2017 in technology had several narratives running through it – the stampede towards Bitcoin, the continuing adoption of augmented reality and the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. However, one overarching ethical theme that affected the whole industry was diversity. From the largest listed companies to the students who have yet to make their way in the industry – the technology sector’s pervasive position in society combined with its struggle to improve its diversity credentials is a massive issue that has to be addressed. Luckily, there are organisations and individuals out there doing just that – taking tech to task over diversity.
This week Draw & Code and SwapBots were nominated for two Northern Power Women Awards – Head of Operations Annie O’Toole takes a look at what that means to her and us.
During a week where Hollywood women and their supporters stood up at the Golden Globes as part of the campaign to end sexual harassment, I am exceptionally proud to be a woman working within a male-dominated industry; technology. But, I am even more proud, of the work and efforts, of fellow businesses, friends and passionate campaigners to get more women into this sector in the drive to transform tech into a fair and equal space, in which we can all excel and drive change.
Change that will benefit not only our companies, but our economy, our futures, our children and lives; that is the power of technology, and with a robust and diverse workforce, anything is possible.
Yesterday, we received a wonderful accreditation, we were shortlisted to the Northern Power Women awards twice; both as an organisation that strives for change and equality, but also for our product SwapBots that represents putting the latest technology into the hands of the next generation.
2017 was one of Draw & Code’s best years to date; we have been honoured to work on phenomenal projects, played a small part in the advancement of some incredible technology, the company has grown and as a team we are more diverse than ever before. The work that is being produced in our studio, blows me away daily – the talent that I work alongside is immense and the two driving forces of our company (our directors) are relentless.
But, this is not the case for many of the organisations across the digital landscape, the very male-heavy and macho culture of a huge proportion of technology-based businesses has lead to diversity and equality existing on the sidelines.
As a female manager, I often find myself in a strange land; wary of being seen as ‘not ambitous enough’ or, at the opposite end the spectrum, a ‘bitch’. It’s a difficult place to exist. With every piece of my being, I pray that future generations of women do not have to exist in this dark and dreary space, but rather can ask their male team members to carry out a task, without having to insert a smiley face at the end of the message.
The technology industry really is at the forefront of innovation; tech is used daily by billions of people to connect to each other and enrich their lives. And so, for us to not represent the public and our customers, would be a rather silly mistake on a commercial level and a rather ignorant mistake by the people involved. At the end of the day, it has been proven that diverse workforces make more money.
In order, however, for a diverse workforce to truly drive our economy forward, we also need to understand one thing; the #metoo campaign should never have had to exist and should never have to exist again.
One of the most brilliant things about my job is SwapBots. These little AR toys are fiendishly clever uses of this emerging tech, but what I really love about them is that they are a toy that could inspire young children to want to join us in our world; to work within the technology sector.
Working on a non-gender specific toy that brings the excitement of AR into the hands of children brought about a shift in the way I perceived my role. The use of accessible tech for young people is important as it can change their perception and can make even the most complex technology inviting. There is even a SwapBot called Ada – no prizes for guessing who that is referencing – and we hope that the creative, hands-on play combined with digital content inspires the designers and developers of tomorrow. That’s my kind of innovation.
And so, in this week, I am so thankful that we have been noticed as an organisation that is working towards equality, diversity and a stronger UK economy. A journey, certainly worth traveling.