I was honoured to speak on a panel this afternoon at Portcullis House. Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah chaired an interesting discussion on women in tech which ranged from getting girls coding, to Ada Lovelace, to the digital revolution and a quick reference to Gamergate.
My main points were around the fact that we are now living in a global marketplace. Trade is no longer hampered by geographical boundaries as it has been previously. Most people in the UK are not digitally literate in a 2014 way, we are behind the times. There are so many people unemployed, that with just a small amount of training could get jobs using basic 2014 digital literacy. The government needs to put more resource into this area.
There is a big focus on getting girls coding which is great and needs to happen, but we need more urgently to consider how to plug the leaky pipeline of women leaving the tech industry mid career. We also need to create a corporate culture that welcomes tech savvy women back into the workforce. Too many talented tech women I know have left tech never to return, its such a waste.
Corporates need to make their workplaces more female friendly and be proactive in bringing in more women. There are many ways this can be done, and as has been shown previously this can make companies more profitable. Diversity means strength in so many ways.
I didn’t mention quotas of women on boards, but I think the time is right now to make this happen, change is not happening quickly enough for any real impact to be felt. Equal pay is something else that needs to be sorted out. We will never get anywhere until these issues are resolved.
The main thing we need to do is to take ACTION as a country. The UK if we get our act together has an opportunity to lead in the digital revolution as we did in the industrial revolution. But we need to move quickly and decisively. Our workforce needs to be upskilled, made tech smart, this is a mammoth but not impossible task. Let’s get started now otherwise we will be looking back in a few years time saying, if only we had acted more quickly….
As it is half term I took my 10 year old daughter along with me. We left a bit early so we could go and buy a pumpkin for her to carve for Halloween. Having children makes you think about the future in a different way. I don’t want my daughters to have lower pay than their male peers, I don’t want them to see their friends taking a break from work to have children, then finding it impossible to get back into work. I don’t want to see them struggling to make sense of a narrow minded and chauvinistic workplace.
We need to change our country now to make equality of opportunity a reality, if we do that and prepare our workforce for the digital age, we will have a fighting chance of being a world leading country into the future. If we don’t I hate to think what will happen. Standards of living will drop, a brain drain will occur, big contracts will go to other countries, individuals will become disenfranchised, it won’t be fun.
Millions of people have fought in wars and worked hard to make this country succesful, let’s not throw all that sacrifice away now because we are too slow to respond to change that’s obviously going to happen, and is in fact happening right now. Britain is a great country, I’m proud to be a part of it, let’s keep it that way. Making sure our people, our families and our companies keep up with the digital revolution means that all that sacrifice was worthwhile, we owe it to our ancestors and to our children. We’ve a short window of opportunity, let’s take ACTION and build a great future for us all.