Some of the speakers who will be appearing at the festival
Events looks to bridge the gender gap in digital careers
With digital industries growing a whopping 32 per cent quicker than other economies in the UK, Leeds’ status as a centre for tech and digital industries is certainly something to celebrate. But is the ballooning success of this historically masculine industry any use to improving figures for female employment and work place diversity?
Leeds International Festival wants to show that it is and it can be; that there is both space and an overwhelming need for a diversification of voices in the tech field.
Leeds Dock is a thriving tech hub. Look at Sky, one of the biggest employers of coders in Leeds. We spoke to Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Sky’s Head of Tech, who is also the woman behind the Leeds International Festival line-up.
“Sky surpassed original targets,” she told us, “with a total of 650 highly-skilled employees now working at the Leeds Dock site. We’re currently one of the biggest employers of coders in Leeds, a digital hub and the company plans to continue this year-on-year by offering thirty technology opportunities annually for young people.”
Sky are certainly considering gender balance and diversity too, in this recruitment process – a hallmark seen across several of the bigger tech companies. Natasha adds:
“We wish to support and promote gender diversity in a traditionally male industry. Our free ‘Get into Tech’ programme is aimed at women with little or no previous experience in the technology industry, to illustrate the many ways into digital/tech/developer careers. We’ve seen 80 women enrolled on this course since last May, and more than 50 per cent of these have done so in Leeds.”
Her tech strand curation reveals just how hard she is striving for such diversity within an industry she loves. Most obviously is, perhaps, the headline conference, Empowering Women with Tech, a day featuring female speakers such as Lauren Laverne (multi-award-winning broadcaster and founder of The Pool, a site for women ‘too busy to browse’); Emmy Lovell (Vice President of Digital at Warner Music Group) and Dr Sue Black OBE (award-winning computer scientist, radical thinker and social entrepreneur) as just some of a stellar line-up at this Sky-sponsored event.
But Natasha hasn’t just made a one-conference gesture towards diversity. “I’m happy that 67 per cent of the Leeds International Festival’s Tech strand speakers are female,” she says. “Inspirational female tech role models will speak across the event as a means to engage and inspire future females. I am particularly keen to illustrate the wide variety of opportunities a tech career can offer.”
It seems that Leeds’ flourishing tech scene is all set for a female injection into its ever-growing workforce, and Leeds International Festival is a great place to start.
Find out more about the events and speakers at Leeds International Festival at www.leedsinternationalfestival.com