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Caroline:
Welcome to Women in Business Expo on Key Women in Business Radio with me, Caroline Carr! Today I’m going to be talking to our very own Christie Day, who I work with on a very regular basis, about our event Women in Business Expo and in particular, we are going to focus on the zone we have created called ‘Women in Tech’. So Christie, thank you very much for joining us today!

Christie:
Thanks Caroline and thank you for having me.

Caroline:
So, Christie, I know that you’ve worked in the tech sector for more than a decade, I believe. What’s been your overall experience of gender equality in the tech sector?

Christie:
I think working in the tech space in the past decade, I’ve noticed that it has been quite a male dominated industry. It’s now become the perfect time where it’s high on the agenda of these tech vendors who are trying to balance their workforce. It’s staggering that it’s only 17% of women who work in the tech industry in the UK and it’s one of our most lucrative and exciting industries so, obviously, that number has to be increased.

Caroline:
Have you seen companies that are really focused on increasing that and are really dedicated to it?

Christie:
Most of the big brands that I’m speaking to absolutely are. It’s really part of their strategy to balance workforces; that if you have a more diverse team that you have different perspectives, and therefore get better results. So a lot of big brands like Vodaphone, IBM, Sky, they are really trying to attract female talent. Something that’s quite interesting is that you don’t necessarily have to have a tech education or background to work in the industry. It’s more about trying to find the right people to fit in culturally and who have transferable skills.

Caroline:
Great! So do you think things are starting to change? Do you think that we can change that 17% and make it over 20-25%?

Christie:
Absolutely, I think the responsibility of these tech giants who are putting it high on their agenda is the first step and having events, large scale events, like Women in Business Expo is a great place to get to meet these vendors and ask the questions to see how they can apply and work for this exciting industry.

Caroline:
There’s been some amazing women pioneers – one that springs to mind is Dame Stephanie Shirley who was the woman who, in 1962, founded a women-only company of programmers which actually floated on the stock exchange in 1996 for over £150 million. Surely women like this have absolutely championed leading in the tech sector; do they provide inspiration for women thinking of moving into the technology sector?

Christie:
Absolutely! I think such a key part of making that change – to change jobs or change industries – is by listening to inspirational speakers and women who have done it themselves. That’s why it’s quite important for us that Women in Business Expo do have world-class keynote speakers to share their business journey and their story so you have got great speakers like Baroness Karren Brady and Lady Michelle Mone who are talking about the challenges they have faced in their career and how they have made a success. I love to hear these inspirational stories and get to meet these incredible women.

Caroline:
And these incredible women will be at the keynote theatre?

Christie:
Yes – they’re keynoting at the event so, yes, they will be on the main stage.

Caroline:
Wonderful! And they will be sharing their stories of how they developed their own businesses and rose as an entrepreneur….

Christie:
Absolutely. Being able to give tips, guidance and inspiration. We want people to walk away from the event with practical skills and tips to make their perfect career change.

Caroline:
So, getting the message out there that tech is an industry that is equally suited to girls and women is really, really key. There are people out there such as Professor Sue Black OBE whose own story is absolutely inspirational – she’s doing great work here, isn’t she?

Christie:
Absolutely. I think all the work she has done with computer science and her background. She is a tech evangelist and obviously a woman! It is very inspirational to hear her story and share her ideas and to listen to how she made herself a success.

Caroline:
And what about the industry such as STEM and how we can really help that side in terms of technology and engineering?

Christie:
I think the way to really address this issue apart from vendors own responsibility of recruiting talent is to take it back a few steps. It really is this diversity in stem issue of making science, technology, engineering and maths subjects more attractive to girls at school and getting them interested in it. I guess by hearing inspirational stories and seeing the benefits of working in this industry and how lucrative it is, how exciting it is, how fast growing it is and making it attractive it to girls at school is one of the steps we are trying to take.

Caroline:
Okay, great – thank you! Is it not true to say that the tech sector is huge? For example, there’s insurtech, fintech, healthtech etc so there are huge opportunities?

Christie:
Yes – the tech industry is absolutely huge! It affects every business and I think that you can’t really run a business in this day and age without technology. So, yes, it’s absolutely huge and a lot of brands are launching new start-up companies constantly and buying and selling within this organisation so it constantly evolving and changing.

Caroline:
What about tech from a very simple level – for a woman say who is running her own business? Are there ideas and inspiration that they can get about new technology platforms that are out there or tech that they should be using in their own businesses?

Christie:
Sure, on a basic level, I think it’s the social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter that have really helped us within our organisation. As you know, Caroline made the business really successful so it’s about providing an education on how to maximise the social and digital age. That’s what we are going to be doing at the event itself; we’re going to be having dedicated seminars and workshops on how to utilise these social platforms.

Caroline:
Great – that sounds fantastic! So Christie, as my colleague, if I wanted to change my career and get out of events and get instead into the tech sector specifically, what advice would you give me?

Christie:
I would ask you to register for the event, Caroline, and come to the show! I think it’s a good environment to really speak to the experts themselves and ask the questions that you want to know and if you need to have a tech background; say you wanted to explore more of your marketing skills, can you apply for a marketing role? Do you need to have that tech experience? Being a technical person I think you’ll be pleased to see that that’s not always the case – it’s about finding the right person and being able to talk to these experts on a 1:1 environment.

Caroline:
If someone is interested in getting into the tech sector came along, what exactly will they find at the show to help them? Are there certain features?

Christie:
So we have a dedicated women in tech theatre where you will be hearing from tech giants such as IBM, Vodaphone, Sky, Pure Storage, Avast who are talking about their business offering and why they’re such a great industry for women to work in, especially with flexible working and just being quite attractive to the female audience, catering for women who may be mothers themselves.

There’s going to be a ‘plan your day’ feature at the event. We really want to understand why visitors are coming and to be able to point them in the right direction at the show. As you know, it can be quite overwhelming attending an exhibition. So once we have better understanding of a visitor’s needs, we’ll guide them to the correct workshops, the right seminars, the right networking event and which vendors to go and meet on a 1:1 basis.

Caroline:
If they wanted to really kind of meet and network with these people, do you offer anything like ‘round tables’ where people have discussion points on the technology sector?

Christie:
Sure. Vodaphone have actually booked a round table at the event. They’re looking to recruit female talent with not necessarily a tech background. They’re going to be posting their top 100 job vacancies and we’re going to vet the CVs beforehand so that visitors can book a place to get to speak to these potential employers in a round table discussion environment at the show in a private meeting room.

Caroline:
Fantastic! Christie, that all sounds brilliant. It’s lovely to have you here on the show as someone who is so passionate about women in the technology sector. You’ve given us some super insights so thank you for joining us today.

Christie:
Thank you, Caroline. 

Caroline:
Join us next time on the Women in Business Expo on Key Women in Business Radio. Good bye!

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