Insights

Oh what a night... what a lady what a night!

October 14, 2016

All over the country many celebrated the wonderful first ever programmer Ada Lovelace and women’s achievements in STEM. We aimed to support the occasion by hosting Manchester Digital’s ‘Fireside Chats’ with Gemma Cameron as chair, it did not disappoint!

The turnout was fantastic and it was great to see the digital community congregating at our office. Understandably mainly women, but it was great to see some men showed up to support the evening. “We can change the way we think by inviting everyone” the inspirational Vim mentioned during her interview. I agree for one, and made it explicit whilst promoting this event. All the women who were interviewed touched on the notion of “breaking barriers”, and these are conversations that need to be had with everyone if there’s going to be any change in gender inequality.

Safe to say all the ladies involved made us all feel very proud to be a part of the STEM industry. From HR to Service Designers, Technical Architects to Managing Directors, the thread that tied these women together were their drives to help and support others. Something we can all do ourselves.

Our brilliant chair Gemma Cameron is Principal Developer at Co-op Digital and Director of HackManchester among other things! When she wasn't wowing us with her achievements (which include meeting Queen Elizabeth) she spoke about her parents being her main inspiration. First, our very own Cheryl Edwards, Delivery Director, sat with Gemma on the sofa to tell her all about her great time at Valtech.

Next up, Rachel Taylor Global Head of HR for Response Tap spoke about the importance of breaking down barriers to solve issues of diversity in the workplace. It’s clear that being more diverse has paid off. It was refreshing to hear about her love for helping people and offering more flexible working environment for working mums.

Vimla Appadoo is there something that girl can't do!? When she's not working at ‎Dotforge or FuturEverything, she's giving workshops and helping people get jobs with SheSays Manchester. The latter being the most rewarding for her.

Someone who has suffered from Imposter Syndrome (worth looking up if you haven’t heard of it) herself, Rosie Campbell is an advocate for gender neutral recruitment at the BBC. She wants to help encourage women apply for STEM roles they might feel inadequate for. The first girl who got the BBC R&D Technologist & Computer Graphics placement in the last 15 years, you go girl!

Katie Gallagher had us all in stitches as she shared her inspiring story growing Manchester Digital from scratch. However, we were shocked by the terrible gender inequality statistics which spurs her on to be the ‘professional moaner' that she described herself as. Ultimately if we are to improve the situation we must have a skills sharing system, something that every woman speaking today has in their remit.

Our penultimate guest was another Co-op Digital superstar, Danielle H-Wilson, Technical Architect and Chapter Lead at Ladies who Code. With her daughter as her inspiration, she expressed her belief in making STEM subjects attractive to girls so that they don't think they have to pick stereotypical roles. "I don't ever want my daughter to think that because she's a girl, she can't get involved. It's all for her".

Last but not least, Technical Engagement at Co-op Digital, Associate at EY, Chair at ODBG Ireland (the list goes on!) Emer Coleman, ended with some great advice to women in the workplace. "Don't worry about being wrong. It's about passion" and "You won't like everyone you work with, and that's ok". Her honesty and passion was infectious.

As a woman at Valtech, this evening was invaluable so I really thank all the ladies that took part and everyone that attended the evening. We've already begun talks internally to make sure our recruitment and job adverts are as neutral as possible. We also have plans to start meetups in our new office to help groups supporting women in STEM.

Thanks again to all the ladies that were involved, and for the amazing work they do to promote change.