a company. There are lots of pieces written on this subject, but it is a complex area and actually (for me!) starts with a lot of self-discovery. What am I doing that enables or discourages this? How can I change my behaviour?

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would love to live in a world where everyone, including the women themselves, expects exactly the same drive and ability from both female and male employees.

How would you encourage more girls and young women into a career in STEM?

I think that the most effective solution that we have seen is role-modelling. If you can’t see someone who looks like you doing the job, then you don’t think it’s for you. There are two things that we can do here – make more noise about the fantastic women already working in STEM (in some cases for 40+ years!) and get more women directly into the workforce by retraining: we can’t change what women chose to study aged 13 but we can give them a new opportunity to learn the skills now.

 How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’m often approached to mentor people and I’ve been lucky to have the support of a large number of great mentors. My biggest learning around mentorship is that all of the drive and determination needs to come from the mentee. If you go to a mentor or coach expecting them to wave a magic wand and fix your life for you, it’s not going to happen. On the other hand I am mentoring a fantastic woman right now and although she tells me that she gets a lot from our chats, I can see clearly that it is her hard work that is driving her change and all I am doing is giving her the confidence to keep going.

 What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Becoming Managing Director of Softwire was an incredible achievement for me. I forget this from time to time as I’ve got used to it, but it really changed my perspective on the world and my belief in what I can achieve.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Four years ago I started pursuing a second career (outside of my technology job) in acting. Completely different! It’s an interesting comparison since in technology demand is high and employees are scarce, whereas in acting it is the opposite! Over four years I’ve been lucky to play the lead role in a couple of great short films and I just played the lead role in my first independent feature film. My medium-long term goal is to either have a great part in a good film, or a good part in a great film, where the success of the film needs to be both in artistic quality and distribution – I want my friends and family to see me on the big screen!