You can celebrate women all year, not just on International Women’s Day

You need only take a glimpse at the diversity of our team to know Plexal is an equal opportunities employer.

That gender equality extends across programmes like our UK Gulf Women in Cybersecurity Fellowship, which is backed by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). And don’t forget the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation-supported Cyber Runway, on which 45% of cohort one were female-led startups.

So, while 8th March marks International Women’s Day (IWD), you can be sure we’re ready and willing to celebrate women all year round.

Naturally though, we’ve been engaged in activity to mark IWD, so here’s a look at what our team has been up to this week.

TechRound: How the tech industry can better support women

“Acknowledge your parental leave policy”

Having recently returned from maternity leave, our Innovation Programme Director Monika Radclyffe contributed to TechRound, recommending startups don’t treat parental leave as an afterthought and to recognise having a child is a life-changing milestone for their staff.

“Leaving your baby at home to re-enter work isn’t easy, so offering a phased return, flexible or part-time working are all steps that can be taken to help adjustments for employee and employer,” Monika says. 

Read her full insights as a professional and mother of three here

GMCA: What comes from valuing and supporting difference?

“We need a huge range of people to make change”

Next up, our Ruby Motabhoy, Innovation Lead for Manchester, spoke with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) Digital division, which aims to be recognised as a world-leading digital city-region.

Asked what comes from valuing and supporting difference, Ruby details: “When I think about the complexity of some of the challenges Plexal is trying to solve, it’s obvious we need a huge range of people, talent and ideas to make change.”

Listen to her perspective in the video below.

Intelligent CXO: Bridging the gender gap in the technology industry 

“One of the challenges that women often face is being the only female in the room”

Fatma Al Lawati, IT Examiner at the Central Bank of Oman, and member of our UK-Gulf Women in Cybersecurity’ fellowship, spoke with Intelligent CXO for their IWD feature. Drawing on her own experience as an Oman resident, Fatma shares: “In the region where I live, in Oman, there are more women studying STEM or tech majors than men. However, the number of women shrinks as they progress in their careers. To address this issue, I believe creating a proper community where women can support each other, seek guidance and mentoring without judgement can help more females continue their careers in the tech industry.

“I recently had an experience that added tremendous value to my career as a woman in tech. I was able to join the ‘UK-Gulf Women in Cybersecurity’ fellowship, organised by the innovation company, Plexal, in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and digital risk management consultancy, Protection Group International (PGI). It’s a unique initiative that is helping to address the issue of underrepresentation of women in the field of cybersecurity, and I was able to learn best practices across government, industry and academia. It’s programmes like that which are undoubtedly an important step forward in the effort to promote gender diversity in the tech industry.”

Read the full interview on Intelligent CXO here.

Elevating Women in Cyber Symposium

“What can we learn from diversity initiatives in other industries?”

Our resident National Cyber Advisory Board (NCAB) member, Saj Huq, CCO and head of innovation, has joined the UK Cyber Security Council, which aims to increase the number of women in the sector.

For IWD, Saj was invited to deliver a Shaping the future of the UK cyber security profession roundtable at the Elevating Women in Cyber Symposium, which brings together the ecosystem to educate, collaborate and spotlight role models.

“I really enjoyed attending the UK Cyber Security Council’s Elevating Women in Cyber event today,” Saj says. “I’ve never been to a cyber event with such a broad and diverse audience in attendance and it was fascinating to hear from industry leaders about their own journeys into the sector.

“During the event, I was delighted to chair a discussion in my capacity as a member of the government’s NCAB. Together with government colleagues, we facilitated an insightful discussion with industry participants and ED&I experts, exploring how organisations should consider intersectionality when developing policies that are aimed at supporting women in the workplace and closing the gender gap within the cyber sector.  

“It’s a key issue, with intersectionality and considerations to address intersectional issues often being overlooked by organisations who approach ED&I initiatives in a tactical way.”

Read the UK Cyber Security Council’s IWD blog here.

TechUK: Remember to celebrate the wins of women as fuel to overcome our challenges

“Read up on the stats and to talk to your female colleagues about their experience”

Our Innovation Lead, Jessica Moffatt-Owen, who helms the UK Gulf Women in Cybersecurity Fellowship programme, has contributed an op-ed to TechUK, which will live in its Women in Tech hub as part of an ongoing campaign to support industry professionals.

And while it won’t be published until 13th March, here’s a taste of what Jessica covers: “Rather than dwell on the negatives (and until we dismantle the patriarchy, there are many!), I want to use this as an opportunity to celebrate women doing incredible things.”

Speaking of incredible things, we conclude our rundown with a session that was held today at Plexal Stratford…

DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality

Hosted by our Innovation Lead Alex Wakefield and convened by Community Manager Anthony Bryan, we held a panel discussion centred around the United Nations’ theme of choice, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, which you’ll agree was particularly fitting for Plexal’s community of innovators.

Alex was joined by SHIFT’s Head of Innovation Francesca Colloca and Canopy’s Head of Design Nuala McHugh for the 45-minute chat, during which they shared many insights, including tips for young women in the tech sector.

Nuala’s advice is to find mentors and inspirational role models and show up, be uncomfortable sometimes being in the double bind of the expectations and judgement, because anything worth doing is a challenge. But by connecting with people, you’ll find joy.

Complementing that point, Francesca highlights the opportunity to buddy up with those who can help make change, as these allies are people with whom you can talk and voice your feelings, effectively building a community around you.

Of course, if you couldn’t attend, sit back and watch the full panel below!