Imagine a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse and inclusive, where difference is valued and celebrated. Since 1911, that vision has been embraced by International Women’s Day – and on this special day, we hear the views of leaders from CCR’s five Priority Sectors, on the importance of forging female equality in our society and workplace.
Our article features the thoughts and insights of Dr. Eirini Anthi, Lecturer in Cybersecurity, Cardiff University, Alexandra Leadley, Skills Academy Manager, CSA Catapult, Sara Pepper, Professor of Creative Economy & Director, Media.Cymru
Rhiannon Thomason, CEO of Human Data Sciences, and Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales – exploring their views and discovering their experiences as women who are shaping a new ecosystem in South East Wales …
“What does International Women’s Day mean to you?”
“As a female lecturer in the field of cybersecurity, International Women’s Day means a lot to me” says Eirini Anthi “as it’s a reminder of the ongoing struggle for gender equality and women’s rights. It’s a day to celebrate the progress that has been made, but also an opportunity to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to achieve true equality – reflecting on the challenges faced by women all over the world, and renewing our commitment to fighting for a more just and equitable society.”
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the impact that females make in the world,” says Alexandra Leadley. “A day to highlight the richness that diversity brings – and recognise the sacrifice made by many in the past, enabling the women of today (and tomorrow) to succeed and enjoy the things that were denied to so many.”
“For me, International Women’s Day is a day where we should all pause, reflect and celebrate what women have achieved” explains Sara Pepper. “It provides the opportunity to collectively acknowledge and honour women around the world for the contributions we make each day – as well as enabling us to focus global attention on areas relating to women that require further action.”
“A day to pause, reflect, remember - and celebrate”
“It’s a moment to remember the importance of inspiring fellow females” says Rhiannon Thomason. “This day, above all days, is the time to stress the importance of finding what you love doing, working hard at it – and enjoying the journey. It isn’t only about the destination and don’t be afraid to take a detour or change paths along the way. Above all, make a difference, no matter how big or small – and as my grandmother would have said, remember ‘you’re as good as anybody else in the room – always.’”
“It’s a key date in the calendar for organisations and individuals to support and promote fantastic female achievements” says Sarah Williams-Gardener. “The work and commitment that creates those milestones happens all year round, of course – and that’s why FinTech Wales and our members put equality and equity at the top of our agenda every single day, generating the opportunities, providing the support and nurturing the safe environments that make fintech such a positive industry for women.”
“How would you rate your work sector as an employer of women?”
“It’s evident that the cybersecurity sector is still quite male-dominated” says Eirini, but I believe that this is slowly changing. And to help this, there are many initiatives and organisations that are working to attract and develop female talent in the field, such as Women in Cybersecurity and CyberFirst. However, more needs to be done to create a truly inclusive workplace that supports and empowers women at all levels.”
“At CSA Catapult, having a diverse workforce and weaving ED&I into everything that we do is hugely important” says Alexandra. “I feel privileged to work with female engineers from across the world who are driving Compound Semiconductor technologies forward. There is still more to do. But we are committed to working with the next generation and demystifying engineering CS careers.”
“Evidence shows that children can’t aspire to be what they can’t see, so we work hard to show that our opportunities are open for women” continues Alexandra. “We partner with UKESF to deliver a Girls Into Electronics Summer school across the UK, and we are also developing a toolkit that can be used by schools to introduce Electronic and Electrical Engineering concepts in the classroom – this is a biomedical device and has been specifically designed to respond specifically to the research which shows that girls who are strong in STEM lean towards a career in medicine and not engineering.”
“So much is being done, with still more to do”
“The creative economy is bursting at the seams with women doing amazing work” says Sara. “However, there’s research to show that some parts of the creative industries have traditionally not been set-up to support women who have caregiving responsibilities due to the ways these sectors work. Through our Clwstwr innovation programme, we’ve sought to break down barriers to women doing innovation, particularly freelancers, by covering childcare costs and providing bursaries for attendance.
“There are a growing number of great initiatives and networks to develop women including Women in Film and TV, Women in PR and Women in Property” continues Sara “and I also see it as a responsibility of mine to mentor women who are starting out in the creative industries, passing on the knowledge I have gained and the generosity other women have shown to me.”
“I believe the data-science/tech industry is a great sector for women to be a part of,” says Rhiannon. “We strive to innovate, to explore and to make a difference – and whilst the figures still show an underrepresentation of women in STEM in general, there is a strong focus on raising awareness of STEM careers and encouraging female talent. Within my current and previous organisations, we seem to be going against the trend with an equal if not higher number of females across the board and in senior roles.”
“I’m very proud to work in a fintech ecosystem that, in my opinion, has the highest representation of female leaders in the UK,” says Sarah. “We have incredible women leading some of the most phenomenal businesses created or scaling in Wales, such as Louise O’Shea, Former CEO of confused.com and our Chair of FinTech Wales, Anne Boden, Founder of Starling, Julie-Ann Haines, CEO at Principality Building Society, Anne Jessop, CEO of The Royal Mint, Lucy Cohen and Sophie Hughes, Co-Founders of Mazuma, Milena Mondini, CEO of the Admiral Group, Michelle Pearce-Burke, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Wealthify, and Louise Towers, CFO, Bikmo.
“We’ve also seen truly inspirational female leaders coming through FinTech Wales’ accelerator programme, The Foundry, including Shabnam Wazed, Founder and CEO, AGAM International, Ella Hastings, COO and CMO, Wagonex, Louise Marsh and Sarah Wrixon, Founders of FYIO and Savannah Price, Founder of Serene.”
“What can we do to make the workplace and society more inclusive?”
“Creating a truly inclusive workplace and society begins by recognising and valuing the contributions of all individuals, regardless of their gender or other personal characteristics” says Eirini. “That means actively seeking out and promoting diversity in all its forms. This includes gender diversity, but also diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, religion, and other personal characteristics. And I believe that a key factor to achieving this is to provide role models and mentors from diverse backgrounds. Connecting with people who have overcome similar challenges can be incredibly empowering and inspiring, especially for individuals from underrepresented groups.”
“It’s our collective responsibility to ensure we are making the work environment, and the world around us, as accessible as it can be,” says Alexandra. “Whether it’s through flexible working that recognises caring responsibilities, or ramps to accommodate wheelchairs, equity of opportunity is in our hands. CSA Catapult introduced policies for employees to request a sabbatical at the same time as developing a policy to support families having Fertility treatment. We recognise that it’s important to accommodate everyone’s preferences and differences, because those enable us to bring a unique perspective to work everyday.”
“It’s about management, leadership, role models and culture”
“Promoting and delivering equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an essential aspect of good management and leadership and is key to creating a fair workplace” says Sara. “That means creating a work environment where every team member can feel safe and empowered to achieve all they can and want to. It’s really important in the workplace and in society in general to make sure everyone feels heard and to create an environment where there are opportunities for everyone.”
“Women within tech as a whole still remain critically underrepresented” says Sarah, “as highlighted in PwC’s Women in Tech Research Report, which reports that just 23% of the people working in STEM roles across the UK are female. Diversity is key and the only way to encourage this throughout an organisation is to get it right at the top. It’s about the company culture, not just a programme of activity.”
“Together with the comparative lack of females in tech, there’s one other significant issue for women in FinTech that I discuss with colleagues and members regularly. Female FinTech founders find it harder to raise investment – with female founders raising just 2% of venture capital money in 2021”.
“With more investment in female founders, I’m confident that we will see further inclusivity in the workplace. That’s why I’m a founding member of the Welsh Female Angels Investors, investing in female tech founders – and I am extremely proud to have created, and lead, the Welsh Female Leaders Banking & Finance Group, whose mission is to mentor and inspire more women into the sector.”
Huge thanks to our Priority Sector leaders for spotlighting the importance of female equality and inclusion in general – and look out for our special feature scoping the views of female political leaders in our Region, on a day that celebrates women in all walks of life, across the world.