Make FOX: city a leader for women in tech

Launch of ac­tion plan to solve the sec­tor’s skills gap

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE - BERNARD GINNS BUSI­NESS EDITOR ■ Email: bernard. ginns@ ypn. co. uk ■ Twit­ter: @ bernardginns

LEEDS SHOULD aim to be­come the best place in Bri­tain to be a woman work­ing in tech­nol­ogy.

That was one of the calls made at the launch of a new ac­tion plan to solve the grow­ing skills gap in York­shire’s dig­i­tal econ­omy.

“Martha Lane Fox has said she wants the UK to be the best place in the world for women to be work­ing in tech,” said He­len Wol­las­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the WISE Cam­paign.

“How about we say Leeds be the best place in the UK to be a woman work­ing in tech.”

She added that 30 per cent of Sky’s new re­cruits in Leeds are fe­male, which is nearly dou­ble the de­mo­graphic in the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy sec­tor’s 17 per cent.

“I would love the dig­i­tal strat­egy to have that as­pi­ra­tion to say let’s get 30 per cent of the tech­nol­ogy work­force in Leeds be­ing women,” said Ms Wol­las­ton, whose mis­sion is to get one mil­lion more women in the UK’s sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths work­force.

Speak­ing on the eve of In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, she told

The York­shire Post: “We want to make sure the mes­sage gets out to women, girls, fam­i­lies and teach­ers there are some real op­por­tu­ni­ties here in Leeds that pay good money and have good prospects.”

The ac­tion plan is a joint ef­fort be­tween em­ploy­ers, education providers and the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

Coun­cil­lor James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds Coun­cil, said it has two roles; “one is to try and fill the skills gap, but also... to chal­lenge, in­spire and en­cour­age peo­ple to get in­volved from across the city, the coun­try and the world to want to come and work in the Leeds dig­i­tal sec­tor and cre­ate that fu­ture pipe­line of tal­ent”.

The city is home to 1,350 dig­i­tal com­pa­nies with 10,000 em­ploy­ees work­ing in the sec­tor. There are es­ti­mated to be 640 va­can­cies for mid- level tech jobs in the city.

It is feared that the short­age of suit­able staff might force em­ploy­ers to move else­where.

Stephanie Bur­ras, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ahead Part­ner­ship so­cial en­ter­prise, warned that the city will “fall flat on its face” if it does not in­vest in de­vel­op­ing the skills it needs for its growth sec­tors.

She said: “There is com­pe­ti­tion for skills, not just within this re­gion from district to district but also from re­gion to re­gion. I see that not just in the dig­i­tal arena but also in en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion.”

San­jay Parekh, co- founder of the highly- rated start- up Co­coon, told the au­di­ence of busi­ness and civic lead­ers at the North­ern Monk Brew­ing Com­pany head­quar­ters how his smart home se­cu­rity busi­ness had to adapt to the lack of skills in the mar­ket.

He said: “We started the busi­ness in May 2014. Ini­tially, we were look­ing for a cer­tain type of soft­ware en­gi­neer. The busi­ness needs a broad range of skills from ma­chine learn­ing ex­perts to ma­chine test­ing and what we found was al­though th­ese peo­ple are in this re­gion, we strug­gled to hire them fast enough and in the right quan­tity.

“We had to ad­just our busi­ness plan and pull peo­ple in from out­side the re­gion and also Europe. It changed how we im­ple­mented some of the de­vel­op­ment pro­cesses.”

A new univer­sity tech­ni­cal col­lege for dig­i­tal skills could also be set up to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Martha Lane Fox has said she wants the UK to be the best place in the world for women to be work­ing in tech. How about we say Leeds be the best place in the UK to be a woman work­ing in tech. He­len Wol­las­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the WISE cam­paign

MARTHA LANE The co- founder of Europe’s largest travel and leisure web­site, last­minute. com, is a cham­pion for em­ploy­ing more women in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor.

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