Last night I was lucky enough to be invited along to speak at a great event hosted by our lovely client brightsolid at the Festival of Women in Science & Technology in Dundee. The evening challenged people to ‘think outside the cube’, focusing on attracting, retaining and developing talent in order to develop wholly more progressive and effective workplaces, whilst addressing issues around the gender gap.

Prior to the kick-off of such events you never really know what you’re in for - be it a lack of attendance, a clash of topics with other speakers, or particularly ‘difficult’ audience members. However, I’m chuffed to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile event all round.

Far from the burning bras perhaps expected of such events, the session was hugely positive looking at how we can reduce barriers to entry (at all levels) in order to ensure we get the right people in for the right jobs and make best use of our incredible talent pool.

Organised by the wonderful Katie Armstrong of brightsolid, the session brought together people from all walks of life to listen to talks from three speakers (the Head of Delivery from brightsolid Karrie Fyfe, Learning & Development Coach of DC Thomson Cami Moorjani and myself) and open up discussions on how to encourage more women, and talent in general, into the tech sector and develop them professionally into senior personnel.

I kicked off the show with a mixture of highly positive stats (such as that employment is on the up in the UK and unemployment has dropped to just 5.7%) and some fairly harrowing stats (like women in full time work are still paid on average 9.5% less than their male counterparts and despite 51% of the UK population being female, only 30% of all business owners are female – primarily micro to small businesses).

A lot of my information was gleaned from the incredible report released in line with International Women’s Day 2015 by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It’s concerning that, in this day and age (sorry to sound like a grumpy pensioner), there is still such inequality in our society.

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But facts are facts. So, what can we do to address this? In my opinion, it is a societal and cultural issue that we have to address – we accidentally put people (of all genders and backgrounds) into boxes and set them on certain paths. Research evidences that girls are getting the grades in school - in fact females are outperforming males academically in most regions of the UK - in science and technology but they are just not progressing into careers in these fields.

The research goes on to demonstrate that there is a lack of confidence in young ladies in their ability to fulfil these roles. As an industry we need to change this perception and show the vast variety of roles on offer in a more appealing and accessible light. What’s more we need to invest in building people’s confidence and skill sets, breaking down barriers and instead opening doors. In short, the tech/digital industry needs a bit of a facelift.

These themes of investing in talent and developing your people led nicely on to the second presentation of the night, led by both Karrie and Cami. Their insightful presentation focused on transforming company culture and implementing leadership development.

Karrie & Cami discussed the incredible revolution of brightsolid and how their team has went about renovating their workplace (following a turbulent and change-ridden period) into a dynamic and supportive environment. Taking inspiration from a number of psychological and neurolinguistic models, the company has adopted a very forward-thinking approach, investing in better understanding and supporting its people. Not surprisingly, the outcome has been a happier and far more productive workforce.

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This blog only touches on some of the topics covered in the session, with key themes including:

  • Tackling gender gaps in the workplace that are still all too prevalent
  • Changing the perception of our industry to better promote the vast range of roles to a wider talent pool
  • Instilling programmes of professional development and support structures
  • Structuring your business for success
  • Building a vibrant and collaborative company culture
  • Being and creating great leaders
  • Empowering your team and creating an environment in which they feel invested

I’ll be sure to share a link to the other speakers’ slides as soon as they become available.

The only slight let down from the whole event was that in a room of some 30+ people there were only two men. I’ve seen this trend far too many a time before and can only hope that it’s one that will change moving forward. With amazing organisations starting up such as Men in Tech that aim to support equality and the progression of women in technology there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

For more coverage on the event from the hosts, Brightsolid, read their blog here.