Despite being the largest of its kind in Europe with more than 4,500 attendees, this year’s Women of Silicon Roundabout event has highlighted the work that still needs to be done to encourage, represent and celebrate women in tech.
The industry gathered to debate, discuss and challenge the issues women still face in the technology sector. Keynote speaker Martha Lane Fox highlighted the distinct lack of female representation in tech, revealing that proportionally there are fewer women in the tech sector than in the House of Lords.
In the 1960s, women were the driving force of the office and data controllers. Grace Hopper once said: “Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” This sentiment was echoed at the event with speakers from eBay to DeepMind voicing the importance of an inclusive and diverse workforce in technology.
Jo Hannaford, head of technology, EMEA & global head of quality assurance engineering at Goldman Sachs stated in her keynote: “My generation didn’t experience the same level of unconscious bias. Assumptions like ‘you have to be geeky to be a coder or it’s a man’s job’ are new biases that have been introduced. There’s a problem with this perception and bias.”
Despite the number of women in more senior positions being higher than ever before, the event speakers discussed how future guarding the role of women in technology is proving a challenge.
Jen Grant, CMO of data platform company Looker, said: “There’s still not enough celebration about women’s achievements and young people struggle with this. Not so long ago, in WWII, there was a huge number of women doing cryptography which has all gone down in recent years and part of the issue is the way we’re addressing the diversity drive in the workplace.”
Founders of the InnovateHer School Programme, Jo Morfee and Chelsea Slater, added: “We need to rephrase so many parts of technology to make it more appealing. Last year, a survey revealed that among teachers, 29 per cent of men think STEM careers are more for boys than girls; shockingly 16 per cent of women feel the same.
“We need to challenge this perception from school to the workplace if we’re ever going to see change. There are too many examples of how day to day aspects are failing woman, where the technical products don’t meet people’s expectations and we’re working to break that.”
Speaking about the need for such events as Women of Silicon Roundabout, Michaela Jeffery-Morrison, co-founder of the event series, said: “Women of Silicon Roundabout exists to empower women in technology and enable organisations to build diverse and inclusive workforces.
“We are passionate about gender equality, as well as diversity and inclusion for everyone who wants to work in this exciting sector.”