Role Models and Women Making it Happen

 

What’s the reality out there? A set of successful female founders and SME experts talk about their start-up impetus, their life pathways and business methodologies. How and why did they start their work in the technology sector? What were the ups and downs of their routes through digital enterprise zones, finance packages, network mania and pitching environments? Did their gender hinder or help them to move forward? What do they see as the potential barriers and triumphs for the next generation of women entering the digital workplace? Women Shift Digital Conference at Level39 on 26 November 2013

Rachel Coldicutt – Director, Caper / Articulate
Magdalena Krön – Co-organiser, GeekGirl Meetup UK / Community and Operations Manager, Capital List
Roberta Lucca – Co-founder, CMO and Board Member, Bossa Studios
Sarah Platt – Managing Director and Co-founder, Kinura / Sayansho

Chair – Kate Russell- Technology Reporter and Author, BBC Click /Working the Cloud

Kate Russell, Technology Reporter at BBC Click and Author of Working the Cloud, introduced us to a panel of female professionals invited to share their personal and professional experience and us the ups and downs, to help more female entrepreneurs to meet success.

Many clients would be asking me ‘When is your cameraman arriving?’ and I would reply ‘Well actually it’s a woman!’ Sarah Platt, Kinura

Sarah Platt, Managing Director and Co-founder, Kinura / Sayansho, started the debate referring to her own experience: ‘My mum was my biggest role model, she was a single mum and I had to get some work quite early on’. Having a ‘hideous boss’ in a publishing business put her off having a boss ever again and left her with good sales skills. In parallel with her university studies she kept developing strong hands-on, production and technical skills.

Working as a co-director in a web-streaming company, she felt a strong disparity between her and the other 2 directors who were men and so decided to leave and to start her own web streaming business, Kinura. Pragmatically Sarah declared that ‘It was really to earn money and not to have a boss!’

Digital sectors are relatively more flexible in working conditions and can therefore be more fitting for women and international teams, Sarah recognised. The 9-5 working day model is becoming dysfunctional, especially with technologies that enable you to work and connect remotely such as Skype.

There is a deficit of 40,000 people in the Digital job market in the UK, as young people just don’t have the necessary skills. It is a challenge that Sarah has faced as part of Kinura, she emphasized the necessity to have the right hard and soft skills.

Sarah finished her intervention reminding us 15% of directors only in Hollywood and UK drama are women and that they are still deeply persisting gender stereotypes in the film and broadcasting industry.

‘Many clients would be asking me ‘When is your cameraman arriving?’ and I would reply Well actually it’s a woman! Staying on the positive side, Sarah declared that many women camera operators are working for Kinura so she observes that things are changing and that the presence of women in broadcasting careers is on the rise.

“Only 6% of women are working in games development, but 20% of Bossa Studios’ staff is female!” Roberta Lucca, Bossa Studios

Roberta Lucca is the Co-founder of Bossa Studios, an independent video games studio, and just founded WonderLuk, a fashion start up. Born in Brasil, Roberta decided to follow computer sciences studies as she ‘wanted to do something to create a better future’. Feeling very quickly she was lacking creativity and business skills, Roberta oriented herself into broadcasting and innovation, and started working on ground-breaking projects such as new ways to generate new revenue streams through the use of mobile phones. She then moved to the UK to explore new horizons and co-founded Bossa Studios with 2 long-term friends, to have the freedom to develop their projects and ‘follow our visions on the future of entertainment’.

Only 6% of women are working in games development, but 20% of Bossa Studios’ staff is female, Roberta declared.

The percentage of female in video game buyers make up around 345% but only 4% of games give you the possibility to choose a lead female character. We need more creative and diverse female characters to be developed in games rather than only ‘gravity defying boobs’ heroines noted Kate.

34% of video game buyers are female but only 4% of games give you the possibility to choose a lead female character.

For a deeper read on representation and behaviours in virtual worlds and gaming please read http://www.robotsandavatars.net/documentation/writing/behaviours-and-ethics-report/

Roberta and Kate joined voices to demand games designers to create ‘more real’, diverse and less objectified women for computer games. She gave the example of ‘Mass effect’ as one of the first games that gives you a choice of gender, with 48% of the players choosing the female version of Commander Shepard. According to Roberta there is a huge control of funds from big companies, so a huge control over content, and we need more women at the baseline of gaming design to ensure a greater diversity and creativity in content.

The aim of Bossa Studios is to release great products marketable anywhere in the world, as it has been created by women and men from all around the world and diversity at the baseline of design is key ensure onward success.

“It is important that we get the women on stage and that we create the environments that help women feel safe in” Magdalena Krön, GeekGirl Meetup UK

Magdalena Krön, Co-organiser of GeekGirl Meetup UK and Community and Operations Manager at Capital List has always been interested in science and technology but felt she did not have anyone to look up to when growing up and studying. In London she is co-organising GeekGirl Meet Up to bring women who are creating tech together to network, to push forward new and more female role models.

Magdalena always used technology on regular basis to keep in touch with her family in Sweden, as she moved from Sweden to the UK and then travelled the world. Two years ago she decided to ‘get into tech’, took up Tech entrepreneurship courses at UCL and founded GeekGirl Meet up UK with Josephine and Robyn, importing the idea from Sweden. She also co- founded Shift Swap, an app providing flexible working to employees and is now working at Capital list an online platform bring together investors and start ups.

Magadalena believes more women are needed on the front of the stage, in front of the audience and this is what GeekGirl Meetup is promoting. Men are welcome to join in a company of a geek girl as these are inclusive events but there are only women talking on stage for now. ‘It is important that we get the women on stage and that we create the environments that help women feel safe in and want to talk about their knowledge and expertise’. Magdalena said

Magdalena and Kate agreed on the fact that there are many groups in London promoting and activating Women in Tech networks but we now need to join forces to get our voice heard and to make it louder! Women Shift Digital has been initiated by body>data>space and partners to network the networks and start working together coherently.

“Creative skills and critical thinking are key for girls’ education” Rachel Coldicutt, Caper and Articulate

Rachel Coldicutt is the co-director of Caper and Articulate a company that aims at raising the profile of women speakers in tech & creative industries. She recently launched the Articulate women speakers directory on Lanyrd, in order to get visible and ‘make things happen’.

Rachel has been working in technologies for 18 years from publishing to digital strategy and over the years got bored of going to events full of men and working at companies where she was one of the only woman. She also noticed that there were much more women in the digital technology industry at the end of 90’s, but then they seem to have disappeared as they reached their 30’s due to the workplace culture and a difficult work/life balance.

As a result in 2011 Rachel and Katy Beale decided to create with their own creative business, Caper based on their own work values and culture, on what they thinks is ‘the right way to work’. A lot of time and efforts has been put on the way they work as a team and how ‘we can empower everyone who we work with’.

‘I want to work with people who are better than me’ said Rachel.

Kate quoted Rachel’s recent input in the Guadian on the importance and transferability of creative skills in the tech sector: ‘In 2013, technology is no longer something that happens in computer labs to people who wear glasses. It has permeated society: it affects how students study, and how each one of us acquires knowledge, consumes media and undertakes research. It’s a dimension of art, drama, literature and history; it changes language and creates new means of communication.’

Creative skills and critical thinking is required for girls so that they can understand the current female conditions Rachel said. This can be achieved not only through the learning of technology skills but also by arts, history and literature. Provocatively she asked: Do we really want everybody to be a coder? Or do we want people to think big and to have visionary ideas?

Being the mum of a 1 year old son, Rachel started reflecting on her own background: being the only daughter of an engineer, she realised she was ‘brought up as the daughter of a man who wanted a son’. Sarah, Rachel and Roberta made clear that role models and early age education are key in young women gender identity, confidence and ambitions.

“34% of video game buyers are female but only 4% of games give you the possibility to choose a lead female character” Kate Russell, Technology Journalist

The Chair, Kate Russell, an internationally recognised expert on digital technologies and gaming explained us how she often felt like a fraud or on the back foot because she hasn’t been to university. We all know that the ‘imposteur syndrome’ is experienced by too many women, who although they are very able, feel that they do not have the right skills and knowledge to fulfil a job. Although she does not have a university degree, Kate has developed a top level careers in technology journalism, driven by passion, dedication and professionalism.

A self-taught technology expert, Kate ‘just went for it’, and climbed the ladder from being a presenter in a local TV show on gaming to being one of the main presenters of BBC Click.

It was expressed as a conclusion that many women have the tendency to express their success as being ‘lucky’ and ‘fortunate’. However they work hard for it, it is not about luck so we need to talk about our career pathways in a different way.