The future of jobs; innovators in STEM & glass ceilings | WeAreTechWomen's take-aways from the 2019 WISE Conference

Written by Indigo Haze, Digital Marketing and Social Media Assistant at WeAreTheCity

Last week, the WeAreTechWomen team had the pleasure of attending the 2019 WISE Conference at the IET in London.

The conference was a full-packed day of debates, workshops and presentations on the future of working women in the technology industry. The speakers loaded each session with tips, tricks and research findings all delivered with a touch of humour. Here is a breakdown of what we learnt in the morning sessions.

Future Jobs and Women: Answers from the LinkedIn Platform

Lisa FinneganLisa Finnegan, Senior Director of HR, EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn, presented our first session, where she shared the findings of a recent study on the future of jobs and women. From their own data of 630 million users, 26 million companies, 60 thousand schools and 20 million active jobs, LinkedIn found that while the percentage of women in STEM careers is on the rise, there is still a distinct lack of women working in the computer sciences industry.

This is due to the stereotype that has followed the computer science industry since the early 1990s, of a single lonely soul working away at their computer, frantically typing away at their keyboard, in a damp and dark room, coding by themselves. This stereotype is not one that attracts women to the industry and in reality, it isn't like this anymore. Computer science, programming and coding can be an exciting and creative career path. Lisa commented that this is the image that the industry needs to project, which can be achieved by giving more visibility to female role models already working and succeeding in the industry. This should encourage girls to consider choosing computer sciences as a subject at university and as an inspiring and viable career path.

LinkedIn’s research also shows a lack of women in the AI space, making up 22 per cent of the workforce. A large proportion of these women are working as teachers, rather than in AI. Lisa talked about how for the future of AI we need to make diversity in the workforce the norm, as without it our AI will end up with the developers' unconscious bias. She gave the example of facial recognition software. If we teach the software using only the faces of white men, then the software will be great at telling the difference between this racial group, but the software wouldn’t be able to perform the same task when shown images of women of colour. However, this issue wouldn’t arise if we developed the software using the skills and considering the opinions of a diverse group of developers.

Across all job sectors, LinkedIn’s findings showed that ‘soft skills’ such as HR, marketing and people management are the most sort after by employers and that there are large differences between how men and women approach a job search. Where men are more likely to ask for help in the form of recommendations or mentorship, women are 20 per cent less likely to ask for any help. Women are also 16 per cent less likely to apply for roles than men and hiring managers are 13 per cent less likely to open a female LinkedIn profile over a man’s profile. However, once they’ve set their minds to apply for a role, women are 16 per cent more likely to be successful in landing their chosen position. Moving forward Lisa says we need to move the focus in schools away from general ICT and develop more programmes around computer sciences. We also need to take the focus away from general STEM and put more training and resources into AI and to ensuring women know about the opportunities available to them.

Fiona McDonnellMaking a Difference—How Women can be Innovators in STEM

Fiona McDonnell, from Amazon, presented our second session of the day. She shared Amazon’s research on the barriers and enablers of women’s careers in STEM environments and how women are becoming innovators. Fiona revealed that there is a 23 per cent representation of women in STEM and that only 15 per cent of these are in senior management positions. If we increased this by just ten per cent, the research suggested that this would generate an extra £3bn in business for the UK. Amazon found that nine out of the ten women they spoke with in the STEM industry are facing barriers in their career progression. 84 per cent of women listed confidence as their biggest barrier, along with 75 per cent pointing towards a male majority environment and 72 per cent pointing to a lack of recognition from senior management. Fiona also showed that there are language barriers in how women talk about being innovators and that new roles in the industry are being advertised using bias language that attracts men but puts off women from applying. Amazon has recognised that we need to have a supportive culture in place to ensure that the STEM skills women have are being utilized. The bottom line is that we need more diversity in the STEM industry, and that ‘diversity drives innovation.’

From this research, Amazon launched its Amazon Amplify programme, which aims to increase the recruitment and retention of women in technology. Through this programme, Amazon offers more bias training for their managers and they have changed their interview questions and panel to be as gender neutral as possible. They have also launched an interactive UK wide training programme along with a back to work programme to boost retention in engineering. They have also increased their funding for women innovator programmes, including offering a mentoring scheme and having a STEM workshops for their employees’ children.

Women and Science - Why plastic brains aren’t breaking through glass ceilings

Gina RipponGina Rippon, from the Aston Brain Centre at Aston University in Birmingham, presented our third session of the day.  She spoke about the findings in her book “The Gendered Brain.” Gina explained that scientific research into understanding the brain has held the old-fashioned view that because there are two genders, there must be two types of brains, the male and the female brain. This traditional view holds the belief that men are superior to women, and that women are not suitable to study or work in the STEM industry because they have the wrong skills set, being more empathetic whereas men are better at spatial cognition. They have the wrong temperament, in the sense that women are too often caught up in their emotions to make rational decisions, and that it does not interest women to learn about science. They derived this old-fashioned view from the status quo of society at the time. This opinion is still rampant in the scientific community today. This viewpoint has held women back in the scientific community for generations and is still creating barriers for women who want to chase a career in STEM, despite recent research showing that there is no significant difference between the brains of women and men.

In fact, research shows that the brain is malleable and changing. Social activity is the most important factor when looking at the changing brain, as we all need to find a connection with people that hold the same morals, support and believe in us. Gina expressed how our brains are shaped by the attitude, opinions and expectations of those around us. For women in STEM, this means that a lack of appreciation, direction and inclusion from senior managers and colleagues can inhibit their self-development at work, lower their self-confidence and wear down their motivation. She concluded that men and women need to work together to rule out gender bias in the scientific community and lift each other up to achieve our greatest potential. Which would help us make greater strides in our understanding of gender and open up more opportunities in STEM for women.

Discussion Panel

Following these sessions, we were introduced to Dr Hayaatun Sillem from the Royal Academy of Engineering hosting a discussion panel between Lisa Finnegan from LinkedIn, Fiona McDonnell from Amazon, Gina Rippon from Aston University and Poppy Gustafsson, the CEO of Darktrace. They discussed the gender pay gap and intersectionality in STEM, how women can cause disruption to the system and the future of jobs in STEM.

panel discussion, WISE conference

Poppy started the discussion on gender and intersectionality saying that ‘gender is irrelevant’ regarding hiring for roles in STEM, with 40 per cent of her workforce at Darktrace being made-up of women. Lisa added that LinkedIn recognises that there is a diverse range of women working in the industry that need the support of a community to achieve their potential and to feel valued in their sector. To help this, they have been introducing groups such as LGBT and ethnic minority networks that bring women together across the globe. Gina commented on how important groups like these are, as social inclusion is the most important factor in our self-esteem. She also noted that with the STEM academic industry there are still large barriers to women, as there is not the same level of demand for change in academia as there is in the business world. All members of the panel agreed that women have the power to change the system and that by banding together, we can cause enough disruption to demand change. However, they noted that this can be difficult for women in the workplace, depending on their position in the company and that if done incorrectly disruption to the system could, in fact, reinforce the bias that already exists.

The panel then moved on to discuss the future of jobs in STEM. Poppy started the debate saying it is unnecessary for women who want to work in the tech industry to have a background in STEM, as they often have transferable skills key to the industry. Lisa said that as 80 per cent of the 2030 workforce has already left full-time education, it is important to change the hiring process now. The language used in job descriptions needs changing as there is a gender bias in STEM job adverts, for example, labelling a job as having ‘heavy leadership’, deters women from applying. Lisa further mentioned that interviewing panels need changing, to ensure that there is a diverse range of interviewers in panels and that core skills should be at the forefront of employers’ requirements, rather than just a job title. Gina added that women are less likely to apply for internal promotions due to the male-majority culture. This is something that needs to change in order for us to move forward.

panel discussion, WISE conference

The panel then discussed the gender pay gap. Fiona started the conversation saying, if we want to close the gender pay gap in the STEM industry then we need to inspire more women to go into the sector. ‘Science is no longer just a bunsen burner on the table’, with subjects like computer sciences offering new career opportunities for women. Lisa added that LinkedIn is trying to end gender and social barriers in STEM by showing the future generation the importance of their parents’ work. They are doing this by allowing employees to bring their children into work and interact with technology innovatively, such as building their own LinkedIn profile out of Lego. To finish the discussion, all the women shared the key thing they wanted people to take away from the sessions. Gina wanted us to remember that our brains are flexible and that you can change your mind, Fiona wanted us to remain adaptable, Lisa wanted us to remember the importance of soft skills and their transferability in STEM and finally Poppy wanted us to drive out unconscious bias in the workplace.

Do you want more?

Do you want to know more about what we learnt in the afternoon sessions at the 2019 WISE Conference?

Keep your eyes peeled for our other articles on the event coming soon. You can find out more about WISE and the wonderful work they do here.

Joanna Crew

TechWomen100: What happened next for Joanna Crew

Joanna Crew

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their third year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Joanna Crew, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

Joanna has not taken a traditional route into Technology – however her keen problem-solving skills, impatience for change and passion for intellectual challenge have proven a great match for the obstacles facing Technology Project and Programme Managers today.

After gaining her Bachelors degree in Russian and Politics from Durham University, Joanna joined the Barclays Operations Graduate Scheme in 2012 and was promoted to VP after 4 and a half years. During this time Joanna has honed her project and programme management skills, including as a Regulatory Relations Business Partner and a HR Chief of Staff, joining the Technology Strategic and Regulatory Change Team in 2016. This breadth of knowledge has proven invaluable in her subsequent roles and allowed expansion of Joanna’s network beyond her immediate remit, tackling challenges with a different perspective and drive for custom-focused solutions.

In the last two years Joanna has delivered a programme of work to transform the way the Change Team operate, continuing this work in a voluntary capacity as a representative of the engagement forum to ensure colleague development opportunities. Since 2017, Joanna has been working to deliver Technology change for the Clearing business, was appointed to manage their Brexit Technology Programme and is currently focusing on streamlining KYC and Client Onboarding.

A passionate advocate for gender equality for many years, Joanna is the Co-Chair for the Develop & Promote Committee of the Barclays gender network and often sits on panels for internal and external events. Particularly within Technology, she mobilised her senior management team’s input into the International Women’s Day 2018 Campaign, and has been a champion for identification and management of female talent. Last year she also designed, coordinated and delivered a digital skills training day for a Barclays Pensioners Committee, giving them the tools to engage their 400 members through the free online training opportunities available.

Joanna has raised over £32,000 for The Prince’s Trust, WildHearts, Mind and other smaller charities through organising black-tie galas, entrepreneurial competitions, running half marathons and cycling from London to Paris. She has also worked with The Girls Network to design and establish Advisory Boards for mentoring schemes in Manchester and Birmingham.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

It felt fantastic – especially finding out on a Monday morning, it definitely set me up for the week! It was really exciting and humbling to be named in the TechWomen100 – particularly given the standard of the other shortlisted nominees! It can be easy not to pause and reflect on your achievements, especially when you are focused on hard work and delivery, but this whole experience has been a great chance for me to do just that. It’s also a testament to the support and opportunities I’ve been given by colleagues at Barclays since I joined in 2012.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

My manager was really good at championing my win within my business area, and the our diversity networks ran intranet articles on all the Barclays winners as well – I even had someone stop and congratulate me at an internal event as they recognised my name! It’s also been a great conversation starting point for my career development with my manager, and we’re focussing on key push areas for me to take my career to the next level. On top of that, I’ve also now been shortlisted for the WIBF Young Professional Award so winning a TechWomen100 Award has been a fantastic springboard to expand my personal brand.

Paying it forward is really important to me and I’m a big believer in ‘we’ over ‘me’. To that end, I have created a database of awards across aimed at women in Financial Services and Technology as well as a proposal for how my management team can utilise this in their talent process – this has been shared with the D&I sponsors at ExCo level to ensure we push these opportunities across the organisation. So far this year I have personally nominated eight brilliant women (and men!) across 3 different awards, as well as helping several of them with their nomination entries – at current count 3 of them have won, so watch this space for more success stories!

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Don’t be afraid to talk about the great things you have achieved – and don’t underestimate the impact of those achievements, even if you don’t think they’re that impressive. Self-promotion can feel really awkward but the more you practice it, the better you will get. And you absolutely should be telling people that you’ve been nominated, or shortlisted for an award, because you will be amazed at the amount of support you get back and you may also inspire someone else to achieve their goals too, especially for women in under-represented industries like Finance and Technology.

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

Find your tribe! Yes it’s a bit of a millennial buzz phrase but in all seriousness, find those in your peer group who challenge you and encourage you to be better and try to do the same for them – in particular, make sure you seek out those who are different to you. Share experiences and champion one another, instead of focusing only on yourself. Not only will you find this really rewarding, but you will find that with several other people doing the same for you that your network expands faster than you could manage on your own, and opportunities that you hadn’t heard about are suddenly within your reach. It also means that you build yourself a strong group of go-to people who know you and who have your back.

employee activism, strikes featured

The rise of employee activism

employee activism, strikes, striking

A mass employee walk out is a last resort that indicates an endemic ‘us and them’ attitude fundamentally at odds with both employee expectations and good management.

Attracting and retaining the good people with great skills essential to business success requires a strategic commitment to people management that is a world away from the hierarchical approach of the past. Zoe Cunningham, CEO, Softwire, explains the importance of nurturing employees, respecting their beliefs and actively seeking their input into tough business decisions.

Last Resort

The speed with which an apparently five star employer can lose employee credibility appears astonishing. How quickly the atmosphere within certain Silicon Valley firms has changed from a top rated employment destination to a workplace so toxic that employees feel compelled to stage a mass walk out. But is this really the case? Employee activism on this scale is a last resort, a desperate recognition that long standing internal efforts to effect change have failed.

For any employer the concept of activism is disconcerting. What does it say about a business that employees are so unhappy they want to make these very public statements?

This very public questioning of employers – from Google to Riot Games – about both ethics and commitment to creating a safe working environment, suggests a systemic lack of employee engagement. It indicates an ‘us and them’ divide between employer and employee that is out of step with both employee expectations and good employment practice.

Employee Value

Just consider the value of these employees: these intelligent, highly sought after experts with the world at their feet. They could work anywhere; join any business; find a company that not only rewards their skills but respects their opinions and beliefs.  And there is no doubt that many will have already done just that – rather than take a public stand they will have moved elsewhere.

With tech talent incredibly thin on the ground – in the UK as elsewhere globally – retaining top talent must be so much more than a line in the corporate strategy. As many companies are discovering, forget the salary and the perks. A lack of commitment to creating the right working environment and nurturing talent leads to employee haemorrhage which is actively hindering performance and growth.

Valuable individuals with hard to source skills are no longer just employees; they are part of the business. And, as such, they need not only to be kept informed about business change – and business challenges – but their opinions and ideas actively sought.  In practice this means including employees in the big decisions. It means sharing business troubles as well as celebrating success. It may go against the grain for managers raised in traditionally hierarchical business models but asking employee opinions on tough decisions - to choose between a ten per cent pay cut or a number of redundancies, for example - doesn’t undermine morale. It actually improves trust. It enhances their commitment to the business.

This open approach needs to be embedded within the entire business. An open door (or open diary for those without offices!) policy or dedicated times when employees are encouraged to speak to senior management, both in informal group environments and one to one, are invaluable. This is not just about providing a safe space for raising concerns and complaints – although that is of course essential.  It is about celebrating success, requesting new office facilities, prompting debate and discussion about dealing with clients, managing remote teams or embracing new market opportunities. Essentially, it is about fostering an open business environment that is a world away from the ‘us and them’ hierarchy of the past.

Employee walk outs make a very significant statement about the quality of experience within specific organisations. But in many companies the activism is subtle – it is the gentle drip of talent leaving, the constant cycle of recruitment and replacement.

People management takes time; but retaining and developing a committed and talented team is crucial to success. Companies cannot just pay lip service in a bid to attract highly valued tech talent. By actively engaging and empowering individuals to speak up and make changes to processes and values, companies can build the committed and engaged talent pool required to underpin long term success.

Zoe Cunningham featuredAbout the author

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.

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK featured

From TechWomen100 to emerging politician | Emma Taylor

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

Dr Emma Taylor’s 30 year career started with BAE Space Systems’ sponsorship for her studies at Oxford.

Over the next seven years, she worked on space missions, including research on materials retrieved from the Hubble Space Telescope. Recruited from her PhD to the European Space Agency, she ran novel computer simulations for the International Space Station.

As a Principal Engineer, she led R&D on resilient spacecraft structures, and an ISO standards team of space agencies to protect Earth orbits. In parallel, Emma was a carer for eight years, leaving her university academic post for a career break. Retraining as a system safety engineer, winning a university scholarship and research prize, she then worked in O&G, including as Operations Manager.

A 2018 Telegraph Top 50 Woman Engineer, and a WISE Woman in Industry Finalist, Emma worked as Lead Systems Safety Engineer at RSSB, advising on safety, risk assessment and standards. She worked to enhance understanding and implementation of security and cybersecurity within transport, including data integrity of a mobile app and a cloud-based safety-related reporting system.

In this article, WeAreTechWomen sit down with Emma to discuss what happened since winning a TechWomen100 award and how she became involved in a career in politics.

I am proud to be one of the TechWomen100. This year in January, I listened to Vanessa Vallely, Jacqueline de Rojas and Chi Onwurah speak at the TechWomen100 awards dinner. To be honest, I felt a little overawed. Inspired too, but I definitely felt as if I was in the presence of superwomen.

And yet only a few months later, after a career of more than 25 years in science, technology and engineering, I have an emerging role as a politician. I am campaigning for election to the European Parliament on behalf of Change UK, our new UK political party. As the lead MEP candidate for the East of England, I’ve definitely had to put my own superwoman cape on.

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

But what’s my story? How did I come to stand as a candidate for Change UK?

I think that, whatever your political beliefs, many of us have been concerned about what’s been happening in politics recently. It’s fair to say things haven’t been working as smoothly and efficiently as many of us would like - politics is clearly broken! It’s worrying people, including my French mother, who has lived here for 50 years.

So when the call came out from Change UK for people to apply and campaign become Members of the European Parliament (MEP), I did listen. I wondered whether I should stand up. I worried about all the online trolling and worse. Could I step up to the challenge? Was I brave enough to try?

But, as an engineer, I like fixing things to make them work better. And as someone who works in tech, I know that engagement with Europe is key in fighting the emerging threat of cybersecurity. I also wanted to find a way to reassure my mum, and this was certainly one way of doing it.

So, I wrote my application in one sitting at the computer, one Sunday afternoon. Less than a week later, I walked into the room and met Sarah Wollaston, one of the Change UK MPs interviewing me. By that point, I’d heard that there were more than 3700 applications so I was taking it one step at a time with no expectations.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt, sat on the sofa with my cup of tea, when I took that call from Sarah less than 48 hours later. What to do? And so I accepted the number one slot on the East of England list. I realised that this new party, with a call to change politics, offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to stand up and see what I could to do to help fix politics.

Next day (!), the 23rd April, was the campaign launch, broadcast on national TV. The campaign started at full speed and has been at full throttle ever since. You’ve probably read about it in the national media, you can see my personal campaign story on my Twitter feed (@etaylorengineer).  One thing I am am 100 per cent sure about is that I couldn’t have taken this challenge on without the boost that my We Are The City Techwomen100 award gave me.

I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, if it’s before the election date on the 23rd May, or afterwards. I can’t predict the results, but I know that I’m proud to have taken the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in.  And maybe I’ve inspired others to take their own bold steps? Because if I can create this opportunity and take on this challenge, then you can too.

In a nutshell, if and when you are lucky enough to win a TechWomen100, Rising Star or other WATC award, you’ve got your own little piece of superwoman in your hand. Use it wisely, and the sky’s the limit.

Emma Taylor is part of a team of seven candidates standing for election as a Member of European Parliament; including Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham, and Roger Casale.

Professor Sue Black featuered

Inspirational Woman: Professor Sue Black OBE | Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist, UK Government Strategic Advisor, Women’s Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020, Professional Speaker & Author

Professor Sue Black

Sue Black is a leading academic, campaigner, and advisor to the UK Government.

Black is a Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University with more than 40 publications behind her as well as a PhD in software engineering.

Her academic career has seen her hold leadership posts at London South Bank University, University of Westminster and University College London.

A champion for women in computing, Black founded BCSWomen, the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology. The activist is also widely known for her successful campaign to save Bletchley Park, the wartime campus where more than 5,000 women served as codebreakers.

A figurehead on numerous boards, Black is a Comic Relief Trustee and a mentor at Google Campus for Mums. She has previously been a L'Oréal UNESCO prize judge, an expert evaluator for the European Commission and a Nesta Crucible fellow.

Black was awarded an OBE for “services to technology” in 2016.

She today sits as a Women’s Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020.

Black is a self-confessed social media-holic. She is a mum of four and a grandmother of four.

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

I didn’t have a traditional start. I left home at 16 with five O-levels, married at 20 and had three children by the time I was 23.

I was a single parent living with my kids in a Brixton council estate when I decided to study maths at night school (I chose a fast track course because it only required six hours a week on campus).

After this, I went on to study computing at London South Bank University where I also managed to complete my PhD. This is where I founded BCSWomen. I’d been at a computer conference (where around 90% of the guests were guys) and was freaked out by a man who wouldn’t stop staring at me. I couldn’t help but compare the negative experience to the great time I had at a female-only science conference and decided to create a network just for tech women.

Alongside my academic career, I’ve always tried to get people excited about the opportunities around technology. That’s why I set up initiatives like #techmums (mums are the biggest positive influencing factors on young kids so it's a win-win).

Now I’m at Durham University working with The Institute of Coding on a new programme called TechUP. It's an online course with residential weekends that specifically aims to retrain BAME and underrepresented women into technology careers. Any woman from the midlands or north of England with a degree can apply and over six months, we train them to become business analysts, software developers, agile project managers and data scientists.

TechUP is a pilot right now, but we’re working with three universities and 15 industry partners. I'm hoping it will be really successful and will roll out on a wider scale next year.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I've always been ambitious, and I'm always looking ahead, but I’ve never done any real career planning.

My first job was at Essex County Council in the education department, but filing wasn’t very exciting. Then, when I moved to London, I worked with refugees from Vietnam (and learned some Vietnamese) but I didn’t think this would lead to a career. After that, I enrolled as a student nurse working at University College Hospital, but I found it difficult because I was so shy. Eventually, because I liked maths, I got an accountancy job at RCA Records.

One of the subjects I studied at college was programming in BASIC  I’ve always found technology really fascinating.

When it came to choosing a degree I did what I enjoyed and what I thought would help me get a good job, to enable me to support my family.

Obviously, if you know a specific job role that you want, you should go for it. But if you don't, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just work out what you enjoy the most.


What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Saving Bletchley Park was a huge achievement because it wasn’t just about my career, it was about preserving history for everyone.

I first went to visit the site in Bletchley for a BCS meeting. That’s when I learned that more than half of the 10,000 people working there during the war were women—I’d assumed it was a team of 50 men and was shocked I’d never even heard of the contribution these 5,000 women had made. I got funding for an oral history project to help capture their memories and we interviewed some 15 female veterans.

When I heard the site might close in 2008, I rallied all the heads and professors of computing in the UK to sign a petition to 10 Downing Street. We had an open letter printed in the Times and I went on the BBC News to raise awareness.

Being an early adopter of tech massively helped the campaign. If we didn't have Twitter, I don't think we would have saved it. I realized that just by typing the words Bletchley Park on Twitter, I could find everyone in the world who was already talking about it and I could have a conversation with them.

When Bletchley Park secured £4.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2011, the director told me that Bletchley Park was saved. I just sat there, I couldn't believe it. After three years of day-to-day campaigning, it definitely took a few days to start thinking properly again!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

When I was a Department Head at the University of Westminster, there was a redundancy round and my team was being cut by 50 per cent — I could either apply for my job or take redundancy. I had to ask myself ‘Do I really want to be a head of department with half the staff but the same amount of students? Is that going to be a great situation?’

My decision to step out of full-time academia was incredibly difficult. But what I didn’t expect was that the break would give me time to write my book, to set up #techmums and start doing all the other things I really wanted to do.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my work with nonprofits is funding.

I think if I'd known exactly how #techmums was going to pan out, I would have set up some sort of for profit digital skills training business. I would have gone for financial stability first and used that to help the people after.

Sue Black teaching how to code at WeAreTechWomen conference

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Going through difficult times when I was younger has definitely shaped who I am.

After my mum died, I was emotionally bullied and physically neglected by my father and stepmother. We were always hungry. The 40p a week I earned from my paper round had to cover everything I needed, including new clothes, but I usually bought cake and sweets for my siblings because we were hungry.

I basically forced myself to set out on my own as a teenager. It built a kind of resilience, a courage in myself that I could go out and achieve what I wanted. As time has gone on, when I’ve made difficult decisions and life has turned out okay, I’ve gained the confidence to do other challenging things.

I also think that because I know what it's like to fear being homeless, what it's like to live in a refuge, what it's like to be on benefits—to know people are looking at you like you're a piece of shit—all that gives me the emotional drive to actually set projects up and get things done that can make change for the better.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Focus on the things you like doing the most, and try to do those more. I've worked hard to not do the things I don't like.

Even if you don't love coding or computers, remember that technology is just a massive suite of tools that you can use to do any specific thing you want.

Think about something that you're really passionate about already, that you really love, and then think about how technology is related or how it could enable you to do things differently.

If you couple this mindset with always looking for opportunities, networking, and finding new like-minded friends doors will open.

I have always looked for mentors in people I admired and have found amazing support in people like Dame Professor Wendy Hall, my first mentor. It has meant that when I get into situations I just ask ‘Can I talk to you about it and get your advice?’

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

When I worked for Essex County Council, I thought it was hilarious that all the men wore suits and shoes and all the women wore heels and dresses—I went to a jumble sale and bought a men's suit and a tie and wore that to work in a kind of protest about stereotyping.

But the truth is, there are still lots of barriers for women working today, and not just in tech.

It's also not just women we have to think about: we need to address the barriers for people from underrepresented minority backgrounds too.

For anyone facing discrimination, one of the hardest things is feeling isolated.

It is so important to have a group of people you trust to help you work out the best thing to do: people in the same organization who understand the culture who could advocate for you or advise you and people outside who will have a more objective perspective on what's actually happening.

If you've ever come up against discrimination, you may know it can be hard to work out if it is discrimination—that’s part of the way discrimination works.

Getting time and respect from my peers has definitely got a lot easier since I've got older.

Being over 40 seems to make people listen—in my 20s they didn't necessarily—although I know women in their 60s and 70s who say they now get disregarded as ‘old ladies’ too.

Perhaps I'm in my prime at the moment where I've got credibility. I think the only way to get through is to have a great network of people for support.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Change has to come from the top, and so much is about company culture.

It needs to be very clear that an organization is keen on promoting diversity and inclusion seriously.

Leaders need to be openly discussing diversity and making sure that there are initiatives which support diversity and inclusion within the organization.

It needs to be fine for people to talk about issues and not be penalized for speaking out.

I realise saying this, that implementing real change is both simple and complicated at the same time.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would have a massive retraining program for women in tech so that any woman could retrain into a technology career, and so that women already in tech careers could progress even more rapidly. Knowledge is power.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. It's all about data and how biased data has been used in decision making. Did you know the first car airbags killed women because they were only ever on tested on male crash test dummies? It’s a brilliant book.

Also, the Women's Equality Party manifesto. I'm standing for London Mayor next year and in the past, whether our candidates are successful or not, many of our policies have been adopted and implemented. We’re a whole group of thousands of women and men who really want to make life better for everyone by focusing on making life better for women.

Relaunch Programme | Oliver Wyman


Oliver Wyman has created a 15-week programme for returners, which is designed to help and support you re-join the workforce after taking a career break.

If you are thinking about returning to work in management consulting, Oliver Wyman would love to hear from you. You will be supported by a network of individuals, whilst working on interesting client-facing projects. Oliver Wyman is partnering with Women Returners to provide bespoke external coaching support. At the end of this programme they will mutually discuss the potential of a permanent position with you.

Who is Oliver Wyman looking for?

  • Experienced individuals looking to return to work after a career break, who have prior experience in management consulting
  • Highly collaborative people who are keen to be part of a supportive and growing business
  • Candidates with excellent communication skills and the ability to build effective relationships
  • The London office offers a wide range of sector opportunities and will be there to help you choose which one is right for you. They are particularly interested in candidates with previous consulting experience in sectors such as Financial Services, Digital & Technology, Energy & Resources, Transportation & Services or Consumer & Retail.

What’s in it for you?

  • You will have the opportunity to take ownership of your work, while focusing on interesting and stimulating projects
  • Access to a fantastic support network and tailored approach to help you return to work, including being assigned a mentor, buddy, team members and wider peer group
  • You will receive training from Oliver Wyman and participate in the Women Returners’ Career Returners Coaching Programme
  • Oliver Wyman anticipates that this is a full-time role, but are open to discuss more flexible ways of working
  • Lots of opportunity for networking, social events, and informal learning sessions in a dynamic and friendly organisation

Programme Information

Location: Oliver Wyman’s offices are based in Baker Street, London

Their clients are spread throughout the UK and Europe. Whilst every opportunity will be made for you to work on a London-based project, there may be a possibility of you being placed on an out-of-town project. Oliver Wyman will discuss with each individual their ability to be away from home, as they realise that this may be a significant change for some.

Remuneration: Oliver Wyman’s compensation is competitive with the UK market

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting, combining deep industry knowledge with specialised expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organisation transformation.

Oliver Wyman people carve out their own areas of expertise within their diverse, non-hierarchical partnership. They promote and build their firm’s culture in a way that encourages enjoyment at work and fundamentally value each other’s time and are sensitive to how it is used.

Oliver Wyman is proud to have been named one of The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for 2019, listed as one of Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT+ Employers 2019 and was named as one of Working Families Top 30 Family Friendly Employers in 2018.  Oliver Wyman also has extensive and established networks across the business including Women in Oliver Wyman (WOW) and Family Life in Oliver Wyman (FLOW).


Using digital to help young peoples' mental health

By Eleanor Bradley, MD, Registry Solutions & Public Benefit, Nominet

The NHS has labelled the issue of addressing mental health among young people as ‘in crisis’, as the support available fails to keep pace with the alarming increase in demand for it.

According to the Nuffield Trust, the number of 4-24 year olds reporting a longstanding mental health issue has increased six fold in the last 20 years.

What else has changed in the last 20 years? In less than a lifetime, digital devices and the internet have infiltrated every corner of our lives. Young people today are growing up in a digital world; their lives have been changed by it, for better or worse.

While some have tried to combine these two facts as cause and effect – and there is some evidence of internet addiction and its harmful consequences – what is more productive is to accept that technology can’t be removed from our lives but can be used as a solution rather than merely a (potential) problem. After all, tech is neither good nor bad – we must use it as the great enabler it can be.

Digital is the medium by which most young people conduct their lives, and is an ideal way to integrate additional support with existing offline support as 99% of 12-25 year olds are spending more than an hour a day on their smartphones and online. They are familiar with digital tools and know their way around them, plus some of the characteristics of the online world – anonymity and privacy – make it easier to talk about sensitive, potentially embarrassing subjects like their own mental health.

It is well accepted that the NHS has limited resources and is struggling to meet the needs of the young when it comes to mental health. It is a space charities can step into, using digital to refine their offering and better reach the young people they seek to help. Of course, this presents various challenges that must be overcome, not least having the right expertise to create digital solutions and having the money behind them to support this work.

Digital mental health services can also serve the NHS by allowing tools to be created at scale that are easily accessible and get support to those in need quicker than the average waiting time for care. It can also create opportunities for self-care and integrated care, creating complementary packages that combine appointments with a practitioner with a digital service that provides reassurance in moments of isolation or vulnerability.

At Nominet, we get excited about finding opportunities for which technology can be harnessed for good – it’s something that guides our public benefit work and helps us meet our target of impacting the lives of one million young people a year. We have recently entered a partnership with the Samaritans, helping to create the technology tools that will ensure they can connect with people online – notably the many young people who indicated the internet as a place they would most like initial support.

This topic – the symbiosis between mental health, young people and digital services – is a topic we have delved into more deeply as we seek to identify the areas of potential, the need, but also the associated challenges. To that end, we have commissioned a new report, Charities, Young People and Digital Mental Health Services, through which we have started to identify some areas in which charities, who naturally try to fill gaps left by the NHS, could further refine their work in order to access young people and support young people in a way that will be even more effective.

The findings have been interesting and insightful in how we can refine the existing processes of care for young people. For example, our report found an interest in creating a mental health passport for young people to improve the continuity of the care they receive, and a need for better signposting so that young people know where to find the support they want. We also need to ensure that services are offered at scale, which again is the ideal challenge for digital to meet – a multitude of apps can be created and accessed far and wide. We also recognise that charities face challenges such as funding and a lack of technical expertise, but solutions can be found with the proper understanding of what resources can help and where. For example, the Samaritans needed digital tools but needed funding, support and technical expertise to create them, so Nominet was able to help fill that gap.

It is not enough to simply wring our hands at the worrying rise in mental health issues among young people. We must understand the challenges and identify opportunities to overcome them, using technology to support them in the best way we can. Let’s meet an age-old problem with new tools and technologies to finally start to turn the dial.

Eleanor Bradley mid 1About the author

Eleanor Bradley is MD of Registry Services & Public Benefit at Nominet, the technology company known for running the .UK internet infrastructure. Eleanor has over 20 years’ experience in the internet industry and in her current role leads the teams responsible for commercial activity related to Nominet’s registry business as well as the company’s public benefit initiatives.

Institute of Coding logo featured

Join the women in tech revolution

Institute of Coding logo

Did you know only 17 per cent of the tech workforce is women?

It’s time to tackle the shortage of women in tech, especially those from under-represented groups. It’s time to create the female tech leaders of tomorrow.

TechUP, a partnership between Durham, York, Edge Hill and Nottingham universities, is giving 100 women the opportunity to retrain for a tech career with an interview for an internship, apprenticeship or job role at the end of the programme.

Watch the video with Project Leaders, Professor Sue Black and Professor Alexandra Cristea below:

The six-month programme is open to women with a degree in any subject across the North and Midlands.

TechUp is mainly completed online, allowing you to fit it around your current commitments. Modules include data science, coding, cyber security project management, public speaking, clear communication and working as a team.

A mentor who works in the sector will provide advice and guidance to you throughout the course. There are also four residential weekends where you can network with peers and listen to industry-led talks.

Ready to join the revolution? Visit the TechUP website to apply.


Deloitte seeks untapped tech talent with new programme for returners


Deloitte are searching for untapped tech talent to take part in its new digital skills retraining programme for people returning to work after a career break.

Building on the success of its award-winning return to work programme, and in response to a growing demand for coding skills, Deloitte is launching a pilot return to work retraining programme, where returners will learn valuable coding and software development skills. As with the firm’s return to work programme, while the retraining programme is designed with women in mind but open to all.

The retraining programme comprises a 12 month Software Developer Apprenticeship, beginning with a three month upfront training course with Makers Academy in London, with successful participants joining Deloitte in permanent roles and qualifying for a Software Developer Level Four Apprenticeship.

The programme is designed specifically for returners without any previous software experience, who are looking to learn new technology skills - including key coding and software developer topics such as databases, coding languages, deployment processes and tools - following a career break of two or more years. The course offers participants the opportunity to retrain, whilst receiving a salary.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, said, “This retraining programme is a new and exciting way of bringing talented individuals back to work and filling the growing skills shortage in software development."

"We want to provide the opportunity for people who have had time away from work, whether for family or any other reasons, to learn new, in-demand skills."

“Across the technology industry, women are vastly underrepresented, meaning businesses, and the economy as a whole, are missing out on a hugely valuable pool of potential talent."

"I believe this programme, which is primarily aimed at women but open to all, will create new opportunities and support our commitment to improving the diversity of our workforce."

"We’re looking for people from a range of backgrounds and with different experiences.”

Evgeny Shadchnev, CEO at Makers Academy, added, “From our experiences of training top tech talent, we know that it is never too late to learn to code and consider a career switch."

"Diversity cannot be an afterthought in the digital economy, especially for companies who wish to remain globally competitive."

"We need more diverse talent training as software developers and we are excited to be partnering with Deloitte to make this happen.”

UK remains 'hotbed' for tech talent

The UK remains a 'hotbed' for tech talent, employing five per cent of all high-growth tech workers globally, according to a new report.

The research, conducted by Tech Nation, found that the UK is in front of Japan, France and Indonesia when it comes to employing high-growth tech workers.

In the UK, Insurtech and Fintech were the biggest employers among high-growth digital tech firms in 2018, employing 24 per cent and 18 per cent of the high-growth workforce respectively.

Cyber, AI, and Cleantech all feature in the top ten sectors for employment in high-growth tech firms. Investment data shows that AI, Cyber and Big Data are growing in importance for UK tech scaleups. This means that the UK may be about to see more jobs generated in these sectors.

Eileen Burbidge, Partner, Passion Capital & Chair of Tech Nation said, “The UK has an incredibly pivotal role in the global tech scene."

"Nowhere is this more evident than in the Fintech sector where the UK is ranked number one in the world; an enviable position that has been established with decades of hard work, entrepreneurial talent, innovation and supportive policymakers."

"I’m confident that we have all the ingredients needed for continued success and even greater acceleration of the tech sector here in the UK.”

UK Prime Minister, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, added, ‘‘The UK is a global tech powerhouse."

"I am immensely proud of our country’s ambitious tech scaleups."

"These companies are delivering significant economic value to the nation through the investment they raise, the jobs they create and the innovative products and services they deliver’’.