Claire Lamb is a senior PR and communications professional, with twenty-five years of experience gained in a series of multicultural roles. She is currently a director at Skout, a B2B marketing and PR agency, where she has a specialism in tech.

There are many careers in tech. Just because you are not a coder, developer, or engineer doesn’t mean you are not part of the tech industry. As a PR and marketing specialist, Claire Lamb has worked with many high-profile tech brands including Apple, BT, Citrix, Oracle, VMware and EMC, helping to tell the stories that put them at the forefront of the industry and at the heart of conversations. She has seen the evolution of the industry – and has been part of that evolution too.

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

I started PR in 1995 at a point where tech was just starting to change the way that we lived and worked. Since then, I have worked on some truly fantastic projects, including heading up Apple’s PR just after they launched coloured iMacs, as well as leading the team that launched the iPod in the UK. This was at a time when Apple was changing the way that tech worked although they had less than 10% market share at the time; giving us a unique opportunity to change our approach to PR too.

Then I moved to Hong Kong for a few years, working as a deputy editor for a bi-lingual homes and interiors magazine, as well as establishing Hong Kong’s first green PR agency – something that was unheard of in the region at the time.

Since 2010, I have worked at Skout as a director where I look after lots of different parts of the organisation, from HR, marketing, business development and client services. Here, we have been able to create a great culture at Skout that encourages everyone, especially women, to progress to more senior levels. I’m proud of our gender balance.

What evolutions have you observed in the tech industry?

Lots! The advent of the public internet, increasing processing power, smartphones, and the cloud to name a few notable ones, and now we’re in the midst of the AI (r)evolution.

Moore’s Law springs to mind, as it is a perfect example that summarises evolutions in the tech industry. Essentially, it boils down to ‘what you can’t do today, you can do tomorrow’. That’s what we’re seeing now with AI as it is developing quicker than anything I’ve ever seen. Give it 10 years and we’ll see something else come along that we haven’t even thought about yet, which will move just as quickly. I think that’s the joy of tech, it’s fast-moving and unpredictable.

I’m excited to see how evolving tech, such as AI, is going to help change things for good and revolutionise the way we deliver services like healthcare, for example.

When it comes to the gender balance, PR and tech are at odds, has this helped you or hindered your career?

When I started my career in PR, the TV show ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ (remember that?) was a big hit and it negatively impacted the reputation of women working in marketing and PR. So, we had to work extra hard to prove that we not only understood the tech well, but that we could also make good contributions to our client’s business, just as much as sales could.

It’s no surprise that over the years I have been subjected to unfavourable or inappropriate treatment because of my gender. However, it didn’t take me long to find my voice and push back on the toxic masculinity that was rife in the tech industry back in the 90s.

Whilst society has come a long way since then, and we are seeing an increasing number of women in leadership roles; PR is an industry that is only female-dominated up to a certain senior level. Then we lose all these amazing women when they start having families, and unfortunately, the workplace is still not supportive to mothers with young children. So, men move up into the senior roles that a woman should have had.

Do you think there’s more diversity in the tech industry now? And if so, why?

Yes, because it would be hard for the industry to succeed if it didn’t. Technology impacts everybody, regardless of race or gender – it doesn’t just impact a single demographic. As a result, it must be more diverse and inclusive than it was 20 years ago.

I think there is more room for change when it comes to leadership in tech, as we like to teach girls and boys differently when it comes to leadership. Girls are taught to be more inclusive and understanding, which is a style of leadership that is still not recognised as being impactful in the tech industry; so, we still see the industry being dominated by men.

What advice would you want to give women looking to lead the way in tech PR?

Women don’t need to change in order to succeed, it’s the culture and environment surrounding the tech and PR environment that needs to. Research has revealed that companies with female CEOs are more profitable and successful than others. However, there is still a long road ahead. We are encouraging girls to get into STEM subjects, but it still isn’t enough.

In your opinion, what progress needs to happen in both industries to promote gender diversity and inclusion? 

I don’t think that it’s an issue that is solely a problem for these two industries, but rather it’s across all industries. There’s already been a lot written about the need for greater flexibility in the workplace, which is still true for both PR and tech (although we’re better at it than a lot of places).

However, both industries are typified by their domination of one gender or another – PR with women and tech with men. We obviously miss out on fresh perspectives by not encouraging greater participation by other genders – and in fact all genders, ethnicities (PR has a real problem here), disabilities etc. What we need to do is move away from restrictive traditional recruitment and employee journey approaches to people management. We’ve spent years trying to get employees to fit (in) to businesses. What if we turned it on its head, and got businesses to fit better with employees? What are their strengths? How do we commercialise those strengths rather than training people to fit what we need? If this happens – and I’m confident it will – we’ll see the tech industry democratise and grow.

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