Women in IT Summit Europe- Sarah Burnett, founding partner at Emergence Partners

Ahead of the Women in IT Europe Summit 2020, Sarah Burnett spoke to Information Age about her part in the event and promoting diversity

Sarah Burnett, founding partner at Emergence Partners, will be delivering the morning keynote at the upcoming Women in IT Summit Europe on 15th September.

Taking place at 10:05 am BST, the keynote — Rethink the Unpredictable — will explore the new priorities that will top the tech list in the coming months and years, and how the pandemic has changed technology.

What are the current levels of diversity in the technology industry and how has the pandemic impacted these levels?

The needle hasn’t moved for years. Women still account for around 16-17% of the technology industry.

The pandemic has actually made it tougher for women because during lockdown opportunities for career progression have become limited. And, both men and women, have had to focus on looking after their children, with schools being closed, while also trying to focus on their careers.

What will it take to move the needle and drive a more inclusive workforce?

Mindsets need to change, and female and male leaders need to instill a culture of inclusivity from the top down.

There are also bigger challenges, in that we’re just not attracting enough young people, boys or girls, to the industry.

We need role models to inspire them and actually reach into schools to do this.

I would also call on the entertainment industry to help, because they often portray technologists as quite geeky, which doesn’t necessarily appeal to those young children at school.

Finally, while women are getting more screen time as heroines in films and tv shows, there isn’t really any portrayal of girls as technologists. This is a challenge in helping them visualise themselves in the technology space.

Why is it important to have a diverse organisation?

It’s really important to highlight that diverse organisation always does better in terms of performance — that’s not just based on gender, but also background, race and sexual orientation. A diverse group of people will come up and drive better ideas than a room full of the same people from the same background, with the same experiences.

Could you please expand on your keynote at the upcoming WIT Europe Virtual Summit?

There has been a wider acceptance of technology in the office and at home, and a general increase in the level of knowledge and skills of using those technologies. This is absolutely fantastic.

It’s made homeworking totally acceptable and the rise of technologies like video conferencing means we have had to change the way that we collaborate.

This change in work and social patterns will lead to the creation of new business models. For example, we are already seeing a change in how people can pay for car insurance, depending on your mileage — pay-per-mile.

Necessity is pushing us to use more equipment and more software that allows us to do what we need to do from home from remote locations. And this is pushing new business models as well. We will see much more use of the cloud and on-demand capabilities in the workplace.

In another part of my keynote, I will be discussing how the pandemic has changed technology.

And the important thing to focus on here is how things are governed. Governance has got to become a flexible model, where businesses and practices can evolve and keep up with advances in technology, and in these surreal and fast-paced times.

Policies have to be flexible to allow organisations to innovate, as well as get on and make the most of this very difficult period that we’re living in.

Hear more from Sarah Burnett at the Women in IT Summit Europe 2020 on September 15. Register here.

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the content editor for Information Age

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