OLIVE BRADY, DEVOPS CONSULTANT FOR DEVOTEAM SHARES HER THOUGHTS ON THE RECENT WOMEN IN TECH EVENT IN LONDON.
Held in The Brewery, a famous 270 year old landmark in Barbican, The Women in Tech Festival kicked off bright and early. I arrived early (not due to being eager, but because the enticing offer of free breakfast never fails) and upon registration was already taken aback by the queue for the ladies.
I just knew there had to be a downside to over 593 women in one place.
Owning the room like Michelle and Angela
The main stage was MC’d by author/comedian Viv Groskop, who, through her comical timing, kicked things off with a welcome speech and tips on how women can ‘own a room’ via open body language and natural confidence, using Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel as key examples. Her message was a little hazy but came from a good place, noting that there is no ‘one size fits all’ to improve your confidence at work and trying different methods is a healthy way to find out which works best for you.
Work life balance – myth or reality?
A key topic discussed on the day was work-life balance; is the myth becoming more of a reality? Working women with families are continuously sold a lie that they can indeed have balance in both areas of their life. The panel discussion aptly named ‘Balancing the scales of life’, included several prominent women (directors, professors & head of departments) discussing their personal challenges to achieve balance whilst juggling children, relationships and work. All of the panel members bar one agreed that you simply cannot put equal effort into all areas unless one suffers severely. A lack of flexible hours, remote working and well paid maternity leave came under fire too.
The panel member who felt that women can indeed have their cake and wolf it down in an unladylike manner, later revealed that her husband volunteered to become a stay at home husband. He raised their three children allowing their family to avoid the costly realm of nurseries which is now officially the largest expense in a family household, over mortgage or rent. The hypocrisy was not lost on me.
We all have a part to play
There was a surprise guest speaker named Susannah Storey, a civil servant who for three years was a Director General overseeing science funding and custom tariffs for the UK exit of the European Union. She spoke mainly of statistics, a civil servant to the core! Men make up 83% of the IT workforce and 95% of senior management roles in tech. An alarming figure in any sector but more so when you consider much of tech being produced is in turn excluding 50% of the population. The current government has pledged £30.5billion in funding for AI & data, £10million for scholarships to encourage women and BAME folk to join STEM fields. She ended her speech with the phrase ‘we all have a part to play’, which to me sounded like the familiar war cry heard throughout the 1930s and 1940s. I suddenly worried that her three years as a Director General overseeing Brexit lead her to give us all a cryptic message for what was to come. Or I’m just a paranoid fool. One of the two.
Great women, great event
Throughout the day I spoke with numerous women who varied in age, from young women still at college and trying to establish whether tech was for them, to women drawing towards the end of their careers and grateful the AC was on to aid their menopausal hot flushes (not a joke, two women said this to me and I quickly began to wonder just HOW old do I look!?).
Overall it was an absolutely fantastic day, full of thought provoking ideas, honest discussions and unlike 90% of tech events, delicious food in a non-pizza & beer format.
Roll on WiT 2020!