It’s been a few days since our Women in Tech Christmas Bonanza, co-hosted with Digital Gurus North. The event was sponsored by the fantastic Code Nation and our charity partner was Smart Works Greater Manchester. We had an amazing time bringing together all of the different diverse groups who unite all the women in the tech industry. A huge thank you to our Head of Data, Leanne Fitzpatrick, for organising the event.
The event was a huge success with over 80 women showing up for the night! These women were all from different backgrounds in STEM across not just Manchester, but the whole of the North West. Throughout the night there were drinks, nibbles and mince pies flowing round the room to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. We held a networking bingo, panel discussion and raffle through the night too in support of the amazing work that Smart Works Greater Manchester do. We raised over £100 on the night for Smart Works so thank you to everyone who donated!
In 2016 only 9% of all engineering and technology employees in the UK were female, and less than 1 in 10 of STEM managers were female. (IET 2016 Report & The Tech Partnership)
Tech meetups serving gender diverse communities in the North West have only really started to spring up more over the last 12-18 months. These groups are hugely important to support those from underrepresented groups in STEM and data, and into the workplace in general, giving individuals the confidence to succeed. However, having attended these groups and women networking events available, it’s been noticed that there is a lot of information to be shared among them. This would lead to bring cohesion to the ambitions for gender diverse groups in the area and share knowledge in order to escape an ‘echo chamber’ effect. Therefore the objectives of the group were the following;
- Bring together women in technology from a range of diverse backgrounds and skill sets in order to share knowledge
- Encouragement to develop a wider network of support outside the narrow scope of a particular skill set (i.e. just attending R coding groups)
- Enablement for participants to realise the other skill sets and knowledge they have to look into the wider technology space for opportunities
- Supporting women who wish to get into tech by bringing together a wider range of the North West STEM community to show that lots of options are on the table
- A panel to discuss how gender diverse groups can break out of the ‘echo chamber’, and encourage the organisers of these groups to share what has worked well for them
Topic: Are we in an Echo Chamber? Our thoughts on female based events and encouraging friends and allies
Discussion started with:
An echo chamber is ‘a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system. By visiting an ‘echo chamber’, people are able to seek out information which reinforces their existing views’; do we believe running diversity specific, whether they be focused on gender, ethnicity, cultural identity, disability or sexual orientation, encourages an echo chamber effect?
The discussion kicked off by explaining that Women in Tech North is open to encouraging allies along to their events in order to help encourage the diversity message reaching a wider audience. A great example was given where on attendee had much better recognition of how they could actively contribute to support women in and into technology roles.
How do we encourage allies whilst ensuring we promote and empower those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds?
It’s important to empower allies by providing information and education around the issues minority groups face. Those people could subsequently become the biggest champions for your group. It’s also important to consider our language use when referring to peers, friends and colleagues across the space. Ensuring we treat people as exactly that, people, can help prevent isolation and encourage safe spaces. A code of conduct should be in place for any event you wish to organise.
Looking for a suitable code of conduct for your next event? You can refer to ours for this event here: https://tinyurl.com/yce7p6j8
How important are mentoring schemes, charities and community interest groups in helping to encourage women into the workplace?
It cannot be underestimated the importance of mentoring. Role models and advice can be helpful throughout any part of our lives, whether it be work related, health related, suffering with grief or making challenging life choices; we all need a bit of mentoring at some point! Ensuring our meetup and community groups are catered such that both experienced and inexperienced members can equally attend also helps bridge this gap. Methods to approach this can include workshops, where an experienced user or professional can ‘lead’ a small group, and running sessions such as CV workshops or interview skills, which are useful to everyone no matter where they are in their career.
And what about those who want a career change into STEM, or are returning to work?
The Tech Returners programme is an enablement for those looking to return to the workplace from a career break, or looking for a step into a STEM-based career. Charities such as Smart Works enable women with the confidence they need to succeed in interview, supporting women from a range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The main theme from the panel overall seemed to be around encouraging safe spaces for diversity groups and also getting together to attend more generalist groups which aren’t specifically diversity focused.
Smart Works is a charity that provides high quality interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to women in need. WE give women the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools they require to succeed at interview and start a new chapter in their life.
At the core of our service is a two-hour appointment, during which time each woman receives a complete outfit of high quality clothes (theirs to keep) and dedicated one-to-one interview training. Our support really works, we are incredibly proud that over 65% of the women we support in Greater Manchester get the job.
Our charity raffle raised over £100 on the night in aid of this great cause – thank you to all of our prize donors who kindly contributed!
- CodeNation. A coding school with inspirational career opportunities for sponsoring the event
- Emma Johnson & Digital Gurus for co-hosting the event alongside us
- Smart Works Greater Manchester
- Parasol (& Louise at Parasol!)
- All of our co-hosts and panelists on the night!
OUR CO-HOSTS AND PANELISTS
Diane Leicester-Hallam – Chair, Smart Works Greater Manchester
Smart Works give women the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools they require to succeed at interview and start a new chaper of their life. Please see further down for more about the fantastic work that they do.
Rachael Ainsworth – Organiser, HER+Data MCR
Twitter Handle: @rachaelevelyn
HER+Data MCR is a meetup group which brings together anyone who identifies as a woman and has a connection to data – whether they work with data, would like to work with data, and/or simply have an interest in data!
Group contact details: www.meetup.com/HER-Data-MCR; @herplusdatamcr
Events take place on the second Thursday of every month, kicking off again on February 14th 2019.
Tania Allard – Organiser, PyLadies NorthWest UK
Twitter Handle: @ixek
Provide a friendly support network for women and a bridge to the larger Python world/OSS community. For this we run events in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.
Group contact details: @PyLadiesNWUK; mailing list: http://eepurl.com/dyfhN1
Next event is to be held in February and will be announced in January.
Saskia Coplans – Organiser, Cyber Ladies Manchester
Twitter handle: @ms__chief
This group is for women and anyone who identifies as a woman who either already works in, or is interested in working in cybersecurity.
Group contact details: www.meetup.com/Leading-Cyber-Ladies-Manchester
Next meetup: Friday January 11th at Manchester Technology Centre on Oxford Road. A meet and greet with a pot luck. Voting on group name and mission statement. 2 tickets for BSides Leeds on Jan 25th to give away!
Kaylea Haynes – Organiser, RLadies MCR
Twitter handle: @KayleaHaynes
R-Ladies aims to increase gender diversity in #rstats community via local meetups and mentorship!
Group contact details: www.meetup.com/R-Ladies-Manchester; @RLadiesManchest
Next meetup in February, to be confirmed in the new year.
Leona So – Organiser, Django Girls Manchester
Twitter handle: @lwyso
Django Girls is a non-profit organization and a community that empowers and helps women to organize free, one-day programming workshops by providing tools, resources and support.
Group contact details: www.djangogirls.org/manchester ; @DjangoGirlsMcr
Next meet up: 16th February 2019 all day (15th February evening installation party) – one day free programming workshop. Applications are open now.
Beckie Taylor – Organiser, WIT North
Twitter handle: @rtaylor
WIT North build a strong community to support, mentor and promote leadership and careers for women in technology in the north of the UK.
Group contact details: www.meetup.com/Women-in-Technology-North; @WITNorthUK