In August 2017, Recruitment International revealed the statistic that only 17 per cent pf the UK technology sector’s employees are women. At the same time, it was revealed that the number of girls taking ICT or computer science at GCSE level fell by 12 per cent in 2016.
The news didn’t actually spur us into action, as we’d already begun planning the Women in IT Excellence Awards, but it served as an excellent reminder to us as to why we were creating this new celebration of women in the UK industry.
At Computing – as at any other technology-based events company – we find it extremely difficult to recruit female speakers. Not only are we targeting that narrow 17 per cent of the industry to begin with, but we also mostly need speakers at decision-maker level, and in specialised areas of IT.
It can be slim pickings but, nevertheless, the mantra in our conference programmes is to promote diversity as priority. The challenge to feature women working at senior – and highly specialised – levels in the IT sector is one we are keenly rising to.
Our mission is, I think, now being reflected on a wider level. For example, 2017 in UK sport saw football, cricket and rugby all become stronger environments for women. We won the cricket World Cup, narrowly missed defending our title in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August and reached the semi-finals of the Euro 2017 competition in football. My daughter is a passionate football player, and as a result we now go as a family to watch women’s football, with a much greater awareness of that area of the sport.
And we can all do the same in the tech sector – raise awareness not by saying, but by doing. By running these Awards, we are physically proving, celebrating and commemorating actual successes by women all over the UK industry.
On the night of the Awards, there was a genuine buzz in the room. I think women tend to support women, and that’s exactly what I felt that evening. There was whooping and cheering consistently for every individual award. You’ll sometimes get pockets of booing at industry awards – usually only in jest, of course – but at the Women in IT Awards, everyone seemed genuinely thrilled to celebrate every victory for their peers.
People had gone to a lot of effort to nominate others, and to enter themselves, and that was reflected on the night. We had a very strong social media engagement before the event, too. Again, it was much more about people celebrating colleagues and wider contacts. It was down to individuals; people coming out to support everyone else.
We look forward to making the Women in IT Excellence Awards 2018 even bigger and better – if that’s even possible.
To find out more about the Computing Women in IT Excellence Awards, or if you’re interested at speaking at a Computing Summit, please contact [email protected].