|BUSINESS leaders from across the UK put workplace equality top of the agenda at the North East’s most anticipated tech conference.
The underplayed role of women in industry was outlined by keynote speaker, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who is committed to breaking gender stereotypes in industry.
And Waterstons CEO, Susan Bell, urged businesses to put faith in youth to drive the next generation of successful businesses and deliver economic growth in the North.
Dynamo 19: Roadmap for the Region’s Tech Sector was held at the University of Sunderland with a focus on the region’s tech sector’s priorities over the next five years.
Dr Imafidon, a child prodigy who, at 20, was one of the youngest people awarded a Master’s in Mathematics and Computer Science by the University of Oxford, is listed among the top 50 women in tech in the world by Forbes, voted fifth most influential woman in IT by Computer Weekly and has received the Barclays UK Woman of the Year award.
Along with Mrs Bell, she delivered the day’s keynote addresses, and asked tech firms to take a lead in the effort to attract more women and young girls into the sector.
“Dynamo 19 is vital for getting the message out about not just how equality benefits young girls looking to build a career, but also the benefits it brings to businesses,” said Dr Imafidon.
“There are companies and organisations that are doing so much to break down gender stereotypes because they recognise that it helps them attract more talent, but we must continue to make sure opportunities are presented to girls in a way that captures their imagination.
“Hopefully, the main take away from today will be for firms to simply think more about equality…and maybe change a few things.”
Dr Imafidon heads STEMettes, a social enterprise inspiring future generations of women into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) roles. A recognised thought-leader, she has worked with Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank.
Echoing the call for equality, Mrs Bell challenged firms to empower younger employees, outlining how it is through their ideas and creativity that firms will stay relevant.
“When I started out, I naturally thought you had to go to London to forge a career, but I don’t want that for my daughter,” she said. “I want her to know she can carve out a career in the North.
“So, it is up to us to keep creating high-quality jobs and businesses that convince young people that they can fulfil their ambitions here and what Dynamo is helping to do is bring together the businesses, organisations and institutions that will create these roles.”
She added: “It is our entrepreneurial spirit that will ensure we don’t become obsolete, that we remain relevant. If we don’t nurture that spirit, then we will be disrupted by a start-up that will move on and we’ll get left behind. We must empower our young people to deliver ideas that shape our sectors, we must encourage and challenge them to help us create meaningful careers and jobs that other young people aspire to have.
“We have to trust them, because without trust no business is able to move forward.”
Dynamo, an industry-led initiative to connect and grow the region’s tech sector, staged Dynamo 19 at Sunderland University, attracting around 300 delegates from leading IT and software companies, councils, specialist professional services, universities and colleges.
Hosted by BBC’s Charlie Charlton, breakout sessions also focused on cybersecurity, digital construction and gender balance.
Panel discussions included “One Region, One Sector, One Statement” – recently agreed by tech organisations, including Dynamo, outlining what makes the region’s tech sector so vibrant.
Other sessions included:
· User Centred Design / Product Modernisation
· Hey robot ‘Finish this detail design for me’
· Closing the skills gap
· Globalising a North East Tech Business
· Mapping the Smart City Ecosystem
· Intelligent Automation Engineering industry
· Scoping the future of IC3
The conference was once again sponsored by Sage. Alistair Ridley, Graduate Software Engineer at Sage who delivered a welcome address, explained about the career choices he has made and how the vibrant tech sector in the region inspired him to choose the North East to carve out a career here. Nodding to the importance of Dynamo, he said: “I have friends in London who want to come back to the North East because they see how engaged we are as a community and events like Dynamo 19 only help raise our profile further.”
Other sponsors include University of Sunderland, MAKE It Sunderland, Mincoffs, Innovation SuperNetwork, North of England P&I, Academic Health Science Network North East and Cumbria, Nomad Digital and Opencast Software.
Anne Macdonald, Head of Engagement at Dynamo, said: “Dynamo 19 really delivered, and it was fantastic to hear two keynote speakers so focused on the future and outlining how we open up the sector to groups who currently may feel excluded from the industry.
“With presentations and workshops from the Institute of Coding; an immersive tech panel hosted by PROTO; an innovation showcase panel chaired by Ignite, and a Dynamites’ Hall of Fame, during which Dynamites Awards winners will share their stories, it was a vibrant and inspiring event.”
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