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Event report

Diversity in tech: celebrating stories of inclusiveness

 PICTFOR hosted a reception in the House of Commons on Monday 19 November 2018. The Diversity in tech: celebrating stories of inclusivenessreception follows PICTFOR’s roundtable event in April, which brought together 50 influential women in tech to outline the challenges they faced working in the tech sector. Recent research from PwCshows that only 27% of female students said they’d consider a career in tech, and just 3% said it was their first choice, while 16% had never been encouraged to enter the industry.

Examiningbest practice examples of innovation happening now and looking ahead to where policy and the sector will go in the future, this event featured short speeches from a diverse group of organisations, parliamentarians and senior civil servants. Speaking at the reception was:

  • Vicky Ford MP, PICTFOR Co-Chair and Member of the Science and Technology Committee and Member of the Women and Equalities Committee
  • Carol Monaghan MP, PICTFOR Officer and Member of the Science and Technology Committee, and Shadow SNP Spokesperson for both Education and Armed Forces and Veterans
  • Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Founder and CEO, InclusIQ and Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland
  • Dr Rachel O’Connell, Founder and CEO, Trust Elevate
  • Mark Martin, Founder, UK Black Tech
  • Sarah Kaiser, EMEA Diversity Lead, Fujitsu
  • Melissa Wills, Co-Founder, Women Like Me
  • Lydia Ragoonanan, Director, LORCA
  • Roz Davies, Director of Social Inclusion, Good Things Foundation
  • Barry T. Whyte, Co-Founder of Series Q
  • Lara Pierce, CEO, Auris Tech Limited
  • Naomi Bottrill and Rezene Woldeyesus, Co-Founders of Love Language
  • Davinia Tomlinson, Founder & CEO of rainchq
  • Abigail D’Souza, Girlguiding Advocate
  • Anna Thompson, Deputy Director for Strategy, Communications and International, Government Equalities Office
  • Event Chair: Sarah Atkinson, Vice President, Communications, CA Technologies, Board Member and Vice Chair, Diversity & Skills Council, techUK

Vicky Ford MP, PICTFOR Co-Chair and member of the Science and Technology Committee and Member of the Women and Equalities Committee served as event host. She opened the proceedings by welcoming guests and speaking to the importance of continued efforts to increase levels of access for women in STEM subjects. Vicky Ford MP said this reception was a follow up to roundtable that PICTFOR held in April, which brought together 50 influential women in tech to outline the challenges they faced working in the tech sector. She went on to say that “today is the day that the tech sector can respond”. Vicky Ford MP asked the audience to look out for stories of inclusiveness that have worked and to share them with their networks. She then introduced the Event Chair Sarah AtkinsonVice President, Communications, CA Technologies and Board Member and Vice Chair, Diversity & Skills Council, techUK.

Sarah Atkinson said that she was excited to learn more about the diversity initiatives going on in the industry. She then introduced the first speaker, Carol Monaghan MP, PICTFOR Officer and Member of the Science and Technology Committee, and Shadow SNP Spokesperson for both Education and Armed Forces and Veterans.

Carol Monaghan MP began her speech by saying that she was a physician by trade and could give a personal account of diversity in the tech sector. She highlighted that her speech focussed on women in the tech sector, rather than diversity as a whole. Carol Monaghan MP argued that, in order to increase levels of access for women in technology, we need to address entrenched gender stereotypes. She finished her speech by setting a challenge to the audience, asking them to look into the practical steps that would ensure that women in their organisations succeed.

Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Founder and CEO, InclusIQ and Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland, opened her speech by saying that technological solutions are designed for the problems that we see. She explained that, therefore, women and diverse communities need to be engaged in tech. She went on to say that the IMF has shown that women will be disproportionately affected by automation and argued that this meant women had to be at the table when making decisions or providing solutions.

Dr Rachel O’Connell, Founder and CEO at Trust Elevate, opened her speech by introducing the work of Trust Elevate which she explained is a digital platform that can age-check and verify parental responsibility for a child. She said that as the tech expands, everyone being able to safely use the internet is important to building consumer trust. She also said that this enables businesses to comply with regulatory requirements. She explained that that Trust Elevate are working with the Home Office to keep children safe.

Mark Martin, Founder of UK Black Tech, opened his speech by saying that the purpose of the organisation is “to make the UK the most diverse tech sector in the world”. He said that UK Black Tech wanted “be the agent of change”. He went on to describe the programmes that UK Black Tech had organised. He explained that one of their actions was to design and release 50 free stock photos for the public to use in their articles, presentations and media work showing diverse people working in tech. He said that visibility is important. He said that the reason many diversity organisations close after a few years is a lack of funding. He closed his speech by calling for greater funding to support diversity in tech.

Sarah Kaiser, EMEA Diversity Lead at Fujitsu, opened her speech by saying that technology is “far too important to the way we live and communicate to not have diversity”. She said that if diverse groups are left out of the tech sector then the solutions that technology can create will not work for everyone. Next, she explained that Fujitsu had created the Ada Lovelacenetworking programme to encourage women to network with people in senior roles to boost their profile and credentials.

Melissa Wills, Co-Founder of Women Like Me, opened her speech with a reference to the “East London Divide”. She said that she uses this term to explain how many tech companies are based in East London yet are not employing the local population. She said that 38% of people that live in Tower Hamlets are unemployed and that 48% of young people living in East London are working in low paid jobs. She said that Women Like Me is a networking group for women who work in tech. She said that she started the group to bring women together to discuss gender and racial equality “stemming from the root to surface level issues”.

Lydia Ragoonanan, Director at LORCA, opened her speech by saying that tech is used to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, including cyber security. She said that only 11% of the cyber security workforce in the UK is made up of women. Next, she said that LORCA was actively working to change this by pledging that any new company they work for must be a signatory to the Tech Talent Charter – an initiative that seeks to address gender imbalance in the tech sector.

Roz Davies, Director of Social Inclusion for Good Things Foundation, said that Good Things Foundation has a majority female senior management team. She went on to explain that the organisation’s ambition is “a world where everybody benefits from digital”. She said that Good Things Foundations’ research has shown that individuals are £544 pounds a year worse off if they are not online. She closed her speech by saying that people without basic digital skills are more likely to be vulnerable.

Barry T. Whyte, Co-Founder of Series Q, opened his speech by explaining the mission of Series Q as a network to connect LGBT tech entrepreneurs. He said that Series Q aims to provide an employee network for people who work in start-ups. He argued that this was to provide visibility and connect LGBT people. He said that proof that greater visibility for LGBT working in the tech sector is needed is that 60% of people who are out during university go back into the closet when they start their first graduate jobs.

Lara Pierce, CEO at Auris Tech, opened her speech by explaining that Auris Tech have created a speech recognition model to help children with dyslexia learn to read. She said that their tech can understand every UK accent and this was important to them during development. Lara Pierce closed her speech by saying that differences should be celebrated as diverse people also bring diverse skills.

Rezene Woldeyesus, Co-founder of Love Language, addressed the audience through fellow Love Language Co-founder Naomi Bottril signing. Rezene said that it was of great importance to include everyone in the development of technology. He said that Love Language was working with app companies in the UK to introduce video remote interpreting services. He went on to say that sign language had not been explored yet in the global market. He said that since sign language is essentially the same in every country, signing is the only truly global language. He ended his speech by saying that Love Language would like to hear from innovators about how to use sign language to expand global communication.

Davinia Tomlinson, Founder and CEO of rainchq opened her speech by saying that the vision of rainchq was to “democratize access to financial services”. She said that rainchq is doing this by using video conferencing technology to reach women who have busy schedules or live in rural parts of the country with financial advice. She went on to argue that good finance is important if we want to redress gender imbalances in the business community.

Abigail D’Souza, Girlguiding Youth Advocate, opened her speech by saying that “girls don’t usually have opportunity to be heard in the decision making that affects them and so it is incredible to be a part of this panel and be able to speak at opportunities like this.” She explained that girls can take on board the stereotypes around gender and, as they get older, feel that certain jobs are not suited for them. She said that “in order to make tech a more accessible field to women we must first break the stereotypes shown in outdated careers advice.”

Anna Thompson, Deputy Director for Strategy, External Communications and International Work in the Government Equalities Office said that she was proud of the Government’s action on gender pay gap reporting. Shesaid that an analysis of media coverage in the first half of 2018 showed that stories about the gender pay gap reporting came second only to press coverage of the Royal Wedding. She went on to say that the scale of the problem of the gender pay gap is apparent from viewing the figures. She closed by saying that the country needs to “de-bias” employment including in the tech sector.

Lastly, the Event Chair Sarah Atkinson thanked all the speakers for their insights and invited attendees to stay for drinks and networking.

If you would like further information on this topic or about PICTFOR’s programme of events, please contact admin@pictfor.org.uk.

Please note: This document includes the minutes of the meeting. This is not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It has not been approved by either House or its committees. All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses with a common interest in particular issues. The views

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