During London Tech Week Mike Butcher, editor at Tech Crunch hosted a panel evening with Clare Gilmartin, CEO at Trainline, Amali de Alwis, CEO at Code First: Girls, Ana Avaliani, of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation to discuss the real reasons why there aren’t enough women in technology and what we can do about it.
The evening brought discussions based on the challenges that women are faced with in the industry, and what men can do to help. Onwurah expressed that men can support and nurture women: “They can be our allies and really help along the way.”
Gilmartin added: "The answer isn't just for the future to be solely women, we need to be co-created. A lot of things can benefit men and women, for example mentors can be both male and female and help both genders."
The panel also openly spoke about what we can do to tackle women’s under-representation in the industry.
Gilmartin expressed the key message here is that women aren’t a token. “If we can’t utilise everyone’s talent we won’t see success.” She added how it’s all about society not giving girls the opportunities they deserve.
Onwurah, who works in Government explained how Parliament is the most diverse place she has ever worked in. Previously working in a chartered engineering firm for most of her 20 year career there, she was the only female, the only person of colour, and the only northern person in the company. “I’m not saying companies will have to hire certain amounts of women. What we are saying is that they will be highly judged on not making full use of everyone’s skills.”
Every industry needs to be challenged, and every sector needs to take responsibility. The panel added we need the right resources in education.
de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls, an initiative focused on teaching girls and women coding skills, said the key to ensuring gender diversity in the tech industry is encouraging education after people leave school.
“We need to think about lifelong learning. People come from different backgrounds to Code First: Girls, it’s a life raft for people who feel they have missed the boat and want to get into digital roles.”
There is no free education offered to people over the age of 24 and that’s tragic for the people and for the country Onwurah expressed. “An investment in people is the best type of investment a country can make.”
Gilmartin expressed: “We all know that there is a big skills shortage that is getting worse by the day, and tech companies should play their part.”
Avaliani expressed that we are all part of a digital sphere, and we need to think about the end package. She explained how The Royal Academy of Engineering offers apprenticeships, and the academy also runs an enterprise hub which sees a lot of brilliant women come through the programme. It sees people with engineering backgrounds and people with creative backgrounds coming together to do wonderful things.
Avaliani added: “Diverse teams produce better products.”
Finally the panel agreed that within jobs we are all set targets and goals, but companies and the industry should have real targets in employing women, and additionally there should be more support and education for adults, because currently there are barriers at entry levels even for those who are determined.