Empowering Women with Tech and Science

Written by: Emily on May 22, 2018

We left the second Empowering Women with Tech and Science Conference feeling inspired after hearing from some of the UK’s most innovative women in tech.

Leeds International Festival Logo in Pink

Acclaimed TV presenter and author, June Sarpong, kicked off the day with a powerful message, “we want to reshape what the world of work looks like.” Immediately the room swelled with a sense of togetherness as the crowd of 200 women (and the odd man or two) cheered in approval. This would not be the only time that this united crowd would roar in agreement. The energy would remain electrifying and contagious for the whole day.

Kimberley Bottomley – @freedbydesign

First to take centre stage after June’s welcome was Kimberley Bottomley, Head of User Experience (UX) at home security company Cocoon. We love to see others as passionate as us about UX – one of our InnovateHer programmes teaches girls a UX approach to idea generation and how to solve real world problems using tech. Kimberley shared her thoughts on what lies in store for future of UX, including the internet of things, voice interaction and learning from the assistive.

Linda Liukas – @lindaliukas

Finnish author, Linda Liukas, bounced onto the stage with as much creativity and energy as her bunny trainers! In her book series, Hello Ruby, Liukas teaches children how to code through illustrations and storytelling “giving kids a robust sense of what a computer really is.” It’s incredibly important for children to understand devices which are part of their everyday lives and Liukas’ emphasises that we must teach our children that “whilst computers are magical, they are not made of magic, they are made of logic.” After hearing Liukas speak with such emotion and passion, we will definitely be adding some of the Hello Ruby book series to our InnovateHer bookshelf!

Linda Liukas

Natasha Sayce-Zelem – @unharmonic

If it wasn’t for Natasha we wouldn’t have all been gather together to celebrate women in tech. Natasha’s candid account of her journey into tech was empowering, “don’t ever think that your non-linear background is a hindrance” she says. Natasha stressed how important human skills, AKA  soft skills are within the industry, asking those in the room to “be prepared to believe in people. If they have amazing human skills and not tech skills, invest in them.” This is something that we at InnovateHer feel very strongly about and we ensure that we teach the girls on our programmes soft skills as well as technical skills.

Belinda Parmar – @belindaparmar

Belinda Parmar and The Empathy Business are on a mission to make business more empathetic, “empathy makes people feel heard and listened to” she states. Belinda is especially in favour of making the tech industry more empathetic as the she believes tech is currently fueling a empathy deficit causing us to lose control of our relationship with empathy. Her top tips for measuring empathy in your own business includes looking at the number of bcc emails sent, the company politics and the percentage of time more senior people speak in meetings in relation to those in more junior positions. Find out more about how to make your business more empathetic in Belinda’s book,The Empathy Era, Women, Business and the New Pathway to Profit.

Sarah Beeny – @sarahbeeny

Most people may know Sarah Beeny from hit TV shows such as Property Ladder and Britain’s Best Homes, but as well as helping the nation find their dream homes on screen Sarah Beeny is a tech startup founder. Beeny has founded not one, but two tech companies in her career, mysinglefriend.com and Tepilo. The former aimed to take the stigma out of online dating and the latter helps people get onto the property ladder. We were in awe of her honesty when it came to failing in her businesses, “it’s not about succeeding it’s about how well you get up when you fall.” Here at InnovateHer we believe that success is just a well curated set of failures which you have learned from, and we reiterate this message to the girls on our programmes.

Samantha Payne – @SighSam

“We want to take science-fiction and build it into the realm of reality.” Samantha Payne Co-Founded robotics company, Open Bionics, at the age of 23. They have since produced some the world’s most affordable, stylish and advanced 3D printed bionic limbs. After working with the likes of Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm, Open Bionics enables amputees to become real life superheroes with their hero arm. We are inspired by the work that Open Bionics do to empower amputees with technology. We use the work that they do to demonstrate how tech can be used for good.

Open Bionics Team

Professor Sophie Scott – @sophiescott

Neuroscientist, Professor Sophie Scott, is one of the only experts in the science of laughter, an area that is incredibly underrepresented. Laughter is an intrinsic part of our everyday lives, but it is a form of communication that has hardly been explored scientifically. Although Professor Scott points out that this has not always been the case, renowned biologist Charles Darwin had chapters on laughter that the scientific world chose to ignore. Why, when laughter is one of our main forms of communication?

Professor Scott believes that there is a stigma surrounding laughter and draws on the way comedic films are perceived in the cinematic world to demonstrate this. She emphasises that comedic films are very really considered to be critically acclaimed or ‘oscar worthy’ when judged against more serious, morouse films. As a society we are obsessed with achieving true happiness and when “laughter and happiness are intrinsically linked” is laughter not something we should try to understand better? We made a pledge to laugh as often as possible after listening to this talk!

Doctor Suze Kundu – @FunSizeSuze

Doctor Suze Kundu is a nanochemist, academic, prensetor on the Discovery channel and a writer for Forbes Science. She is on a mission to make science less “pale, male and stale.” Despite all her achievements, Doctor Kundu is no stranger to imposter syndrome. In an attempt to be rid of this haunting syndrome Doctor Kundu admits that she once tried to increase her credibility by downplaying some of her most favourable traits, yet she soon realised that this would not work and she stresses that “we have to learn to be ourselves.” Through our work, we try to make sure the girls on our programme are aware that their unique traits are what makes them valuable. To achieve true diversity we need to recognise that “each of us is a role model.”

Empower with Tech Flower Wall

We are in awe of all these incredible women, especially after hearing them speak at Empowering Women with Tech and Science. It is refreshing to attend a conference with such powerful female voices. Each one reinforced the importance of our mission and values that are embedded in everything that we do. We will use their messages and examples to further inspire our girls and our community.

We can’t wait to be empowered again next year!

Follow @EmpowerWithTech.

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