BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt this June

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I keep hearing about a BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt from the women in IT community, so here are some details to share with you on how to get involved.

On Saturday 13 June (10:30am-3pm) BCSWomen are coordinating universities, organisations and BCS branches to code apps in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people learning to write Android smartphone applications at the same time.

The workshop is a 'family fun day' which will involve apps being built in mixed aged groups. It's suitable for anyone over the age of 10* and everyone under 18 will need a guardian.

Groups across the UK will take part in talks, activities and hands-on coding to build apps that can run and install on Android phones or tablets. Each group will need to bring a laptop and an android smartphone or tablet.

BCSWomen have highlighted MIT AppInventor, which is a free, web-based system for creating simple apps using drag-and-drop coding techniques.

BCSWomen have suggested the following ways in which you can get involved:

  • ·         Run your own branch event - all you need is a room with good Wi-Fi
  • ·         Lead an event - this involves 3 hours online training in advance
  • ·         Assist at an event
  • ·         Promote the event - through local publicity and your networks
  • ·         Come along to an event and bring other people
B
  • BCS will provide: 
  • ·         Event materials
  • ·         Online training
  • ·         Funding towards refreshments
  • ·         Assistance finding a presenter

If you are interested in getting involved you can contact Shamim.begum@bcs.org

Computer Weekly will be involved in some shape or form to help break the world record, so if you can help out with the BCSWomen campaign be sure to drop them a line!

*If you do think a child under 10 would benefit from the day, BCS has said it can contact the local event leader for you to check whether they can make an exception.

 

Time to get personal

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Inspiring women about IT is the responsibility of us all, says Emer Timmons, President, BT Global Services UK, finalist in the 'Leader of the Year - in a corporate organisation' category at the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology awards.

Thumbnail image for Emer Timmons.jpg

We all know there are not enough women in the IT industry, and an insufficient pipeline for the future. At 16 per cent, there are now slightly fewer female IT professionals in the UK than 10 years ago.

There is no upside to this situation. The shortage of women damages competitiveness, because British business can't find all the skilled people it needs. It affects the wider economy: increasing the numbers of women in the IT industry could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK[1]. And it hits women themselves: the lack of women in STEM contributes directly to the gender pay gap, which has widened to 13 per cent[2].

To its credit, the government recognises that the situation is serious and is working hard to encourage more young women into science and technology with a range of educational programmes. But there is something we can all do, indeed, should do. Every woman, every man working in the technology industry must talk to girls and young women about the amazing opportunities of a career in IT.

As a member of the Women's Business Council, I get to speak to lots of female school and university students. So what do I say? I tell them that there is no glass ceiling in this industry and many paths lead to the top. I tell them that the money is good - the average starting salary for engineering and technology graduates is 16 per cent higher than for graduates overall. I point out that big technology companies such as BT practice what they preach with flexible working policies that allow women to combine a career with raising a family.

But above all, I tell them how much I enjoy coming to work. How profoundly satisfying my job is. I tell them that since I graduated with a degree in maths and economics, I've worked in sales, in marketing, in operations, in distribution and today have responsibility for millions of pounds of business. That I have a terrific team which helps top companies do bold and exciting work that makes the world a better place; how we helped BT make the most of its London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games sponsorship programme. I make it clear that my job is as much (if not more) about connecting with other people and solving problems as it is about technology. I want them to know that I love my job passionately - and they would love it too.

You don't have to be female to tell young women that they can have amazing careers in IT. All of us in IT, and especially those in leadership positions, must take responsibility for opening young female minds to the extraordinary possibilities of a future in technology. Government is doing a great deal; schools and higher education are doing all they can. But nothing beats the power of personal testimony.



[1] www.nominet.org.uk/news/press-releases/more-women-it-could-boost-uk-economy-%C2%A326-billion-year

[2] www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f55664b2-6a97-11e4-bfb4-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3TKObAI2h

Beijing 20+: How important is ICT for tackling gender inequity?

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This is a guest blog by Liesbeth Van den Bossche, gender equality activist and marketing and donations officer at Computer Aid International

The 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action brings opportunities to the international community to renew their commitment to the gender cause and mobilise the public opinion. But whilst it is great for activists and participants to reiterate their intentions, it is crucial to take in consideration the changes that have happened in the world to enable greater implementing of women's rights worldwide. I believe that only education can enable women to be aware of their rights and in 2015 new technologies are crucial to give female access to education and empowering tools.

As it is stated in the World Economic Forum 2014 Global Information Technology Report little progress has been made in bridging the digital divide between technology savvy nations and others in the past few years and stalling progress risks missing out on the positive impact of ICT within disadvantaged communities. For most developing countries a more solid ICT infrastructure must be a priority to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide.

For women in developing countries this means that 23% of them are less likely than men to be online and build their own knowledge and skills. The African Protocol of Women's Human Rights stipulates in Article 12 the Right to Education and Training: 'States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to: promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology'. Taking this in consideration, ICT4D organisations (ICT for development) are trying to implement equality in the usage of computers and connectivity to give women the ability to learn new skills, become independent and improve their lives.

Researchers at University of Zimbabwe Buhle Mbambo-Thata, Elizabeth Mlambo and Precious Mwatsiya, who partnered up with Computer Aid, demonstrated that women in Zimbabwe are still suffering from discrimination and unequal access to ICT. Due to traditional gender structure, it seemed to the men of the university that women were not worthy of using the PCs lab.

Despite an outwardly equal access to resources and student forums at university, female students struggled to gain access to facilities on an equal footing with male. Moreover, the young women did not feel that they could visit computer labs late at night due to cultural expectations and related stigma, restricting their access to ICT even more.

This resulted to Computer Aid and the University of Zimbabwe to pioneer the country's first IT lab accessible to female students only and counteract the gender inequity seen in facilities and ICT use so far. The response from female Zimbabwean students after one year of use has been overwhelmingly positive which is why the capacity of the lab will increase from 50 to 150 computers. Users report an increase in confidence when approaching ICTs for the first time. Female students at the University of Zimbabwe can now use ICT for research and can equip themselves with 21st century skills that will put them on a more equal footing with male peers when pursuing careers. This means that more guidance and measures are needed to support women and eradicate gender issues. Although technology is vital for healthy growth and development and has a huge impact on resource-poor communities it is also a vital tool for women to empower themselves especially in developing countries. Control of resources the main goal for women to reach independence, improve their lives and have their rights respected. With ICT literacy women in developing countries have higher chances to access to employment or even set up their own online businesses, generate income for themselves and their family and contribute to a fast growth of their countries economy.


As much as technology is key for development and more women have access to it, women are still left behind. We have to give women the ability to be connected in a fast pacing world where technology has become an essential element for employment and education. ICT4D organisations will have all eyes on the Beijing+20 59th Commission on the Status of Women in the coming week hoping that gender equality issues in ICT will be highlighted and actions will be taken to encourage gender related initiatives in the new technology field.

The gender diversity divide - "I don't see what the problem is" say the men

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This is a guest blog by Lee Chant, director at Hays IT.

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'make it happen', calling on effective action for advancing and recognising women worldwide. However, progress is challenged by disagreement on the extent of gender inequality in pay and career opportunities, particularly in the UK.

We recently surveyed almost 6,000 men and women globally to ask their views on gender in the workplace, and found that consistently across the world, men are far more likely than women to believe that pay equality exists for both genders in the workplace.

Globally, 18% of men compared to 45% of women think that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner. In the UK the gender divide is even wider, with 17% of men compared to 57% of women thinking that male and females are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Given that the IT workforce is 80% male, these figures make for startling reading. To increase the female workforce above 20% will require a significant shift in perception of the majority.

The survey also found that almost one in two women (48%) compared to one in five men (21%) say that the same career opportunities are not open to equally capable colleagues of both genders. In the UK, the figure was again a slightly greater proportion than the global average with figures of 56% of women and 20% of men.

When it comes to taking action on this issue, almost one in two (44%) of the survey respondents say that more flexible working practices would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity in their workplace. Our latest survey of IT employers found that while 73% of IT workers would like flexi-time, only 50% of employers allow this and just 36% encourage employees to take up these options, so IT employers have some way to go to provide these options.

Our respondents also called for changes to workplace culture through education across the business (44% globally, 49% for the UK), changes to organisational policy (32%), changes to government policy (27%) and better board backing for diversity issues (26%).

On average 32% of people said highlighting female role models would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity. Initiatives such as CoderDojo, which we are proud to support at Hays, offer young women to chance to learn from successful mentors in IT, and show how easy it can be to inspire young people if they hear from the right role model.

Just nine per cent of respondents said implementing quotas would have a big impact, showing the vast majority believe that cultural change and practical measures, rather than formal quotas, are the answer.

Many organisations now have specific programmes in place to address diversity issues, but it is clear we still have lots of ground to make up to narrow the gender equality gap. If the IT industry is to 'make it happen', discussion and agreement on the extent of the issue is a necessary first step.

www.hays.co.uk/leading-women

How can we attract more females to the IT Industry? Inspire them!

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This is a guest blog by Jenny Taylor, UK foundation manager, IBM UK Ltd and is a finalist in the 'Inspiration of the Year' category at the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology awards.

For many years now, we've all been acutely aware of the small percentage of females being attracted to and working in our industry. Jenny Taylor.jpg

As leader of IBM's graduate, student and apprenticeship programmes, the gender imbalance is a high priority for me. The business case for diversity in the workplace is very clear yet despite multiple initiatives across our sector, the percentage of young women either choosing to study STEM related subjects or being attracted to technically orientated careers remains low. 

At IBM we run many different initiatives and focus particularly on engaging and inspiring younger girls through our Girls' Schools' Outreach programme. This is a long term strategy which is starting to bear fruit in applications to our School Leaver and Apprenticeship schemes. 

This year we focused our attention on our immediate graduate recruitment prospects and concentrated on the female students studying the UK Government and tech industry backed IT for Management and Business degree (ITMB). 33% of ITMB students are female (more than double the number of females studying Computer Science). 

So focus decided, we invited fifty female ITMB students from around the UK over to our South Bank office to inspire them and share what we know about establishing a career in the tech industry.

The day was a huge success, bursting with interactive sessions, inspirational people and female role models to whom the students could relate. 

IBM Master Inventor and Distinguished Engineer, Andy Stanford-Clark wowed the students with his story of setting up his own house to develop smarter metering and energy saving devices. 

Interactive sessions challenged the students to consider how customer experiences can be improved by creating innovative new ways for consumers to pay for goods. 

ITMB alumni and IBM's own MCA Young Management Consultant of the Year, Sarah Hughes, inspired the students with how Millennials can immediately add value in the tech workplace. 

But for me, the overall highlight was the amazing buzz created throughout the day - the atmosphere was electric. This buzz has translated into amazing results. The percentage of students who applied for IBM roles as a result of this day was over double that of any other event we had held in the past year. Our team were blown away by these figures - we had seen this event as the start of an investment in these students - but what a result!

So, the answer to our problem is actually a simple one. Inform and inspire, yes, BUT to turn that lightbulb on, deliver these messages by people with whom the students can relate and aspire to match. Don't take my word for it - read it yourself:


Dear (Foundation Professional Development Manager)

I am messaging you to let you know I have just been offered the Business Intern position for the 2015 Extreme Blue program! 

I am extremely happy and can't wait to join IBM this June. Thank you for all your support - contacting the recruitment team, but mostly for the conversation during the ITMB event in Southbank offices. I think talking to you was what made me really believe IBM may be a place for me and it is worth trying my best :)
ITMB Female Student Year 2 







Technology - an industry of rapid change?

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At an O2 event this week, I was looking forward to learning about how the telecoms company aimed to help its public sector partners enter a brave new digital world.

The chair had already spoken about how one of O2's biggest challenges was how to provide the technology its partners needed whilst still staying relevant to the fast changing world of technology.

He highlighted the importance of O2's work with the AA - the telecoms firm provides all mobile services for AA employees, including those who are in the field.

Then he said: "If you're alone, female, you're down in a dark lane, you've broken down, and you want help, the AA are there to help you."

I know it doesn't seem like much, and most people in the room probably didn't pick up on it, but it grated on me. And it should have grated on all of the men too.

If there's anything Emma Watson's speech at the UN highlighted it's that men are not benefiting from equal rights either - it's ok for a man not to know how to change a tyre!

In a room full of people discussing what changes need to be made in order to progress in their organisation, I expected a little more consideration.

I thought times were moving on, perhaps not as fast as the tech world, but at least a little bit. 

How will women feature in the UK's digital future?

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This is a guest blog from Cath Goulding, head of information security at Nominet, the company responsible for the .uk internet infrastructure. Here, she discusses the recent report from the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee and the importance of addressing the skills gap and encouraging more women into IT.

The Make or break: The UK's digital future report from the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee sets out a challenge to the incoming government: to secure the UK's position as a digital leader.  In 2011, the digital sector was worth an estimated £105 billion in gross value added to the UK economy. In 2013, a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that the size of the digital economy was almost double official estimates. The pace, scale and breadth of technological change could mean huge opportunity - but there's also a huge risk of missing out if we don't have the strategies, infrastructure and skills to support this. We are - the report notes - at a tipping point.

One of the key challenges is ensuring enough people have the right skills to drive this digital transformation. There is a shortage of medium and high-level digital skills in the UK, and the need will only grow, with the digital workforce expected to increase by 39% by 2030.

The lack of women in digital careers exacerbates this skills shortage. Women make up less that 30% of the IT workforce, and this is seen as "drastically holding back the UK from fulfilling its economic potential".  Nominet's own report estimated the net benefit of encouraging more women into IT at £2.6 billion a year.

To do this, we need to address the social and cultural attitudes that put women off IT-related subjects at a very young age. It's acceptable -almost cool - for schoolgirls to say, "Oh, I'm rubbish at maths." Yet the same thing would hardly ever be said about reading, for example. I didn't come to IT through an initial interest in computers, but I was always interested in problem solving. I did a maths degree, and know other women working in IT who followed the same route. As the report notes, there is "a very strong talent pipeline imperative", and if we "can 'crack the issue' of getting more girls into those types of career, there could be huge business benefits."

We also need to emphasise the breadth and variety of IT-related jobs. IT skills can be a secret weapon for women in getting into their desired field -  whether it's medicine, design, law, game development, education, marketing, or anything else. When Nominet visited a local girls' school as part of our Girls in IT campaign, the students listed tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook as the places they'd most like to work. Yet they also said they didn't see IT as an interesting subject or career choice. Research we conducted showed that only 13% of girls report being 'inspired' to consider a career in IT, and 40% believe it would be 'male dominated'.  The industry's reputation among young women suffers from mixed perceptions and a lack of role models.

Fortunately, the industry is waking up to these issues. Last month, I was honoured to be named Security Champion of the Year at the inaugural Women in IT Awards. The award was presented by Betty Webb - a Bletchley Park codebreaker. When you think of the work of Bletchley Park, you might come up with names such as Alan Turing, Albert 'Dilly' Knox and Tommy Flowers. However, the majority of staff working there during the war were women. Their roles were crucial to breaking the German Enigma codes and building the first programmable electronic computer, 'Colossus'. 

Despite what the current stats might suggest, women have a proud history in this field. It's critical that government, educators, and the tech industry ourselves work together to ensure a proud future.

Day 6 of Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 6

Today we were welcomed by the "Women In Tech" Group at NetApp, the data storage and management company that for 12 years has been in the top 100 Best Places to Work. With 12,000 employees, 150 offices and 7 data centres this giant of the Tech companies boasts customers in healthcare, entertainment and even CERN.

So we were privileged to be greeted by its CIO and Vice President, Cynthia Stoddard. Voted one of the top 100 most social CIO's on Twitter in 2014 she was well placed to explain to our girls why the company has such an enviable reputation.

blog 6.jpg




At NetApp the personnel leave their titles at the door and certainly there was a sense of equality amongst the VP and the 5 women from engineering, advanced technology, pre sales system engineering and performance engineering. New employees are welcomed into a family and it has to very much be a two way fit.

These very individual women shared their top tips for women with a passion for technology;

embrace your passion; work hard, it's more important than IQ; continue with Math, it's logical thinking that will serve you well; learn from others; leverage your passion by activities such as internships.

They then identified the key qualities needed for success; curiosity and a sense of adventure; flexibility for career growth; being relentless; tenacity; confidence, having and displaying positive energy.

The girls had a tour of the facility and spoke one to one with the women as well as participating in an engaging Q & A session. Then Dona Munsch,Vice President of Steelstore, which is part of NetApp gave the girls her own direct and honest perspective. According to Donna the advantage of High tech is that it is flexible, there are fewer rules and you are free to move around from one employer to another because you are so valuable. She helped the girls to understand that you needed skills in leadership and followership; and to know when each is needed. You must be able to have crucial conversations; to build your network and become a communication champ.

Finally the girls were told that as women they should enjoy being underestimated. They should be prepared to jump in and must remember that it is "never that bad". On working in a male environment they should not accept anything that makes them uncomfortable but they should  "embrace your inner dude". This means getting involved in traditional "guy" things so they could always converse with male colleagues.

This is the final blog post because we now set off to LA for Warner Brothers and a visit to CalTech but I will leave you with the words of one of my students, Carina :

-    "Honestly, these talks where the most inspirational talks that I have ever heard in my life! They have opened my views on which career path I really want to pursue, especially because all of the women giving talks seem so passionate towards it and also because there is a big demand for women engineers."

The G Factor event: Does gender have a language?

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FDM Group are holding a women in IT to offer tech businesses some practical advice on how to attract more women to their teams.

The event called The G Factor event: Does gender have a language? Will take place at FDM's London Bridge offices on 12 March from 9:30am-11:30am.

The event will include keynotes from India Gary-Martin, former COO Technology & Operations at JP Morgan and a workshop focusing on the language used in corporate communications led by Jane Cunningham, Founder of PrettyLittleHead (a research consultancy specialising in gender issues and opportunities for business) and Author of The Daring Book for Boys in Business.

India and Jane have spoken at Computer Weekly's Most Influential Women in IT event before, both of which made engaging presenters offering practical advice and experitse.

Computer Weekly will be attending for an opportunity to network with senior executives and to find out how businesses can increase diversity in their workforce.

If you wish to attend, you can RSVP by emailing events@fdmgroup.com by Friday 20 February.

Hope to see you there!

Day 5 of Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 5

And so to Google for Day 5.

We arrive at their new campus for a talk from women Googlers about their work and career paths. A diverse group with equally diverse experiences. There was a site reliability engineer, someone responsible for technical writing and one software engineer who was working on how to make Google more accessible to the blind but they all had opportunities to rotate jobs and try out new areas. It was clear that they found this very rewarding and it contributed to the collaborative nature of the work at Google, with multidisciplinary teams changing and reforming for new challenges.

One Googler said she "liked how she got to use her brain," and enjoyed crafting and making things.The girls learned about the interview process, which didn't seem as strenuous as it is often portrayed. Their advice was to keep talking and trying to solve the technical problem you are presented with. A bit like showing your working out.

We then heard from the irrepressible Mike Rubin, a software engineer with responsibility for security. His talk took in a broad sweep from specific security issues to general careers advice and grappled with many ethical problems along the way. Perhaps the best advice was, "No one care as much about your career as you do."

Finally we heard from the Google Doodlers. Two women who are responsible for the amusing and often thought provoking doodles above the search box. One was an artist and the other a software engineer and they explained, with Doodle examples, the process they went through to choose, design and build the Google Doodle.

Another great example of problem solving and collaboration. They can take from 6- 12 months and grow from 110 lines of code to 3000 lines. Of particular interest was the importance to prepare a proof of concept before embarking on a new Doodle. Such an approach is clearly applicable in many projects but is rarely followed or indeed taught to students. I think we will be attempting to change this back at Townley. Some comments from our students; "It was amazing to talk to the people whose doodles I have used so much and to understand the surprisingly long process behind them." -  Anna.

"The girls were so cool and just loved what they were doing...They also made jokes about the bad things about their team but I loved that...It made them real." - Shaunte

Top tips from the Googlers; make friends since they know what you don't; learn new skills to pay the bills; put the user first; and finally, be brave.

There was then time for a fantastic Google lunch and a visit to the Google store for souvenirs.

This visit has raised many questions for the girls so far.

 "What makes these places so special?"

 What are the required skills and qualities for being successful in the Tech Companies?"

And of real relevance for the Townley girls, "what are the opportunities and challenges for women?"

Tomorrow we visit NetApp, where perhaps we can begin to consider such questions. 

Girls pic Grammar school.jpg








Day 4 of Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 4 - Check-in at Facebook

We have arrived at Facebook. It's an unassuming building from outside, hiding a Disney themed village within, which we are told was designed by one of the board members who designed the Disney Village itself.

Townley blog - Facebook.jpg

After careful security checks we were taken inside and met a series of female engineers and managers - software, servers and product. They each spoke about their background and career, which was diverse - appropriate, since it is the Facebook Diversity team that organised this. They had all faced prejudice as women in both university and the industry and had come to recognise how as women they often limited themselves through lack of confidence.

Their words of advice really resonated with the girls: find a support system of others like you; get used to fixing and building things; take risks since if you don't fail you're not trying hard enough. You are smart so get heard, don't wait for someone else to speak.

Around the site in simple A4 posters were statements that echoed their feelings: "At Facebook it is never someone else's problem"; "What would you do if you weren't afraid of failing?"

After giving a great deal of their time, answering questions and even sharing contact details, they summed up. The next step for the girls should be "to intentionally be open" and "to commit to stretch themselves."

Facebook values initiative, so "do something in your own time", take part in hackathons  and "fake it 'til you make it". All great advice for girls grappling with their futures. As one student said, "Facebook changes how you look at life".

I think that counts as a definite LIKE from Townley girls!

My thanks to Anna, one of our young "boffins" for her editorial input on today's blog.


Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley Day 3

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 3 - Visiting Stanford University and Intel

Today we had a chance to hear from the nanotechnology team at Stanford University and learn about its uses such as carbon-fibre baseball bats and robot geckos. The girls got to go through the gowning process for entering the clean room where a great deal of research takes place and two of the older girls got to go in themselves while we watched from the web cameras.

Townley blog - clean rooms.jpg

We then had a tour of the campus, meeting grad students before departing for Intel.

Here they took part in a workshop using Lego bricks. The purpose was teach them how to write instructions for building something that can be easily understood. The tour of the museum explained the process for making processors using silicon and the relevance of Moore's law for technological innovation.

Townley blog - Intel.jpg



Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley Day 2

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few.

Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 2

On Sunday we had an informative morning at the Computer History Museum - which now exhibits the Google self-driving car alongside the Babbage Engine - was followed by a tour of San Francisco. The clouds broke to reveal the Golden Gate Bridge and a beautiful rainbow across the bay.

SF rainbow.jpg

On Monday we travelled to the best known high school in the valley, Palo Alto. The children of the tech entrepreneurs come here so technology is central. Today they hosted a TED-X event and our girls took part with their US counterparts. They also saw how Aikido can be used to understand computing principles with the help of the wrestling gym!

US computing students have a great deal more flexibility over their curriculum than we do in the UK and the girls were suitably impressed with this. Tenth grade students, the equivalent of our Year 11, were following courses such as Advanced Placement and Capstone, which is an individual project course using Java. One such was a draughts game which the student described to some of our girls.

From there to The Tech Museum - a highly innovative educational museum with plenty of interactive STEM activities from DNA to space travel.

Tonight they must create their group videos based on their experiences at The Tech Museum and update their individual blogs before lights out. It's that individual work ethic which defines the people they meet here and makes these students worthy of such an opportunity.

Tomorrow, we go to Stanford and Intel...

Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley Day 1

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few.

Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 1

California trip Townley grammer.JPG

-      Thirty four teenage girls and four, slightly on edge, teachers boarded a Virgin Atlantic Flight to San Francisco on the first stage of our groundbreaking computing trip. This is the fourth year of the Townley Computing trip to California in which we visit the tech companies of Silicon Valley, the High Schools and their computing departments and find time for a few cultural experiences.

-      The girls, all Computing and IT students, went through a rigorous digital application process to be selected from the 80 hopefuls who were eager to go. These "girl geeks" will get an opportunity not open to any other UK student or indeed most adults. They will enter Google HQ and Facebook, talk to computer engineers and executives within the industry and take part in workshops run by the people at the heart of this industry. It will provide a perspective that we hope will inspire the next generation of female computing engineers and imagineers. Indeed accompanying them are two of our A level students who intend to do just that.

-      So where do we begin? Well the Computer History Museum in Mountain View seems a good start. Under one roof it contains the entire story from Babbage to the present day and its volunteers include the early pioneers of the valley. Then we are off to San Francisco for a city tour to get an initial feel for this fascinating US city on the doorstep of the technology revolution.

-      But first, to get 34 teenage girls up and ready!  

More blog posts to follow detailing what the girls of Townley Grammar school are learning this week during their trip to Silicon Valley.



Calling for a tech startup overhaul

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This is a guest blog by Trilby Rajna, Editor at Approved Index .    

Recent research from Approved Index shows female representation on tech start-up boards is appallingly low. What's worse is it seems to be continuing in a downward trajectory hitting a dismal 8% representation in 2014. While tech lags behind, FTSE companies have managed to grow the percentage of women on the board by leaps and bounds, revealing a rather bleak picture for the future of gender equality within tech.8D7A6844.jpg

I think what is most infuriating about these findings is we're not just talking about technical roles,  women are absent  from roles in all departments within tech companies. With the likes of Facebook and other 'big dog' tech companies openly releasing their diversity metrics, we've been privy to just how imbalanced the industry is. Unfortunately, most companies reported a 70:30 male to female ratio, far below other industries. Even with this subpar representation, it seems as we look further up the corporate ladder it only gets worse.

The government and business community are placing increased importance on greater diversity at board level, yet tech continues to fall short. This is especially frustrating to see when talking about a fast growing start-up environment, as most people would expect these types of companies to be more progressive and balanced. However; it looks like tech start-ups are flying under the radar, unrecognised as a breeding ground for complacent uniformity and male dominated stereotypes.

As a female working in a tech company I'm well versed in all the reasons we lack gender diversity in the industry. I can hold my own in a discussion on the subject and when people say 'girls just aren't that interested' I'm ready to knock back with figures on the decline of female techies since the 90s or how women are twice as likely to leave the industry than men due to a lack of role models and subtle (or non-subtle) sexism. It seems everywhere I look there are new disheartening media stories regarding women in tech. From Nadella's at best thoughtless comments on women relying on karma for a pay rise to the all-out chilling case of #gamergate, or the just plain depressing facts surrounding the undeniable gender pay gap. In a world where we have come so far in so many fields, it feels like recent events have truly set us back on the path to equality within tech.

I can tell you personally how important it has been for me to be surrounded by inspirational supportive female role models. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to try and forge a path to equality alone. I think Approved Index, which is part of the UK's fastest growing tech company, owes a great deal of its success to its strong female presence on the board. We are able to adapt and continue to grow because we have a team which feels encouraged and motivated, and opportunity is presented on merit rather than gender.

Driving gender equality within tech is something many battle on a daily basis and have been doing so for some time. Of course change will not manifest overnight, but from what we are seeing things are only getting worse. I truly believe that a collaborative effort from the industry, where start-ups lead by implementing diversity from the bottom up will come with huge gains for the industry. We cannot become complacent and accept things as they are or we face a future with missed opportunities and stunted growth.






Becoming a public company board member: A roadmap for the emerging director

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This is a guest blog from Tracy Houston president of Board Resources Services, LLC

We are living in unprecedented times of uncertainty and challenge. Never has it been more critical for directors and officers to be capable of leading in the boardroom. In light of increased regulatory changes and reduced public confidence, the question of who sits on a board and why they were selected is critically important. Board members must embrace new perspectives and bold strategies. Whether the issue is financial resilience, corporate strategy, sustainability and risk, executive compensation, or regulatory compliance, are you a candidate that can assist a company?

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Selection for a seat on a public company board is a long process. Recruiters say that it takes on average 12 to 24 months to identify and gain a first public company board seat. Getting there requires an organised plan - the focus of the Board Guru™ handbook - Becoming a Public Company Director. On the flip side of the extended time to become a public company director, is the fact that most US board members serve, on average, 8 to 10 years. This means the investment of time and resources that go into gaining a board seat can potentially have a long payoff for your career - once the first board seat is obtained.

Key Point: Patience

When thinking about your career trajectory here are a few steps to help guide you toward your goal of becoming a public company director:

Step One: Create leadership savvy

First and foremost, you must be purposeful about leadership presence in your professional self-concept. Seek out mentors, hire a coach, and complete personality assessments to refine your understanding of both leadership and "followership." You must see yourself and present yourself as a critical player before leadership roles develop. Your vision of yourself and your role in the organisation set the stage for advancement to the boardroom.

Key Point: Increase self-awareness as a focal point for sustainable leadership.

Step Two: Find leadership roles that will develop your career for board service

In your current position, look for and develop opportunities to advance your career. Take on the lead role in major projects to develop your team-building skills. Seek out engagements to make public presentations and professional writing projects that position you as "the" expert in your field. Gain board experience by sitting on a non-profit board. This experience provides exposure to board dynamics as well as potential leadership roles on committees. Keep in mind a financial commitment is often a part of serving on a non-profit board. You may also consider serving on an advisory board to gain experience in leadership and guidance. Both non-profit and advisory boards offer ways to meet and work with other leaders. You become a "known quantity" when working side-by-side with other board members. To ensure future advancement to a public company board, the boards you sit on need to be populated with high-profile executives. Then, in the future, you can share your board aspirations and ask them for introductions or endorsements. To avoid languishing in this role as a non-profit board member, provide a letter stating the length of time you will commit to the organisation. Generally, a term of around three years will allow for the onboarding learning curve and any leadership position you may acquire.

Key Point: To maximise your potential takes purposeful boundary spanning and key leadership traits.

Step Three: Create a board-level value proposition

A board-level value proposition is four to six sentences or bullet points that summarise your highest level experience into a succinct statement for board service. To create your value proposition, think about the following:

•Professional background;

•Highest level experience; and

•Industry niche.

Follow the development of your value proposition with a comprehensive networking plan that includes learning about boards and how directors bring value to their role; list key individuals such as sitting directors, C-suite executives and corporate governance organisations to join for network development. Consider beginning the process by conducting key conversation with directors, C-suite executives, executive search firms, venture capitalist, attorneys and others to explore what board service might mean for you, what leadership competencies you might bring to the boardroom and what types of boards might find those competencies attractive. These conversations may lead to opportunities but the goal of the meeting is to gain as much information as possible about the world of boards.

From these interviews you should have some concrete direction on the type of boards that would be the best fit for you. This could include industry, company size (micro, small, medium and larger cap) and any adjacent markets. The insights you gained from the interviews can also provide the information you will want to include in a board resume and bio.

You can now begin a list of potential target companies to gain a board seat. Review and prioritise the list by looking at the current board of directors and their skills base. If you have a solid understanding of the company's future challenges, you can formulate how you will add value to the board in the gaps existing in the current board.

Key Point: This is a significant career stepping stone - be vigilant.


Tracy E. Houston, M.A. is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a refined specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams, and the boardroom. With a focus on leadership, strategy, and risk management, she consults primarily with directors, presidents, and senior officers to provide input on high level, sensitive, and complex issues. Sometimes called the Chief Potential Officer, Tracy has a background that includes sitting on a number of boards, board consulting, and coaching for potential. She develops unique insights into the vital role of human interaction and the inevitable fusion between barriers to growth and success. Extensively published, Tracy has written hundreds of blogs that are featured on numerous award-winning websites and has a monthly board column hosted by ColoradoBiz Magazine. She is the creator of the Board Guru™ eBooks - a corporate governance leadership series.

Her company, Board Resource Services, has a website at www.eboardmember.com and www.eboardguru.com. Follow Tracy on Twitter @BoardGuru. Headquartered in the Denver, Colorado area, Tracy is an avid hiker.

Emily Brook CEO of Blaze wins everywoman Iris Award for cyclists left turn solution

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The founder and CEO of Blaze, Emily Brooke, has been crowned winner of the everywoman Iris Award 2014.

Now in its 12th year, the NatWest everywoman Awards, features the Iris Award category - sponsored by IBM - which aims to shine a light on a female who runs a business that sees technology in an innovative and disruptive way.

Brooke decided to tackle the dangers of left turning vehicles for cyclists, by creating Laserlight. The detachable front light (required by law) projects a laser beam image of a bike on the road ahead, alerting vehicles and pedestrians to the presence of a cyclist and increasing the cyclist's road footprint.

She worked for six months researching the problems, collaborating with a driving psychologist, a major bus company, dozens of cyclists and using statistics on accidents and fatalities.

After running a Kickstarter project she managed to raise £55,000 to put her product design into production. She launched the product in November 2013 and has since sold out every pre-order batch, shipping the product to 45 countries. Laserlight was the first in a range of products for urban cyclists designed by Blaze.

Brooke gave up studying Physics at Oxford University, to take Product Design in Brighton instead. She went on to attend the Design school in Milan.

She got her inspiration for the idea during a final year project, which was a 1,000 mile charity bike ride (raising £60k in the process).

Maxine Benson, everywoman co-founder, said: "It takes a bold and gutsy individual to start a business and today's winners are all women with vision and determination, qualities that have contributed to their success.  Some have businesses that are household names; others will achieve that recognition in the future. 

"All are joined by a common goal to succeed and to inspire.  Today we celebrate their achievements and acknowledge the challenges overcome and sacrifices made on the path to their success.  They not only fly the flag for British business, but are role models for future generations of entrepreneurs."

Anne McPherson, managing director of enterprise at NatWest said: "NatWest are delighted to have supported the everywoman awards for the 12th year running, and are pleased to see several of our customers amongst this year's winners.

"These awards have created some amazing role models who inspire other women to take their first steps in realising their business ideas, and we would like to congratulate all of the outstanding entrepreneurs who have been recognised."

The combined annual turnover of the business owned by the women who attended the everywoman Awards was estimated to exceed £3 billion.

20% discount code for everywoman Forum 2015

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Computer Weekly and WITsend readers are being treated to a 20% discount for the everywoman Forum 2015.

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The 'Advancing women in Technology' forum is set to bring together 600 women to enable them to find new roles and mentors and to hear advice to help shape their own career paths.

Taking place on Tuesday 17 March 2015 at the London Hilton Park Lane, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in interactive masterclasses, motivational pick-me-ups, hear from a panel to rouse discussion, and listen to speeches from experts and networking.

The forum takes place the same day as the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards, which is being held in the evening at the same venue.

The forum is open to all women in technology ranging from women in middle-management, junior roles or running a business of their own.

You can claim your Computer Weekly discount up until 11 January 2015.


20% discount code for Computer Weekly readers

Code: CW20

For group packages, get in touch with joyce@everywoman.com.

Are IT boardrooms making way for super-heroines?

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This is a guest blog by Marie Hattar, chief marketing officer of IT security company Check Point who looks at the opportunities in the IT security sector to address gender balance at board level.


Female superheroes are just as effective at saving lives and fighting evil as their male counterparts.  No one has ever questioned the abilities of the likes of Wonder Woman and everyone knows that she can be relied on to save the day.  However, when someone says 'superhero', people are likely to think of Batman or Superman before they think of Wonder Woman.  Perhaps it's because men have for centuries been regarded as the protector and provider, while women have traditionally fulfilled more nurturing roles.

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I like to think of a career in IT security as one of fighting the good fight.  Our job is to rid the Internet streets of cyber criminals and safeguard people. We're real-life superheroes that save our customers from evildoers.

After more than 20 years in the IT industry, I have learnt that it's less about who can do a better job and more about how different traits in men and women complement each other to drive business success. Women tend to lead differently than men and look at strategy in a new light. We are more modest and focus on achieving goals while building a community, which makes us better team builders, while men are generally more competitive and tend to be better at building personal networks. As long as suppression is avoided, these traits complement each other and have a positive effect on business growth and operational excellence.

When these different management styles come together, I believe that business magic happens. The workforce and customer base is becoming more diverse. Gender diversity ensures that multiple perspectives are continuously considered, creating a good balance. As my colleague, channel manager Tarryn Maitland, said to me: "Women have always been strong leaders, they were just silent leaders behind successful men. As time passed, women found their voices and built courage to compete for positions normally reserved for men."

The results of this movement are becoming clear.  A study by Catalyst, a non-profit that tracks women's progress in the workplace, found that companies with more women board directors experience higher financial performance.  However, in the UK, just 18% of computer science degrees go to women, meaning they have to compete against five males to get a position.

I'm not saying that women should be recruited to boards just for the sake of it; it's more about attracting excellent people to the board than about gender parity. The path to the boardroom should be paved equally, where businesses encourage team work, dialogue and an open culture. Organisations need to make room for women leadership and leverage that talent when it's available.

It all comes down to paying attention. Companies that care have more engaged employees. More engaged employees are more productive, which leads to better corporate performance. To access any pipeline of talent, you need to figure out how to relate to that demographic. Too much reliance on anything is dangerous for a company's long-term viability. It is the responsibility of the board to take a step back from day-to-day operations and point out to management where imbalances exist. Gender diversity is one of those potential imbalances.

The responsibility doesn't only lie with employers though. Education and changing attitudes is vital to getting more women into the technology sector. Kids get excited when they can touch and experience things and when they can relate something they're learning to real life. Too often, girls are mere users of technology. We need to change that and turn them into builders. Many girls have the attitude that IT is for nerdy boys and aren't aware of the huge range of career opportunities available in the industry. Send them on a basic programming class or let them build a simple robotic car... It just might be the catalyst they need to get hooked.

Women will come up against difficulties when they're rising up the ranks or when they're trying to get noticed based on their talent and capabilities rather than their networking skills. But what is most important, is for them to take up the challenge and focus on the opportunities to make a real impact on the world. If you're into making things happen, then this is the place for you and no gender stereotype will stand in your way.

Encouraging entrepreneurial spirit

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This is a guest blog by Joanne Smith, CEO of The Consulting Consortium, and finalist in the NatWest everywoman awards in the 'Iris' category sponsored by IBM - for a female technology entrepreneur that provides real solutions in the world today and ultimately is instrumental in building a smarter planet.

Having built up my company, The Consulting Consortium, from small beginnings to the largest independently-owned compliance consultancy in the UK, I am passionate about entrepreneurial spirit.

I know how much hard work, self-belief and determination goes into starting up your own company, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

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It's therefore a great honour to have been shortlisted for the Iris Award at the 2014 NatWest everywoman Awards. Over the course of its 12-year history, the awards programme has helped to recognise the achievements of so many driven and talented women who are making waves in the business world. I passionately believe that we need to encourage and recognise female entrepreneurs who are developing technology solutions that will have a real impact within their field. Women are sadly under-represented in the financial technology sector and I am keen for the balance to be redressed. I am proud that 50% of my senior management team are women and I would love to one day run a women-only fin tech business.

When I was given the award for Inspirational Woman of the Year in Compliance, the competition was truly fierce and I was deeply impressed by the calibre of women in the industry and the innovative work they are undertaking. I feel privileged to be working in such a dynamic and exciting sector.

I also strongly believe that we need to do more to encourage entrepreneurship from a young age. Young people, and particularly young women, need to be given the confidence to feel that they can set up their own businesses and make a success of them. We should be providing mentors and guidance to young people from school level as well as apprenticeship schemes to help youngsters to develop their skills. Hub centres, such as the digital cluster in Shoreditch, are another great way to encourage and support budding entrepreneurs. Given the current challenging economic conditions and the proliferation of new technologies, entrepreneurs need to adopt increasingly innovative working practices, and support networks need to be in place to help with this.

It takes a lot of hard work, tenacity and drive in order to be successful in business. As CEO of The Consulting Consortium I am passionate not just about my business but also about my staff and creating a dynamic, successful and exciting place for them to work. I am immensely proud of my company and also our newest development, RecordSure, which is a unique and powerful solution to the mis-selling problem that has been so prolific over the past years. The Consulting Consortium has seen sustained growth over the last three years despite challenging economic conditions and this is a result of the incredible hard work and commitment to excellence of our consultants and staff. Our successes to date are a testament to the dedication of everyone within the team.

I look forward to the results of the Iris Award with interest and hope that it will continue to encourage and inspire more female entrepreneurs.

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