Making a difference in March - Womens History Month
The month of March is all about women, more importantly helping other women step up, be bold, be strong!
This year I've tried to get to more important events and get involved in more initiatives and projects. I wanted to share a few with you here, just in case I can inspire you to do something similar. It doesn't have to be March to do this either!
Shortly before March, so I'm counting it, we ran the Women In Tech North event, with a difference. We had a fab range of talks, speakers and I chaired the panel with a fantastic theme of engaging and supporting divertisty (main photo via Twitter). With the likes of Auto Trader, Thoughtworks and CLOS Consultancy being represented. One of the big elements we wanted to share here, was less talking and lip service and more doing and actions.
I have ALWAYS been a great believer in not just saying something, but backing it up with actions. I have spoken at events about "women in tech" for 4 years now, and I'm stopping, I would rather talk success stories, talk topics rather than the cause, as I don't feel much has moved on in 5 years! Sadly.
So the #witpledge came about because I wanted to see change happen, and support others to make a change. Even if we think it's just "small actions" those, over time, can make a massive impact. If there are lots of people doing lots of little actions, imagine how awesome that could be?!
So we asked everyone at the event to make their own pledge and share it with the world!
My pledge is to not be the "token female" at events and call it out, in a positive way, should this occur. I am also on a mission this year, to change the stereotype of "SEO people" as I think they have a bad rap, and sometimes that's uncalled for. There are ethical companies out there offering SEO that look like, me, so I want to change the landscape!
Worried About Machines Taking Over?
So to start off the month of March, I spoke on a panel at PwC at the Code First Girls first Northern Conference. We talked about machine learning, the future, and personally I talked about the implications of that around SEO and Search futures. This was a day conference to support those who'd been part of the Code First Girls training cohorts and there were some amazing people there, who will go far in the coding world, or further beyond in the tech world.
And from the vibes in the room, the questions asked and the panels responses, AI, VR and "the machines" won't be able to replace us any time soon. There may be some element of machine usage replacing people in factories etc. but this isn't machine learning, the machines aren't that intelligent... yet. For simple tasks, yes they may work quite well, bookings, planning, simple setups, but anything more complex, that needs some complex thought, the machines aren't there yet. And I don't think people will value these at the intricate end, I think people will always value people's input and the minds they have.
A Woman's Place is in her Union
As you'll know, I'm a big fan of unions and do a lot of volunteering for mine, including, chairing the National Womens Committee. So we took a group of female trade unionists from all sectors of the workplace, and went to the TUC Congress to talk and vote on national issues for women in work. Topics such as the menopause at work, correct fitting PPE equipment to keep women safe at work and the topic that our union moved, Violence and abuse in the workplace. We, among a few other unions raised similar topics and one of these was put forward to the national congress as the issue to focus on for the year ahead. We also find that these national issues, are a focus for us, for our members and can feed into future conversations and campaigns we take on.
While in London that week I also joined the new members club for female founders, The AllBright. An amazing place for women to meet and collaborate. I love this place, to work or chill out in when I'm in London and I highly recommend checking it out!
Going Global on Gender Bias Advertising
I love travelling, and I love meeting other people with similar goals. I'm very lucky to be part of the UNI Global MEI Womens World Working Group - a lengthy title I know, but doing amazing things. This month I met up with them in Madrid to talk about the 40 for 40 campaign happening globally (all about representation horizontally and vertically), mentoring in Bollywood for women in media, local projects in the partner areas, and a new campaign we are starting about gender bias in advertising. If you have any examples of good or bad stereotypes in advertising, we'd love to collate them!
It was also fitting I feel, to find this poster (below) at the union building we were in, UGT, a promotion for International Womens Day.
Keeping It Local
And if the international stuff wasn't enough, I do love my home county, so being able to get more involved in helping Digital Lancashire become more representative is awesome too. More to follow on that, but first point of call is getting a Chorley event and a Women/Diversity event up and running so we can connect with more people at the events.
Helping Tech Returners
To finish the month off, I was honoured to have been asked to speak to the latest cohort of TechReturners in Media City. I shared lots of tips and tricks for social media and search engine optimisation for business and self promotion. What a great group of inspiring women, ready for a change of direction or a revamp in their careers! With all the apprentiships around and the support for under 24 year olds, it's great to see schemes like this supporting the over 24s, not enough is available that's funded for the participants.
Is there anything I've missed?
I'm sure I've missed some other things too, apologies if I forgot to mention you! Please take away from this an action to do something, however small. Talk to someone about the opportunities for working in tech, get your mum interested in a tablet computer (I did!), learn about some new technology, go help someone understand something digital they're struggling with.
What else would you recommend? Any ways you get people motivated we could try? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.