The week ahead: play your part in changing the ratio

15 Jun 2015

Pictured: Inspirefest 2015 speaker Brianna Wu, Giant Spacekat

John Kennedy looks ahead to this week’s Inspirefest 2015 in Dublin, the two-day international event where STEM and innovation meets diversity and leadership.

2015 has been a defining year in the diversity in technology debate. On the one hand the question could be about the need for greater female leadership in STEM, but on the other it is also about how the sector itself views and values women and their participation across the board at all levels.

Lamentable situations in the past year ranging from various harassment lawsuits in Silicon Valley to #gamergate where Twitter became the weapon of choice for bullies in a debate over sexism in video game culture.

Future Human

But these are the public face of a far more insidious and complex set of problems ranging from stereotypes to perception and understanding opportunities that are discouraging younger people from pursuing careers in STEM.

Using the tagline “Changing the Ratio”, Inspirefest 2015 this Thursday and Friday (18 and 19 June) will offer fresh perspectives on a panoply of issues related to diversity in STEM and in the wider tech industry.

Speakers including Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of Re/Code, astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, former adviser to Hillary Clinton Shelly Porges, If we Ran The World founder Cindy Gallop and Kimberly Bryant from Black Girls Code.

Other speakers include the CTO of Fidelity Stephen Niff, filmmaker Elena Rossini, space journalist Leo Enright, Stemettes founder Anne-Marie Imafidon, EU digital Girl of the Year 2014 Lauren Boyle and Philip Moynagh, SVP for the Internet of Things at Intel.

The wheels of change are beginning to turn at least insofar as tech leaders are standing up, speaking out and recognising the issue of diversity. Last week Apple CEO Tim Cook opened up about the company’s hiring policy, saying that its main priority is now to increase the number of women and people from diverse ethnicities in its workforce. Cook said that 72pc of leadership positions at Apple are filled by white men.

Also last week, the Apple WWDC keynote in San Francisco included presentations from two female leaders at Apple, a welcome but overdue departure from the usual sight of middle-aged men geeking out over widgets and gadgets.

So change is occurring, albeit at a slow, frustrating pace. And that’s why it is also worth noting that Inspirefest 2015 has an air of celebration about it. This is because it is also about celebrating the achievements of those who weren’t afraid to break the mould and advances in culture and technology.

Author Kerry Howard, for example, will launch her new book on the women codebreakers of Bletchley Park who helped turn the tide of World War 2 but whom history has overlooked.

An invigorating fringe festival in the evenings will feature acclaimed acts like Little Green Cars, Loah, Katie Kim and Wyvern Lingo as well as exclusive film screenings and networking. On the Saturday coding workshops for kids and adults by CoderDojo and Coding Grace respectively will take place alongside a hardware showcase, a maker’s faire and sew and glow workshops.

If you are lucky enough to be attending, enjoy and soak up the stimulating debate. If not stay tuned to where we will post reports and videos from the going’s on at Inspirefest 2015.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years