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Women in Tech – What We Learnt

Date: 6 Jan

This event was aimed at exploring how tech employers (SMEs/individuals) in Cornwall can attract women into their vacant roles. To hear from leading industry speakers about what they have done, what works and what doesn’t. Exploring and discussing what is needed across Cornwall to get more women applying for tech roles; whether this be encouraging them at a young age, enrolling them onto degrees or short courses, or communicating that technical roles are not the only way into a tech career.

The event consisted of talks from Debbie Forster MBE, Allanah Armondi, Director of People and Culture at Thought Quarter, Caitlin Gould Co-Founder of Kensa Health and Co-Founder of TECgirls,  SETsquared, Cornwall EiR and Chair of the Digital Skills Partnership and Jenna Saberton Curriculum Development Manager in Aero Engineering and Marine for TCCG and Self-Employed Lean Manufacturing Engineer.

What we learnt

What works?
  • An SME can make a big change faster than a large company. This puts Cornwall at an advantage.
  • We also have a great collaborative sector in Cornwall which makes change easier.
  • When you focus on women it will impact people with a disability, men, LGTB, and minority groups “Gender is a gateway drug”.
  • Making positions remote, flexible and part time BY DEFUALT has increased applications from women significantly.
  • Pledge to future employees that they can grow in the company so when they leave they have grown.
  • Alternative routes into the industry are; bootcamps, apprenticeships, upskilling, help with educational providers and companies clubbing together to grow that talent.
  • The impact of the impact and the cost of living means that we need to get smart; we can change the game and the rules.
  • Put ideas into actions; start NOW with baby steps.
  • Language is key. There are tools you can use to remove bias from your written copy (online, job descriptions etc).
  • Tec Girls is growing, do join!

What are the challenges?

  • 19% of women are in the Tech Industry (UK).
  • 22% of women are Directors (UK).
  • 13% of GCSE students are girls (Cornwall).
  • 13% of University, female, students undertake a computing or related subject in Cornwall.
  • Inclusion rights first, diversity will follow.
  • Data on women and leadership is patchy as retention is great. This poses the question how can we grow them, how can we keep them?
  • Policies, for example maternity leave, still need updating and are lacking behind compared to other European countries.
  • Focus on autonomy, even more so after COVID as we learnt to work differently. However, will this still be encouraged by employers?
  • Job Specs needs changing to accommodate skills, i.e. we need to find the right mindset and values.
  • Cornwall is behind the rest of the UK and needs a lot of work!
  • It is about technical skills, not so much about higher level skills; where to go to get the knowledge?
  • Need of jargon training, communication skills, diversity training, leadership coaching, technical training courses, transferable skills. All of these should be flexible and affordable training.
  • Imposter syndrome; innate or learnt?
  • A lot of behaviour goes unchallenged. How can we make sure people are called out and correctly disciplined?
  • Is our concept of “good” leadership correct? We need to challenge what it looks like, and challenge hierarchical (patriarchal?) leadership structures.
  • Support with inclusive recruitment. A network of people willing to give time to help shortlist, for example?
  • A phone line/network of peer supporters who can be there for confidence wobbles.
  • Both these should be paid, ideally.