“Diversity is not a nice to have” Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Digital Industries, said  at the Society of Information Technology Management’s (Socitm) women in IT network launch this week.

Socitm launched its new network at an event sponsored by Canon in London.Laughing businesswoman at meeting

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

The launch event was held to discuss experiences and ideas on how to advance the prospects of women in IT and digital.

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

She said if she is asked to speak at a conference with an all-male panel she refuses to take part: “It’s not acceptable anymore. Diversity is not a nice to have, diversity has benefits, and without women in IT we will never know the kind of tech we could really have.

“Technology could be far better and far more humane if more of humanity were working on it. I’m still waiting for the professional bodies to stand up and say technology needs ethics too.”

Onwurah added: “We don’t just need more women in IT, but for more women to understand tech and digital in the home and the workplace so they can make more of a difference.”

During the launch Hussain said she started the network because she “wanted to make a difference and to ensure members had a more diverse make up.

“This is just the start. There really are no boundaries for this network, so it is not just for senior women or those in the public sector. It is not an exclusive group for just women and we want to learn from others too. We have gone for far too long without a forum to share diversity issues.”

Harry Gooding, Associate Director at Mortimer Spinks, spoke of the recruitment company’s women in IT survey, which is conducted annually in partnership with Computer Weekly.

The results for 2015 found that the majority of women are happy with their roles in the tech industry: “If 94% of women are happy to be working in technology then why don’t we have more wanting to join?

“Worryingly, when asked the last time that you heard a conversation at work about diversity the figure only rose 1% from 44% in 2014 to 45% in 2015.”

Vanessa Vallely, founder of WeAreTheCity, said there are 1,500 women’s networks across London “but not enough of them are in tech.”

She spoke of the importance of networking and said: “I realised suddenly that my network used to be who I could see across the office and this needed to change. I also realised that I had also stopped asking for help when I needed and was trying to be superwoman doing everything.”