Tag Archives: girls in tech

Swedish pop star launches festival for girls in tech

Robyn

Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing to get girls interested in technology – by launching her own tech festival.

She may be best known for pop hits such as “Dancing on my Own” and “Show me love”, but Robyn, whose real name is Robin Carlsson, is also a long-time promoter of gender equality, not least in tech.

Free festival for teens

On Tuesday, she announced her latest step: the upcoming Tekla Festival in Stockholm:

“Tekla will be a festival for girls where they get to try out tomorrow’s technology in different ways in what I think will be a fun and creative environment.”

The free festival will be held on 18 April at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and is directed at 11-18-year-old girls.

3D printing and games

Visitors can join workshops on everything from 3D printing and robot programming to designing games and producing music. And – as befits a festival launched by an international pop star – there’ll be live performances throughout the day, including one by Robyn herself.

Paulina Modlitba Söderlund from Tekla, Robyn and Sophia Hober, dean of KTH

Paulina Modlitba Söderlund from Tekla, Robyn and Sophia Hober, dean of KTH. (Photo: Sara Arnald)

Several companies have already got behind Robyn and KTH’s mission of getting more girls into tech, with sponsors including Google and Spotify.

Combining creativity and tech

Today, only one in three students at KTH are female. Robyn and KTH hope that Tekla Festival will get more girls interested in pursuing technology, by showing the creative side of tech.

“Technology itself isn’t the goal, it’s just a tool to solve problems that our society, organisations and people face,” said KTH’s dean Sophia Hober in a statement.

Tanya Cordrey: Progress for women in tech has stagnated

tanya_guardian

Tanya Cordrey, the Guardian‘s chief digital officer, is a leading figure in innovating the way we consume information online.

She’s in charge of engineering the Guardian’s digital product, using data analytics and testing labs to improve user experience.

One of the joys of working in digital media is that “you learn something almost every day,”  according to Cordrey. She emphasises the importance of “developing in the open,” with the launch of the Guardian‘s new website last Wednesday, stressing how essential it is to use tests to continually improve your product.

“Over the years I have become a complete evangelist around developing in the open – I’m a big believer that getting feedback and constantly learning from it is a really important process.”

tanya cordrey digital officer guardian observer

What’s the situation for women in tech?

Cordrey reflected on the “sad” reality that there are still many barriers for women looking to build a career in the technology industry.

“One can always think back on your career and there are probably several instances of things that have happened that I feel grieved about when I was treated a certain way because I was a woman.”

For example, when she had a child, her working hours shifted – coming in earlier in the morning, leaving at five to pick up her baby, and then working online after.

Colleagues had warned her that she was “putting my career on hold” while working fewer hours to look after her child. She said that leaving the office to pick up her daughter would be seen with disapproval:

There’s a kind of macho culture at the office of who can stay the latest

“What is more damaging and more pervasive is those constant everyday things: when you see women not getting invites to contribute as much; or women being described in different ways to men.

“If a man is described as ‘forthright’ or ‘decisive’, sometimes a woman can be described as ‘strident’ or ‘bossy’.

“It’s just that sort of underlying pervasiveness of it, not just in technology but in society overall.”

I’m not sure it’s got any better over the last few decades

On the working conditions for women in tech, she said that progress had stagnated. She described it as “sad”, adding: “I’m not sure it’s really got any better over the last few decades.”

Cordrey’s teenage daughter is coming up to the age where she starts looking for a job. “The truth is,” she said, “I’m not sure my daughter’s going to experience huge improvements being a woman entering society – because I’m not sure over the last twenty years, things have actually got that much better.”

When asked about why there are more male than female applicants for technological roles, Cordrey said that the “problem starts at a very young age”.

Her daughter has been to coding classes where, Cordrey thinks, she may have been the only girl.

There’s something going wrong at a very early age – where young girls are not being encouraged to do these activities

“There’s something going wrong at a very early age – where many young girls are not really drawn or being encouraged to do these activities. To help stop the problem we have to work when people are very young.”

guardian observer office kings place london

Photo: Bryantbob

So what can we do?

“I think that many people – both men and women – are doing a great job. They’re often humble and don’t think to stand up and be counted as a role model, but I would encourage all women who work in technology to take a deep breath and realise that they are role models.”

She would encourage them “to do what they can – put themselves forward to speak at conferences, put themselves forward to help organise events, put themselves forward to mentor younger women in the organisation or help with graduate recruitment programmes.”

I encourage all women who work in technology to take a deep breath and realise that they are role models

There are, of course, challenges with this – such as the “utterly depressing” abuse that women can get when they decide to be high profile on places such as Twitter.

She said it is also important to “give lots of support to the men you work with as well, because I know there are many men in the industry who are also despairing over the low numbers of women and are keen to address that.”

What does the future hold?

Looking forward to the future in digital media, Cordrey sees women playing a vital role.

It’s a “very exciting time” in the industry – with expansions in video, new forms of storytelling and user-focused innovations in design and interface.

Cordrey is confident that there will be greater equality for women in tech in the future. She is sure that women will be playing a “really important part” in tackling “all of these wonderful challenges ahead of us”.

Where is the hi-tech future of fashion headed?

Panel discussion on fashion in tech organised by Girls in Tech.

Imagine you’re walking into Selfridges and automatically getting a text: “Hey, Clara. Remember that dress you favourited last week? Well: here’re more similar items. In your size. On sale now.”

Fashion dream or Skynet nightmare? Either way, e-commerce experts agree that even more personalization and more data collection will be the way forward.

Mobile growth a challenge

Keeping up to speed with consumers’ relentless move to mobile is a main priority, according to the panelists at “Fashion in Tech”. The panel discussion, organised by Girls in Tech, drew a big crowd to Hoxton Square on Tuesday evening.

“Something we’re going to start seeing but haven’t yet is the transportation of data from the online world to the offline world,” said panelist Sarah Vigrass, strategic projects director at Lyst.

Critics are worried that data collection puts us at risk of online security threats and privacy issues. Is she concerned about this?

“It’s definitely a line we have to be wary of,” Sarah Vigrass said, pointing out that there should be no spamming or selling to third parties. And that the service should always be opt-in for consumers, she said, adding:

“As long as the data is handled in a responsible way I think it’s a good thing.”

Browsing, not buying

40% of Lyst’s traffic now comes from mobile. But we’re still not shopping on our mobile phones – just browsing.

“People use mobile for discovering new products and desktop for shopping,” said Giacomo Summa, CEO of Stylect.

This may change in future as one-touch payments and increasingly personalized online marketing become the norm, said Torie Chilcott, co-founder of Rockabox:

“I want Facebook to send me messages saying, ‘You’re going to love this. Here it is in your size’.”

“Are you happy for Facebook to know you then?” asked panel discussion leader Sinéad O’Brien.

“Oh, they already do!”