It was a bright and early start for Team #TechUpWomen last week, as we made our way to London for the Institute of Coding‘s #IoCConference2020. We were joined by four of our TechUpWomen participants, who agreed to be part of our panel for a presentation on the programme.
We arrived at the Institute of Engineering and Technology at 10am, and we were taken aback by the beautiful white marble building. It was an exciting experience for some of our delegation – staff and participant alike! – who, before TechUpWomen, had never been to such an event.
The first keynote was from Jacqueline de Rojas, whom we had also welcomed to our final residential back in January. She spoke on the current skills shortage in the tech industry, and how increasing the diversity of technologists working in industry will help bring those much-needed skills into play.
Next up was Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon, whom our TechUP participants met in York in November. Anne-Marie also serves on the Durham University’s Computer Science Advisory Board. She spoke on the benefits of diversity in tech for the products and innovations we produce, and how this ensures that we develop technologies that work for everyone.
After this, we had lunch and got a chance to network. It was a slightly surreal experience to be talking to other attendees whilst they were watching our mini-documentaries playing on a loop on the widescreens dotted around the room! – we felt like stars, and people approached us telling us they recognised us from the documentaries.
Next up was the key moment of the conference: our session on delivering diversity through TechUp Women! Around 30 delegates gathered to hear us speak on how we developed the programme, and to hear a panel session where they could ask questions of our participants and the TechUpWomen team.
There was a very emotional moment when we watched the video from our graduation ceremony, entitled “How Far We’ve Come”. Happy tears were shed, and there was a real sense in the room that the attendees could feel the importance of our work and the impact it has had.
After our session we made our way to our hotel to check in, before the drinks reception for the evening. We got to see the beautiful Trafalgar Square at night on our way through, and took some great photos!
The drinks reception was held in another beautiful Victorian Marble building, near Westminster. Here, we got to chat more with our fellow delegates, and enjoy some delicious canapés! After speeches from members of the Institute of Coding’s Industry Advisory board, we bade farewell to the event, and ventured out into London to find a place for dinner!
Meanwhile, one member of our team – Professor Alexandra Cristea – attended an exclusive event at the Hungarian embassy presenting on Bias in AI, to delegations from Hungary, Poland and the Slovak and Czech Republics (an audience of about 30 people). The talks went on quite late into the night!
In the morning, we came together in the lecture theatre to hear from Timandra Harkness, author of Big Data: Does Size Matter? about the future of technology and the impact that diversity and lifelong learning initiatives may have. We caught up with her afterwards for a great discussion on disability inclusion and how we gather data to evaluate programmes like TechUPWomen!
After lunch, our final round of parallel sessions included workshops on specific underrepresented groups, including older workers, women in technology, people from international backgrounds and people from non-tech disciplines. It was great to hear about the work being done to include more people in technology!
Then it was time to say goodbye! Our participants told us how much they enjoyed everything and what a learning experience it all was, then went to catch their trains, and the TechUpWomen team headed to Covent Garden Market to debrief over some pancakes. Pancake Day, after all, is an important date in the TechUpWomen HQ calendar!
On the train back to snowy Durham, we reflected on the wonderful experience of the conference, and in particular the skill and confidence of our TechUpWomen panel – Judith, Muma, Shakirah and Sarah – in presenting to a room full of strangers. We’re so proud of how far they’ve come, and seeing their own faith in their remarkable abilities and strengths is, as ever, the best part of any event!