Kate Bingham

Inspirational Woman: Dame Kate Bingham DBE | Former Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force

Kate Bingham

Dame Kate Bingham DBE is the former chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.

In her role as chair of the task force, she helped steer the procurement of vaccines and the strategy for their deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was recently awarded a Damehood in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her services to to the procurement, manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

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

I am a biochemistry-trained biotech company builder and venture capital investor, mother to three very tall young adults and married to the [very tall] MP for Herefordshire who was one of the founders of NMITE (New Model Institute of Technology and Engineering). As a Managing Partner at SV Health Investors, we develop breaking science and emerging biological understanding of diseases to develop new drugs to address unmet clinical needs. Last year I spent 7 months chairing the UK Vaccine Taskforce to help secure vaccines for the UK and internationally in the fight back against the COVID19 pandemic.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I followed the areas that I enjoyed and thought would make a difference and would be fun.

One thing I can say about my own career, is that I got really excited about biochemistry when I was thinking about how you can actually translate that knowledge, for example about genetic mutations, into thinking about how you develop drugs for patients.  Suddenly you could see the practical application of what you were studying in the textbooks in terms of actually changing somebody’s life.

My career is a good example of the need to take a wide view, to collaborate with professionals from other disciplines and that you become good at something by practicing it. You learn by doing.  Which is why I am such a supporter of NMITE which really understands this and has been set up to change the way engineering is taught. It is a very interesting new way of teaching because its focus is on the practical, working in small teams and working very closely with industry.  It will ensure that these important principles are incorporated into its programmes and that will mean that its graduates will be uniquely well placed to enjoy a successful career, from day one.

You recently led the COVID-19 vaccine task force – can you tell us more about this, how you managed teams remotely, the challenges etc?

I was appointed as Chair of the VTF in May 2020 and within weeks had assembled the core team who developed the strategy and plans to secure vaccines for the UK. By July we had signed Heads of Terms agreements with BioNTech/Pfizer, Valneva, Oxford/AZ, followed shortly by GSK, Janssen, Novavax and Moderna. Remote working was actually easier as we lost no time in travel or unproductive chitchat. On December 8 2020, the UK was the first western country to start vaccinating its citizens.

Many of the challenges I faced, and the Task Force team faced, reflected those of any major project or highly complex scientific and engineering undertaking. We needed to work as a team, we needed to make decisions quickly and understand the degree of certainty we could count on when making those decisions. We needed to hone our communication skills as we were working remotely and at pace. Science and engineering, in the real world, are team sports. You need these skills to succeed.

This wasn’t about finding the perfect vaccine. It was about getting vaccines quickly. So, we had that very clear motivation to work quickly. We had the authority to build a team that had the right expertise and we were working in an industry that already was a collaborative industry.  The manufacturing companies had already got together early last year before the Vaccine Task Force was even conceived because they knew they were the ones who were going to have to scale up.

I think there’s a massive lesson about combining industrial expertise with the excellence from the Civil Service, so that we were able to build the team, which covered the vaccine selection, manufacturing clinical trials, and then the pandemic preparedness.  That was a core aspect: to make sure we would be better prepared for next time. Because of course we knew viruses mutate, so variants were expected and of course new pandemics were also expected.  We were able to combine industrial expertise with the expertise from the civil servants in procurement negotiation, in project management and actually in international diplomacy. We were very dependent on working with other countries for supply chains and for thinking about how to work cooperatively to get vaccines to those countries that needed them. I think the lessons about combining the best from industry and the best from government are ones that should be taken forward.

In my view, most of society’s big challenges will only be solved by the integrated work of a wide range of disciplines. The vaccine programme was only possible because of this integrated thinking and the teamwork of a brilliant team of professionals.  Likewise NMITE, because it is teaching “integrated engineering”, will be bringing together the various engineering disciplines and the softer skills that are so important in the real world.

Congratulations on your recent Damehood – how did you feel when you discovered you’d been awarded the Honour?

I am proud but also humbled to be recognised in a year when NHS workers have risked their health and their lives in fighting Covid, and have been at the heart of the vaccine roll out.

The development of vaccines has been a triumph of scientific and industrial collaboration. Just a year ago we were assembling an unproven portfolio of vaccines for the UK. Yet in the last seven months,  over 80m vaccine doses have provided unprecedented protection and saved thousands of lives.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to lead the brilliant Vaccine Taskforce team, and to secure doses for the UK, but which can also be shared with other countries. I am particularly proud of the NHS Registry, which helped the UK to run the vaccine clinical trials quickly. Its hundreds of thousands of volunteers will be essential for us to test pandemic vaccines in the future.

Finally, I am thrilled that so many women have made such enormous contributions to science, healthcare, manufacturing and technology during the pandemic. I hope this encourages more girls to pursue careers in these sectors

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

My unwavering view that you should act as if what do you makes a difference. Because it does. So don’t let hurdles get in your way.

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

STEM disciplines are so important to the economy, the country and to the well-being and quality of life for us all.  My first piece of advice would be that you should be aware that you are thinking about a career in a field that is very important – STEM disciplines will equip you to make a real positive difference to the world.

Try not to constrain your thinking.  You might think STEM is not for you, perhaps because you feel uncomfortable about the maths involved, or you feel you are better at the arts and creative subjects. Please think again! Good engineers are creative thinkers and imaginative problem solvers.

NMITE’s engineering programme has been designed to include those creative and communication skills which are so important to today’s engineering challenges. If you lack the formal qualifications in maths or physics then don’t worry, because NMITE will bring you up to speed as part of its course to ensure you succeed.

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

I do think women face different challenges and speaking for myself, I know I don’t have the same brash confidence as a man. So if I’m asked to do something, I tend to look at the reasons why I can’t do it rather than the reasons I can. I think that is something that we just need to get over.

I think you can be exceptionally good as a woman going into traditionally male dominated industries. Because I think our insight enables us to look at things in different ways and to find different solutions in ways that may not be so obvious.

NMITE is one important measure in the fight to remove these barriers to success that many women face. For a start, it is led by an accomplished female engineer and educator, it aims to achieve a fully gender balanced student population and its approach to recruiting its students, from its admissions processes to the way its programme is delivered – in teams, learning from hands on engineering work and working with real engineering employers. There will be less room for ego and much more for collaboration and communication.

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

Companies certainly need to ensure they have more women around their Board tables and in senior roles. In my experience, women in the C-suite and on boards are pragmatic and  solution focused.  I don’t think we would have had the same collapse if it had been Lehman Sisters.

NMITE will play a role in this, as it will produce the sort of work-ready engineers that employers need so employers should support NMITE by recommending it to their own work-force or by helping as a partner providing engineering challenges for students to tackle. In the short term, employers could help by supporting NMITE’s ambitious bursary plans to enable it to provide financial support to students who might not otherwise be able to go to University.

There are currently only 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 triple the pace at which NMITE grows from its launch this year! As that will make a massive difference to the opportunities available to thousands of young people, including women, who might be considering a career in engineering but haven’t to date had access to an innovative Higher Education provider. This would also benefit us all, we’d have more engineers which the country needs; more importantly, we’d have more female engineers and more engineers who are skilled and ready to tackle the great national challenges we face.

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

Join networking groups in the STEM/tech sectors you are interested in. In my field, the BioIndustry Association has great events, conferences, training and leadership events for women.

Find a mentor who can share their experiences to help shape your career and life.

Do look at NMITE, even if you don’t plan to become a student. They run events and seminars for everyone and focus very much on the sort of topics we’ve covered in this interview. They’ll give you a taste of the current debates in engineering and the work they are doing to help increase the number of female engineers.

Dame Kate Bingham DBE was recently interviewed for NMITE where she talked about her experience chairing the Vaccine Task Force (VTF); the similarities she sees between that and the way NMITE will be working; the need for more women in engineering and the impact she thinks NMITE will achieve in the future.


Covid-19 and our growing digital skills crisis

three people working on laptops smiling, digital skills

Article by Julia Beaumont, CTO of Prince’s Trust youth charity

As the UK continues to embrace digital working life, there is a widespread belief that young people have the digital skills to hit the ground running as they enter the working world. 

However, not all young people are as digitally savvy as we assume, and we need to work to change this to bring equality in terms of the opportunities, access, experience, and socialisation that the digital world can provide, as well as being able to overturn the burgeoning digital skills gap within the UK economy.

According to a report by the Learning and Work Institute published in March this year only 62% of young people think they have basic digital skills, such as the ability to communicate digitally or use common software, and only 18% thought they had more advanced digital skills employers might need, like coding. This is a concerning thought with jobs increasingly demanding that people possess strong digital capabilities.

Fixing our digital skills gap is not going to happen overnight, but there are a whole host of proactive steps to take that will help mitigate the risk of further divisions and start closing the gap – this begins with considering the barriers to accessing digital devices.

Nominet, the registry running the .UK domain, recently released a report which showed that 94% of 8–11s and 99% of 12-15s were online last year. At first glance this seems like a very high percentage, but even so it means that as many as one million children missed out on online learning during the first lockdown due to having little or no access to technology.  Solutions to get every child online are urgently needed, as this imbalance and the setbacks it creates for disadvantaged young people must never happen again.

But it’s not just a question of devices and connectivity. Young people are also being held back in the digital space by their lack of softer skills, namely communicating effectively online, online judgement and decision making, and navigating websites – all of which could adversely hamper them in the long run given that digital skills are not just desirable but necessary in the world of work.

The short-term fixes to alleviate the impact of digital poverty throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have been positive, but they are only the start. Digital technologies became the critical enabler of the continuation of schools, universities, and businesses – and schemes to roll out devices to the digitally unconnected increasingly entered the mainstream. In fact, we became more connected than ever before and according to Ofcom, more than 7 in 10 online adults in the UK are now making video calls at least weekly since the start of the pandemic.

Now we need to look further ahead, and to really consider the long-term plans that should be implemented to provide young people with the education, resources, and insight they need to make the most of their future working lives. Collaboration will be key to ensuring this.

For example, the Prince’s Trust is currently working with Nominet to update its digital toolkit to bridge the gap between young people and potential future employers. It aims to connect young people across the UK to meaningful entry-level jobs within the Prince’s Trust’s partner networks.

Nominet is also supporting The Prince’s Trust with its broader data transformation strategy by helping the Trust to understand more about the young people they are supporting, and the outcomes being achieved. This will mean institutions aiming to tackle the digital skills gap will increasingly gain the insights required to make a tangible difference. Collaborations like this are invaluable, as they foster a supportive environment for young people to improve their digital capabilities which is key for catalysing change.

The past eighteen months of the pandemic have raised a number of questions surrounding digital transformation and the future of work – not only in the UK but across the world. To give young people a fighting chance to succeed we need to give them the opportunities to improve their digital skills by providing them with the digital support, tools, and education required to flourish.

Julia BeaumontAbout the author

Julia joined The Prince’s Trust as their Chief Technology Officer in November 2020. In her role at The Prince’s Trust, she is leading the transformation of technology, digital and data services for the charity’s employees and volunteers, as well as for the young people they serve.


Supermums launch new campaign to help mothers bounce back from the pandemic

MumsSkillUp Campaign, SuperMums

Supermums has launched new campaign – #MumsSkillUp – to help mothers bounce back from the pandemic.

Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis than men’s jobs. During the pandemic women have been disportionally effected by job losses and increasing pressure within relationships which has increased the divorce rate and the need for financial independence.

That’s why, during October, Supermums is on a mission to mobilise a global community to help women get back on track across the world, financially, economically and emotionally.

The campaign will help to shine a light on the career opportunities that exist for women (and beyond) that can give them flexible, well paid, resilient careers and financial independence. They will also be sharing positive new stories and sharing educational stories and information to help mums bounce back.

Supermums was founded on a mission to help mums secure a flexible well paid resilient career. The idea originated from our founder Heather Black when she personally experienced the trauma of losing a business and career when new economic and political changes were imposed beyond her control in 2011 which proved to be a turning point in her life. She had to find a way to bounce back and to launch a new career path.

This led Heather to completely change career and retrain as a Salesforce Consultant were she was earning £5k ($10k) a month working part time remotely. She felt that if she could do it then others could do to and she launched Supermums to spread the word in Nov 2016. Fastforward to now she has helped nearly 500 upskill and retrain across 9 different countries.

Speaking about the campaign, Heather Black, Founder, Supermums said, ”I was just about to start a family, we wanted to move out of the city, I didn’t know anything about working in the tech space.”

“I didn’t even know what a CRM was for many years until someone spent the time showing me but then my eyes were opened to a whole new world!”

“I started using a CRM for my business and saw it’s value first hand to improve processes and reporting.”

“I decided I wanted to learn more and consider CRM consultancy as a career choice.”

“Fast forward to now and I’ve got a financially rewarding career that gives me financial independence and stability as a single parent.“

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How to successfully head back to the office | Key insights from technology leaders

open plan office, people working an office

With lockdown restrictions having been lifted in the UK, many organisations are looking to return to the office.

But while some employees want to jump straight back into the workplace, others are reticent. So, how can businesses help alleviate concerns about the return to the office?

Below, business leaders from a variety of tech companies have shared their reflections on what the future of work will look like and how best to welcome workers back into the office.

 

Clare LoveridgeClare Loveridge, Vice President & General Manager EMEA at Arctic Wolf

“As teams gradually return to the office, many businesses are still working out what this means for their future operations. For many, this is bringing a whole new set of cybersecurity challenges, which in some cases are even more complex than going fully remote was a year ago. If worker devices continue to move between different networks, their company security can quite easily be compromised, identity and access management becomes harder, misconfigurations are easier to miss — all increasing cyber risk.

It is therefore vital that organisations, of any shape and size, are actively taking the time to review their security practices and protocols, with a hybrid, often disparate networks, in mind. Businesses must ask themselves these questions; how fast they can react to an incident; how quickly they can pivot from investigation to containment, and how well do they know the environment and what runs within it? Only then can freedom from cyber risk be truly realised.”

Simon O’KaneSimon O’Kane, Head of EMEA at Asana

“With pandemic restrictions having lifted in the UK, many Brits are evaluating how and where they want to work. At Asana we champion an office-centric approach, while other organisations may prefer to return to the office, shift to a hybrid working model or remain fully remote. No matter how companies choose to work, prioritising tools that enable clarity and accountability for all their staff is key, no matter where, when, or how they are working. But, without a clear blueprint for hybrid work, providing clarity and collaboration across the organisation is a massive obstacle.

In response to the sudden shift to remote work, many companies rushed to introduce a plethora of apps. But 18 months on, it’s clear that teams spend far too much time switching between apps to source information and updates. In fact, Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index showed that knowledge workers switch between 10 apps 25 times per day since shifting to remote work, resulting in longer hours and higher burnout rates across the country.

To tackle this issue and prepare for the next wave of work, organisations need to evaluate and streamline their tech stack. Businesses must eliminate the tools they don’t use while integrating the ones they do into a single platform that removes information silos and drives clarity even when distributed across locations and time zones. Now is the time for organisations globally to reset and reimagine the way they work for the better.”

Asam AkhtarAsam Akhtar, Channel Manager, UK at Envoy

“One thing I’ve learned from the pandemic is that employees want and expect the freedom to choose how, when, and where they work. And for many, that means a hybrid work schedule.  They also expect to return to a safe environment.

To encourage a speedy return, leaders should invest in tech that keeps people safe. Tools that can track workplace density to help ensure social distancing. Technology that can verify vaccine status – or can survey and screen employees before they come into the office.  Rather than relying on gut instinct, use workplace analytics to help guide your next steps. From employee health surveys to aggregated data on how often employees are going in, these insights can provide valuable guidance in setting policies and reconfiguring workspaces.

Data on how many people work on-site each day can help managers right-size the office layout and minimize wasted space.

This kind of data-driven decision-making is going to be critical to rebuilding an office model that works for everyone and offers employees the right resources to do their jobs effectively.”

Dominic AllonDominic Allon, CEO at Pipedrive

“The ‘work wherever, live wherever’ landscape is here to stay and is only the beginning of a continued digital evolution. IT improvements are often confused with true digital transformation. Upgrading your hardware and software is just the start, but acquiring maturing technologies that use innovative data processing methods to automate practices that transform your business for the better is the real future.

Businesses globally have proven throughout the pandemic that a rapid shift in digital mentality is possible, and it is vital that we continue on this trajectory. Successful organisations will continue to adapt to their users’ and customers’ needs. State-of-the-art machine learning tools can now monitor, in real-time, trends, variations, anomalies and foresee any potential errors. Automation is not only what your business needs, but it is what your customer wants.

Replacing human interactions with artificial intelligence will allow for a faster, omnichannel and data-backed positive customer experience. More importantly, these tools will continuously adapt their process and provide feedback and actionable insights about customers back to your business, which can be used to improve marketing, sales and customer service practices. Unifying valuable information to create a customer-centric approach will continue to play a vital role for organisations of all sizes in the coming years.”

Stuart TempletonStuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack

“The pandemic has shown us that the office is no longer the ‘gold standard’ of productivity. Less time wasted in rush hour commutes means more time to spend on things that really add value. Flexible work also helps retain employees who need to shape work around life in different ways. Businesses must therefore use this moment to take learnings from the past year, and reimagine the future of work. This is crucial as our recent research of over 1,000 UK knowledge workers, examining current working habits and how employees feel about the future of work, found that the majority (42%) of UK employees who have worked from home in the last year are concerned they won’t have the same level of flexible working in the future.

While every organisation will approach this challenge differently, staying aligned must remain the top priority for all business leaders. Now that physical offices are so much less a part of the employee experience, having a digital headquarters—a central place for work and social interactions—has become critical. It’s not just a reflection of flexible, asynchronous work; it’s also an enabler of it.”

Damien BrophyDamien Brophy, Vice President EMEA at ThoughtSpot

“The future of work will be characterised by insights at the core of everything. Not only will every employee be expected and empowered to find insights, but connecting systems together means those insights will trigger actions across the business. This is the evolution of work. Not just more informed, but insights powering processes.

It’s people enabled by modern technology (machine learning, AI, and automation) to drive innovation, uncover hidden insights, and provide business value, using self-service analytics to answer urgent problems.

A world where users can simply ask and answer questions without sifting through data. The future of work will revolve around AI-driven insights using algorithms to uncover hidden insights automatically, surfacing answers to questions that staff didn’t think to ask, yet.

With this freedom we are all empowered to provide more business value using less time and effort. Imagine spending less time writing reports and more time refining business processes, improving operations, reducing financial risks, simply doing the job much better, and adding ever-more more value. Where workers can change the way business is done and how their customers are served through smarter insights, quicker answers, and deeper, more inclusive thought, it’s positively redefining the future of work.”

Jamie MilroyJamie Milroy, CEO & Co-Founder, DASH Rides

“September marked a gradual return to the workplace for a huge raft of employees as organisations kick-started their return to the office strategies. Whilst the transition back to a physical workplace will be welcomed by many, enterprises need to demonstrate that they are empowering people with safe and sustainable travel options.

After almost two years of being in and out of national lockdowns, our relationship with the daily commute has irrevocably changed. Employees are increasingly calling out for new modes of travel that improves their health, wellbeing and productivity but their environmental footprint too. With many UK workers citing the daily commute as a barrier to a full-time return to the office and 82% stating they would like their employer to use COVID as a catalyst to revamp their employee benefits, such as travel or cycle to work schemes, we’re already seeing sustainable travel become central to the future of work.

Attitudes around work have fundamentally changed and as we begin to build a ‘new normal’ in our working lives, employees are placing a higher value on workplace benefits that address these challenges. Perks and benefits that are both easily and immediately accessible and help contribute to healthier, more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyles will be increasingly important as we rebuild. At DASH Rides, we’re working with companies to help supercharge their workplace travel through the cycle to work scheme. Each ride, on one of our e-bikes, is carbon offset by 400%.”


International Women in Engineering Day 2021: How has the pandemic impacted gender diversity?

coronavirus, Royal Academy of Engineering, COVID-19

Every June, the tech industry comes together to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day.

Ada Lovelace springs back onto social feeds, talented women around the globe are championed, and talk inevitably turns to what can be done to encourage more women into the sector.

Before COVID-19, the industry's male to female ratio was imbalanced by as much as 77% in favour of male directors. The pandemic has only exacerbated this. In fact, a new study of women in tech reveals:

  • Over half (57%) feel burned out at work this year, compared to just over a third (36%) of men
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic

So what does International Women in Engineering Day mean today for leading figures in the industry today?

Why trust will drive greater success

Natasha KiroskaNatasha Kiroska, Technical Lead, Amelia, says women must be made to feel their ambition will be matched by their progress. “In my first position as a Telecom developer, I was working with a lot of internationals and seniors from all over the world and I was always trying to identify who is the best in some particular area and always trying to learn from them. We had few excellent engineers who I can consider as my mentors. Environments where trust and respect are served gain the maximum of everyone's potential. In those kinds of environments, women will be more confident and brave to pursue the next steps in the career and not be stuck on the same level.”

Eliza Dickie, Data Analyst, Grayce, believes woman are the perfect answer to the current skills gap. “As a young woman working in data engineering, I am constantly reminded of businesses’ need for data skills. I hope that this International Women in Engineering Day will reach more females and inspire them to pursue STEM education and careers, no matter their age. Starting out in my role, I didn’t realise how many sectors you can work across or how versatile it is, but more importantly how in demand data engineering professionals are!”

Celebrating female employees and showcasing creativity

Nuria Manuel, QA Technical Lead, Distributed, believes companies have a responsibility to make sure their female employees feel celebrated. “Firms can ensure women feel as though they belong in the sector by giving them access to key decision-making roles in the business and championing and celebrating key awareness days, such as International Women in Engineering Day, which helps to drive the narrative that the business is fostering a diverse environment.”

Akhila DsouzaAkhila Dsouza, Rich Web Community Lead, UK and Ireland, Cognizant Technology Services believes recognition of the value of women in engineering is slowly getting there. “There is also recognition now that teams are stronger for having women in them, especially in tech and engineering, which is often about perfecting certain things. In my opinion, women are naturally perfectionists! It has taken a lot of hard work, and I am constantly learning and improving but I am very proud to be a woman in engineering and of what I have achieved and hope others can find the same belief.”

Edel KellyEdel Kelly, Senior Manager of Development, Genesys, also highlights how rewarding a career in engineering can be today. “International Women in Engineering Day is a timely reminder that a career in this field can provide women with high levels of job satisfaction, and is well suited to those that enjoy problem solving and creativity. Individuals considering courses in computer sciences can look forward to a rewarding career upon graduation, and whether the goal is to stay closer to home or explore the world by travelling internationally, software engineering can tick that box.”

Widening skillsets and identifying role models

Clair Griffin, Projects Director, Vysiion, comments how important it is to inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and seek opportunities to grow, much like she was given the opportunity to do. “With a widening digital skills gap, especially in cyber security, the opportunities on offer should be made available for everyone. Online training courses have become more available over the past year, making it easier to extend existing skills and develop new ones. To increase digital knowledge, organisations need to recognise aligned skills, encouraging women from different areas of the business into more technical roles.”

Lisa GuessLisa Guess, SVP Global Sales Engineering at Cradlepoint believes mentorship and sponsorship are critical tools to develop and support diverse talent, as these are customisable providing equity for each individual’s needs. “For women leadership, especially in technical roles, its critical to help lift up those who may benefit from guidance. And, people are inspired by what they see: the more women in senior roles in the industry, the more those just starting out will be able to envision themselves in those roles and work towards them.”

Lynn CarterLynn Carter, Data Centre Operations Manager, Sungard AS, highlights how role models can come many forms today. “Role models don’t necessarily have to come from the industry, it is hugely beneficial for young girls to see female accomplishments in all walks of life. As someone who loves sport, I have always been inspired by the Irish Olympic athlete Sonia O'Sullivan. She has a fantastic trait of always looking forward, learning from her experiences and improving, which is something that can be adopted by women in the engineering industry. Whatever your career path, it is vital to have people that inspire you.”

Kerry FinchKerry Finch, Software Engineer, Civica, echoes this sentiment, stating a teacher played a crucial role in inspiring her into the profession she thoroughly enjoys. “I took computer science A-level and had a wonderful teacher who always said I would enjoy working in software development. After school I studied Maths at university, which included computer science modules which I thoroughly enjoyed and inspired me to start searching for jobs in software engineering so that I could use my maths degree background to continue with something I enjoyed.”

Addressing an industry imbalance

Rosie GallanczRosie Gallancz, Software Engineer at Labs, VMware Tanzu, is hopeful the current gender imbalance can be addressed soon. She concludes “What’s made the difference for me, has been seeking out supportive environments, inspiring individuals – both who I work with, but also in the wider industry – and pursuing encouragement have all been conducive to my growth as a woman in engineering. I’m hopeful that as more women enter engineering fields, and rise through the ranks, the imbalances that I saw when I started out will diminish.”

Lisa McLinLisa McLin, Global VP Alliances and Channel Chief, and Head of POWER, Rackspace Technology takes a similar stance. “On International Women in Engineering Day, I celebrate all women that are shaping the world and helping to make our planet a better, safer, more innovative and exciting place to be. We need more women engineers, which is why we should all be a voice guiding our young girls and showing them the possibilities and career opportunities available in engineering.


The importance of women in STEM post-pandemic

Happy African American building contractor and construction worker greeting with elbows during coronavirus epidemic, women in STEM, women in engineering

Although working from home has been a positive experience in the sense of boosting productivity and enhancing work life balance, several studies have shown that female employees have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

For example, many female parents have been left feeling completely exhausted, having to juggle work with caring responsibilities such as homeschooling. According to a study from the Office for National Statistics, more women reported that home schooling was having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with 53 percent struggling compared to 45 per cent of men.

Women in STEM are excelling

Despite this, many women across the country have excelled throughout the year. The pandemic has been such a turbulent time for many, yet we have seen an impressive amount of innovation, especially within the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing industries. Professor Sarah Gilbert, for example, will go down in history as a co-inventor of one of the Covid vaccines, saving thousands of lives to-date. Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed have also done amazing work by creating an app to tackle the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic. In addition, Anja Stolte is an engineering innovator who has combined the best of 3D printing to create metal parts using additive casting, helping businesses throughout the UK reduce their carbon footprint.

A positive impact

Throughout many industries, including the engineering sector, the pandemic has resulted in richer academic research through collaboration on digital platforms. The ability to work from home coupled with flexible working has given women in the industry an opportunity to see what is possible. It has resulted in greater diversity within the workforce which can lead to more creativity in engineering product solutions for all of society. Agile working has meant more inclusivity for single parents, disabled people and women taking care of older relatives. It has also allowed meetings to be more inclusive as a more diverse group of people can now attend a meeting virtually.

As we gradually ease out of the pandemic, it is great to see women using this time as a chance to innovate. It is important to note that every person is different, depending on their work and home life, and this pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Prior to the pandemic, many women have felt as though they had to make a choice between a family or career. However, this time has hopefully given women the chance to showcase their ability, talent, and leadership skills.

Keeley Crockett headshotAbout the author

Keeley Crockett is an IEEE senior member and a Professor in Computational Intelligence in the School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. She is a knowledge engineer and has worked with companies to provide business rule automation with natural language interfaces using conversational agents. She leads the Computational Intelligence Lab that has established a strong international presence in its research into Conversational Agents and Adaptive Psychological Profiling and practical Ethical AI. As an ambassador for women in STEM, Keeley regularly advocates for equality and inclusion on both a regional and national basis.


Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Inspirational Woman: Jen Marsden | Director of Design Engineering, SharkNinja

Jen Marsden is Director of Design Engineering at leading home technology firm SharkNinja and is originally from the Wirral, Merseyside.

From a young age she was fascinated by engineering, sparked by her Dad, who having previously worked as a Navy Engineer, would teach her about how things work.

Jen’s interests grew throughout secondary education and she gained a place to study Design Technology BA at Loughborough University, graduating in 2005.  She started her career as a junior designer at Vax, where she worked on floorcare products for 11 years, swiftly working her way up to Head of Product Development. Keen to progress her skills in a different sector, Jen joined SharkNinja as Design Manager in 2017. Over just three years, Jen has progressed to a leadership team role. During her time heading up New Product Development for the Ninja Heated category, she has led the team through the development of several hero products including the Foodi Pressure Cooker, Ninja Foodi Health Grill and Which? Best Buy’s Ninja Air Fryer.

Read Jen's full interview here


Mechanical Engineering featuredBreaking Down The Barriers: Why More Women Should Consider Engineering

Sorria Douglas knew she wanted to go into a technology or science-related job - she just wasn't sure what exactly until she took an online questionnaire which highlighted mechanical engineering as a possible career choice.

Sorria, now 26, didn't even know what mechanical engineering was at the time, but she thought it sounded interesting.

After watching videos and contacting universities for information on their related courses, she enrolled at the University of Derby and studied Mechanical Engineering (BEng Hons). She was one of only five females on her course - out of 100! Here she shares her journey and why she thinks more women should consider a role in her field.

Read the full article here


woman video calling while working on laptop, staying digitally connected 1

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic through a digitally connected workplace

woman video chatting while working on laptop, staying digitally connected

Article provided by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist, Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

We’re living through unprecedented times and companies are trying to navigate their way through long periods of uncertainty.

As a result of COVID-19, business continuity is now at the forefront of every company’s agenda. Yet while business leaders cannot manage the pandemic itself, they can determine how their companies adapt to the challenges of the crisis. Given that remote working has become the norm for most, keeping the workplace digitally connected is vital for sustaining productivity and helping organisations minimise the impact of the pandemic.

Delivering a culture of creativity and openness

A strong culture is the lifeblood of an organisation and underpins everything it stands for. Where and how employees work has changed dramatically overnight, but that does not mean businesses should forget about what makes them different from their competitors.

Values act like a north star that keeps everyone going in the same direction. It’s essential to reinforce these to all team members through regular virtual town halls and meetings so that they are front of mind. This will ensure customers get the same service they did before the pandemic. Businesses that continue to deliver excellent support despite all the challenges they have faced will further strengthen their relationships with customers. And this has the added benefit of helping growth in the long-term, leading to more customer retention and making them appeal to potential new customers.

Getting new hires up to speed with company values from the beginning is also essential. Technology can play a role here. Companies like ServiceNow have created mobile apps to help leaders virtually onboard new hires and engage with them before they start so that they are ready to work and understand what is expected of them. This ongoing engagement is also important as it can help new hires settle in, reassuring those that may be anxious about starting a new job during a crisis.

The right culture will give employees a creative, open platform and will encourage innovation and experimentation. It will create a safe workplace environment to allow leaders at every level the chance to make bold decisions without the fear of making mistakes. This has always been important for businesses but has become even more essential during the pandemic.

Time to prioritise physical and mental health

With the world we know changing so dramatically and there being so much negativity every time we look at the news, it’s more important than ever to promote a healthy body and mindset. Leaders have a vital role to play here. They need to be role models, understand their team’s home setup and encourage them to switch off at times, take breaks and be flexible in the way they work. Businesses should focus on outcomes and not on activity; performance and not the number of hours sitting in front of a laptop screen.

Research from the Trade Union Congress found that the average Brit spent 219 hours commuting last year. This shouldn’t now be seen as extra time for work. It should be focused on managing wellbeing and mental health: more time to read, train for a 10k race or walk around the local park. This will help people clear their minds, step away from their laptops and increase focus when they are working.

Digitise the workplace to stay connected

Organisations always prepare for crises. Time is spent investing in drills around data centres and cyber breaches. But less time is spent testing the workforce and workplace for remote working at the scale we’re currently seeing.

Before this pandemic, many organisations did not have working from home policies and had to put these together quickly. Some invested in the right tools, training and policies during ‘business as usual times and tested these as part of business continuity plans. This gave them confidence that they could operate when people needed to work remotely, and also helped build working from home into their culture. It had the added benefit of highlighting what gaps needed to be fixed and optimised.

Now that this way of working has been forced on so many businesses, communication about what is working and what is not, is key. Leaders need to constantly communicate with employees and workers need to make sure they are speaking to each other. Creating a unified, consumer-style employee service experience across all departments will make this so much easier for workers.

People may no longer be in the physical office but with collaboration tools, virtual meeting rooms and virtual coffee breaks, employees can create a digital version of it. Workers should be encouraged to set and communicate expectations around their working day and when they will be available.

Creating a digital twin for a workplace will ease a lot of the issues that can be caused by not being in an office. If colleagues are used to seeing each other in real life, encourage the use of technology to maintain that same level communication. If workshops need to be run, video conferencing tools should be used. When there is a need to collaborate, virtual whiteboards, mind mapping tools and visual task boards can help. If customer briefings or events need to be delivered, then encourage interaction through the use of polls, voting and Q&A sessions.

Those companies that had previously embraced cloud-based tools have found the pivot to remote working a lot more straightforward. Cloud has proved its value during this crisis and the digital native companies have barely been disrupted. For businesses that are implanting these tools for the first time now, getting employees trained up so that they can use them to be productive and collaborate with colleagues in the right way, is critical.

This global pandemic has also demonstrated to businesses that they need to focus on continuity planning. There will be new challenges that arise when some employees go back to the office while others work from home. Now is the time to start planning for this to maintain a company’s values as well as employee productivity.

About the author

Nerys MutlowNerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

Why a global crisis has made us all rethink wellness in tech

young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

By Kirsty Carter, chief of staff at cloud and technology services and solutions provider, Solutionize Global

Technology and people have consistently played a critical role in how a business operates – and whether it succeeds or fails.

For years leaders have been building teams that are equipped to be able to work side-by-side with advanced digital methods and smart machines.

But has the wellness surrounding this always been of the same paramount importance? Perhaps not for many organisations – until now. The wellbeing of staff and their workplace infrastructures have come to the fore during this pandemic as people continue to battle anxieties – and the complexities that come with working remotely and maintaining productivity during a devastating global health crisis.

Navigating the ability to ‘switch off’ has long been a question that many companies have tried to overcome – following the explosion of technology. With work-based apps such as email and messenger services at an employees’ fingertips, managing these whilst teams work remotely has presented HR and logistical nightmares for many enterprises.

But, the mass move to working from home has also delivered many positives. From getting to spend quality time with family, avoiding a lengthy commute and completing tasks with autonomy and flexibility, employees have felt empowered to take control of their roles, agile managers have helped their staff to adapt quickly to vast change and remain engaged.

However, with anything, there are always some downsides. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, location flexibility has led to 49 per cent of remote workers saying their biggest struggle is wellness-related. The reasons being that 22 per cent feel like they can’t unplug after work, 19 per cent are lonely and eight per cent struggle to stay motivated.

So, when enterprises across the globe are experiencing a critical need to be swift, adaptable and operationally robust, why do only 29% of HR leaders have a health and well-being strategy (2020 Mercer Talent Trends study) in place? At a time when businesses need leaders the most, much more can be done – and there are lessons to be learnt throughout.

There’s much more to wellness than mental health initiatives

Overall, employees need to feel safe in their workplace environment – regardless of location. They want to know their company trusts and values their input but also have access to gaining the skills that they need, in order to complete their projects remotely. Managers must be empathetic to everyone’s struggles, including their own, if they’re to get the best out of their teams.

So, how can this be achieved? Forward-thinking leaders find themselves at a critical turning point where they need to act quickly and gauge the level of systems and IT infrastructure their organisation currently has in place. They should be strongly positioned, understanding how each staff member’s setting maintains operational, cultural and mental wellness. And, wellbeing needs are imperative throughout it all – and entirely individual to each employee battling their own mental recovery from an unprecedented crisis.

Additionally, the C-suite must be agile and adaptable when addressing the flexible nature of what a ‘life after lockdown’ challenge looks like. Setting a firm return to work date is out of the circle of influence for most but we can present options for a staggered approach to meet every requirement. Again, it’s important to factor in how people are still feeling during this time – many of which (88% according to mental health provider Ginger’s recent survey) have experienced ‘moderate to extreme’ stress over the past four to six weeks impacted by uncontrollable matters such as financial worries, home schooling or the health of family and friends.

So, there is a commitment to be made from managers – something they can demonstrate by providing a safe, working environment and being empathetic to how employees must be feeling in real-time. And throughout all this, technology has a vital part to play in team wellness.

Effectively adapting now can positively impact business continuity

Utilising digital apps to provide mental health programmes – such as licensed counsellors on call – or mindfulness and stress management platforms can assist, alongside helpful resources people can consume in their own time. Managers should be savvy in their approach when combining tech and wellness each day.

From online training and upskilling opportunities to helping staff members focus on their own personal development and simply providing tools to control workflows and interact with colleagues – each element can play a vital role when used correctly.

And for many organisations, these practices may already have been in place and running smoothly, but what this global crisis has done is driven all enterprises to truly prioritise these methods – and give wellness the attention it deserves. It should never be a ‘phase’ or tick-box exercise either because it is Mental Health Awareness Week in May, for example. These processes should be rolled-out each and every single day.

Uniting a team has never been more important and it has perhaps forced the hands of many organisations to ‘get it right’. But leaders who commit to evolving their wellbeing programmes, maintain a mental health focus and meet technological demands can put themselves in a stronger position to positively impact their firm’s long-term health throughout – and beyond – this pandemic.

Kirsty Carter, chief of staff, Solutionize GlobalAbout Kirsty Carter

As chief of staff at cloud and technology professional and managed service provider, Solutionize Global, Kirsty’s role focuses on company culture, employee engagement and organisational growth. As well as leading on evolving the team’s in-house training, hiring, professional development and performance management structures, Kirsty acts as an advisor to Solutionize Global’s CEO, David Bentley. First joining the forward-thinking firm in 2019, Kirsty has enjoyed a 12-year, people-focused career and is passionate about investing in people, future-proofing learning and development and creating an efficient HR function to help scale the business.


Tech role models featured

Woman and tech - a catalyst year?

By Nicola Buckley, Executive Vice President, Park Place Technologies

Tech role models featuredAs the vaccination programme continues with pace and we finally feel the route out of the pandemic, it’s natural now to reflect on its monumental impact on society, long and short-term.

Hence International Women’s Day this year became a pre-established point to reflect on the state of progression of female rights in the workplace but with an extra-ordinary backdrop; tracking progress on closing gender gaps on working rights, pay disparities, unconscious bias, and lack of boardroom diversity.  The day, #IWD, actually originated over 100 years ago, and it is an interesting vantage point on how favourably women have positioned themselves to emerge working in Tech, post pandemic.

Slowing of momentum for gender disparity

Across industries, sadly the broader picture points to a slowing of momentum for gender disparity change as organisations focus instead on economic recovery as a priority. The World Economic Forum noted in its 2020 Gender Pay Gap report that it will take a further 99.5 years for females to reach parity with their male counterparts.  Recent stats published in the UK from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on the direct impact of the pandemic suggests that female progression overall has very much taken a backseat throughout 2020, with a far greater percentage of females being furloughed and/or having taken on additional childcare/home schooling responsibilities during the crisis.  Yet the Tech sector - long negatively associated with too high a ratio of male:female workforce – has seemingly bucked the trend and has continued to make strides with its female empowerment and STEM encouragement programs.

While we’re not claiming to have had the same impact as say frontline healthcare workers, in the early days of the pandemic, tech took a seismic shift in its own positive image reinforcement. This happened almost overnight as organisations used IT and digital enablement in a race to keep business processes functioning in the most extreme conditions. It was tech providers and IT departments that quickly morphed our entire working environments and operations. Intrinsically, IT moved from being perceived as fixers to technology enablers - with every IT department tasked and creating secure working from home capabilities in the midst of global lockdowns, staff shortages and equipment restrictions. Without IT, the internet, and collaborative working apps, businesses would have gone on to sustain the deepest long-term shutdown and economic fallout ever recorded. With IT sector now acknowledged as enablers and facilitators, will 2021 be the start of a new chapter when the job titles ‘techie’ and ‘engineer’ carry business-transformative positive images that both young girls and boys who are currently considering STEM subjects, aspire to become?

Flexible working

And moving forward, will females in tech also stand ready to be the benefactors of compulsory working from home orders of the past 14 months? After all, women in IT have been requesting better, flexible working from home options that would offer an improved work and family life balance since the 1970s.  In 2020, by default of the pandemic, that came to us all. Our homes were transformed into functioning office workplaces by day, family spaces by night. Our fixed working hours became immediately acceptable flexi-working hours as we added the pressures and timelines of home schooling into working days. Instead of being hastily silenced, pets, deliveries and children were accepted and commonplace in the backdrops of virtual meetings.

But without face-to-face interactions, would productivity levels drop working from home? In what amounts to one of the most interesting, unplanned social experiments of our time, it appears that in the tech sector at least, productivity and sales actually skyrocketed as teams became creatively empowered to keep in touch with customers, dynamically. Females quickly established workspaces and patterns using tech devices that were largely at-hand. We encouraged video communications to become the accepted meeting norm.

Opportunities

Established ongoing remote working also means that the world of career opportunities has opened up and females can, often for the first time, consider roles outside of their regional boundaries and outside of the corporate HQ hosting country, so long as there is some synchronization of time zones. For instance, at Park Place Technologies we have been able to open global positions outside of continents to encourage talented and suitable female remote workers to step forward. No longer do zip and postcodes dictate one of the key hiring criteria. Female talent is now truly an accessible global pool!

We know that changing perceptions continues to be a responsibility that every professional carries, regardless of sector, yet in IT at least, we acknowledge that unwittingly COVID-19 has set new positive benchmarks in the journey of female talent alignment and retention.


WeAreTheCity covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in business, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.  

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COVID-19 is worse for tech women - here's how we change that

Article by Emel Mohammadally, SVP, Lucid

It is well known that gender bias exists in many aspects of the world and when it comes to women’s careers, those biases are hugely magnified.

In the wake of this continuing global pandemic, it is fair to say that everyone has been affected - whether that be financially, socially or emotionally. While no one situation is ideal, women have been disproportionately affected –  from working in the highly impacted services sector, being more likely to lose their jobs versus men in the same position, and because women are still responsible for the majority of care-giving and domestic duties.

Our Government has still failed to place gender equality at the heart of its economic strategy in response to COVID-19. In fact, I believe its response to COVID-19 exposes the roots of an already-flawed system that makes it more challenging for women to progress their careers.

I work in both the Tech and Market Research industries, which have historically afforded very different opportunities for women. Market Research has always attracted women and has produced many successful female leaders.Tech, conversely, has traditionally been an industry lacking in diversity of any sort.  Although, attitudes are starting to change and calling out a lack of diversity in business has become more commonplace, and acceptable. But a change in attitude does not diminish the need for a change in practice or policy.

The evidence is clear - businesses that have a more balanced gender split in senior positions perform better. So, what can be done now to create more, not fewer, opportunities for women in key positions across the Tech industry? There’s been much talk over the years about the practical reasons businesses do better when there is equitable and diverse representation in senior leadership positions.

However, the reality is that it takes time to create real, deep societal changes across the board.

Businesses must be held more accountable

Firstly, businesses need to be conscious of hiring practices. Are there gender imbalances in certain roles or functions across the organisation? If yes, then we need to ask why and be very honest with ourselves. Businesses can and should publish earnings differences and, importantly, they must provide women with real opportunities to progress, irrespective of whether they take time off to have children.

In addition, we all have a role to play in challenging established (and parochial) thinking with regard to women, race, sexual orientation, and beyond. Fortunately, younger generations simply don't accept outdated norms and have no compunction challenging them. It’s been a long road, but I feel we’re starting to see the beginnings of real change.

Last, but certainly not least, businesses need to make much more of a point of nurturing new hires, especially more junior colleagues. Words of encouragement from a more experienced colleague can make the world of difference to those just starting their career. We need to create positive environments that support and encourage female colleagues even if you see them impacted by unconscious bias. Similarly, cultural biases which might impact the value placed on ideas from women colleagues with different ethnic backgrounds need to be immediately challenged.

We’re not bossy, we’re fearless leaders

The gender gap starts earlier than many of us think - girls’ self-esteem is known to suffer 3.5 times more than boys between primary and secondary school. Girls are called on in class less frequently than boys, but are interrupted more - so it’s no real surprise that girls are twice as likely than boys to feel that leadership roles will make them come across as ‘bossy’.

I have experienced many gender specific career challenges first hand - I’ve been accused of being “bossy” and “difficult” so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve dealt with casual sexism from managers who either expected me to be more like a man, or more like the feminine ideal, in order to get ahead. And I’ve struggled with understanding what the underlying reason was when I wasn’t promoted even though I only received positive feedback in appraisals.

In one particular role, battling with these kinds of attitudes made it impossible for me to perform at a high standard. On the surface and to outsiders, it seemed like I had the perfect job and perfect life trying to overcome the sexist nature and resolve the toxic relationship with my boss left me burned out and deeply unhappy. I made the decision to leave the role (which I had previously loved), and whilst it didn’t sit 100% right with me initially, I knew my worth and believed I had the ability to find a company with the same values as me. Empowering women with strength and confidence to do what is right is so important to ensuring both career success and longevity for women - and, put simply, to make sure they don’t stay in bad jobs, with bad managers.

Mentorship and advice are critical 

A major factor in my personal career success has been the relationships I’ve had with some incredible mentors at critical points of my career, whose time and advice was invaluable. I made an unofficial mentor of a colleague in my first job, who I admire deeply and who always made time for me, even after I moved jobs and company. She still works in the industry and I will never forget the contribution she made to my career.

My advice to women wishing to fulfil a successful career in any industry is to trust your instincts, build a solid professional network and seek advice from those you admire. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities and humanness - leadership is not about power. Similarly, don’t be afraid of failure - these experiences shape us and failure is an innate part of success. Lastly, learn to truly understand your strengths and hone those skills. You will need to adapt and change throughout your career, but self-awareness is crucial to progressing quickly.

Still, be patient - it may take a village to create real and lasting change but remember that you are that change! And, don’t try and be someone you’re not - it will never lead to true success and happiness. Good luck!

Emel MohammadallyAbout the author

Emel Mohammadally is Senior Vice President at Lucid, and is responsible for the Sales teams across the company. She was an early joiner to Lucid’s London team and has been instrumental in building and managing the commercial operations from the start. Emel has also been a key player in leading initiatives that create balance and support success at all levels within the company, ensuring employees are hired, recognised and rewarded equally.

Emel was one of the early joiners to Lucid’s London team, working to build and manage our commercial operations from Year 1. Three years after joining, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, responsible for both the Sales and Post-sales teams.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

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