Social value: How I learned
that gender diversity in tech
can save lives

Young women at Girl Tech Leeds event engaged in conversation with professionals from the digital and tech industries
26 Mar, 24


Comments from Suzie Bell, Project Lead of Growing Talent Digital Leeds and Project Manager at Ahead Partnership

Last week I attended the Women in Tech breakfast at Accenture in Leeds. The theme of the morning was Women’s Health technology and I posted on LinkedIn at the time about how refreshing I found it to be in a room where women’s health was discussed openly and how reassuring it was to hear about the technological advancements being made by companies like Kheiron Medical, to use AI to support the NHS in diagnosing breast cancer. The discussions and themes of that morning have stayed with me over the last week, as I’ve pondered the real-life implications of diversity (or a lack of it) in technology and digital. Not long after attending the event I read an article announcing that a team of researchers from Sweden has developed the world’s first crash test dummy Eva, modelled on the average female body. Read that again.

In 2024 there has never been a crash test dummy that considers female anatomy before, and crash test dummies have been used to test car safety for more than 50 years. Women’s crash safety has never been tested. The team that created the dummy is led by Dr Astrid Linder, yes, she is a woman. I watched Dr Astrid Linger’s Ted Talk on Eva, she stated women are more than twice as likely to get soft tissue injuries in a car crash than men. Twice the risk.

I’m passionate about challenging inequality, which is why my role at Ahead Partnership involves thinking about how to create more opportunities for social mobility. Our Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme brings together schools, businesses, and key local stakeholders to deliver an annual calendar of events to educate young people on the digital sector and the importance digital skills will play in their future. As project lead on the programme, I often spend time looking at the latest statistics on diversity in the tech sector and how we can innovate new ways of communicating the opportunities in tech to young people who could join the sector’s workforce in years to come. What can be tricky to communicate to the young people we work with, is why companies and organisations sponsoring our programmes want to gain their interest in working in their sector one day. Young people are astute and occasionally cynical. The young people we work with on Growing Talent Digital Leeds are the most diverse and the least advantaged. They are keenly aware of the differences between themselves and their more advantaged peers. Talk of increasing diversity has been met with eye-rolling and muttered comments about box ticking. What we must do, is communicate tangible examples of not just how a career in tech and digital can improve their prospects (which is true) but give them real-life examples of how their involvement and an increase in diversity in all sectors can make everyone’s lives better. In the past I have said to young women attending our Girl Tech events, do you want to use a period-tracking app created by men? Now I will also be saying, do you want to travel in a car tested for women’s safety?

Only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males. Only 3% said it is their first choice.

Recent report findings, PwC

It is hard for young women to imagine their future selves without strong role models to inspire them. A recent report from PwC found that 78% of students couldn’t name a famous female working in technology. Only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% said it is their first choice. This must change, not just because it’s the ‘right thing to do’, not just for inclusive economic growth and the strength of the talent pipeline (though these are excellent reasons) but because as demonstrated by Dr Linder and Kheiron, women’s safety and health quite literally depends on it.

However, we have shown through our Girl Tech events, that these stats can be changed, with a concerted effort and a targeted focus on engaging young women with female role models, they can quite quickly see themselves in technology. Last year’s Girl Tech event in Leeds saw 136 young women come together with more than 70 volunteers (most of them women, though we don’t ban gentlemen volunteers) from 21 organisations for a day of learning about careers in technology and digital. At the end of the day, we surveyed them and 90% of the girls who attended said they were interested in a career in digital. Ninety percent. Through Growing Talent Digital Leeds, we will continue to nurture this interest over the coming years through further multiple interventions to keep stoking the fires of inspiration created at Girl Tech events. Dr Astrid Linder was a 13-year-old girl once; who inspired her, I wonder.

Girl Tech will take place in Leeds on 17 May and Birmingham on 4 July, sponsored by organisations like Netcompany, Sulzer, Leeds City Council, and more! We also aim to launch Girl Tech in Manchester for the first time this year. We are always looking for organisations that care about the future diversity of the talent pipeline into tech and digital. Have a look at our website if you want to dig a bit deeper

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