This Leeds-based not-for-profit is dedicated to helping women move into digital and tech roles.
Despite work being done to encourage more women and girls into digital and tech, there’s still a disparity when it comes to gender. But Leeds is incredibly inclusive, with a number of organisations dedicated to helping women into the sector, alongside regular events and meet-ups. She Does Digital is one such collective. We caught up with them to talk gender, digital and their thoughts for the future.
When co-founders Annie Moss-Quate and Rose Mountague worked at Leeds agency Epiphany Search, they noticed something interesting when it came to hiring – a stark divide in the number of CVs they received from men versus women. So they set out to fix it, and She Does Digital was born. What was initially supposed to be a one-off event to highlight the gender gap in digital became an eight-strong collective that works hard in the community to make the industry more accessible.
By showcasing female role models, She Does Digital helps women and girls understand more about the opportunities of tech and digital. Working with high school students all the way up to career changers, their key focus is to inspire and educate. On top of popular bi-annual events, they visit schools and universities to help build awareness at a younger age. As a not-for-profit organisation, they look to local businesses for sponsorship and their team is entirely made up of volunteers.
It’s crucial to ensure that young people know about potential digital roles, which is why the collective is so active in schools. Changes to the curriculum have helped, and coding is now a key part of the syllabus. “The change was a long time coming,” Maddie Oliver, She Does Digital’s Operations Manager told us. “They should have changed it earlier and I think just the general rise of social media and the amount of tech that’s available is making kids think that’s what they want to do.”
Maddie has been part of the She Does Digital team since 2019. A project manager by trade, she’s recently made the jump from employment to founding her own company. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing, especially when it came to breaking into the industry. “When I went for my first ever interview, which was for a digital marketing coordinator or something, I literally was Googling ‘what is digital marketing’,” Maddie recalled. “No one in my generation really knew back then.”
It’s not just the younger generation who face challenges. One issue affecting female employees is how difficult it can be to return to work after having a baby – a pressure that can hold women back when it comes to career growth. “Companies need to figure out a way to help,” Maddie explained. “They need to create more flexible working environments, otherwise you’ll get stuck with people that don’t have all those commitments, which are more likely to be men than women.”
Another key barrier to diversity is the job descriptions themselves. “We worked with some statistics that showed that women will apply for a role if they meet like 95% of the criteria, which is often loads of very specific experience, a specific degree and so on,” Maddie explained. “If you’re that prescriptive about what you’re looking for, you won’t get a diverse range of candidates. You’ll get people who are very sure of themselves. On the other hand, men will usually apply around the 50% mark.”
Looking to the future, Maddie doesn’t see a drastic change, but a gradual shift thanks to a new way of thinking. “I think the initiatives that are available will continue, there will be new initiatives and things will start gradually changing. For example now you have shared parental leave. Also the old school, very senior people in businesses are starting to retire, and I do think new generations are much more aware of issues like diversity and are pushing for change more than ever.”
One thing’s for sure, with the growing popularity of organisations like She Does Digital, women and girls across the region have plenty of support and networking opportunities. That’s Maddie’s advice to women looking to break into the sector – network. “Loads of people don’t like networking,” she told us. “People don’t feel confident, but just do it anyway. Everyone is very welcoming and wants to support people to join the growing industry.”
Keep up to date with She Does Digital on Twitter or Instagram or visit their website for more information on how to support or get involved.