Jen Rodvold, head of digital ethics and tech for good at Sopra Steria, will be taking part in a fireside chat during the upcoming Women in IT Ireland Summit on the 17th November 2020. The fireside chat will explore what role can technology play in bettering workplaces and society. If you would like to register for the event, please click here. Registration for the virtual summit is free of charge.
We know there’s still a problem with a lack of diversity within IT. Why do you think that is?
Speaking of gender diversity, there are so many areas we still need to address – from the messages girls get about technology and careers in tech growing up, to a lack of role models, to the underfunding of women-owned tech start-ups. We need to tackle it all. Girls and young women need to know that there is a place for them in tech — that’s why events like the Women in IT Summit are so important. Organisations need to put in the right infrastructure (development programmes, policies, objectives) to improve parity in their own organisations. And as we do this, there are huge benefits to be had from improved diversity — from increasing employee engagement and improved customer orientation, to improved innovation through better problem-solving approaches.
As a woman in IT, how have you gone about promoting diversity in the workplace?
I am where I am because I had special people in my life — men and women — who challenged me to step into new opportunities that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, who told me I could do it, and who helped me get there. Now I try to do those things for others I work with. I mentor others (and benefit from mentorship myself!) and try to create opportunities for them. I set up Sopra Steria’s Women’s Network a few years ago, and immediately it was the biggest community in the company; there was such enthusiasm for it. It brings together people focused on improving gender diversity and championing change. There are small things we can do each day: mentoring doesn’t have to be formal and for a long period of time; it can happen in normal work interactions.
Can you expand on your participation in the Women in IT Ireland Virtual Summit?
I’ll be talking with Bex Rae-Evans and Jude Morrow in the Fireside Chat focused on the role of technology in creating positive social impact. The last year has seen digital ethics make it fully into the mainstream, with public awareness of technology’s impact on their lives and communities really growing as a result of concerns over facial recognition technology, policing and Black Lives Matter, and in the UK a real case study in how algorithms can impact lives and amplify inequalities with the A-Levels decisions made earlier this year. For me and my team at Sopra Steria, we’ve seen that awareness translating into the desire for action on digital ethics amongst public and private sector organisations in really encouraging ways. The need for digital ethics is no longer an academic conversation.
We’re also seeing so many exciting developments in Tech for Good, and large programmes of work start to use technology to address some of our biggest social challenges. For example, we have won a £250,000 grant from the social impact innovation charity to create an AI-driven digital learning platform that will help people who are at risk of displacement due to changes in technology and the world of work learn the skills they need to become more resilient in the marketplace.
Digital has a massive role to play in the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce — even more so in light of the continuing pandemic and the acceleration of so many organisations’ digital plans.