Today Tech North is launching Northern Voices to help people become industry speakers, if they haven’t yet found their voice.
Northern Voices is a six-month programme which we hope will help start to address challenges like the gender or regional imbalances at conferences and in media appearances, in turn making digital jobs a more attractive career for all.
To kick off the programme, Tech North has asked Sandy Lindsay MBE of Tangerine PR and former BBC business broadcaster Penny Haslam, an award winning keynote speaker, media trainer and visibility coach, to deliver free media and public speaker training for 20 women from across the North.
Tangerine will then spend six months booking them for on-stage appearances and into the media to talk about anything from their expertise, to their experiences getting a job in the industry.
They will not simply be talking about ‘being women’, although they will be experts here, they will also be talking up their profession and shouting about the North while they do it.
So, why are we doing this?
Through this new programme, we want to attract more people to work in the Northern tech sector, to:
- Make hiring easier for large and small companies.
- Stop salaries from spiraling beyond companies’ means.
- Ensure companies have teams that represent their customers.
It’s not always well understood why there isn’t currently an even split of women and men working in this sector, or indeed, what it means. In Iran, for example, 70 percent of STEM students are women.
But, looking at the troves of data and anecdote on this issue, it’s really a combination of the kinds of courses young women feel encouraged to do, how attractive these jobs appear to be for women entering the workforce, and what happens during their career, if they get there.
One way to make digital jobs more attractive to women, and therefore help grow the number of people studying the right courses and applying for the right jobs, is to help the women who are already there talk publicly about their careers.
We need more diverse role models, and one thing that means is helping women get over the now well-documented confidence gap.
Many event organisers seem to struggle to find women speakers, which means women often aren’t well-represented at tech conferences. And it’s almost understandable – because they currently make up fewer than one in five tech workers.
But, given that we could need more than 750,000 new people working in the industry by 2020, we urgently need more people working in this industry, and women are one of the biggest groups of people around.
And who wouldn’t want our companies to have more women in them? Even the FT back in 2014 had to admit that “there really is a business case for diversity”. And that’s not just gender diversity. A mix of ethnicity, ability, class, global experience and language helps companies capture new markets, create new products and improve the bottom line.
This effort is designed to test whether we can inspire more demand among women for digital careers, while also addressing existing cultural problems in the workplace, at the same time.
There will be more women inspiring other women to join or lead tech companies, while those in the industry should start taking women more seriously in their organisations, hopefully changing hiring practices and culture accordingly.
We welcome applications from groups that are particularly underrepresented in UK tech, including ethnic minority and disabled applicants, those who have experienced socio-economic disadvantage and people who identify as LGBTIQ.
Because we need more people to work in this industry – and more diversity means better companies.