Technology event inspires women to achieve careers in STEM

Organiser takes part in the STEM event to inspire women with technology just hours after having baby.

By Holly Green

The 9th of October was Ada Lovelace Day, the perfect day to host an event designed to encourage women to aspire to professions in technology. And for the organiser of a Leeds event, even having a baby couldn’t stop her from attending.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer, predominantly known for her work on the first mechanical general purpose computer. She was the first person to recognise that the computer had applications beyond just calculation and she went on to publish the first algorithm intended for the machine. As a result of this feat, she is often regarded as the first known computer programmer.

Ada Lovelace day occurs on every second Tuesday in October in order to celebrate women’s achievements in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers.

The event

The event was hosted by the Leeds organisation, Empowering Women with Tech, who aim to elevate women in digital, technology and science through events and schemes.

”I gave birth at 3:01am and was at the event at 6pm”

Natasha Zayce-Salem, head of technology at Sky and the event organiser, told Leeds Hacks her reasons behind the annual occasion: ”It’s a free day to allow women to get hands on tinkering with science and technology. Just 17 per cent of those working in technology in the UK are female, however the appetite among professional women to become digitally literate remains reassuringly high.”

The event meant so much to Natasha that not even giving birth could stop her from attending the event: ”I gave birth at 3:01am and was at the event at 6pm. It was a really special day for me and I somehow managed to achieve both.”

The event, sponsored by the IT consultancy, BJSS, had over 120 attendees throughout the day. Natasha also added that Empowering Women with Tech regularly hold events, with their annual conference in May attracting over 300 attendees.

Leeds Hacks also spoke to Leeds based UX researcher, Soraya Gallagher, who moderates research sessions to improve the user experience on apps and websites with the use of eye tracking technology and retrospective analysis.

Massive gender gap

Gallagher attended the event on Tuesday and told Leeds Hacks why she thinks it is so important: ”There’s still a massive gender gap in the tech and STEM industries. I think that many women believe that they ‘cannot do’ these roles because they seem so far out of reach, I know I did, and that’s what we’ve been taught for so long; that these jobs and opportunities are for men only, which is not true.”

Soraya also added why she supports the organisation specifically: ”Organisations, charities, and initiatives like this are incredible because they promote change, and improve the accessibility of these activities which allow women to get involved.”

The event hosted a range of activities, from an escape game involving mathematical codes and robots, to making slime. As well as this, the event also took on a more serious role of preparing students for job interviews in technology through the company, Ahead Partnership, who help business volunteers to engage young people in useful skills to help them with future employment.

The event however is not just aimed at career-minded women. Soraya added: ”There was a girl in Year 8 who was working with her mum’s company to promote tech learning in schools. They had laptops hooked up to light up lanterns using a coding platform, and had made light up flowers for the Leeds Night Light parade.”

LED flowers from the event

Credit to Soraya Gallagher

What’s next for Empowering Women in Technology?

On what’s next for the organisation, Natasha told Leeds Hacks: ” Next for Empowering Women is the second cohort of our mentoring programme in December/January. We ran the first wave last month, and placed 36 amazing mentees with experienced mentors. Once we’ve learnt how this intake has gone, we’ll learn from it and do it again.”

About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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