"A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. International Women’s Day 2021."

This year the Greater Manchester Digital portfolio team are using International Women’s Day to showcase below just of some the amazing people across the digital and tech sector that demonstrate the 2021 of choose to challenge.

According to a recent Manchester Digital Skills Audit there is a stable gender balance issue in the sector with 32% of women accounting for all digital roles and only 16% of technical roles. This report is a small sample size but is helpful in giving a picture of what is happening in the industry. This is despite a wealth of activity over several years in supporting women to better understand the opportunity. 

Sara Todd

Sara Todd, Chief Executive Officer for the GM Digital Portfolio and told us “I’m proud to be part of this year’s Greater Manchester digital celebrations for #IWD2021. It’s important that we all #ChooseToChallenge, particularly within the digital and tech sector where we know diversity and inclusion is key. This is an area we are focussing on in Greater Manchester, through our digital inclusion agenda for change and we’re harnessing the expertise of those within the sector already seeking to tackle gender bias and inequality within the sector”

Beckie Taylor

Beckie Taylor, Co-Founder, Tech Returners. Tech Returners is a positive and empowering organisation -  committed to removing the barriers returners face after career breaks. They tackle the digital skills shortage by empowering skilled people back into technology careers and providing continuous support on their journeys through technology and into leadership. Beckie has spoken at many of our own events, most recently acting as panellist where we discussed fixing the digital divide. Through Tech Returners, Beckie advocates for diverse and inclusive workforces.

Grace Hulse

Grace Hulse, Head of Cyber & Innovation, The Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester. Grace has served Greater Manchester Police for 18 years from frontline uniformed policing, safeguarding(domestic violence/child protection) and CID. Here passion for digital/cyber investigations came when working in the Major incident team.

"Here I was often the digital media investigator, looking at the digital picture for these serious incidents. When I moved to Cybercrime, I managed cybercrime investigations and developed connections nationally. These investigations varied from Individual social media hacks right through to large scale Ransomware or DDOS attacks. I received qualifications and training in relation to cyber investigations and response."

I have a vivid memory of when I first started in the Cyber sector and going to a cyber conference at a high profile football ground and being the only woman there. It was the first time in my whole career I even noticed a gender gap or had a feeling where I was uncomfortable. It is really amazing to see how the industry has developed now and is so inclusive to Women. To have worked my way up to management level in the cyber field is an honour and I hope it encourages others to join this exciting industry." said Grace.

Read more about Grace’s role at the Cyber Resilience Centre (external website) 

Lou Cordwell

Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GMLEP) Chair Lou is a digital pioneer, female entrepreneur, proud exponent of all that is good about Greater Manchester, determined to address the things that aren’t.

Founder and Chief Executive of digital design studio magneticNorth, Lou is among the architects of the Greater Manchester Economic Vision which aims to deliver “a fairer, greener, growing economy” by supporting innovation and green growth while addressing inequalities.

Lou recently wrote, alongside Councillor Elise Wilson, for the GM LEP following The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggestion that the plight of female founders has been further hit by coronavirus, with women more likely to work in the worst affected sectors, and to have served as primary care providers at a point when many children were being home schooled.

Lou wrote: We know that economic and entrepreneurial diversity pays dividends, improving business outcomes while supporting social mobility and opportunity. Diversity provides different perspectives, fresh insight, complementary skills and experience. Equally, providing opportunities for more entrepreneurs to create jobs and prosperity is vital if we are to level up.

At the heart of the new GM Economic Vision is a commitment to tackling inequalities, with a focus on supporting more women in starting and growing businesses through a world-leading programme of female entrepreneurship.

We are committed to enabling people to reach their full potential through training and mentoring, encouraging diversity and inclusivity in company leadership through initiatives including provision of innovative finance.

Read Lou's full story (external website) 

Beccy Irving

Beccy Irving, Head of Talent & Skills, Manchester Digital is responsible for all programmes and activity that aims to address the skills gap and build a diverse talent pool within the region.

"I’m a big champion of empowering women in the workplace, and really believe there should be no limit to how far women can go in their careers, if they choose too. 

However it’s all too clear that not everyone has the same access to support and opportunities, so within my work at Manchester Digital I’m working to address this by ensuring the work we do reaches a diverse audience of women, and our programmes look to inspire and empower women of all ages to reach their potential." Said Beccy.

Through her role, Beccy is involved in Digital Her - providing the support, the opportunities and the guidance needed to encourage a new generation of women into the digital industry. Digital Her's mission is also simple – to inspire and empower girls to engage with STEM-related subjects at GCSE and A-Level and have the confidence and desire to explore the incredible careers available in digital and tech.

Read Beccy's Digital Her blog here (external website)

Jen Mossop Scott

Jen Mossop Scott, Technology Director for Delivery at TalkTalk and manages the end-to-end design and delivery of software and data solutions. She leads with people and community front of mind, aligned with TalkTalk’s objective to provide simple, reliable, affordable and fair connectivity for everyone. With an academic background in neuroscience and rich professional experience leading technology and transformational change, Jen is an inspiring role model to colleagues across all areas of this connected business, at all levels. She explains how her own role models certainly aren’t only those working above her any given hierarchy.

She said: “I draw so much inspiration from junior team members who have really diverse stories and teach me so much. I can think of many people, even just at TalkTalk, who are simply amazing and channel their energy and talent so vividly.”

Jen is also a Non-Executive Director and Trustee of GreaterSport Manchester, which aims to improve the mental and physical health of the 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester through active lives. Jen wrote for us, as part of our International Women's Day celebrations.

Read Jen's blog (external website).

Mo Isap

Mo Isap, Founder and CEO of IN4.0 Group, a provider of training, consultancy and digital transformation services, and operators of technology hub The Landing, MediaCityUK.

IN4.0 aims to address the digital skills gap and support women from minority backgrounds, with tailored programmes and mentorship that break the barriers to entry, creating role models that will inspire a new, more diverse generation of pioneers. With this in mind, it launched FreelanceHER 100 this year, a ground-breaking 12-week accelerator programme that is currently supporting and empowering over 109 women impacted by the pandemic, to kick-start their careers as freelancers.

Mo said: “We want to promote our shared values of diversity and help shape the exciting future of women in tech across the region. I've seen the direct value in having fantastically dynamic women in my organisation, 60 per cent of the IN4.0 team are women. They are supporting other women and organisations, and that peer-to-peer power which FreelanceHER 100 is an articulation of, is truly game-changing.

“We have plans to drive this forward with the development of Skills City, an industry-led technology campus that is accessible to all. We are committed to training 600 people in digital technologies over the next 12 months, 50 per cent of whom will be women to readdress the gender skills gap in the technology sector. There is so much more to be done, but it is imperative that gender equality is at the top of everyone's agenda.”

Kesley joined the IN4.0 team as a Junior Engineer after graduating from the IN4.0 talent academy in September 2020.

Read Kelsey's story.

Victoria Knight

Victoria Knight of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence & Co Chair of the Greater Manchester Cyber Advisory Group recently wrote for us, explaining why greater gender diversity must be an important part of Greater Manchester’s drive to become a world leading digital city-region.

Vic said "This International Women’s Day, while of course we celebrate the achievements of women across Greater Manchester and beyond, we also need to redouble our efforts to break down barriers and encourage more women into the tech and cyber industries."

A quick glance through the latest statistics shows the scale of the task still ahead. For some time now, women have been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and occupations and that continues today, with 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK being female. When it comes to students studying computer sciences related degrees, only 19% were female, and similarly, the percentage of female students studying engineering and technology degrees was only 19% of the total students between 2017 and 2018.

Read Victoria's blog (external website)

Laura Rooney

Laura Rooney, Director of Corporate Affairs and Strategy at Health Innovation Manchester agrees with the evidence that shows gender inequality begins in childhood and believes we all have a role to play in educating our children, family, friends and colleagues about gender equality and the right for everyone to have access to the same opportunities.

Laura said "I am privileged to be supported by a diverse network of colleagues and leaders, but there is still more to be done to ensure female voices are heard at all levels.  It takes courage to put yourself out there as a woman, but rest assured there are so many others willing to give advice, help and support.  The main thing is to stay true to yourself and your values."

Jo Morfee

Jo Morfee, Co-Founder, InnovateHer  - an education and coaching social enterprise based in the North West. InnovateHer exists to make the Tech sector more diverse and equal with a mission is to ‘get girls ready for industry, and the industry ready for girls’.

Jo is personally passionate about creating opportunities for girls, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Jo has experienced firsthand the gender imbalance in the tech sector and the way this can adversely impact on minority groups, which fuelled her passion to establish InnovateHer in 2016.

This year's theme ‘choose to challenge’ fits perfectly with the InnovateHer mission, challenging the lack of equality in tech and collectively working to redress the balance. Jo told us “So many products and services are not designed for the audiences they serve; for instance voice recognition software didn’t recognise female voices when it was first released. The technological solutions we create will be vastly improved by having diverse teams involved in the creation of them.

We choose to challenge the status quo and the patriarchal structures we have been raised in. Gender inequality is structural and systemic, but we believe that through education, partnership and community we can start to change the narrative and create equal opportunities for all.”

Annette Joseph

Annette Joseph, Founder, Diverse and Equal. Annette attended the Tech Inclusion Conference in London, December 2017, at the end, everyone was challenged to act on championing diversity and inclusion moving forward. Annette made the commitment to speak up and amplify.

Annette said: “That challenging piece is key to getting everyone onboard and getting people feeling empowered and giving them the license to challenge the structures and the status quo, because it's not enough to be not sexist or not racist, we have to be anti-racist and anti-sexist and challenging is key to that.” 

Beena Puri

Beena Puri, Innovation & Partnerships Lead, GMCA Digital. Beena strongly demonstrates this year's theme particularly  through her work on  Greaeter Manchester’s digital inclsion agenda for change. A vision that Greater Manchester become a 100% digitally enabled city-region. Beena believes access to the digital world should be a basic human right, everyone in Greater Manchester whatever their age, location, or situation, should be able to benefit from the opportunities digital brings. In 2020 Beena featured in a longlist for a special recognition award at the UN Women UK awards

Vimla Appado

Vimla Appado, Co-Founder, Honey Badger - designing working environments and solutions to help people. Honey Badger are passionate about positive change, inclusive environments and delightful experiences. Vim advocates for a world that values what diversity can bring to any working environment. Vim is a culture and diversity advocate, haven spoken internationally about the importance of culture and diversity in the workplace.

Vimla said: “I think what’s really sparked my imagination and positivity with this theme for International Women’s Day is that it brings intersectionality into the conversation because as women who also wear lots of hats, it’s about challenging on behalf of all women and that’s what I've enjoyed seeing the shift in International Women’s Day over the last few years.” 

Jo, Annette, Beena and Vimla recently got together to talk about this year’s International Women’s Day theme. 

Article Published: 04/03/2021 16:18 PM