Recommended Event: 20/09/2022: Women in Engineering: A Powerful Future | Publicis Sapient

Women in engineering, Publicis Sapient event

PS empowers women and promotes equity as a panel of female leads gives you direct access to their career stories and experiences.

Learn about PS’s wide range of opportunities across engineering and tech, network with fellow women in engineering and experts at PS, learn innovative ways to empower women where you are, and get the opportunity to ask questions about your own career path.

We hope you’ll join us for a live discussion that looks at female leadership at Publicis Sapient, featuring female leads, a live Q&A, and networking happy hour.

Sophie Rugg

In Her Shoes: Sophie Rugg | Senior User Researcher, DWP Digital

Meet Sophie Rugg, Senior User Researcher, DWP Digital

Sophie Rugg

Sophie Rugg is a senior user researcher working on Universal Credit for DWP Digital. She is the voice of the user within a user-centred design team working on a live service.

Here, she shares what it’s like working for DWP Digital.

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

I’m a senior user researcher working on Universal Credit for DWP Digital. I joined the department last year having worked in a more traditional research background for many years previously.

In my role, I am the voice of the user within a user-centred design team working on a live service. My role involves testing individual points of the Universal Credit journey and the whole journey end-to-end from the users’ perspective.  I then collaborate with the team on key recommendations to improve the service for our users based on our insights.

I live in Leeds with my husband and two sons.

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

Most days start the same way, whether a workday or not, as I have two early-rising primary school age children who are usually up and raring to go by 6am!  Once I have sorted out their breakfast, if I am working at home, I usually log on, clear any emails, check my calendar and prioritise my to-do list. I then walk the children to school which is a very welcome start before sitting at my desk.

There is no typical day for a user researcher. If I’m running user research sessions, I’ll revisit my discussion guide and any materials I need for sessions and make sure any observers are happy with what we’re going to cover. Since the pandemic, much of the user research I carry out has been online, but now restrictions have lifted we’re able to go out and about a bit more again which is great because there’s really no substitute for face-to-face.

At the end of the working day, I try to practise Pilates or go for a walk to help my head transition from work to home.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really! I did a history degree, followed by a Master’s degree in Arts and Heritage Management, and after that I knew I wanted to work in marketing and research and I did just that! I spent the first couple of years of my career working in marketing research for the arts which I loved, as I got to visit lots of art galleries and theatres.  This was followed by a 10-year stint in market research agencies where my clients were primarily in the public sector. I then worked client-side in social housing before moving to work for DWP Digital. I’m not a massive fan of planning, but I have recently started doing a vision board for the year and am starting to tick goals off that I have achieved which has been really satisfying!

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

There are so many brilliant people here, I learn something new every day! We also have loads of opportunities to share work and learn from each other both within the Universal Credit department, the user research community and cross government.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I’ve worked part-time since I went back to work after my eldest son was born and navigating part-time work, while a great opportunity, can be a challenge. The juggle of working with two young children is very real and sometimes it was easy to feel like I was not doing anything well! It’s become easier over time though – it requires good organisation and managing people’s expectations particularly around timescales. I’m very grateful though to have worked for employers who provide flexibility in working patterns to accommodate other responsibilities.

Making the shift to work in a different sector this last year has been another real challenge, but one I’ve really relished. There have been many days when I’ve wondered whether I’ll ever fully understand some of the language used but it’s got much easier over time. Focusing on my transferable research skills has really helped here, along with some great colleagues!

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Absolutely.  A turning point in my career came after having one-to-one coaching with the amazing Gemma Stow, who specialises in developing and empowering women. I think at the time I felt a bit stuck career-wise, and my confidence was low. Working with Gemma, I also had access to a group of like-minded women and the peer support, along with the coaching, helped me to identify my strengths, build my confidence and realise that there are so many opportunities out there once you decide to look.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Yes, though admittedly, it’s been restricted during the last couple of years due to the pandemic. During my time at DWP Digital, I have attended the Service Design in Government Conference and have also completed usability and user experience qualifications, both of which were great opportunities to meet people in similar roles working in different organisations. DWP Digital also have numerous opportunities to get involved with events such as Digital Live! where you can find out what is happening elsewhere in the department and meet colleagues from other areas.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

I have never considered myself to be a ‘tech’ person, but I have learnt loads just working in the tech environment at DWP Digital. My advice would be to think about the skills you have which are transferable and then just go for it!

What does the future hold for you?

I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. I have learned so much in such a short space of time and I have so much to learn still! Maybe one day soon, I’ll book that coding course….

surgeon in a hospitsal, healthcare, health tech, sensor technology

Improving efficiency and capacity: the role of tech in revolutionising patient care

surgeon in a hospitsal, healthcare, health tech, sensor technology

Article by Connie Moser, CEO at Navenio

With the NHS struggling with backlogs and staff shortages, the delivery of patient care is at risk of missing its basic standards. But not all is lost, says Connie Moser, CEO at Navenio who in this piece discusses how technology, and in particular AI-led indoor location-based solutions, can play a key role in revolutionising patient care.

I have always enjoyed working for companies at the intersection of technology and healthcare, bringing together two of my passions. I joined Navenio at the beginning of this year, at a time when the healthcare industry faces even greater challenges than before. Some, such as capacity, and returning nurses to the bedside have always been there, but these issues plus others  have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

According to latest figures in the UK, a record of over 6.73 million people are waiting for treatment with average wait time for treatment at 13.3 weeks, well above pre-Covid times. This crisis does not even take into account what the BMA refers to as the hidden backlog, patients who, for different reasons, have not made it into the health system.

For me the obvious solution to this issue is to apply technology to improve efficiency and capacity in such environments. After all, technology permeates all other aspects of our life so why not use it to improve healthcare delivery?

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


Real-time location solutions have proven to help address the significant backlogs that hospitals face by improving task efficiency and accelerating patient flow. How can we improve on what exists today?

It is about providing the right person, right place, right time, at the right cost.

This transformative technology relies on highly accurate, and scalable indoor mapping and location services and works where GPS does not, enabled simply by using smartphone sensors and eliminating the need for expensive capital outlays in beacon or other bespoke location infrastructure. This solution is particularly beneficial in hospital environments, where access to certain areas for surveying the building is difficult or even prohibited.

For many reasons, ensuring clinical teams operate as efficiently as possible has always been a priority for hospitals, software solutions, and regulators; enhanced patient experience and outcomes, improved retention and staff satisfaction, optimization of productivity and throughput, etc. Yet while focusing on the optimization of a clinician’s time, few have attempted to add focus to optimising the supporting teams that provide the logistics which underpin the flow of patients throughout the hospital and clinical departments.

Teams that action jobs quickly based on their location, will lead to better patient care and, at a time where we are still battling the long-lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in healthcare settings, this will only lead to faster response times and safer hospitals.

As part of an AI in Health and Care Award funded by NHSX, over the last year we have been working with a number of NHS Trusts to support both clinical and non-clinical workflows to enable workforce working smarter, not harder. We are aiming to reduce task queuing time by 59% along with a 41% reduction in the time from a request being made to a worker being in location to start.   Knowing the location of these support staff and their expected arrival allows a nurse to properly set expectations and prepare a patient, thereby decreasing anxiety, limiting cancellations and rebookings, and enhancing the patient’s overall experience.

Much work still exists within healthcare, but with effective and complementary solutions and processes we will drive towards a more efficient, customer focused healthcare experience.

About the author

Connie is Navenio’s CEO and a Healthcare IT leader with 30+ years of experience building growth organisations. Connie’s success is data-driven, accomplished through validated growth metrics. In her previous roles as Chief Executive of Verge Health and the President/Chief Operating Officer of Rise Health, she validated her leadership skill with successful revenue transactions.

Connie Moser

In Her Shoes: Victoria Conry | Director, Senior Technology Manager, Bank of America

Meet Victoria Conry, Director, Senior Technology Manager at Bank of America

Victoria is a Director, Senior Technology Manager at Bank of America. She has worked for Bank of America in Chester for 9 years having moved from a stockbrokers in Dublin where she qualified as a Chartered Accountant.

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

I have worked for Bank of America in Chester for 9 years having moved from a stockbrokers in Dublin where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. My main focus in the bank has been around Risk (either financial or operational), Process Excellence and People Management. My current role is leading the Chester Technology Command Center Incident Management team – all significant technology incidents are escalated to the Command Center for engagement, escalation and ultimately to facilitate resolution.

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

I usually wake at 6 with a strong cup of coffee – my team are on shift from 7am so I check my emails to see what the morning may bring / if we need to be prepared from the handover from APAC. This will usually shape my day – there is a possibility that I need to log in from home if there is a significant incident. This coincides with getting my children ready and fed for school, along with cat and dog duties.

My day ends dependent on energy levels – a run or swim, some music, a book or simply mindless internet surfing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Since my dreams of being a vet were dashed – absolutely not. I studied Genetics in Cardiff University, followed by temping and working in multiple different jobs for a few years. I had no idea what I wanted to do long term until I was 26 and had perform some bookkeeping – I absolutely adored the structure and purity of accounting and so pursued that path within Financial Institutions.

What do you love about working for Bank of America?

The expanse of knowledge that is stored in peoples heads / in procedure documents / in process flows – it really is a whole world of knowledge to be gained and also the potential to harness the knowledge through both people and technology.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I would say my biggest challenge was to navigate the “Networking” aspect of my role. Being a natural introvert, my initial thoughts about “Networking” was to shrink away from it – the thought of  walking into a room full of unknown people that I had to socialise with alone drained and scared me. I overcame it by reformulating what I thought “Networking” meant – Networking to me now is a natural, organic interaction, the taking of opportunities to meet people with a common topic.

Once you have a common topic – it could be a question, a proposal or gaining feedback then the conversation flows.

Once I reframed my definition of Networking, it is now a natural part of my day.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have been a mentor for most of my career at the Bank. The benefit of mentoring is that you can gain a lot of perspective by understanding what challenges individuals face and how certain situations are interpreted by others. By sharing thoughts in a safe environment, topics can be discussed with no fear of reprisal and getting that alternative view is extremely useful in then seeing things from others view point that may be different from your own.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

See previous question – absolutely I do. My networking happens through my day to day work mainly eg. Reaching out to subject matter experts that may help to explain in further detail about an item. Also one of my most useful networking experiences was as Co-Chair of Women in Technology and Operations in Chester – I quickly got involved in organising events / inviting speakers to talk – this gave me a purpose and a great platform to talk to Senior Leaders that I otherwise would have no “common topic” with.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

Try to understand “How” you like to work rather than a particular job title or division. What do you like doing – what are your skill sets and how are they best suited. Is it operational process related and therefore organisational skills / executive skills are well suited – is it as a technology specialist or with a specific skill set such as coding. My advice would be to search for roles based on the skills required rather than the job title. Technology provides so much opportunity for people with all skillsets that you should not feel limited whether you are a “technical” person or not.

What does the future hold for you?

Definitely to remain in the Bank. There are so many opportunities, so much interesting work being done and so many interesting people to talk to and connect with from across the globe. Working for a global organisation is absolutely fascinating – both from a People, Process and Technology point of view.

Finding community: the importance of passion, self belief, and building a diverse network

Article by Annette Jezierska, CEO and founder of Future Fox

Team holding hands, diversityThroughout my career, I have learnt the value of working with creative, passionate and supportive people.

As the CEO and founder of digital engagement company Future Fox I face many challenges, but manage to overcome them with much grit and determination, and drawing on the support of my team, peers and wider community. Here, I share my advice on self belief, building a network, and taking steps to achieve diversity in tech.

Think bigger. Believe in yourself.

It sounds cheesy, but it’s totally true. Entrepreneurs tend to challenge the status quo and create something completely novel in the process. This can be scary, , but having faith in yourself and your ability to learn, adapt and grow will be what sets you apart from the rest.

Take The Future Fox journey as an example. I never made an active choice to ‘get into the tech sector’. My experience in urban planning gave me insight into the major structural and tactical problems preventing the sector from delivering the infrastructure we need. The best way to help solve this and have a massive impact with communities was with tech.

I’m not a technical founder, but my background in natural sciences equipped me with a robust scientific approach. Combined with my passion for the solution and the technical expertise of my team, we’ve managed to successfully establish ourselves in the market and tackle an industry-wide issue head on.

Build your network

While great ideas and the self-belief to achieve them are fundamental, entrepreneurship is not a journey you can take alone. It’s crucial that you begin building a network of passionate and open-minded people to help you take your idea to the next level.

In the very early days of Future Fox, I won a £5K funding contract from UnLtd, to build an initial prototype of the product and help sell the idea to future investors. This may seem like a drop in the ocean to anyone with cash behind the sofa to start their own venture, but for us it was transformative.

As part of the programme, I was matched with a mentor, John, who has stayed by my side for four years and counting. He has provided me with enterprise and sales specific support, but, most importantly, he has been my cheerleader as I’ve navigated the rollercoaster ride that is starting your own business.

My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur would be to research the programmes and funds that are available within your sector. Involvement with the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme also gave me a great platform to showcase my early-stage product to key stakeholders, as well as providing funding and business support to help us take our product to market. I’ve been lucky to build a network of amazingly knowledgeable and talented people who are willing to support and advise me on a variety of topics and challenges.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


Prioritise passion

As well as building a supportive network across your industry, attracting the right people to your team is key. Life as a start-up is not always easy and you are often inventing the path in front of you at every stage. That’s why it’s so important that you feel a shared sense of endeavour. You need to be able to trust each other, to laugh things off together, to take risks as a team and learn from your mistakes. This culture also comes across to our clients, who consistently remark on the quality of their experience working with our team.

I use the word ‘likeminded’ with caution. While it’s crucial that your employees share the same commitment and support for the company’s mission and direction, a team of people who think the same way will ultimately stunt your growth. Diversity in thinking is key, and it’s great to see more companies embracing neurodiversity as part of their core company values.

When it comes to recruitment, my advice to all companies is to be crystal clear on what it is the business is trying to achieve. This includes full transparency on both the opportunities and the challenges. This will help weed out applicants without a genuine passion for the product, leaving those who are fully committed to the challenge.

Diversity is key

Diversity is key to achieving our company mission; our product helps clients engage with people of all backgrounds in planning decisions. As well as prioritising diversity in thinking, businesses and entrepreneurs must place a key focus on hiring from a variety of social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This includes driving inclusivity in terms of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, education and nationality, and ensuring the company takes an active role in empowering people from minority groups.

The global tech sector has a long way to go in achieving diversity. Women and minority ethnic groups are especially underrepresented (and underappreciated) at all levels of tech, data analytics, and across the urban planning sector more widely. There are few models – which are critical for inspiration. This is a real shame, as diversity is one of the biggest strengths of any team.

To tackle this in the short term, we’re placing a greater focus on making lower level roles available, to capture talented people who feel excluded without the appropriate qualifications for a senior role. We are predominantly doing this via internships and participating in the Government’s Kickstart scheme.

Of course, achieving diversity in tech is not a short term fix. In the long term, I plan to continue using my position and experience to act as a role model for aspiring women in tech and urban planning, doing my best to ‘walk the talk’ and ultimately helping my team to do the same.

Annette JezierskaAbout the author

Annette Jezierska is the CEO and Founder of The Future Fox, a technology company on a mission to help people lead the future of the cities and places. Its flagship product PlaceBuilder is a user-friendly, digital engagement and analytics platform that fosters collaboration between communities and planners, supporting better planning decisions and the creation of people-led places.

Why self-knowledge is the Northern Star for a fulfilling professional career

Young woman looks at the mirror and sees her happy reflection. Self-acceptance and confidence concept.

Article Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos is Senior Vice President of Emerging Tech Insights, KnowBe4

A simple search for career advice on the internet will bring back countless articles about how to navigate the workplace, best ways to network within the industry, insights to the latest preferred job skills, tips to negotiate a salary, write a resume, how to dress for success and advice on how to write an engaging cover letter that will land an interview.

But few talk about stepping away from the trends of skills, resume designs and the top job titles. Even fewer encourage their readers to discover their sense of self and develop a curiosity of what are the sparks that set their soul on fire. Most people will dedicate the majority of their life to the labor market, offering their skills and time to various workplaces. It is a tremendous disjustice to dedicate so much precious time of our life to one activity without spending time pursuing self-knowledge and self awareness. Here are some personal thoughts on what you need to know about self-knowledge and how it can be one of the most rewarding pursuits for your professional life.

The journey of self-knowledge does not have a start or an end-date. Instead, it is a continuous practice of experiencing, learning and self reflection throughout our lives. We are dynamic and evolving human beings who have evolving sets of interests and life events. Knowing more about what interests us, what makes us tick and why, is a way to get closer to our authentic selves. When we bring our authentic selves to work with our personal interests it is an opportunity to be more engaged with the work we do and grow – not just professionally, but personally – and work with meaningful intent.

In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, she talks about defining our personal version of what success looks like and seeking to thrive in all facets of our lives instead of just getting by. She says that what helped her on her journey was giving herself permission to do the things she wanted and be the person she wanted to be. This seemingly simple act of giving ourselves permission to pursue what interests us, to allow ourselves to embrace our passions and present ourselves authentically in our environments has the power to transform our careers. However, with the advances in technology and the resulting social and workplace changes, the word “career” may perhaps already be outdated. Future of work expert, Heather McGowan explains in her book The Adaptation Advantage, that in this 4th Industrial Revolution we have to “learn to learn” and stay agile because jobs and industries are experiencing rapid change. This gives us all the more reason to spend time pursuing the self awareness needed to have a strong sense of self and personal identity that will be needed to navigate the many changes ahead. With this in mind, perhaps the best way to frame career advice is for the post-modern career which is not a career ladder but a jungle gym where I encourage everyone to give themselves permission to strive for meaningful employment within organizational cultures of shared values and kind teammates.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


My personal experience with this has been to run towards what has spoken to my heart. I was in college when 9/11 happened and I wasn’t able to focus on any other research paper other than that relating to the pressing matters of national security. It led me to complete my bachelor’s in international relations, my masters in conflict resolution and write a doctoral disstertation on counter terrorism policy. Since then my professional journey across national security entities has been an answer to the calling of the topics of interest that chased me and drew me to the people who shared my interest and passion in these topics such as counter terrorism, cyber warfare, autonomous weapons, emerging technologies and special operations. I also gave myself permission to pursue more of my interests and be a national security professional who lived across three continents and several countries countries, studied six languages, pursued the arts making art about technology, created a storytelling fashion label to tell stories relating to women’s issues and national security, became passionate about human performance and had an insatiable curiosity about other cultures, urban design and craftsmanship.

But my story is just getting started and I have many decades ahead of lifelong learning and growing where I intend to continue to pursue self knowledge, reflect on where I am in my life and what interests I want to pursue the most. This will continue to translate to what organizations I want to work with and share my experience and expertise with for shared common goals. Today I am working with supportive international colleagues at KnowBe4 in our shared belief that cybersecurity awareness education can reduce the success of cyber attacks  – one of the key national security threats today. The organizational culture also supports and advocates for climate related initiatives which is an interest I have been reading more on over the past couple years. It is an interest which I have also woven into the supply chain of my fashion label’s products making sure that it is United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aligned. Blending and merging all my interests and values has led me to live my most authentic self which is why I advocate for making sure that our professional lives reflect the person we are and the person we are on the journey to becoming.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights talks about the pursuit of one’s full personality, a concept that I have become drawn towards ever since I learned about it. I personally know that I have not explored my full personality, but I know that the key to unlocking it is the continuous cultivation of self-knowledge. Which brings me to my 21st century jungle gym 4th Industrial Revolution career advice message – get to know yourself and don’t stop pursuing your interests, for they are your northern star.

She's In CTRL, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

Recommended Read: She's In CTRL | Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

She’s In CTRL - Anne Marie Imafidon

In She’s In CTRL Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, a dynamic advocate for women in STEM, insists that technology is not an unchangeable and unquestionable force.

It is not the preserve of the elite. It is in our homes and in our hands. Rather than feeling powerless to make changes to the way tech works and fails, she argues that it’s time to get into the room where the decisions are made. Or, better yet, create our own tech rooms. This powerful book about women, tech and daring to dream takes inspiration from Dr Imafidon’s own experience and from the stories of other pioneers and innovators who have, against the odds, transformed technology. She’s In CTRL is an inspirational narrative about how women must play a part in ensuring a future that’s evenly distributed.


Anne-Marie Imafidon circleAbout Anne-Marie

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon is a keynote speaker, presenter, and co-founder of the award-winning social enterprise, Stemettes. Voted the most influential woman in tech in the UK of 2020 by Computer Weekly and featured among the top 10 BAME leaders in tech by The Financial Times.

A recognised and respected thought-leader in the tech space and trustee at the Institute for the Future of Work, Anne-Marie has spoken across the globe for some of the world’s biggest digital companies and conferences, including Facebook, Amazon, Google, Mercedes Benz, Fujitsu and Mastercard.

Anne-Marie is the temporary Arithmetician on Countdown, the world’s longest running gameshow. She also hosts the highly popular Women Tech Charge podcast for the Evening Standard, and is a sought-after presenter and conference facilitator, conducting live interviews with famous faces from the tech world and beyond, including Jack Dorsey and Sir Lewis Hamilton. Her first book She’s In CTRL is to be published by Transworld in September 2022

Anne-Marie has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kent University, Bristol University and Coventry University, and in June of 2017 was made an Honorary Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. She sits on the Board of Durham University’s Computer Science Department, which, in recognition of her work as Head Stemette, offers a scholarship to young women in her name. In 2019 she became a visiting professor for Sunderland University. She is on the board of the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport’s Digital Skills Partnership, the British Library Advisory Council, the Research England Council and is a trustee at the Urban Development Music Foundation and the Women of the World Foundation.

Meet Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon at the Level Up Summit on 06 December!

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Founder, Stemettes & Author of She’s In CTRL, is just one of our amazing speakers at our upcoming summit on 06 December. Anne-Marie will sharing stories from her book, including how she founded the amazing tech organisation Stemettes, why she believes women need to take back tech, the importance of role models and her top tips for for a successful technology career, and much more.


Black woman working on computer, engineering, CodeGen Developer Challenge

Women in the digital world: The rise of online harassment during the Covid pandemic

Black woman working on computer, engineering

Article by Anya Schiffrin, George Grun and Karolina Koc-Michalska

Women’s existence in the digital world has been closely studied by scholars and caught the attention of activists worldwide.

Women saw early on that the internet could be a powerful and liberating tool that would help them connect with others sharing similar aims and interests. The original hope was that the internet would bring communities together and become a powerful advocacy tool, helping groups to organize for the causes and campaigns they believed in. Online platforms would enable women to protect each other from violence, while putting cellphones in the hands of women in low-income countries would help them integrate economically with the outside world and grow their businesses.

Sadly, it is now understood that sexism pervades life online as much, if not more, than it does offline. Women’s voices are often ignored and belittled, and a constant stream of harassment – from threats of violence and “doxxing” to image-based sexual abuse and sexualized disinformation – has inhibited women’s voices. A report by Plan International, for example, found that 43% of girls surveyed hold back their opinions online for fear of backlash. Female politicians and journalists are particularly vulnerable. The assassinations of British MP Jo Cox in 2017 and Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2018 both followed aggressive campaigns of social media abuse.

Research carried out during the pandemic suggests that, as much of the world moved online, women and non-binary people faced a surge of harassment. One UK study found digital abuse to have risen by 29%, with this figure climbing to 38% for Black and minority women. As the virus confined many to their homes, the hostility of some virtual spaces presented some women with a bleak choice. “Women can only talk to each other about our own lives if we’re able to cope with constant abuse and threats”, one respondent wrote, “It’s better for my mental health to be with no social contact than to try and socialize online.” Parents have also been exposed to a second level of online harassment: as children’s lives went online, cyberbullying skyrocketed on educational platforms, social media and gaming sites. While the psychological impacts of these compounded harms are yet to be seen, we know that for all its life- and sanity-saving applications during the pandemic, the Internet is today a more inhospitable place for women.

With unprecedented levels of Internet use, we might wonder whether the pandemic simply drove existing forms of gendered harassment online. There are reasons, however, to think that misogyny has an especially strong foothold in virtual spaces. It has been found that sexist individuals are more likely than non-sexists to create and share political content. On search engines and social media sites, “algorithmic oppression” renders misogynistic and racist content more discoverable. And the sense of “unidentifiability” experienced online makes users more toxic. “As the result of a hostile environment and distinct socialization patterns,” conclude media researchers Simone Abendschön and Gema García-Albacete, “the online environment imposes additional obstacles to women’s willingness to discuss politics.” Adding insult to injury, the prevailing culture of the web is undermining the very digital tools women need to fight back.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


What can be done to stem the tide of gendered harassment online? One thing is certain: the status quo, whereby tech companies are left to regulate themselves, is not working. Documents published by Facebook (now Meta) whistleblower Frances Haugen reveal internal research by the company attesting to the damaging effects of its platforms on teen girls’ mental health. The Wall Street Journal also reported that the platform’s top policy executive in India, Ankhi Das, personally prevented the removal of hate speech against Muslims posted on Facebook by politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Investigative journalist Rana Ayyub, a critic of Narendra Modi’s BJP and friend of murdered journalist Gauri Lankesh, is being targeted as we speak by a storm of violent threats on Twitter and Facebook.

These stories paint a disturbing picture. But behind specific misdemeanors lie structural flaws in Big Tech’s paradigm for user-generated content moderation. When it comes to AI-based content removal, while some blatant abuse is detected, the explosion of “malign creativity” – the use of coded language and context-based memes – allows much gendered harassment to slip through the net. Investigations by The Verge and Wired have shown, on the other hand, that human content moderators – many of whom live in the Philippines and other parts of the Global South – suffer poor working conditions, low pay and must endure the psychological toll of daily exposure to upsetting and hateful material. Social media platforms also lack a clear definition of “targeted harassment”, often leaving victims without recourse when comments fall below the threshold of hate speech. And, perhaps most significantly, the burden of detecting and reporting abuse, often an exhausting bureaucratic process, falls on victims. “Hours and days are lost weeding through comments, Tweets, and messages,” Sarah Sobieraj writes in Credible Threat, her study of online harassment. “Going to court, filing reports, blocking and reporting – all these strategies sap time.”

Given all this, lawmakers are starting to think about regulating Big Tech. In 2021, Australia introduced an Online Safety Act in 2021 – mandating a set of “basic online safety expectations” for online service providers to be overseen by a designated eSafety commissioner – and the European Union’s equivalent package, the Digital Services Act, entered inter-institutional negotiations this year. Only last month, a bipartisan group in the Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which with luck will dedicate grant funding to organizations fighting digital harassment. These are promising steps, but as European human rights organizations have argued – in a petition to the EU Parliament with more than 30,000 signatures – it is essential that there is legislation that places the needs of victims front and center.

Indeed, digital rights experts have developed a host of policy ideas to protect women and other marginalized groups online. A report from the Wilson Centre urges the creation of a global cross-platform consortium – similar to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism – to track and respond to gendered abuse online. This would promote the emergence of industry standards, make investigation more efficient, and crucially, give us a better picture of digital gendered abuse in non-Western countries. Nathalie Maréchal and colleagues argue that governments have a golden opportunity, not in making tech companies legally liable for content decisions – a move that could incentivize censorship of online speech – but in vigorously improving corporate governance and bringing media giants in line with their ethical responsibilities. Governance reforms would include the requirement for an independent human rights expert on every company’s board, the empowerment of investor oversight, and the disclosure of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts. Finally, as numerous campaigners have advocated, fighting online harassment must become easier: legal proceedings should be made cheaper and simpler, users must have straightforward channels of communication with online platforms, and companies should transition to incident-based reporting systems where victims of abuse can log their experiences in detail.

We must continue to celebrate the struggles and hard-won triumphs of women worldwide. In recent years, many of these have played out online: the calling out of sexual harassment by the #MeToo movement, the fight for intersectional feminism during the Black Lives Matter campaign, or the #IWillGoOut campaign for gender equality in India. Coming out of the pandemic, we must fight for an Internet that is better and safer for women, and true to its original promise.

About the authors

Anya Schiffrin Is the director of the Technology, Media and Communications  specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Karolina Koc-Michalska is Professor at the Communication and Culture Department,  Audencia Business School, Nantes, Associated Researcher at CEVIPOF – Sciences-Po, Paris and Associate Professor at Silesia University, Poland.

George Grun is a freelance writer and researcher with an MPhil in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge.

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, She's In CTRL, Level Up 800x600

Grab your copy of Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon's new book, She's In CTRL, now!

Level Up Summit - Anne-Marie Imafidon

Grab your copy of Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE’s new book, She’s In CTRL – out today!

She’s In CTRL - Anne Marie ImafidonShe’s In CTRL is an inspirational exploration of why women are under-represented in tech, why it matters, and what we can do about it.

The tech world might feel beyond reach, particularly if you’re a woman. With increasingly frank admission women are woefully under-represented in tech – roughly a mere quarter of the UK STEM workforce – the dangerous fact is clear our technology is the product of a series of big decisions made by a small number of people, mainly men. Our lives have gone digital, but our technology risks being tailored to a section of society whose lived experience may be far from our own.

In She’s In CTRL, computer scientist Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, a dynamic advocate for women in STEM, calls time on women being cut out of the tech story. Technology is not an unchangeable force, nor the preserve of the elite, she argues. It is in our homes and in our hands. In her powerful book about women, tech and daring to dream, Dr Imafidon shows we have more agency than we think, drawing on her own experience and the stories of other pioneers and innovators who have, against the odds, transformed technology.

The world needs more women in tech and, in her inspiring narrative, Dr Imafidon shows not only why this is but how we can all play our part in ensuring a future that’s evenly distributed.


Meet Anne-Marie at our Level Up Summit on 06 December

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Founder, Stemettes & Author of She’s In CTRL, is just one of our amazing speakers at our upcoming summit on 06 December. Anne-Marie will sharing stories from her book, including how she founded the amazing tech organisation Stemettes, why she believes women need to take back tech, the importance of role models and her top tips for for a successful technology career, and much more.

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

Hear from Anne-Marie about why you should join us at Level Up

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 


NIYO Group Bootcamp

Looking to get into tech & business? Apply for NIYO Group's Bootcamp for Black Female Entrepreneurs today!

NIYO Group Bootcamp

Are you interested in getting into tech and business? NIYO Group’s new bootcamp could be for you!

NIYO Group have launched their NIYO FoundHer accelerator – a Bootcamp specifically designed for Black Female entrepreneurs to champion diversity in innovation and entrepreneurship.

NIYO group has trained 100s of Black women under their Bootcamp brand; in XR, Data Analytics & Project Management, Software Development (in partnership with Coding Black Females), and Software & Systems Architecture. With the NIYO FoundHer Bootcamp, they are looking to build on their success by expanding their offerings to include Black Female entrepreneurs looking to launch or scale Tech driven businesses that leave a positive impact on those who engage with them.

The launch of the Bootcamp is timely, as recent research conducted by Aston University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CRME) and NatWest, highlights that “an estimated 250,000 ethnic minority-led firms contribute around £25bn per annum to the UK economy. However, this contribution and ambition of Ethnic Minority Led Business are often constrained by multiple barriers throughout their entrepreneurial journey, particularly in accessing financial resources, wider markets, and appropriate support. Although ethnic minorities in the UK are consistently more entrepreneurial than the population generally, they are less likely to operate established or mature firms that generate stable income”. 

The NIYO FoundHer Bootcamp aims to break down the barriers faced by Ethnic Minority led businesses, but with a focus on Black Female-led businesses.

Speaking about the bootcamp, Oyinkansola Adebayo, CEO & Founder of NIYO Group said, “This Bootcamp was curated by myself and Laolu (COO at NIYO Group) with women like us in mind.”

“We have poured out our experience in business and the things we wish we were taught at the beginning of our journey.”

“This is not just like another accelerator, but an accelerator that enables our students to go to market as quickly as possible and supports them with the foundations for them to build thriving businesses”

Laolu Dada, COO at NIYO Group added, “We have waited a long time to launch this programme, and now is a perfect time.”

“The FoundHer Bootcamp is set up to break the barriers numerous Black females experience when launching a digital business”.

Over 16 weeks, the Bootcamp will cover areas a business needs to launch and scale.

The programme includes training on product development, pricing, sales, market research, raising finance, risk management, selling with PR, marketing and growth hacking, and building a brand identity. Participants will also be mentored by business experts and will get the opportunity to win £5,000 for their business. 

When do applications open?

Applications are open until the 14th of October 2022, to England-based businesses developing creative Tech solutions or looking for how to use Tech to scale (in delivery, quality assurance, or operations).

The Bootcamp will commence on the 9th of November 2022 and will last 16 weeks, culminating in a Demo Day in early 2023, at which several participants will have the opportunity to present their business to potential clients and investors.