As a successful woman working in technology, I often get asked how to attract more women into tech roles. I get asked by diversity officers of large corporates like BT and I get asked to share my experiences as a women with young people through organisations like STEMNet and TeenTech. "Where are the women?" has become a topic across many areas of modern life, such as business, academia and politics, as well as technology. My favourite question on the topic was from a young founder of a tech company: "There are only four of us in the startup and we're all white males - what do we do?".
Step one: Don't panic It's not your job to fix the whole tech industry. There are fewer women than men in tech right now, and you're not going to change that by redesigning your marketing materials or having more female-friendly office perks. If there are only four of you and you care enough to accost a speaker to ask what you can do differently, your company make up likely reflects the industry and you will be OK.
Step two: Realise that there is no magic "women thing" that you can do One mistake that crops up time and time again and will alienate rather than attract women is the tendency to think of them as a homogenous group. I'm a mid-thirties woman without children so painstakingly outlining your maternity policy will not make me feel more welcome, whereas for some women this will be a key factor in considering where to work. Similarly booking in "girly" events or perks without finding out what your female employees like can seriously backfire. As one of our developers said recently "women in tech don't tend to want manicures". (Of course I'm not saying that generalisation is true either - just remember that different women like different things.)
Step three: Find information specific to your business What do the women who work for you already think you do well, or not so well? Perhaps even more tellingly, why do women leave your business? Make sure you hold exit interviews and when you do try to ascertain whether you are finding out what people really think. Consider using a member of the HR team or someone who hasn't been involved in the day to day work of the exiting team member, to make sure that they are not holding back from criticising the person who is holding the interview.
Step four: And if all that fails... If you are really have problems recruiting and retaining women, here are some suggestions.
This post first appeared on the Cambridge Wireless blog.
The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Galvanizing the Geeks – Tips for Managing Technical People”. You can buy the full book on my website, here.
What do managers actually do?
Almost every manager started their career as a ‘doer’ – including me. When I worked as a software developer, with clear tasks to achieve that appeared to compose the majority of any delivery, it wasn’t always clear to me what managers added. Apart from some tangible, visible tasks, such as liaising with the client or setting up a build server, the process of management appeared a little mysterious.
As a manager you have two things to manage: people, and process. The process-management tasks are usually the most visible. They’re the ones that clearly take time: writing a report to the business, creating a risk log, phoning up third parties to find out why their interface isn’t working, and so on. If you are asked to account for your time and you explain that you have been writing a report, it will be easily understood what you have been doing.
On the other hand, it can often be assumed that managing a team of people takes literally no time at all. You simply work out what everyone needs to do, tell them, give them a quick motivational speech, and you’re done. If only it were that simple!
What does people management entail?
You need to have enough time set aside to engage with the individuals who report to you. A good framework to use is to think of people management as a three-step process: set goals and give a clear brief, monitor progress, and give detailed feedback frequently (including positive feedback).
Exceptional, experienced individuals may be able to set their own goals, report back to you frequently so that they are bearing the brunt of the monitoring work, and even analyse their own performance. But even these individuals need you to spend a certain amount of time with them. You need to be inputting into and verifying their goals. You need to be carefully reviewing their status reports, and you need to be giving them feedback on how they are doing. Getting your team to this level should be one of your training goals – once you have individuals who can self-manage in this way, management becomes a very pleasant job.
At the other end of the scale, someone who is new to the team, perhaps a recent graduate with no workplace experience, might require a tremendous amount of support. Before you can even start on the first briefing step, you will need to build rapport so that you can communicate and feedback more smoothly. Briefing will take longer, and you will need to spend extra time verifying that your brief has been understood. Lack of a clear initial briefing is the single most common reason for underperformance. More monitoring will be required, and, until you have trained your managee to take the action upon themselves to report to you at intervals, you will need to spend time actively acquiring updates on their progress. Feedback to more junior members must also be more detailed and more copious; it is more important to follow the 5:1 rule to avoid dis-incentivisation (the 5:1 refers to the ratio between positive and negative feedback – you should give five pieces of positive feedback for every piece of constructive criticism).
What if I don’t bother?
Despite being the most important task, people management seems to easily drop off the bottom of busy managers’ task lists. I think this is because, while people management is an important task, it seldom seems urgent. If you don’t spend time managing your people, the difference may be imperceptible – at least to begin with. Over time, however, the relationship will drift away, with views and aims becoming increasingly misaligned. Once you are your team have substantially different ideas about how best to do the job, or even about what job it is that needs doing, serious problems will ensue. And to sort out these problems will take, yep, even more time.
Your job as a manager is to ensure team cohesion, with everyone pulling in the same direction. You can’t achieve this if you don’t put the time in.
There aren't many other places in the UK where you can be walking down the road and serendipitously find art gallery openings, shows and pop up gigs.
Today I was just walking back from Soho and I saw some people with wristbands - clearly a promotion. I did the standard London thing of "too busy, walk on" but round the corner on Charlotte St I saw more people with wristbands who seemed to be outside a nailbar. My curiousity had been piqued by this point (I was reminded of the marketing adage that a customer needs to see your brand three times to be interested) so I went over to investigate.
It wasn't a nail bar, but a promotion for Beats by Dre headphones. You could get your nails done to match one of 12 brightly coloured pairs. Awesome!! What's more international nail artist Sophy Robson was there leading the event, so of course I got a selfie with her :).
Women are much less likely than men to be called on as experts in the media. The Women’s Room site (http://thewomensroom.org.uk/), set up to help promote women in the media, says that, while women are present in the media - for example we represent 79% of victims - three-quarters of the media's “experts” are men.
The BBC have launched a hugely successful series of “Expert Women Days” where they take women working in science and technology and teach them how to get behind a camera. The only issue is the ratio of applicants to places – for some events up to 8000 women applied for just 20 slots.
I was one of the 7980 women not accepted. Luckily I got another chance when science and technology production company Screenhouse decided that they too would do their bit for expert women with an Inspiration and Communication Masterclass hosted by space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
A wide range of women took part in the course at Imperial College. Most were active research scientists, working in fields as diverse as nuclear fusion and molecular biology. Some were tech startup bods like me, and there was even a science lawyer thrown in for good measure.
There was one standout fact for me for the day. Every single woman who stood up to present thought that she came across worse than she did. After three training sessions in front of the camera, every single woman was delivering a fascinating and concise account of their research, in plain English. Yet almost all bowed their heads as they had finished and slinked back to their seats, nervously registering the positive feedback from science producers and voice coaches. I hope that the feedback will encourage them to do more.
True to Screenhouse’s aims, I was inspired by the day. It was very emotionally challenging, but it was great to pick up new presenting tips in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Most of all I was inspired by the other women who were speaking. I was so engrossed in thinking about speaking technique I had to listen to Jo Flanagan (from CCFE)’s talk twice before I registered that she was part of a team actually building a nuclear fusion engine. O. M. G. !
Screenhouse hopes to run more of these events, and inspire more women into the media. Sign up to hear when more dates are released at http://www.screenhouse.co.uk/inspiration.html.
And yes, Maggie Aderin-Pocock is as lovely as she looks on the TV.
I’ve written before on the lack of women in technology roles. There are many many articles that talk about the small number of women in top positions in large corporates. The modestly targeted 30% club is still a long way from its goal to get just 30% of board positions filled with females.
Yet compared with the number of women acting as angel investors, these areas are awash with women. It’s not easy to tie down the statistics on angel investing as a lot of it happens informally – a chap knows a chap and lends him a couple of hundred thousand. However what statistics exist show a dearth of women. The UK Business Angels Association do an annual survey of their members and have found that a mere 5% of angel investors are female.
Sarah Turner set up Angel Academe in 2012 to help to redress the balance. She believes that in technology the proportion of women investing is even lower than 5%. “What's clear to me is that there's opportunity and demand: both for an angel group focussed on tech but designed to appeal to women (women control nearly 50% of the net wealth in this country!), and from founders (both men and women) who would like to pitch to us.”
Like most people who work in tech, I have long had a fascination with both investment and entrepreneurship, yet on my own I would never have taken the plunge to become an investor. It’s hard to analyse the reasons for this. Confidence plays a part, but I’m hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to business and my career. So I was delighted when, after a chance introduction to Sarah last year followed by an invitation to join the group, I took part in the Angel Academe salons where the panel of angel investors listen to pitches and question the founders.
As a novice investor, I am really honoured to be part of this group, which includes women from very senior roles including operational, marketing, tech and corporate finance roles as well as successful entrepreneurs – who better to trust with your money? It was also reassuring to see that my instincts on what was a good deal or not matched the rest of the group. Six months on, I have just signed my first deal to invest in social music platform Buddybounce.
Set up by entrepreneurs Emma Obanye and Giulia Piu, responsible for tech and product respectively, Buddybounce is a platform for 16-24 year olds to earn points by sharing information about and digital assets from their favourite artist. For example I might get recognised for following One Direction on twitter, and gain even more points if I tweet their new video. This pool of dedicated fans provides an easily monetisable service to record label and artists. As we start to tire of being advertised to, this kind of marketing is almost priceless.
And perhaps there are more far reaching benefits to supporting women founders. Sarah says “If you want to look at the bigger picture, I also think entrepreneurship is the best opportunity we have for advancing women - the number of women at the top of large corporations has remained the same for many years. Far better to support new businesses who can create their own culture.”
Having started my career as a coder, I was as surprised as anyone when I came to discover that the business activity I most enjoyed was networking. I went from being someone who wasn’t comfortable talking with people to the person who’s happy to stand up and tell everyone why they should be getting themselves out there.
For me, there are two key benefits are networking. First, if you do it right it’s immense fun. Even addictive.
Secondly, you can get opportunities through networking that you simply can’t get any other way – often because you don’t know that these opportunities exist until someone offers them to you. After honing my networking skills for several years, I had two standout experiences last year as a result of people I had met and stayed in touch with. In May I appeared in the film The Look of Love with Steve Coogan and in December I finished the year on a high after I was invited to China with Prime Minister. If you had asked me even a couple of years ago I would have not thought either of these amazing life experiences were open to me. It makes me eager to find out what 2014 holds.
Last week I gave a talk to the Hub Launchpad founders group on networking. Unknown to me, there was a sketch artist in the audience and Lucy Knight produced this amazing infographic, which I will be using as my wallpaper from now on. Lucy and her partner Martin Howitt are setting up a business to create infographics to help local government digest important issues – if you are interested in using their services, please tweet Lucy.
One of my best experiences last year was doing a week's unpaid work experience for Kerrang! radio. Working in a real radio station, and hanging out with the DJs (I was sat next to Johnny Doom) gave me a sense of possibility around working in radio that had seemed fleeting previously.
I didn't feel out of place being roughly twice the age of previous work experience students. I chalk that up to the fact that inside I still think I'm 16 (and I don't see that changing any time soon). One of the regular employees James noticed it before I did. "You're the first intern I can actually have a conversation with", he remarked.
How interesting! Being able to chat with people is a skill that I was very proud to learn as part of my career (I even talk about it sometimes) but yet I'd forgotten that I'd changed. Thinking back to my 16 year old self, I would have been so terrified of everyone in the station I probably wouldn't have even found saying "hi" to the gig guide editor easy.
There was another learnt skill that I found myself using. This one I noticed because I still find it hard. In my day job at Softwire, I've been with the same company for 14 years. I've built up 14 years' worth of skills and expertise in technology, sales and management so that I rarely have to take on a task where I feel completely out of my depth.
Not so at Kerrang! I was given a lot of freedom to contribute at the station, for which I'm really grateful. Once the station manager realised that I could do some rudimentary editing, I was given an amazing job of making the next in a series of competitions to go out on the station. The premise was simple - edit together phrases from five celebrity interviews to make a single (funny) sentence. This was then played on air and listeners had to phone in and guess who the speakers were.
Having received permission to edit in any way I liked as long as it sounded fine (phew!), I picked some phrases and got going. After proudly submitting my work to the producer, I got a shock. "It doesn't sound right", he said and seeing that I looked a bit confused about how to fix this, he added "It doesn't hang together."
Panic coursed through me. I don't like to get things wrong full stop, but that's nothing compared to the terror I feel when I've got something wrong and I don't know what to do about it. I immediately remembered starting out in my career and feeling crushed by this exact feeling. My response was to shut down and blame my manager for not giving me enough feedback.
It turns out that the most useful skill that I have learnt in my 14 years at work isn't leadership, or time management or esoteric coding languages. It's perseverence. Unlike my 16, 18 or 21 year old self, I responded to being confronted with an unknown task by sitting down and getting on with doing my best to make it right. Yes, even when the producer sent it back a second time.
I used this skill at other times to get the most out of my work experience. It's a difficult balance, when you don't want to pester people but you need their help in order to be able to do something useful. I know I got opportunities that my 16 year old self would have missed.
Overall I really appreciated the chance to go back to the bottom of an organisation. There is so much that you can miss when you are at the top - we all know that people are often afraid to speak truth to power (however hard we try to encourage it as leaders). Being the work experience chap gave me a valuable insight into the workplace and helped me realise how to best help others in my organisation.
If you are an intelligent person, you form your own opinion when you read the news. You understand that certain papers have certain agendas and you interpret articles accordingly. You take things with a pinch of salt.
But not until I joined the recent trade delegation to China, did I realise just how politicised - and hence inaccurate - news becomes.
When you are part of a large initiative like this, you start being briefed about the event a long time before any "news" is published. I received briefings by phone and email, and a week before we left we were briefed in person by the Prime Minister at Number 10. Throughout the trip we have been party to many in-depth ministerial presentations that the news can, by necessity, only cover in brief.
The driving force behind the trade delegation is clear. Chinese import demands are set to rise to $3.4trillion between 2011 and 2020. This is a massive opportunity for Britain.
It has been re-iterated several times throughout the trip that this is the largest UK trade delegation, not just to China but to ever leave British shores. Even if no business opportunities were uncovered by the delegates, this would be a powerful message to send and of great import to British-Chinese relations. The delegation members are extremely diverse - Number 10 and the UKTI have worked hard to include startups and small business who are usually excluded from these trips. Far from being a plane full of Cameron's cronies, even delegates vocally critical of the government have been included.
There has been great opportunity on the trip to showcase existing contracts, or those that are in the process of being agreed between UK and Chinese organisations. Tim Reeve, COO of the Victoria and Albert museum, was able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese museums that they are to provide consultancy to, the National Theatre is to produce War Horse for the Chinese market and Manchester based Chinese sauce brand Sweet Mandarin have finalised a contract to sell their sauce back into China, a move that their CEO Lisa Tse cheekily described as being like "selling snow to the Eskimos".
For each delegate on board this trip is offering a unique opportunity to learn about trade with China, and to start to make contacts that could one day lead to business deals like those already being celebrated. Much has been made in the news of Cameron's perceived lack of focus on human rights, but these trades that are being done by individual organisations will form the ties between our two countries that will help to prevent war and help the Chinese to lift more people from poverty and, gradually, reform their governance to be more in line with the West.
Why does no one write that in the newspapers?
This post was originally published on Huffington Post.
I’ve been presenting radio shows on unsigned music for over two years. One topic that comes up whenever I meet a band is how to “make it”, or failing that just how to make a living. As an unpaid volunteer at two community radio stations, with a parallel challenge of how to make a living from radio presenting, it’s a conversation that I have a lot of interest in.
The solution for me has been very simple. I don’t try to make a living from radio. I earn a living working in technology and pursue radio as an outside passion. As the coveted deals with record labels get fewer and less lucrative, more and more musicians are treating their careers the same way. I rarely meet a band who support themselves with their music alone.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to attend the Scottish Album of the Year Award and interview the winner, RM Hubbert. “Hubby” has been making music for over twenty years and spent three years “in a darkened room eating nothing but chips” retraining on acoustic guitar. Despite his long career and widespread critical acclaim, he told me in the radio interview that he can’t make a living from his music and recommended unsigned bands to “find a better paid career”.
This story is now old news in the music industry. Back in February LL Cool J announced the “end of music” at the Grammy Awards. “There is no money in this sh*t any more, except for sponsorship from fizzy pop companies” he said and elaborated “[…] we now realise that ‘artistic’ values often do not serve the core brand values of fizzy pop makers.”
But the simultaneous rise of the portfolio career, based on part-time work across different sectors and roles, can give musicians greater freedom. Hi-life wedding formed as a band in Taiwan. “It’s a really good scene for artist and musicians” says Davos, one half of the musical duo. “The local scene is really unique. There’s no real market to make money so you’ve got to just do it for the love of it.” The result? Musicians who don’t feel the need to fit into a genre and so can be truly creative.
Further, the lines between professional musician and skilled amateur are blurring. A year ago punkster Amanda Palmer wrote an extremely eloquent open letter on playing music for free, and working with unpaid musicians. She insists that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success that she has without having the chance to play unpaid gigs.
The advent of the internet has increased the diversity of music available. More people are listening to more music, but they no longer just listen to the same top 20 singles. The availability of flexible jobs means that rather than one rich mega-band, we can have hundreds of artists who need to work but have time left over to spend making music. Better music.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
This is a guest post by Jennifer Le Roux, Digital Marketing Consultant at www.thoughtshift.co.uk and Founder of altmu.co.uk.
Globally the Sharing Economy is worth £310 billion. Not only that, according to Sharing Economy expert Benita Matofska, 52% of adults in the UK are accessing it and another 28% are interested. It is clear the Sharing Economy has thrived in recent years yet, like many others, Benita Matofska, had to endure the frustrating process of trawling the internet to organise her family holiday in 2011, hoping for local insights and property sharing. Fast forward two years and she is now the Founder and Chief Sharer of the first and only comparison website in the Sharing Economy, Compare and Share. Celebrating the launch of their crowdfunding campaign on CrowdCube, which has already achieved £9,920 investment since its unveiling this morning.
Compare and Share have not only created an aggregator that allows consumers easy access to what they need, they have developed asset-sharing technology that enables companies to make and save money from their own resources and buy idle goods or services cheaply from others. This new technology has come at a time when businesses are beginning to embrace peer-to-peer sharing as a method to maximise full use of their assets. For example, Marriot International has a partnership with LiquidSpace renting out unused corners of their hotels to entrepreneurs and start-ups. B&Q have launched streetclub.com, an online platform that connects the industry to share tools and Marks & Spencer have introduced ‘Shwopping’, donating the sale of used clothing to Oxfam. In the US, Wal-Mart are planning to crowd source online deliveries through instore customers with empty seats - all excellent examples of how the Sharing Economy benefits both business and people.
Changing the Business World
Businesses need to be resource efficient if they want to achieve sustainability. Jeremy Heimans, the CEO of Purpose.com, recently reported his view in the Guardian that the Sharing Economy offers an antidote to overconsumption, an eroding middle class and rising concentrations of wealth and power. Describing the influence of the Sharing Economy as ‘devolving power to participants and creating trust-based communities’.
The smart companies are future proofing their businesses, recognising that the Sharing Economy is essentially changing the way that business is done, and Compare and Share has recognised the opportunity to develop an engine that can empower that change. They build the tools that enable these companies to actually deliver peer-to-peer sharing both to their employees and to their customers.
Sharing Economy Experts
Compare And Share’s Benita Matofska is regarded as one of the global leaders of the Sharing Economy, and is often approached for her expertise or to be a spokesperson at key events on its continued growth and popularity. Her background in broadcasting communications for travel programming and the insights from her own not-for-profit initiative, The People Who Share, alongside the talents of her co-founder Nick Tong, has led to this explosive venture ripe with opportunity for investors.
Nick has a background in innovation and technology building specific software technologies that enables sharing items (rentmyitems.com / sunshine) and has been integral to the development of the compareandshare.com and corporate asset-sharing technology. Tong has previously been nominated for a BIMA award for Ivy4evr and has also developed clinical trial management software used at GOSH. Further experience includes working with big names BBC, Courvoisier, Publicis Group.
Together they have created a myriad of technology enabling people searching on their platform an engaging and accurate experience. With data mining techniques deployed across their data mapping algorithm, their asset-sharing technology can deal with large data sets delivered from a wide range of partners. Plans to develop faceted search techniques and semantic vectors will also help with Natural Language Processing (NLP) enabling searching to be very precise. Compare and Share’s Sharing Economy focus on user experience means the community is put centre stage making the sharing part of their DNA.
Compare and Share recently secured a contract with UK charity Macmillan Cancer Support building technology to connect volunteers to those who need support The move is likely to interest further charities who will be lining up behind a pipeline of companies that have approached Compare and Share for their unique expertise, including a major high-street retailer. Matofska said: “There are a lot of opportunities for charities to engage in this space. What we are doing for Macmillan is very pioneering and I’m sure we’ll see many other smart charities adopting the Sharing Economy because they will see the benefit peer-to-peer support can bring.”
Benita believes that the potential reach of the Sharing Economy is wide open. With predictions from some that fertility is the next big thing. In addition websites such as ‘Borrow My Doggy’ with peer-to-peer dog walking and ‘Grape Night In’ are enabling people to share wine, so the possibilities are endless.
“Fundamentally the Sharing Economy extends to anything that people can share with each other, which is absolutely anything and everything. There are no boundaries and that is what makes it exciting because peer-to-peer sharing has limitless potential.”
In terms of Compare and Share’s aggregator, although the Compare and Share website currently focuses on car-sharing, development is already underway for the introduction of global accommodation, a vertical that’s estimated to be worth 26 billion and one of the fastest growing segments of the Sharing Economy with well-known players such as Airbnb and Love Home Swap. Future plans include building travel related verticals from peer-to-peer dining to leisure activities such as person to person tours. In addition to this they plan to go deeper into the travel space, providing an end-to-end travel experience (e.g. everything you need for your journey – cars, accommodation, food, activities, equipment…). With ultimate plans to include in peer-to-peer goods as a complete one-stop shop for the Sharing Economy.
Benita Matofska is confident that they will raise a large amount of investment with the launch of their crowdfunding campaign today, which will also showcase a new video of showcasing their company and the asset-sharing software. There are many comparison websites in the insurance or travel space but no other comparison sites on getting best deals in the Sharing Economy to make and save people money. Last year adults in the UK saved 4.6 billion pounds by accessing the Sharing Economy and that is just a snippet of the astounding statistics available via The People Who Share’s report State of the Sharing Economy 2013, which can be found at www.stateofthesharingeconmy.com. A Sharing Economy is an economy that is built from the sharing of our finite resources and it’s very much a people’s economy; people to people, peer-to-peer, person to person. Compare and Share are seeking crowdfunding investment as the first and only comparison website for the Sharing Economy in the world and set to be the next big aggregator to open up the explosive peer-to-peer market.
According to Forbes Magazine, in the last year revenue growth in the Sharing Economy is up 25% further enhancing the huge market potential in peer-to-peer sharing. At this point in time Compare and Share are the first and only comparison website for the Sharing Economy and set to open up the sharing market in the same way eBay opened up the second-hand goods market making the sharing of spare goods ubiquitous. As world leading experts in this space, they have the talent and a unique idea that is infinitely scalable. This is the next big aggregator, the global technology brand, of the future with massive potential for a huge return on investment.
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.