International Women’s Day 2022 (part 2)
7 March 2022
58% of our team is female, and 47% of our Change Makers podcast guests have been women. Breaking the bias is something we strive to tackle in our day-to-day work but there is still so much more to do, as our guests below make very clear. And we continue to learn – please get in touch if you have something you’d like to add to the conversation about gender parity and breaking the bias in 2022 and beyond: @ChangeMakers_SH
How to level the playing field for future leaders
Izzy Obeng is on a mission to change the global face of entrepreneurship. She launched Foundervine in 2018 to increase access to entrepreneurship for young leaders from under-represented backgrounds, and amplify both their potential and their achievements. She and her team have since helped more than 2,000 future leaders from diverse backgrounds – 62% of them female – create, test and accelerate digital ventures. In her Change Makers episode Izzy shared the experiences that drove her, the importance of ensuring all communities have a voice, and why she believes business is the fastest route to social change.
Izzy is a Non-Executive Director for Capital Enterprise, a body that has raised £814.7m for UK start-ups and a former trustee for Parkrun. In 2019, she was named by Tech Nation as one of the 50 most influential black voices in UK tech. “The UK is special in that it is a true melting pot of people. It has a very particular history that has allowed its cultural make-up to manifest in this way, and it has a responsibility towards the communities that are now part of it…” she told Michael. When it comes to levelling the playing field, “there is still so much work to do”.
How to demand more
If we want to break the bias “it’s not about being passive and hoping that things will get better; it’s about being very specific about the changes we need to see”. Sheree Atcheson’s debut book, Demanding More – described by The FT as ‘necessary reading for anyone who is alive in the 21st century’ – explains why diversity and inclusion don’t happen, and what we can do about it. Listed as one of the UK’s most influential women in tech, and a multi-award winner for her services to diversity and inclusion in industry, Sheree is the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Valtech. Her approach to diversity and inclusion, she explained to Michael, has always been data-driven; we need to collate and interpret the data that is available, and ensure change happens as a result.
Born in Sri Lanka and adopted as a newborn by a working-class, Catholic, Northern Irish family, her upbringing gave Sheree her first lived experience as a person of colour in a majority white community – experience she has taken into a career spent fighting against corporate exclusion. An ambassador for One Young World – the global forum for young leaders, Sheree believes whole-heartedly in the “authentic, vulnerable” next generation and their ability to break down barriers.
How to create your own reality
Deborah Williams was “awakened” during her dissertation studies by the realisation that being a woman, especially in the world of corporate leadership, comes with many challenges. Her mission became clear, and it was, she described to Michael, “a burdening passion, unlike anything I had ever experienced before”. The result: The Women’s Association, which Deborah founded in 2018 and which has since given girls the information and support to dream, while dismantling the barriers that might prohibit them from making their dreams a reality.
Breaking the bias is Deborah’s daily battle and one she is not giving up on: by changing cultures, systems and mindsets, and by engaging with corporations to ensure systemic change, The Women’s Association believes in a better world for women. On her journey to success, Deborah explained to Michael, she has had to face challenges as a young, Black woman in business, having to prove the doubters wrong, and not letting the perceptions of others become her reality.
How to define truth
“To control the past they edited history, and to control the future they edited literature.” While they belong to Jane Thynne’s most recent novel, for many these words have unsettlingly felt closer to the world of facts than they do to fiction. Novelist, journalist and broadcaster Jane joined Michael to talk about her brilliant thriller Widowland, released last June and chosen by The Times as its Book of the Month, as the “most important feminist novel in decades”.
Jane’s passion is for historical fiction and telling the stories of the 20th century through the eyes of the women who shaped it. “All historical novels are about our times because they are always filtered through contemporary consciousness,” Jane explained to Michael. “I did think of this novel as a bit of a jeu d’esprit because it did amuse me that you could have someone trying to write 19th century literature and trying to take out feisty, independent or clever women, because the 19th century novel is all about those particular things. Women learning to become independent, gaining agency. Jane Eyre, Jane Austen’s heroines – they’re all about that progress from being powerless to getting some kind of power.”
How to get more women into the tech industry
“I want people to stop talking about tech changing, and actually invest in real change being achieved. I want some tangible outcomes and I want companies in particular to stop jumping on the bandwagon and start acting.” Anna Brailsford is not just calling for an industry-wide transformation; she is leading from the front as CEO of Code First Girls. CF:G is dedicated to providing the skills, space and inspiration that women need to become future tech leaders.
Anna explained to Michael how she is delivering change, the career steps that guided her and the instinct that drives her: this is a story of a risk-taking entrepreneurial leader, committed to writing a new narrative for the tech industry that puts women on a level playing field. Anna is also a Board Member for the Institute of Coding, and formerly the CEO and co-founder of Founders Factory incubated EdTech start-up Frisbee, and the Commercial Director of Lynda.com and LinkedIn.
Cross your arms to show solidarity and share your image, video, resources, presentation or articles on social media using #IWD2022 #BreakTheBias to encourage more people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world.