This week I attended Women of Silicon Roundabout at the ExCel London. This two-day event had over 6,000 attendees with the overall theme being; ‘to make an impact on the gender gap and boost your career’. (https://www.women-in-technology.com/)
The conference was filled with inspirational keynotes, interactive seminars and self-development workshops. Bringing like-minded people together, from all stages of their careers to connect and share their experiences of working in the tech industry.
Here are my top three highlights from the event:
THE IMPACT OF UNCONSCIOUS BIASIS ON YOUR ORGANISATION:
‘Is Discrimination So Hardcoded We Should Just Abandon Trying To Tackle Unconscious Bias?’ – this interactive seminar lead by Sonya Iovieno, Head of Growth and VC-Backed Division at Silicon Valley Bank was one of my highlights from day one.
Hearing from the room on their experiences with unconscious bias, lead to a healthy debate on the pros and cons of diversity quotas and whether they can indirectly be damaging to women in the tech industry. Some women felt they wanted to get offered a job on credit, not just to fill a quota. Where others felt without the quota, they had no chance of even getting through the interview process.
Blind CVs were also a strong discussion point; with unconscious discrimination and bias being rife. Assumptions are being made about gender and the age of the applicant. This is being assumed through the language used and the applicants school years which are on the CV.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM AMONGST WOMEN:
On day two I attended Olivia Schofield’s ‘Creating Your Growth Mindset To Tackle Imposter Syndrome’ seminar. Founder and CEO of Spectacular Speaking and Vocal Women.
Tackle imposter syndrome? Yes please – most women I have spoken to have experienced this at some point in their career. I certainly have so was keen to attend.
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubt their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)
I arrived half an hour early and sat in the front row. Fifteen minutes later all of the seats were taken – a clear sign that this a common issue among women. Five minutes to go and every spot of carpet had a woman sat on it. The room was crammed full of like-minded tech professionals who were dying to know how to tackle imposter syndrome.
Schofield began by opening up about her own battles with imposter syndrome and then getting us to share our experiences with total strangers. Although all the women were strangers to one another talking about Imposter Syndrome felt completely natural. Why? Because we all felt more or less the same!
The session was enlightening and lifting and we all left feeling united.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP:
Also on day two I attended a seminar by Ewa Magiera, Head of Communities at Code First: Girls – ‘Creating STEM Role Models of Improved Tech Role Applications’.
As a STEM Ambassador and activist for encouraging girls to consider careers in tech I already had a good understanding of the amazing work carried out by Code First: Girls. What I wasn’t aware of was their 2020 campaign which is absolutely incredible – they want to teach 20,000 women how to code for free by the end of 2020.
This award winning ‘not for profit’ social enterprise is DOING so much for women in the tech industry. Giving girls a glimpse into the possibility of a career in programming, teaching them the basics and helping them on their way by offering mentorship.
Magiera highlighted the importance of mentorship from female industry professionals for these young women. There was a display of anonymous quotes from some of the women that had been involved with the program (below). By having a female mentor that you can chat to and find out the challenges and successes that they faced in their careers, can be the difference between someone continuing their tech career journey or walking away. Retention is key in order for change to happen.
To summarise; most women have suffered with imposter syndrome. Our minds trick us into believing that we are not good enough. But Women of Silicon Roundabout was full of great women who have done amazing things.
It was great to hear about unconscious bias as it is a big issue across organisations but there is not a one size fits all solution to overcoming this. Diversity quotas can be damaging for reputations but without them we risk less women entering the industry.
Female mentors are great role models for young women up and coming in the industry. Having someone to talk to who has been there, done that is a great comfort to girls that feel like the minority.
I am looking forward to next year already! I thoroughly enjoyed my two days at Women of Silicon Roundabout and I’m excited to put into practice some of the techniques and skills I have acquired, particularly with VUALTO’s #GIRLCODE initiative.
#GIRLCODE is a VUALTO initiative, which offers free coding classes for girls aged 8-14 who want to learn to code in a fun and friendly environment. These sessions are run during the school holiday in local libraries in the South West. Run by tech industry professionals, the easy and interactive sessions provide hands-on experience of programming using the BBC micro:bit. Click here to read more https://www.vualto.com/company/girlcode/