W-tech starts the drive to bring women in IT together

W-tech is one of the first larger-scale IT events to be aimed specifically at women.

W-tech is one of the first larger-scale IT events to be aimed specifically at women. Its organisers hope to generate more of a buzz and sense of direction around the issue of gender balance in IT.

The debate has been raging for years, coloured by fiercely held opinions. But women have never had a real focal point behind which to throw their energies if they want to do something, or even just discuss, the lack of diversity in IT.

Conference organiser Jan Peters wants this to change, and is taking a "together we're stronger" approach, asking companies to agree to collective action instead of disparate, individual initiatives.

"It is not just one organisation that takes responsibility for making sure that women are encouraged," she said. "We want to connect everyone up so we are all talking about the same thing. We want companies to work with us and take W-tech forward, and look at how we can harness some of the energy and enthusiasm there is."

Around 1,200 women registered for the first W-tech conference, held on Wednesday 24 June, which showcased recruiters as well as providing networking opportunities and speakers.

Kate Craig-Wood, founder of Memset, a carbon-neutral ISP, said the debate about the role of women in IT needs a wider focus.

"There are lots of people talking about little things and we need to pool them. There is definitely a perception that women can't do IT - dealing with the archetypal white 40-something male in corporate IT is especially difficult. I have to try really hard to get them to accept my authority as a technologist."

While Peters said she would like to see more technical topics being discussed, the conference had a heavy emphasis on the cultural issues of working in a male-dominated environment.

Valerie White, a compliance specialist and senior executive officer at the Identity and Passport Service, said the event was "informative and empowering".

"I came to develop myself and to see how women are doing in the IT industry. It is useful to have events like this where we are brought together, because there are so few of us," she said.

Project manager Sara O'Bryne said, "There were a couple of really good seminars - one on building your online profile was helpful, because it has given me the confidence to make more of myself online. I would like to see different streams directed at people at different stages in their career - it would have been helpful to have more talks for people in their 30s or 40s.

"Generally I think we should be getting the same kind of seminars that men would get. Too much talking about the problems women face is one of the things holding women back."

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