A room full of women is often a magical space. But a room full of women who are inspiring, passionate, fascinating and fiercely intelligent – speaking on their careers, their influences, and their heartfelt advice – is a truly uplifting space to be.
As part of the first ever Leeds International Festival, with themes of moving image, music and technology, we had the pleasure of attending the Empowering Women With Tech conference, featuring an impressive lineup of speakers – including the head of technology at Sky herself, Natasha, through to the legendary Lauren Laverne.
Here at Girl Gang, we’ve always positioned ourselves as ‘creative’ – our community is heavily made up of artists, writers, musicians, so a tech conference felt like it would be an unusual and alien space to be. We wouldn’t get it, we worried.
One of the most important messages I took home from these amazing women was that working in tech is an inherently creative thing.
We learned that being a creative person doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an artist, a musician, a writer, and being an ‘artist’ doesn’t tie you to a stereotypically creative industry. Girls need to keep pushing to develop and share the skills and confidence to work in tech, and to feel like it’s a space that’s as much for them as anyone else.
Tech creators are creators too, just with a different set of skills – and it’s that set of skills that women often feel they can’t access.
Anne Marie Imafidon co-founded Stemettes, a social enterprise for for the next generation of girls, gave some insight into getting hold of these skills, telling us they’re more accessible than we might think (see Skillcrush, She Codes, Treehouse, Code School and Ladies of the Round Table). She said accessing resources that teach skills such as coding is a great way to upskill and future-proof yourself.
Emmy Lovell, VP of digital for Warner Music, spoke on how the music industry goes hand in hand with technology, the industry shifting and developing with new technologies alongside it, and I felt this rung true of many industries. Technology penetrates everything we do and everything we consume, and it’s only right that women should be just as prominent in leading developments that impact all of our lives.
We saw this even more when we heard Susie Bubble, a fashion blogger, self-proclaim that she was the ‘least technical’ speaker, but went on to speak about how she has expertly used technology throughout her career. Using social media and running a successful blog might not be what you’d traditionally consider a techy role – but it’s engagement with tech we could all relate to, and really hammered home how tech permeates all we do.
Debbie Waskow, founder of Love Home Swap and co-founder of Allbright, spoke on how many women want to start their own businesses, but don’t. They lack the confidence, or they lack the skills, or they feel the skills they have don’t measure up. She spoke on the importance of getting more women to invest in business, and shared her three-Gs mantra of success – graft, grace, and grit. Work hard, have patience and be persistent.
Dr Sue Black OBE, founder of BCSWomen (amongst numerous amazing accolades!) talked about the codebreaking women from WW2 who are finally getting the recognition they deserve – google Bletchley Park if you want to find out more on this amazing story.
Sue also spoke on the value of creating spaces in which women are the majority – it creates an environment that’s so much easier for women to network than a male-dominated space, and therefore maximise the opportunities for businesses to meet and collaborate, simply by feeling more at ease in the room. We totally felt this, with the complete strangers we had sat down with quickly becoming friends.
She also spoke on having a family, and how mothers should be seen equally as amazing role models in tech – words which encouraged a well-earned round of applause.
However, one of the biggest take-home messages we saw repeated throughout the conference, which resonated so deeply with us, was that of mutual support. Find your girl gang.
Finding women who support each other is probably the most important thing about what we do, and we were just so, so inspired to hear such powerful and successful women speak on this.
The incredible woman who organised the conference, Natasha Seyce Zelam (head of technology at Sky) says “help women up the ladder, and when you go up the ladder yourself – take other women with you!”
Communities like ours are integral to forming relationships and giving women opportunity to network, collaborate, meet and share skills. We came away buzzing with inspiration, and we’d love to see more opportunities to engage in a skillsharing narrative and see more women in technical, highly paid, managerial, fierce-as-fuck positions.
Do you have a skill you could share? We host workshops, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org