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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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-      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.







Bletchley Park's unheard stories: The Imitation Game's female tech trailblazers

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This is a guest blog by Anne Marie Neatham, chief operating officer at Ocado Technology

Last week saw the release of The Imitation Game, a new film about WWII code breakers at Bletchley Park. Much has been made of the man portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, brilliant polymath Alan Turing, but the film is also to be commended for paying due attention to Joan Clarke's extraordinary and unprecedented contribution to the code breaking effort, as portrayed in the film by Keira Knightly.  

Women in technology can sometimes be overshadowed, despite having a notable presence in the archives of technology trailblazers - particularly at Bletchley Park. Outnumbering men by four to one, women at Bletchley Park included secretaries, Wrens, Women's Auxiliary Air Force members (Waafs), linguists, and a handful of hyper-intelligent codebreakers such as the little known Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Ruth Briggs.

Joan Clarke was recruited fresh out of Cambridge, where she gained a double first in Mathematics. She arrived at Bletchley Park in 1939 to join the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS). Initially assigned clerical work and paid just under £2 a day, her numismatic prowess was quickly picked up on and she was put in Hut 8 in a team led by Alan Turing. Hut 8 was tasked with solving German Kriegsmarine (naval) Enigma messages.

The navy ciphers decoded by Clarke and her colleagues were much harder to break than other German messages, and largely related to U-boats that were hunting down allied ships carrying troops and supplies from the US to Europe. Her task was to break these ciphers in real-time, one of the most high-pressure jobs at Bletchley Park. U-boats would then either be sunk or circumnavigated, saving thousands of lives.

Clarke isn't alone in the British archives of women who have blazed trails in technology. Ada Lovelace, widely recognised as the world's first computer programmer, worked alongside Charles Babbage in the early 19th century. Notable work of hers includes writing the code on Babbage's Analytical Engine, and devising a method of calculation now recognised as the world's first ever computer program. She has subsequently been honoured for her achievements, and even has a day named after her that celebrates the achievements of women in technology.

Following in Ada's footsteps was Hedy Lamarr, better known perhaps as a Hollywood film star, but also a notable computing pioneer. She holds a deserved place in tech history for her 1941 work with composer George Antheil to develop an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping. Lamarr and Antheil both now feature in the National Inventor's Hall of Fame for this system. Designed during WWII, it prevented enemy fighters being able to force US radio controlled torpedoes off route by jamming transmissions to them and the technology has since become a constituent part of GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

Moving through the archives we find Dina St Jonhston. In the late 50s, Dina founded the UK's first ever software house, Vaughan Programming Services, developing software for the BBC, British Rail and Unilever. The company produced pioneering real-time passenger information systems and flight simulators for the RAF, with Dina remaining an active programmer until her retirement in 1996.

Clarke's achievements have been seldom recognised up until now. Despite being appointed MBE in 1947 for her work during WW2, and the recognition of her work by the British Numismatic Society in 1986 when she was awarded the Sanford Saltus Gold Medal, many are surprised by how pivotal her role at Bletchley Park was. Following in the footsteps of trailblazers like Clarke and Turing, children from across the country are being invited to try their hands at coding at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC).  

Taking place every weekend from 1 November 2014 until August 2015, the free Weekend Codability Project is sponsored by Ocado Technology. Aimed at girls and boys up to the age of 16, it's part of Ocado's wider scheme Code for Life. It's hoped this initiative will galvanise our younger generation's passion for coding - and possibly even inspire some of them to join the ranks of our most venerable British computing pioneers.

Does diversity actually add value?

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This is a guest blog by Nabila Aydin, VP of global marketing operations, at FDM Group.

Diversity is a topic that is widely discussed nowadays. A lot of companies have Diversity Leaders within the business whose actual roles revolve around making sure the business is diverse. Some may think that this is a waste of time, and indeed it could be if the role is not carried out properly, but if it is, then it will most certainly add value to the bottom line and increase profitability.

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A common misconception about diversity is that it is only about gender or race. How many women are in the business or whether it is majority white is something many people traditionally focus on. The reality is that diversity covers a lot more than that, it is about a wide range of differences that exist amongst people. Diversity includes culture, ethnicity, personality, social mobility, education, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, working styles and more. That said, even the most diverse of companies will not be able to reap the benefits without inclusion. 

Inclusion is not the same as diversity and it is much harder for organisations to achieve. Creating an inclusive workforce involves conscious and proactive behaviours to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. Inclusivity has to be engraved into the company culture, in order to create an environment where differences are embraced and valued within teams.

Creative ideas, increased flexibility and diversity of thought are just some of the benefits that a diverse workforce can add to the organisation. Cultural awareness is another important attribute, especially for businesses that are or plan to be global. People from other cultures and backgrounds have had various different experiences in their lives and so have learned skills that you personally may not have. This is where diversity can really add value to the workforce, if people feel included.

I'm really proud of the diversity in my team at FDM Group, which is made up of circa 70% women in the UK, Germany and USA. Their ages range from 22-45 and out of the 9 marketing employees in my team, nationalities cover: English, American, German, Spanish, Chinese and Taiwanese. Some team members are the first in their family to have attended University, all having varied educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

These are some of the benefits we've reaped from having a diverse and inclusive team:

1. Languages and culture - As an international business, being able to speak multiple languages enables us to promote FDM further afield and to understand cultural differences around the globe. We are able to adapt marketing material accordingly and to translate a lot of this in-house.

2. Lower costs for the department - One of the best negotiators I've worked work with has her own small business on the side and is therefore experienced using tactics and strategies to drive down costs. The best negotiators in the team have taught the other members, which saves the company tens of thousands per year.

3. Innovative ideas for campaigns - Due to the diversity of thought and experiences within the team,  a multitude of ideas and innovative approaches are suggested to campaigns, which you would not get in a team where diversity was non-existent.

4. Going the extra mile - For many team members, this is their first 'real' job after graduation. They are therefore enthusiastic, energetic and appreciative to have been given the opportunity to prove themselves. Going the extra mile is common within the team and I'm pleased to have seen many employees grow with the business.

5. Respect and team work - All team members have been asked to undertake Belbin Tests in the past in order for them to understand their working style and also that of their colleagues. The importance of different working styles is shown to them, allowing them to understand, appreciate and respect different approaches. Team work is crucial in marketing and this would not work effectively without respect and inclusion.

Even though diversity and inclusion are related, they are not the same thing. Diversity is about variety (quantity) and inclusion is about value and respect (quality). Without inclusion, diversity is pointless; the value to businesses can only be attained with both.

Larry Hirst, Former Chairman of IBM EMEA and someone I admire greatly often says "It is not about what you are that matters, it is about who you are and what you can become".

FDM Group to hold female graduate event with inspirational speakers

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FDM Group are holding another women in technology event at their London Bridge offices, aimed at female graduates, students and professionals interested in a career in IT.

 The 'Women in IT Advantage Session: Breaking Myths and Broadening Horizons' event, on 27 November, will include several guest speakers who will discuss their own personal journeys through the world of technology in addition to the steps they have taken to address the gender balance in the industry.

 Guest speakers include:

·         Katrina Roberts, vice president - interim head of global network and international consumer technologies at American Express

·         Michelle Yuen, FDM female champion and consultant placed at British Airways

·         Sandra Ashmore, CIO finance and tax, 

The event is free to attend, but be sure to email events@fdmgroup.com with your name and contact telephone number to secure your place.

 

Women in IT Advantage Session: Breaking Myths and Broadening Horizons

Date:       27th November

Time:     17.30-19.30

 Venue:    FDM Group, 3rd Floor, Cottons Centre, Cottons Lane, London SE1 2QG

FDM everywoman in Tech Awards extends deadline to 10 Nov 2014

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The deadline for the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards has been extended until 10 November.

In their fifth year, the awards shine a light on outstanding females in the tech sector and encourage more women to work in the industry.

Full details on how to enter are available online.

The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards are free to enter and two new categories have been launched for 2015. Categories for 2015 are:

 

  • Entrepreneur of the Year - sponsored by ARM
  • Inspiration of the Year - sponsored by VMware
  • Leader of the Year - sponsored by BP
  • Rising Star of the Year - sponsored by American Express
  • Start-up Founder of the Year - sponsored by salesforce.com
  • Innovator of the Year
  • Team Leader of the Year

And new for 2015:

  • The One to Watch
  • International Leader of the Year

The 2014 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards ceremony will take place at a dinner on the evening of 17 March 2015 at the Hilton Park Lane. During the day a conference will be taking place discussing the issues affecting women in technology. 

Why coding's cool for school

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This is a guest blog by Liesha Lobo, delivery lead at Thomsons Online Benefits, who discusses the new IT curriculum and why more still needs to be done to improve gender diversity in the tech sector.

Last month saw a new generation of children enter our schools. Like those before them, they'll likely go in armed with pencils and paper, but this generation will emerge equipped quite differently.

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This is the first generation to be taught the new ICT curriculum. For those joining at five, lessons in basic Word Processing will be supplemented with more complex computer programming and internet safety classes. When they reach secondary school, this group will be learning about hardware and software, and be expected to differentiate between programming languages.

Whilst these shifts have been criticised by some, in reality, these steps are enabling students to grasp the full breadth of career opportunities provided by our increasingly tech focused world. Not to mention it's an integral element of government strategy to reverse the well-documented STEM skills shortage currently posing a threat to economic growth.

Having said this, there is evidence of a positive shift in students' attitudes towards STEM subjects. This year, the number of students studying computer science at GCSE increased fourfold, and in 2013-14 98,000 students were accepted on to STEM undergraduate courses. This presents the highest level ever recorded, an 8% rise on the last academic year, and an 18% rise since 2002-03.

My view is that the stated curriculum changes can act as a catalyst for these emerging signs of STEM subject take-up. These students will build the talent pipeline, but also have the potential to increase diversity in the sector. Introducing compulsory computing education from a young age will normalise it for girls and boys, helping prevent the stigma previous generations have attached to it being 'a boy's subject'. 

Nevertheless, whilst introducing compulsory computing may even the playing field for boys and girls, educational institutions, businesses and politicians need to make a concerted effort beyond this if the next generation is to avoid legacy misconceptions.

Technology is not about coding silently and providing late-night technical support. There is a lot of innovation and idea generation which demands and rewards creativity. As the industry evolves, individuals' progression will depend more and more on their ability to merge this creativity with technical skill and business acumen.

To do this you have to be passionate and push yourself. Recently I did an evening course on artificial intelligence by Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Google's driverless cars project. The course looked specifically at predictive analysis and its practical applications, including weather prediction, heatmaps and robotics. It involved minimal pseudo-coding, but by its completion, attendees were able to grasp and visualise the basics for a driverless car mechanism. I'm sure many women will be excited by this. My concern is that others just don't see this fundamental aspect of a career in technology.

Every tech business needs to evolve to succeed and so innovation and creativity are key. At Thomsons Online Benefits, the global benefits management software provider I work for, we have innovation week, every half year - an initiative designed to encourage employees to share out of the box ideas that could shape the future of the company. These are then prioritized according to viability and business needs.

Being a woman and working for an organisation that encourages my progression and inspires my creativity, it baffles me that women with degrees still find a career in finance or professional services more attractive than one in technology. To reverse this mentality, we need to ensure that girls and women see technology as a rewarding career, and have visible role models at every stage of the pipeline; in schools, universities and businesses.

There are some initiatives leading the way here. Google's Made with Code, for example, provides great inspiration for young women by showcasing the diverse career routes taken by those with an interest in tech. And Capability Jane is another notable organisation, aiming to improve diversity across sectors by encouraging businesses to hire working mothers on a more flexible basis.

Such initiatives are crucial in encouraging the next generation of young women to study STEM subjects with a view to a career in tech. However, as lastminute.com founder, Martha Lane Fox, described in a recent interview, "No prime minister and not many politicians really care about skills... it's never going to be the priority, because there is more sexy stuff to worry about."

Martha is right. Introducing coding in schools may be a significant step but the government cannot forget that women do not have sufficient presence in tech. Girls need to witness success to visualise their own achievement making it imperative that the government continues to push initiatives that promote this in the current generation.

However, whilst there's still some way to go in the UK, we can look abroad for inspiration. Earlier this year it was announced that former Google executive and diversity champion, Megan Smith, would become the first female CTO at the White House and last month all eyes turned to India as images of the largely female Mars mission team went viral. These women may have been thousands of miles away, clad in saris and celebrating a monumental achievement, but I cannot think of a scene more representative of the challenge, creativity and joy I receive every day from my career in tech. 

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