A massive month to Celebrate Women - October 2016
You'd be forgiven for thinking the biggest month for celebrations around women and women’s rights and issues, would be March. The month that sees lots of activities around International Womens Day, a UNECSO event setup to celebrate, empower and more.
But October, amongst it's amazing colours, textures and of course, Halloween, there is a trend setting around celebrating women in technology and business.
I started the month joining the Ministry of Justice and the Girl Geek Meetup's Conference.
The second one I've been to and it's topics ranged from Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence of the future... to bespoke programmable sex toys! If you missed it, you missed a good one!
But what I loved specifically about this event this year, was the ice breaker introductions, the usual talk to the person next to you... but this time to post a photo on social media with the new faces you've met. Soooo simple, but so many conferences still don't do this. Falling foul to those who whinge about the "dreaded ice breaker". I'm not saying scare people off with it, but it is a great way to set the scene and actually force people to talk to each other, especially people they don't know, for a few minutes. I went on my own, and I very much welcomed the conversation aid. I happened to be sat next to one of the few guys in attendance (no I didn't seek him out), but it was nice to be able to catch up with him later and say hi.
A new friendly face in a sea full of geeky strangers.
The following week I was invited to speak at Women in Tech North. A relatively new group, who's focus is women who are in, or who want to be in technology, with me being welcome too! I shared my experiences and top tips for being productive and they seemed to be well received. I love talking about apps and tech to boost your productivity. I can talk about pretty much anything techie, but it's fab when I can share something that has had such a profound and positive effect on me, and my inbox. The other speaker was James, a guy, yes, and amazingly, fabulously and sadly all rolled into one, the first guy I've heard speak at a women in tech event. He shared with candour his experiences, barriers and successes and was welcoming to conversations around not only women in tech, but parents too.
I was so blown away by the topics, focus, sharing and impact of this group, I've volunteered to help with futures ones! We need more like these! I'll reserve the discussion about women-only events for another day!
Thanks to the fabulous Reason Digital, I got invited to the Everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology. An interesting day, with mainly representatives from large enterprises and banks. Their promo seemed to focus on workshops and training for women wanting to enter or grow within the tech industry, but other than the panel and a few ladies I met, the rest seemed to fall out of the catchment target for the conference, rather they would support other women into tech but not themselves. For me, I left the conference a little confused having refreshed my knowledge on some KPIs and target setting skills, along with presentations from leads of banks where they see tech, and women as their future. I think the pricepoint for the conference confused matters, and I think I would suggest others attend if they're in a corporate environment rather than running their own business. The shining element of the day however, was meeting Sally Kettle who is the first woman to have sailed the Atlantic twice from East to West with her team on a tiny boat! She shared how hard that was, but also beamed with the passion pride and the fact she grabbed fear by the balls or a regular basis!
The following day saw the fabulous Adas List Conference 2016, celebrating their 3rd birthday, and Ada Lovelace day itself (11th October this year). My first event with these ladies, and it wasn't a disappointment.
At a not-so secret location at Facebook London's head office it was crammed to the rafters as a range of topics were covered with a high-end low-key feel to it(although to sign in you had to tick a set of terms and conditions on Facebook's login systems - I was sad I was the ONLY one who read them!) And again, twice in one week no less, a man talking at a women in tech based event! I was over the moon, Dan from WOMBA was sharing his work around supporting parents in the workplace, a drive for more flexible working for all, and is passionate about supporting career progressions "after childbirth".
Then I pretty much spent the following week in Cape Town, South African for a union conference with UNI Global Youth. It was an amazing experience to meet other young activist from across the globe, but with the focus on women in my mind, it was so gut wrenchingly sad to hear some women around the work, were still fighting for the right to work. We in the UK have seen a clear pay gap on average of 7% nationally, but internationally it's range varies wildly, but for impacts sake, 20% was a general average in more developed countries. When I told people I was off to Cape Town, they said it's amazing, you'll love it, so many good things heard. But for me, it had a more sombre tone, seeing all the homeless people on the streets, beggars trying to sell small handmade trinkets made out of trash, maybe those people that loved the place didn't goto the townships and experience the life there. There's lots of shops, cafes, bars and affluent areas, but I feel the real face of Cape Town was in our lovely hosts who are struggling for union recognition and the amazing and friendly locals in the shops and cafes living off tips. Don't get me wrong there were also the beautiful landscapes of Table Top Mountain, and the amazing food and wine, but I can't help but this people love it for the relative cheapness and luxury compared to the UK.
UK, life, we have it easy!
Then to top the month of Women in Tech off, I joined UNI Global again, this time their UNI MEI Womens Working Group the media, entertainment, arts and sports sector, covering staff freelance, independent and contract workers. It brings together over 100 union and guilds in over 70 countries and I joined then in Edinburgh (not such a long commute this time). We had around 10 unions from difference countries across the world around the table for a day focused around working women. Each union reported on the local landscape of their country, their union members and their activities in and outside of the union. Some engaged in community events, some ran education and information days, and one amazing success story from SATSAID in Argentina, told of how the union had managed to have derogatory advertising removed from the media, and how their relationships were building with ad agencies, along with a focus on unconscious bias.
For us in the UK, our focus is on unconscious bias, the 40for40 campaign (to have at least 40% women represented on all boards and committees) and ageism. As a woman who's freelanced in tech, and now runs her own business, I feel all of these are relevant to me! I'm really looking forward to getting some activities and campaigning started.
And I must *hat tip* to Womens Entrepreneurship Day on the 19th November, which was only setup in 2014, but seems to have been growing in pace ever since. It’s a bit outside the month of October, but has a focus of women in business, which might also be tech, but is definitely worthy of a mention. I had a great day with the networking group Pink Link Ladies in Lancashire, and that rounded off the month of women nicely, with a big plate of pie and roast potatoes, connecting with fellow business women.
And to top off the month, I've been voted in as the new chair for the National Womens Committee for BECTU, the RPD rep on the NEC, and I got an awesome chance to watch Halloween-famed John Carpenter playing Live with his films in Manchester, and an American Football game in London!
Phew! That was a busy month, what's on the list for the rest of 2016? Have you any plans you'd like to share? Tweet me @Tech_Geek_Girl on Twitter.