Three ways for women in technology to thrive

In the first of a series of dispatches from Cannes, Kathryn Webb, creative developer at AKQA, one of the winners of the GoDaddy Scholarship for Women in Technology explores how the industry can better support women.

As a creative developer, creativity and technology are two of the biggest driving forces in my life. So naturally, when I found out I had been chosen as one of the lucky few to be sent to Cannes Lions Festival this year (with a platinum pass no less!), I was thrilled.

Cannes combines my two core passions into one iconic ball of greatness. It’s famously an awesome opportunity to absorb insights and inspiration from some of the most interesting and innovative people in the world.

The chance to attend is thanks to the Campaign for Equality, a competition open only to women in creative technology roles. After my initial excitement of realising that I fitted that description, I’m sad to admit that my second thought was;

"Frankly, the odds are good."

The research proves my sorry assumption to be true. Despite IT, software and computer services making up a whopping 34% of the creative economy in 2015, less than 22% of those jobs were held by women. This means that women in these technology roles only amount to 7% of the whole creative industry. [These figures are from the UK government's Creative Industries 2016: Focus on Employment report.]

Clearly, my concerns for this issue go far beyond a competition entry. Inequality in the creative and tech industries is a huge problem, and a rumbling growth of awareness has began to engulf more and more companies every year, demanding equality statistics and an improved attitude. Organisations like CreativeEquals and the 3% movement have really helped to keep up the momentum in this equality revolution. But ultimately, the most important thing is to turn talk into action. So here are some key themes that I think we can focus on as an industry, to help women truly thrive. 

1. Planting the seeds

It’s all about outreach. This needs to be done from a grassroots level, including making girls in schools and universities aware of the industry and the job options available. But it’s equally important to connect with women, both inside and outside the industry, who may be looking for a career change, or returning back to work after a break.

2. Foster a habitat that benefits growth

Whether it's an office or a conference, it is important to break down some of the barriers that can make women, or anyone, feel as though they are out of place or unwelcome.

It's important to show that the people in this environment who are already excelling at what they do, have attributes or experiences that newcomers can relate to and understand. Openness and approachableness are key, and when this attitude becomes widespread you can begin to foster a supportive and thriving community.

3. Water the earth, watch the plants grow

In order for someone to really fulfil their potential, they need to have the will to push themselves. By regularly highlighting the amazing work produced by the industry (especially by women), we create opportunities to inspire people and encourage them to strive for greatness. But remember, this greatness can only be achieved if you first provide women with the chances to obtain the skills or abilities that they require to realise their goals.

With a brilliant range of talks, workshops, meetups and even "braindating", Cannes this year is looking to start putting some of these simple strategies into practice.  

Diary pieces from all the winners of the GoDaddy Scholarship for women in technology will be running all this week.

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