We sent our very own Alice Shackley along to WiLD (Women in Leeds Digital), the first full day conference of its kind at this years Leeds Digital Festival. The conference aimed to educate and inform the tech talent of tomorrow and showcase the range of roles and female activity within the digital sector. Here are her thoughts and key takeaways from the day.
New to digital, I work with both Leeds University Union and Epiphany and have become a part of the She Does Digital team over the past 5 months. I studied a maths degree but spend my spare time doing photography and caving.
Although I’ve been living in Leeds for the past 6 years I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Leeds Digital Festival until 7 months ago when I started my role in digital marketing, but I’m glad my first experiences of events included attending a day hosted by Women in Leeds Digital (WiLD).
The morning session, aimed at students, started with a networking opportunity over tea and coffee. I managed to make a few new contacts before everyone sat down in the new NEXUS building lecture rooms.
Although I’ve always been aspirational there’s definitely an empowering feeling from knowing you can be a part of an initiative where hundreds of women are all helping each other to their achievements.
The next hour and a half showcased business strategists to website designers, a whole variety of roles and how young professionals had gone into them. Each of the 9 or so speakers had 10 minutes (a timer and alarm was being used to really up the ante) to go through their educational journey and explain what their digital role really involved, technical or not. Although I’ve had a little experience in the sector the talks really got me thinking about what kind of work there is to do out there in digital - something I felt would have been invaluable as a student.
I spent the rest of my morning then listening to (and questioning) a panel of four, discussing where Leeds’ digital future is heading. Although this had a smaller audience there were engaging questions and discussions around how infrastructure can make a difference to digital. I even got a question answered by Stuart Clarke, Leeds Digital Festival founder, regarding how businesses can help close the gap in digital for those from a low economic background.
The afternoon session, aimed at professionals, was again comprised of a number of different speakers. I started by finding out more about the support networks relevant to women working in the digital sector. The hour long session hosted a panel including She Does Digital, Girls Who Code, Empowering Women with Tech, Lean in Leeds and One Health Tech. It was incredible to find out that there were so many well established groups each aiming to support women in their own way. Hands on coding tutorials, mentor programs and volunteering opportunities were all on offer to help professional women continue to grow. The more I learnt about what was on offer the more I felt my future opening up. Although I’ve always been aspirational there’s definitely an empowering feeling from knowing you can be a part of an initiative where hundreds of women are all helping each other to their achievements.
It was on that note that I walked into the last panel of the day listening to four female business founders talk about how they have each ended up running their own companies. They were not all from the same background and it was pretty clear that they had each had a different journey to get to where they are now. And that was a bit of a theme of the day in fact. The point was constantly made that you can be interested in technology or not, have technical skills or not, be a woman or not, and still be a part of the digital industry.
It’s safe to say I left the building inspired and motivated. I don’t want to just see changes in the sector over the next five years - I’m going to be a part of it.