Five women in tech to watch at GeekGirl Meetup Conference
Five women in tech to watch at GeekGirl Meetup Conference
This Saturday one of our favourite networks by and for women, GeekGirl Meetup, is hosting its 5th annual conference.
The confluence of technology and ethics is this year’s hot topic, and we’re excited to head along and hear the insights of some of the most inspiring women in the industry. Here’s a little introduction to five of the speakers: our women in tech to watch.
A girl after our own hearts, Ellie Hale started her career in communications. Hale now heads up the Digital Fellowship at CAST, the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology. CAST is driving the growth of tech for good by working with investors, non-profits, social enterprises and government.
CAST’s Digital Fellowship is a programme which helps non-profit leaders learn the fundamentals of tech and digital innovation, helping charities embrace digital and put it at the heart of their work.
Jillian Kowalchuk runs the upcoming app, Safe & the City – a tool to help women navigate safer walking routes. With an aim to help eliminate sexual harassment in London, we’re interested to see what’s on the horizon for Jillian when the app launches soon.
Camilla Hayselden-Ashby is the Product Lead at fieldmargin, a platform elevating the future of farming and making farming more efficient. The app is a mapping tool providing a visual record of a farm, upon which farmers can draw maps, make notes and leave messages for their team – even without internet connection.
Vida, a company harnessing technology and investing in high quality, in-home carers for the elderly and disabled, was born from Devika Wood’s very personal experience growing up. Having lived from the age of 10 with her grandmother, who lived with dementia and epilepsy, Wood witnessed the impacts of a “lack of continuity in carers”. Vida aims to solve this issue in the sector, leveraging tech to provide personalised, expert care through their carer matching and care plans.
Devika has an impressive background in both technology and healthcare, having left school at 18 to work for Google, subsequently working as a breast cancer research scientist at Imperial College London, followed by stints at Babylon and Healthcare Australia.
A rough sleeper once said to Scarlett Montanaro and co-founder Charley Cramer: “People don’t give me money because they think I’ll spend it on crack and cider.” Fed up with campaigns encouraging the public not to give rough sleepers money, but not offering another solution, the pair created CRACK + CIDER, an online shop where people can buy useful items for the homeless.
Mind The Gap – Does Equal Pay Day Drive Us Down The Right Track?
Today marks Equal Pay Day, the point in the year from which women are effectively working for free when average female salaries are compared against men’s. With the day comes important discussion around the inequality of women in the workplace and highlighting of the sad reality that women’s salaries still lag behind men’s in a huge range of jobs.
The Equal Pay Day statistics show a clear imbalance in the financial rewards of women in the workplace. The UK gender pay gap is 13.9 percent, meaning that the average woman earns 86p for every £1 earned by the average man. Comparatively, women stop earning seven weeks before the end of the year.
But we must be careful to ensure we are looking at the full picture. Sometimes, statistics in isolation can fail to embrace the nuances of an incredibly complex issue – and may miss the issue or issues that truly need addressing. Our strategy for addressing the disparity can only be strong if we are highlighting the real problems – and Equal Pay Day can be misleading.
The image of women comparatively working for free until the end of the year is a strong one. It is provocative to illustrate in measurable, clear and relatable terms what women are missing out on – a clever way to demonstrate a real problem.
Instead, by comparing the mean salary for both sexes, the statistic is founded on the disparity in the types of job men and women secure in the first place, the chosen or available career paths and achievable job levels, and the societal trend and (accompanying business attitude) towards women being the primary carers in a family.
What we should all feel angry about is a combination of societal and business trends and outlooks. It isn’t that employers are necessarily giving unequal salaries for the same role, although this is still sadly rife. It is a whole range of societal attitudes towards women, and the responses and reflections of this in the workplace.
It is of course largely that women are still the default carer when it comes to children, and thus make up a vast proportion of part-time and underpaid roles, as they care for their family or return to work having had an ‘experience gap’. There is some data – although not fully up to date – which suggests that women actually outperform men in salaries in their 20’s, but that this drops off rapidly around the typical age of child-bearing.
It must be recognised that employers themselves are not entirely to blame for the lack of female CEOs (of the UK’s top 50 private companies, only six had female bosses). Much will be personal choice when it comes to family care.
But society across many avenues undoubtedly has a central role to play in continuing the stereotype that women are better or more suitable carers. In a sad vicious circle, the pay gap itself encourages women rather than men to be the partners to give up or take time out from their careers, so that the higher earning partner can continue their career uninterrupted. The general trend for women to partner with slightly older men, who by inference will tend to have more work experience, is also likely to add to the pay gap between couples and boost this tendency.
But employers patently ought to be doing far more to counter the prejudices around primary care.
According to The Fawcett Society, one in ten of the women who had returned from maternity leave had been given a more junior role. Approximately 54,000 women are forced to leave their job early every year as a result of poor treatment after they get pregnant or have a baby, according to The Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Employers cannot ignore this. They must recognise that months or years of 24/7 care for children is not an experience gap – responsibility, dealing with stress, leadership, stamina and time management are but a handful of the skills that primary carers employ day in, day out, and which ought to be recognised for what they are. The viral ‘World’s Toughest Job’ interview video is a fantastic illustration of this.
Another key element is, of course, the types of job roles that women typically take, compared to men. Only 14% of technology roles – a typically highly-paid career path – are held by women. Of those working in health and social care – a typically low-paid sector – 78% are women. Women take the majority of low paid roles – indeed, of those earning less than the living wage, over 60% are women. The statistics go on.
We must make sure to dig ever deeper when it comes to championing women’s equality in the workplace. Data like those upon which Equal Pay Day is founded are vital, but we have to see the bigger picture and not be blinkered by illustrative statistics. The real issues are much wider: a complex web linking employers, education, parents, couples, and – most importantly – society at large. Aiming to close the gender pay gap through targeting employers on one issue alone is not enough – the disparity is deep-rooted and must be confronted as such. Weeding out the prejudices will take stubborn attack from all angles.