Let’s talk about money!

It’s never easy discussing how you can get more money from your manager, and we’ve all been in situations where we want to negotiate our salaries or ask for a promotion. However, for many of us, we find these conversations uncomfortable and it often is considered a taboo topic. Not to forget the misconceptions around talking about money, being considered a rude subject to talk about or even unladylike for women.

At DevelopHer we decided to break this taboo and hosted an event on the 19th June to encourage people to say “Let’s talk about money!”. We were pleased to be joined with Stefanie Sword-Williams, Founder of F*ck being humble who moderated a fantastic panel with Zoe Bayliss Wong, Director at Depop, Ben Martin, Senior Insights Director at One Four Zero and Josh Michielsen, Senior Software Engineer at Conde Nast International.

We were overwhelmed by the turnout and note taking during the event, with our members expressing their uneasiness about this topic. “I just don’t know how to ask for a pay rise”; “It would feel like begging if I ask for more money”; “I am worried how I would come across”.

The bottom line is that if we don’t ask for what we deserve, we would end up feeling under-valued, demotivated and unappreciated. But what would be the best way of doing it, and when would be the best time to request it in order to get the outcome that we are looking for? The evening at the “Let’s talk about money” event was packed with tips from our panellists, and here are some of the top ones:

  1. Prepare for the conversation – Always keep a record of your achievements, the value you have added and the impact you have made in the organisation. Remembering every achievement can be difficult, so keep a record once a week on your successes to help you remind you later. Zoe suggested creating an anonymous 360 feedback on Google forms and sending it your colleagues for feedback on ‘What are my strengths?’, ‘What should I be doing differently’ & ‘Where can I improve?’. The positive feedback on your strengths can help support your case on what you’ve succeeded and the value you bring to the company. Make sure that you have your achievements all prepared before the meeting, so you can present them to your boss with confidence.

  2. Pick the right moment – It has to be the right moment for you and your boss too. You need to feel good about having that conversation so make sure you practice beforehand. Ben mentioned the importance of knowing when your company is doing well, as asking for more money at difficult times for the business will only result in receiving a disappointing response. Likewise, asking your boss during a stressful time for them may result in them not giving you the attention you want for this conversation. Don’t have this conversation as part of your weekly catch up, set a calendar invite to specifically talk about your performance so your boss is also prepared for the meeting.

  3. Do your research – It is essential that you know how much you are asking for. When you set a target against how much you are asking for, it becomes easier to have a conversation about it. Josh mentioned websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn are great sources for checking salaries for your skillset. He also mentioned to think about the whole employment package, not just the salary e.g. are you willing to take a small salary cut to save a 1 hour commute with a new job? Quantifying these things can help make job offers more comparable.

  4. Be Objective – Bringing emotions into a conversation that you already find difficult would make it even more uncomfortable. So prepare and practice to not get emotional. Zoe mentioned focusing your conversation on “what I think is fair” as opposed to “what I deserve!”. Keep your language fact driven, graceful and objective. Identify the moments where you’ve increased X metric or saved the company this amount of money or time. Have your job description ready and show how you have gone beyond, show the facts.

  5. Give yourself time – Don’t react there and then if the conversation doesn’t go as you had in mind. Give yourself time to reflect, get over the emotions and decide what response would serve you best. It would be OK to go back and discuss it with your boss further to show that you are unhappy about the outcome however, when doing so make sure that you are in a good state of mind. Stefanie also reminded us that it’s very easy to read a ‘F*ck you’ expression or body language – be careful of your facial expressions when you hear something you don’t want.

  6. Have a plan B – Think about what you would do if your request for more money gets rejected. Ben suggests asking your manager what you need to do to get to the next level, and make notes so you have it written down so you don’t forget once you’ve had the conversation. Josh also mentioned to get in the habit of using ‘CYA – cover your arse’ and make sure you get everything in writing, so your conversations don’t end up being unpromised words.

    If you find your existing role doesn’t give you the desired skill sets you want to get promoted, Stef suggested creating a solution for yourself first e.g. build a team outside your role to show strong leadership skills. Otherwise start looking at your exit plan and ask yourself questions: why stay with the organisation if you are not getting what you deserve? Why not find another job and leave? Maybe you are currently gaining a good set of skills and experience that would benefit you in your next job, which are worth staying for. Or you just decide to stay because it’s personally not the right time to move. Knowing the “whys” would help you identify your reasons and plan accordingly.

Thank you to our speaker panelists on the night for all your insights. We also want to say a huge thank you to Thread for being a fantastic partner and hosting us for the evening.

If you’d like to attend more events like this in the future, sign up to our DevelopHer mailing list where you get first access to our next events.

Written by Marjan Parto Hamed, DevelopHer.

Your Bravest Year Coaching 2018

-Written by Laura Chung, Founding Member of DevelopHer –

As we come towards the end of 2018, the DevelopHer team have been reflecting on some of the amazing work we’ve done this year. One highlight (out of many!) for us included launching our Coaching Programme.

In March, DevelopHer & The Bravest Path came together to provide our community a 6-month coaching programme to live their ‘bravest self’ in 2018. In total, 18 participants out of a hundred applicants were selected to take part, to receive a combination of group and one-to-one coaching sessions on the ground-breaking research of Dr Brené Brown.

The program was designed to enable women to take steps to realise their aspirations and feel brave. Over the 6 months each participant was coached on the following topics:

  1. Personal Values
  2. How to be authentic and create connected relationships
  3. Building a more resilient and joyful you
  4. Overcoming perfectionism & practising self comparison
  5. Daring Greatly and Living BIG.

“This is a fantastic coaching program. They’ve helped me find myself, my values in turn truly live to my capabilities. I’ve also met a fantastic group of amazing and inspiring women in the industry, who I’m lucky enough to call my friends now.”
Omi Ducat, Coachee

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The Results:

As the 6-month coaching program came to and end in July, DevelopHer hosted a ‘Be Brave’ speakeasy sponsored by TransferWise, where each participant gave a 2 minute overview on what they learnt and what this journey meant to them infront of family, friends and the DevelopHer community. We also had Flora Coleman, Head of Government Relations at Transfer wise share her experience on finding a mentor, and how it was valuable to her.

After the event, we heard back from our participants and found that the coaching programme was able to provide a valuable support mechanism and give the ladies the opportunity to progress their career goals, feel more confident and make braver decisions.

  • 100% of participants were either extremely satisfied (71%) or satisifed (29%) with the program
  • 100% of participants believed they have now made braver decisions on a regular basis since starting the program
  • 94% of participants feel significantly more confident since starting the program
  • 94% of women believed this program helped progress their career goals
  • 24% of participants had received a promotion since starting program
  • 35% of participants had received a job offer or changed jobs since starting the program

“This coaching programme has had a huge impact on my life, and everyone deserves to know and benefit from Brené Brown’s powerful research. If you are debating whether to sign up and the thought of living bravely makes you nervous – this programme is what you need! Take a leap of faith, believe in yourself and the rest will follow. 
Phoebe Ashworth, Coachee

We are hugely thank you to all the ladies who were brave enough to apply for the programme and made themselves accountable of taking risks throughout the journey. A big thank you to Bravest Path for partnering with us to give our ladies a great coaching experience. And finally thank you to Transferwise for sponsoring the celebration speakeasy, Syzygy and Sprinklr for sponsoring the coaching meet up events and Qubit for sponsoring our kick off event.

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Considering if coaching is for you?

We asked Bethan Davies, our Bravest Path Coach in the DevelopHer Coaching Programme to give a few tips on whether coaching is right for your personal or career development.

What is coaching and how does it differ to mentoring?

Firstly, be clear if it’s a coach or a mentor you need.

Coaching differs to mentoring in that coaches do not offer advice or opinion. They trust that you are the expert on you, and by having a supportive and challenging partner you can co-design the best solution that will be the most effective and sustainable.
Mentoring is a relationship where often someone shares the benefit of their learning, and ultimately may advise you on what you should or could do. Mentoring can be very useful depending on the timing of your career, but may not always affect behavioural change and can create dependency on others. Coaches help people to think for themselves, by giving them a safe space and time to explore an issue, where the quality of their questions help challenge, reframe and help them form and take tangible actions on the output of thought. It builds courage, as the coachee develops self-trust to listen to themselves

What is the top tip you would give to someone looking for a coach?

When looking for a coach its important to try a few out to make sure you get the best “fit” for you. Coaching is like dating – you need to make sure the chemistry is right!

Request testimonials, and examples of where your coach has helped someone achieve their targets – credible coaches should be able to provide these and contacts to speak with further.

To ensure your success, take some time to reflect on what you would like to be different at the end of the coaching process, where are you now and how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? What does success look, feel or sound like to you? Coaching is not a cosy tea and chat, its an action and outcome orientated process where progress can be measured against your goals, and a coach provides the accountability to maximise your chances of making it happen.

What qualities do you feel people should look for when identifying the right coach for them?

Trust is critical. You need to feel safe and supported by your coach. They should challenge and provoke you. A little discomfort can be useful, as a skilled coach should be pushing the limits of your comfort zone and encouraging you to step into a place where true growth happens.  Someone that listens beneath the surface, to not only what you are saying, but what you are not saying is important. Your coach doesn’t need to be an expert in your industry or area, in fact often the best coaches have little to no knowledge about the subject, as it enables them to be truly unbiased and curious.

In order to get the most out of coaching;

  • Bring your most important topics and be clear on the outcomes you want
  • Be prepared to be fully open and honest with yourself and your coach
  • Allow time immediately before and after the coaching session to mentally prepare and reflect
  • Challenge yourself and be brave!
Coaching has the power to facilitate deep behavioural change, and if the motivation is there, can be a powerful and transformational experience to achieve the results you want.
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You can also read some of the personal journeys our coachees blogged during the 6 months for inspiration on whether coaching is for you:

 

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at DevelopHer over the past few weeks. We are building a new website, planning our launch party, autumn events, and continuing to build on our partnerships with some awesome UK and European initiatives.

We are committed to elevating women in technology and to pursue our mission of supporting women in professional, personal and political opportunities we’d like to expand our network. As firm fans of collaboration within the community we’ve grown great relationships with a number of organisations including Geek Girl Meetup, Blooming Founders, and Women Who Code and want to continue to seek out and partner with other organisations with similar values.

If you know of any other groups, initiatives or organisations you think we should get to know or events we should share, please put us in touch via developHer.org@gmail.com .

One of our newest partnerships is with SyncDevelopHER, an East Anglian initiative committed to promoting gender equality in technology. The awesome organisation is behind the DevelopHER Awards; showcasing the East Anglian technology industry’s leading female talent. The next Awards are in Ipswich on 30th November 2016 and tickets are available now . We’re excited to be working together with them and hope to partner on bringing their East Anglian based event to London in the near future.

Coming up we invite you to join us on 20th September at the prestigious Royal Geographical Society as we collaborate with WOW Talks bringing our mentoring experience to  WOW Talks:Women In Tech. Please use code developherwow2016 for £10 off.

As ever, to stay in the know for all things DevelopHer including our launch party please keep an eye on twitter and subscribe to our mailing list HERE.

Team DevelopHer

Welcome to DevelopHER

To our wonderful members,

We are extremely excited to announce that we’ll be launching under the new name DevelopHER, and will be partnering closely with StartHER in Paris as well as a number of other organisations supporting women in technology worldwide.

Thank you for bearing with us while we’ve taken the time to get our new community initiative right. We are as committed as we’ve ever been to elevating women in technology and will pursue our mission of giving women the same professional, personal and political opportunities as men.

We will be transparent about our plans for the future, finances, and team.

We are committed to you, and will always do what is best for you and our wider community.

We will welcome everyone – inclusive of all genders, experiences, and backgrounds. We are best when we work together.

DevelopHER events and programmes will start running in September and in the meantime please do reach out to us with any questions you might have.

Here’s to an incredibly bright future, we can’t wait to see you all again soon,

Team DevelopHER

 

Contact us:  Twitter , Facebook , Email

Girls in Tech goes to 10 Downing Street

When has there ever been close to 100 women filling the State Dining Room at 10 Downing Street?

When Joanna Shields, Girls in Tech and Inspiring Fifty partnered up to organise a mentoring session for 40 UK-based girls and 40 of the most influential women in European technology.

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Roundtable discussion in 10 Downing Street’s State Dining Room.

“I’m in a hurry to achieve everything” – said Neeles Kroes in her opening speech of the hour roundtable that preceded the mentoring session.

And indeed, Kroes’s feeling is not only true for herself (she is 70+!), but arguably for all the 90 women around the table discussing what Government can do to support women in the digital industry.

It is estimated that “there are less than 20% women on the FTSE 100 Board of Directors” (Camilla Ley Valentin, co-founder of Queue-it) and that it will take 70 years to see an equal number of female and male directors of FTSE 100 companies (Equalities and Human Rights Commission).

And yet, these unfortunate numbers fall far from describing the frustrating reality of those very women sitting at those boards of Directors. Barbara Labate, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Risparmiosuper, shared with the audience her exasperation at meetings with prospective investors alongside her co-founder where “they [investors] tend to think that I am the assistant!”.

Even one of our attendees, Sarah Rench, noticedwalking up the stairs in Downing Street surrounded by my fellow Girls in Tech, the black and white photographs of past Prime Ministers emphasised this point again. Baroness Margaret Thatcher’s portrait placed near the very top of the stairwell signified her recent tenure in the position, but also served as a reminder that she is the only female Prime Minister to date, and only in very recent British history.

In other words, the world seems to still be asking women: “What are you doing here?” writes Nandini Jamm, in a way to implicitly ask, “why bother? Why fight when all numbers are against you?”

A Roundtable of Influential Women to Break the Wall Down

These feelings are the very reason why Girls in Tech exists. Founded in 2007 in San Francisco, and since 2013 with an active local presence in London, Girls in Tech aims to raise the visibility of women in technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Through monthly engaging events with high-profile women speakers (also open to men!), Girls in Tech wants to lead a change in the way feminism has been fighting for its right: by moving away from the gender debate and going for a can-do/just-do attitude.

As Josephine Goube, co-MD, first to speak at the roundtable to present Girls in Tech to the room of female leaders said “we are here to raise the visibility of female role models and so to connect promising talents of tomorrow with today’s female leaders“.

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Europe’s Inspiring Fifty!

Contacted by the Inspiring Fifty to be partners of the event, Girls in Tech was honoured to select the ladies that would get in to be mentored. “We selected 40 girls out of hundreds of applications. We were overwhelmed by the quality. One more reason to make us feel that our mission at Girls in tech serves a need and a cause.”

Following the speech of Neelie Kroes, the other 40 women shared their own personal story and lessons learnt from experience, in hope to inspire the next generation present in the room to take action.

“This [what we have in this room] is girl power, and we need to put an end to constantly underestimating ourselves.” @NeelieKroesEU.

“It’s vital that we, as women, support one another. We all hold this responsibility” @joannashields

“We have to play as a team to move the lines in big corporations (@geraldine) and as such, set an example that empowers other women to enjoy fulfilling and beautiful jobs (@Lararouyres) because we need more women to shape the society of tomorrow (Lindsey of @WomensW4).”

There is nothing to stop women from taking a seat in the boardroom but themselves and the lack of examples may make it a little more difficult @josephinegoube. Still, in the words of Nicola Mendelsohn that day who quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, “You must do the things you think you cannot do”.

The Mentoring Session

And so, on that day, together we did. Joanna Shields closed the roundtable inviting mentors and mentees to begin the mentoring session – 10 minutes of one-on-one discussion between the most influential women in business and a select number of London’s promising women in tech talent.

From the buzz in the room, testimonials the Girls in Tech team captured on that day, and in the email that followed, the session was a success in many ways.

First, for many, it was “THE moment” they’d been waiting for to inspire their own career path and guide their way to success.

“In this room there was an overwhelming, unmistakable feeling of girl power. When I walked away I felt like I could do anything I wanted to do.” Jessica Wesley

“Learning from other people’s experiences and life stories takes the scary out of, and was one of the most insightful parts of the day” – Diana Lee

“The conversations I had during the mentoring session pushed me to start working towards the goals I have been considering, daydreaming about for a long time.”Eniko Tarkany-Szucs

Secondly, it was an occasion for leaders to transmit their knowledge and responsibility to the next generation of leaders or as Yolanda Blasco puts it, for Women Tech Leaders to Finish what Feminism Started.

“It was odd to hear women who are at the top of their game describing the same niggles that I feel… it shows that we’ve still got work to do, together.”Kirsty Joan

The event sent a strong message to the world that “women belong here” and are ready to fight for that to be the norm. 

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Current female tech leaders & the next generation, all together.

The day after the event, the BBC’s high-profile documentary, India’s Daughter, was broadcasted. It illustrates how Indian women are in physical danger every single day when they come home from work in the evening. In our digital age, it is difficult to be blind to what’s happening elsewhere for women.

The event set the example. It set the standards for the next generation and the illustration of what impact women can have when working together to foster gender equality. The event left room for influential women to share their story of how they made it happen to be accepted at the leadership position they are in; and inspire others to do so.

“It’s difficult to believe you can be something if you can’t see other people like yourself already being it.” – Chris O’Dell 

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Photo opportunities outside 10 Downing.

Girls in Tech was honoured to co-partner with the Prime Minister’s Office and bring along forty selected promising women leaders to be part of it. Let this not be a one off, but an ongoing series of events.

Girls in Tech will be back this spring with a leadership mentoring program. Watch this space for more info. You can already express interest in the program by filling out this form.

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Read more about this incredible and unique afternoon from our fellow blogging attendees:

Women Tech Leaders Ready to Finish what Feminism Started by Yolanda Blasco

Inspiring Fifty Women in Technology Roundtable Discussion and Mentoring Session with Girls in Tech by Sarah Rench

What I learnt from the Women at 10 Downing Street by Hannah Russell

Knocking on the door of Number 10 by Diana Lee

How an invitation to 10 Downing Street left me wanting more… by Laura Chung

My inspiring afternoon at Number 10 by Chris O’Dell

#inspiringfiftyno10 at 10 Downing Street by Lucie Kerley

Not Everyone Has #FeministFridays: What I Learned On 10 Downing Street by Nandini Jammi

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and feelings about the fabulous experience, and we hope to see you soon.

Four million and counting

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As of this December, more than 4.4m people in the UK have completed the Hour of Code (HoC) – an initiative designed to encourage people to give coding a go in a fun one hour session. Girls in Tech was proud to be a key partner of the HoC this year.

When we first heard about HoC, it was immediately clear that this was a great initiative. It is such a simple idea, but addresses a highly complex problem. To do the hour learners just go to HourOfCode.com where they can do a free, fun one hour tutorial in a range of languages – from Scratch to Javascript. At the end of the hour, they’ve made something. In the UK, it’s delivered primarily through 700 partner schools. By leveraging the schools network, the HoC addresses three key problems with technical education:

1. Teacher training is difficult

It is difficult for ICT teachers to stay abreast of every new technology. The pace of change is so great, and teachers are hard pressed for time. As a result, many ICT teachers understandably lack the expertise to teach their students to code.

2. Coding isn’t seen as a tool for creating things

Many kids – and in particular girls – don’t appreciate that programming languages are a tool for making things, just like lego. The lag time between starting a typical course and creating a product means that many learners fall part way through.

3. Students lack technical role models

Most kids don’t know anyone who works in technology, and certainly not the cutting edge of web and mobile start ups. Too many want to be doctors or lawyers because those are the only professions they know. They need access to real or online mentors and communities to inspire them to look elsewhere.

Building on an hour to create our future female tech leaders

Girls in Tech believes passionately that these are issues that need to be addressed for the long term. It is for this reason that we are launching an exciting new online learning programme: Global Classroom.

The Global Classroom will deliver exciting online courses on development to communities of girls around the world. Starting on the 10th January, the first course  will teach front end web dev and lead girls through customising their own own Tumblr blog. It’s open to any girl aged 13 – 18 and is free. To enrol just click here, or ask us any questions on Facebook or Twitter.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day with Virgin Startup

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What an amazing opportunity it was to work with Virgin Startup for their Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event on 19th November, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014.

The event took place at a beautiful, rustic location north of Old Street and had more than 100 existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. After chatting with many of the women in attendance, it was clear that most of them were primarily looking to connect with others and gain inspiration from others’ accomplishments.

Goodies for the event were even served up by business owners who had been through Virgin Startup’s programme themselves, a unique approach indeed. One such company was Dark Matters, dishing out fudgy, moist, chocolately chunks of oh-so-heavenly brownies.

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Mmmmmm! Anyway, back to the event…

We set up our own Girls in Tech stand, which attracted many interested women, keen to find out more about our mission and monthly events.

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The day was jam-packed with individual talks, including baby food mogul Annabel Karmel and founder of Ann Sumers, Jacqueline Gold, as well as panels with women representing big companies like Google and Ocado.

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Some of our favourite quotes from the day:

“Quit talking about it, just get on with it.” – Sharmadean Reid, founder of WAH Nails

“Don’t tell someone your idea and ask what they think about it, ask why they think it will fail.” – Annabel Karmel

“Think about why you got here and how you got here – and what difference you want to make. Everyone has a story.” – Business consultant Madeline McQueen

Finally, let’s not forget about the delicious lunch delivered by the lovely ladies behind Lunch Box London.

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It’s very clear from the events we run, plus those we run along with others, as well as the events we attend, that getting women together in a positive environment is the best way to bring empowerment to all. You can feel how the energy in the room lights everyone up, and everyone walks away with the tools they need to either improve their startup or get started on an idea they’ve been thinking about for a while.

Thank you again to Virgin Startup and everyone involved who made this amazing day possible. We cannot recommend Virgin Startup enough if you are looking for a business loan to get yourself started. They provide access to funding and mentoring, which you can find out more about here. We can’t wait to work together again!

Where are all the women?

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Taking a closer look at the lack of women speaker representation at Web Summit Dublin 2014 and other tech conferences, and what we can do to change this.

Written by: Josephine Goube and Lora Schellenberg

Last week, we attended Web Summit Dublin, a technology conference that has grown at a dazzling pace since its inaugural event in 2010. With 20,000 attendees, hundreds of speakers on 13 stages, and media like the CNBC, Financial Times and The Guardian, a gathering like this not only impacts the tech scene in Europe, but around the world.

Of the 120 speakers on the Central Stage, where the main action of the Web Summit took place (and reserved for the biggest leaders in the tech industry), a mere 17 (15%) of the speakers were women. 8 of those 17 were actually journalists, leaving just 9 women viewed as “tech leaders”.

One of the names causing the most buzz at the conference was actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria. Another woman speaker was supermodel Lily Cole. We can’t help but wonder, was the representation of these two more about their good looks or their accomplishments?

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Photo credit

We are entirely aware of this issue with tech conferences all over the world, which is the reason DevelopHer and other women in tech organisations exist in the first place. We want to make sure future tech conferences have more of a gender balance in terms of leadership. We want to help organisers find the best women who are more than willing to speak.

We’ve heard all the common excuses as to why there aren’t more women representing at tech conferences. Here are a few:

  • We can’t find women who are as credible as other male speakers in terms of contributions to technology
  • Many women aren’t interested in speaking because they lack the confidence
  • Women who have families at home aren’t available to give their extra time to speaking gigs
  • We don’t know where to find these women tech leaders

We want to do our part in helping increase women leadership representation at tech conferences. If you’re a woman interested in joining a network of women speakers, simply fill out this short form. That way, when we’re approached by conference organisers to give suggestions of women speakers, we’re readily able to do our part to help.

My experience at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Europe

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Photo credit: Dan Taylor, Heisenberg Media

This post was written by Hannah Samano, the winner of our TechCrunch Disrupt Europe 2014: London all-access pass giveaway. 

What happens when you mix Twitter and an ancient form of Japanese poetry? For me the result was a ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt, one of the most anticipated tech conferences in the world. Girls in Tech had a ticket to give away to the finest tweeter, and so the task of producing a 140 character tour de force came about. So into the frenzied stream I sent forth what would be the most successful 17 syllables of my life so far, praise be to the ever-efficient haiku:

‘For it’s in the name –
Tech Han goes insane for this.
Help the finalist.’

A few hashtags and a couple of days later, I found myself on a train down to London from Durham, where I’m currently finishing my degree. Having worked in a Parisian tech startup last year, I knew that Disrupt was a big deal. It’s like the tech world’s most dangerous concoction of fresh startups, groundbreaking innovation and big-name speakers (with a healthy helping of VCs on the side) ready to shift the scene… which makes for one pretty exciting conference.

Amidst the sea of Macbook Airs, I sat and listened to some really inspiring talks over the two days. To name just one, Neelie Kroes, the outgoing European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. This remarkable woman who has worked wonders for the European digital age, including making substantial progress towards creating a single European telecoms market, spoke encouragingly to the startup community, urging ‘all those youngsters who have interesting business models’ to apply for EU funding.

Another of my favourite speakers was Michael Acton Smith, the founder of kids entertainment company Mind Candy. Acton Smith could be described as the Russell Brand of the tech world, but underneath his eccentric demeanour is a serious business mogul, whose company was valued at $200 million in July 2011. That said, Acton Smith talked honestly about the difficulties his company has faced of late, with a significant drop in revenues and cuts of almost 50% to his workforce. But he insisted that being an entrepreneur is a mixed bag: ‘There are crushing lows and soaring highs… it’s exciting and terrifying, but it’s the best job in the world.’

One of Disrupt’s most famed elements is the Startup Battlefield, which sees a select few startups pitching to become Disrupt’s annual winner. It was so fun to watch small groups of motivated individuals from all over the world presenting their new ideas. To name a few, I thought Lobster seemed smart – a marketplace that allows you to buy images from social media platforms for commercial use. I also liked IO, a social concierge offering lifestyle and travel recommendations that talks to you in a messenger app (if you’ve seen the film ‘Her’, you know what I mean). But the Battlefield’s winner saw the great German guys and their brainchild, Crate.io (a service to set up big data backend servers), take away the £30,000 cheque and the Disrupt Cup.

If you’ve caught wind of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’, then you might already have a visual idea of what Disrupt looks like, thanks to their parody at the end of season one. I kid you not, HBO’s version isn’t too far from the truth. The buzz and the feeling that the people at the conference actually have the power to ‘disrupt’ the status quo is real. I loved every minute of the two-day whirlwind, and being amongst some of the most influential people in the tech world was an incredible opportunity for me. About 250 tweets and a train-ride later, I’m now back in my quiet university town of Durham, wondering whether it was all a dream. I met some wonderful people working on some really great projects, who I hope to get properly involved with when I graduate in June. In the meantime, it’s back to Twitter, and back to my dissertation.

Levelling The Playing Field: Women In Digital

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This post was written by Tom Channell, one of the contributors from the Social Media Week London global communications team, and originally appeared here

Social media week is all about creating conversations which enable us to become better marketers. Thursday’s first HQ event looked at one of the fundamental flaws of business, the lack of women in the working environment. I got a chance to speak with Sally and Alice from Girls in Tech London about how the landscape is changing.

What is Girls in Tech?

Girls in Tech are a global network seeking to empower women by providing them with more visibility. We were founded in 2007 by Adriana Gascoigne and have since grown to over 8,500 members worldwide.

What are your experiences of working in tech as a female?

It’s an amazing industry to work in. There’s been a steady increase in the number of women attending Social Media Week each year which shows that the landscape is really changing.

Women often have better interpersonal skills than men which is a huge advantage for client facing roles, in our Girls in Tech community we have many successful female engineers and coders who are able to create new innovative platforms and lead teams successfully matching tech and inter personal skills equally.

Do you think digital is one of the best industries to work in as a woman?

Certainly. It’s a pioneering landscape which is open to new ideas and creation regardless of gender. There used to be a perception that all people in tech are geeky guys but that’s completely changed. To be successful in digital you don’t need to be male, you need to be authentic, innovative and the courage to use your skill set confidently.

What still needs to change?

We need a meritocracy, people should get jobs based on merit not gender. You can’t control what anyone else is doing, so it’s important to focus on your own skill set and being excellent in all that you do.

Social Media Week invited us to attend the event for which we’re really grateful. As an organisation our goals are to encourage women in technology and give them more visibility. Social Media Week has sponsored former members to attend which has been great as well.

“Social Media Week has provided an insight into the world of virtual marketing, from targeting specific audiences to it’s impact on society, it’s such an amazing opportunity,” said Alice Parsons, student, blogger and content creator.

Schools also need to be more open minded when it comes to digital. I think there’s often a culture of fear that the internet is made up of trolls when in reality it’s full of opportunities for young men and women. We need to get more people coding in schools, and with new initiatives I believe it’s going to become a more essential skill set in the future. Individuals like Alice are an example of how it’s all changing.

What are your predictions for women in tech in the next 10 years?

I’m extremely excited and hopeful for the future. We’ll be looking at a different world in ten years where there’s a more level playing field. Businesses will need to collaborate more with women as they are recognised more and more as significant online consumers and influencers. I think women in tech will use their skill sets to not only to be great entrepreneurs, but also to influence social and political thought. I really do believe all things are possible.