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Sky invests £125,000 in female-led business ideas

Five women have been awarded their share of £125,000 from Sky to pursue technology-led business ideas

Sky has chosen five winners of its Women in Technology Scholars programme, which aims to promote the women currently working in the tech sector, and help others to gain access to roles in the industry.

The winners will have access to a pot of £125,000 to help grow their business ideas, each of which uses technology to incite positive change, such as helping the elderly or educating young people about mental health.

Sky’s group chief information security officer, Elaine Bucknor, who was also a judge in the programme, said: “I was blown away with the ingenuity of the projects presented and the calibre of talent and creativity. It is widely acknowledged that attracting women into technology is a challenge, so we have a responsibility to bring about change.

“Boys are more than twice as likely to be encouraged to work in tech, so it is little wonder that half the girls we spoke to had ruled out working in the industry by the time they were 18 years old. Our Women in Technology Scholars programme enables us to nurture new talent and highlight inspiring role models to encourage others to follow.”

Not only is the number of women in the technology sector static, but the amount of funds invested in female-founded businesses is nowhere near as high as for men – and the figure has fallen over the last three years.

Sky’s Women in Technology Scholars programme was born out of the need for more role models in the tech industry after research by Sky found that almost half of girls have decided a tech career is not for them by the age of 18.

Sky also found that boys are more likely than girls to be advised to consider a technology career, and girls are three times more likely than boys to think that the tech sector is sexist.

Only 22% of people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) employment in the UK are female, yet Sky offers services to 23.7 million customers. The telecoms giant aims to attract more women into the sector through programmes such as Women in Technology Scholars, as well as its Get Into Tech coding course and the Sky Software Academy and Apprenticeships.

Hundreds of people applied for the Sky Women in Technology Scholars competition, which is now in its second cohort. The entrants were whittled down to the five winners, who will receive funding as well as access to industry mentors.

Read more about women in tech

  • Women in technology have claimed diversity is still not a focus for their company in a majority of cases, according to research.
  • Booking.com has found that a majority of women in the technology industry would recommend a career in the sector to young women in schools, as well as to female undergrads.

The 2019 Sky Women in Tech Scholars are:

Olga Kravchenko, who wants to develop her virtual reality (VR) app, Musemio, further to help children learn about culture while out and about. As well as teaching children through VR tech, the app will help cultural institutions such as museums adapt to a digital audience.  

Colleen Wong, who developed My Gator Watch without any previous technical experience, wants to develop the wearable further to help elderly users maintain independence by tracking their location and detecting falls.

Rebecca Saw, who after her work on a VR live theatre thriller called Traitor, wants to create a technology-enabled interactive storytelling experience that would combine television and gaming to create “blended reality”.

Mary Murphy, who wants to build on an invention she developed with her sister as a teenager – a sheep-marking gun – to  a piece of software that could track sheep in order to prevent livestock theft.

Rachel Clancy, who wants to build on an interactive game she developed called Get Closer, which aims to teach young people to recognise and cope with mental health issues, either in themselves or others.

While programmes such as Sky’s Women in Technology Scholars are important, many believe the only way to encourage more girls and women into the technology industry is through collaboration between education providers, the industry and government.

Debbie Forster, CEO of Tech Talent Charter and one of the judges in the Women in Technology Scholars programme, said: “It is vital that organisations like Sky take action like this to deliver greater diversity in the UK tech workforce and better reflect the make-up of the population.”

Read more on Diversity in IT

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