The plight of the Web Heroines
  • 20 January 2012
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The plight of the Web Heroines

So yesterday afternoon, I boarded the train with two very lovely work contemporaries and made our way to the fabulous British Library on Euston Road to attend a panel event, the finale of a 2 day online conference titled 'Emerge' and hosted by 'Web Heroines'.

The mission of Web Heroines is the following: "to increase the number of women in the UK (& beyond) involved in tech industries such as: web, mobile, programming, design, UX & UI. We especially want to inspire women to start businesses, get better jobs, increase their skills & not feel isolated!"

Now, those of you that know me are aware that my own personal tech skills end at the opening of an excel spreadsheet, so my presence was never going to end with a lightbulb moment googling HTML and teaching myself to code.

It was however an absolute pleasure to listen to the go-get attitudes of the panel speakers who included Julie Howell, founder of one of the earliest social networks and author of the first British Standards specification design fon accessible web design; Sarah McVittie, founder of personal styling site Dressipi; Sarah Parmenter, a self taught developer and 2011 web designer of the year; and Jess Ratcliffe, who at aged 20 has launched a game to game swopping website 'Gaboom'. It was chaired by one of Norwich's finest - Keri Lambden, sharp, thoughtful, designer and a serial entrenpreneur.

So... first thoughts when visualising 'women in digital'?, let me right now kill every stereotype. The room was full of everyday professional stylish women, not a 'geek' of any level, in sight. The panel, wouldn't have looked out of place on a catwalk and the conversations, experiences and advice were quite frankly awe inspiring and covered all manner of business related topics from how to raise capital for a start up, through to coping with cowardly twitter harassers.

Although the aim of the event was primarily to bring women together as a thought and knowledge sharing exercise in a field where we are still very much in a minority, all were quick to highlight that it was never about gender wars. Yes, experiences could obviously be cited and audience participation told that discrimination is still evident, but with such a highly skewed demographic, there will always be examples.

The future is bright however, as girls of today grow up immersed by the amount of technology that later generations have had to learn, plus having the encouragement and support of such aspirational role models and events like Norfolk's 'Your Future in Digital'. The hope would be that 10 years down the line, the percentage of women holding design or technology roles is much higher than its currently quoted 12%.

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