Catherine Knivett is the Principal Policy Officer for Digital Skills at the Greater London Authority and leads on an exciting new initiative for the Mayor of London. Catherine is a passionate advocate for equality and diversity and is committed to working with others to create opportunities for young people from all backgrounds. She is very active in the women in tech field, and believes everyone has ownership for equality and should take action.
“…We know that gender stereotypes are formulated between ages five to seven in young children, so what are we going to do about it? We need employers to support young people to aim high and become the creators of our future technology…”
Women in technology
I am really proud to be part of the Tech London Advocates Women in Tech group who recently opened the London Stock Exchange for London Tech Week. We heard from some truly inspiring female forces; Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas DBE being one of my highlights. Some wise words of advice from her; “don’t put up barriers where there aren’t any.”
I’ve always been passionate about gender equality and diversity. My role at the Greater London Authority includes leading the Mayor’s £5 million Digital Talent Pipeline which focusses on nurturing young, diverse talent for the tech sector.
As I conducted research to establish the Greater London Authority policy for digital skills, I couldn’t believe the statistics. Women make up only 17% of the tech workforce in London. As the Mayor of London recently said, “this is just not good enough”. The great thing is there are so many people working to turn this around. But we need all employers to be part of the movement – the Tech Talent Charter is an excellent way to get them signed up to take action.
The London tech scene
London is a growing force in tech and digital but we know the biggest barrier to growth is a dearth of new, skilled workers entering the sector. And the problem doesn’t stop there. With technology disrupting every area of the economy, this lack of new talent is affecting every type of business.
The recent referendum in which a majority voted to leave the EU has led to some concerns in the tech sector, especially given the number of EU nationals working in tech. The Mayor is determined that London should remain a digital and tech hub, and has said,
“I want to send a particular message to the almost one million Europeans living in London, who make a huge contribution to our city – working hard, paying taxes and contributing to our civic and cultural life. You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum.”
As well as being open to talent from Europe and from the world, the tech sector in London also needs more Londoners to develop the skills that will help drive the sector forward.
Plugging the digital skills gap
The Mayor’s Pipeline will create new vocational courses and quality apprenticeships in technology, digital and creative roles. These will be designed to ensure young people are acquiring the skills employers need.
Inspiring young people to pursue these opportunities is crucial to the success of this, so I am working with young people to create a marketing campaign that puts young, creative people at the forefront.
We particularly need to encourage more girls and young women to think about careers in technology. With the London Ambitions portal we will take more professionals into London’s classrooms to inspire young people into careers they might not ordinarily consider. By talking to young children we can counteract gender stereotypes and the unconscious bias that thwarts inclusion.
A call to action on gender stereotyping
We’ve just enjoyed a brilliant Tech Week in London. With the theme of talent, inclusion and diversity shining a light on all the events, the spotlight on women in tech couldn’t have been brighter.
Much of the discussion centred on mentoring and female role models. I take an active part in this and mentor four young women. My own mentor instils confidence in me that leads me to stretch myself and aspire higher.
The stories I heard were strong, committed and impassioned. There was no shying away from the issue and a strong call to action rang out all week: We know that gender stereotypes are formulated between ages five to seven in young children, so what are we going to do about it?
We need employers to support young people to aim high and become the creators of our future technology. And this technology needs to serve the needs of all types of people across society.
We have a huge opportunity to nurture untapped talent across London. I am certain the next generation will make gender equality a reality but we must do everything we can to help them get there. We need everyone to take part in this; women can’t do it alone.