How will the accelerating pace of technological change affect the economy, politics and society and how can we ensure the workforce becomes inclusive and diverse? As progress is made towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution it is important to foster a culture of technology and entrepreneurship, to create economic opportunities and to inspire young people to pursue careers that will expend these developments rather than roles that will be automated.
We each have the opportunity to influence young people and help them achieve their ambitions. Whilst some women working in technology have reported isolation and barriers to their progress, there is a growing recognition of the value of a diverse workforce and the impact and influence of women working in emerging fields. Bournemouth Eagle Lab hosted the December Women4.0 event, bringing together a diverse audience to celebrate personal stories of success and explore our place in the future.
The evening opened with Emma Mahy’s “Journey Into IoT”, an honest and inspiring story about how Emma has co-founded her business, IoT Solutions Group and why. As she talked, Emma shared how many of the people around her were male and that she is able to bring a different perspective to the table. In less than a year the company is working to support a number of local authorities in exploring how connected devices can change and improve systems from car parking to refuse collection. A key part of this development is to connect and collaborate with other companies to create bespoke solutions for a problem. Emma also highlighted the positive outcomes of the Digital Catapult Things Connected Bournemouth Programme.
The panel discussion for the evening saw Emma joined by two young women with contrasting aspects of technology. Beth Payne was one of the first totally blind students to experience mainstream education in Watford. She is a tech enthusiastic, partly through necessity but has become an avid user of assistive devices and is passionate about understanding the advances that make this possible. Megan Rogers was recognised as one of 10 shortlisted nominees in the WATC Rising Stars in Science and Engineering award and is an Advanced Engineering Services Apprentice for BT Technology.
Discussion ranged from paths into their current position, through role models and into discussing ‘must have’ tech. The influence of family interests and approaches was clear and several of the audience related to Emma’s description of how her Dad ‘created the belief that you can.’ Megan enthused about the hands on opportunities of her work and the benefits of the experience of established engineers around her. She first considered electronics engineering after a Ridealong day with BT and hasn’t looked back, becoming a STEM ambassador and inspiring others to believe they can too. Beth shared her GPS and explained how this helps her navigate and doubles up as a music player, enabling her to be independent. Everyone present also acknowledge that we are increasingly reliant on our phones.
To stimulate discussion and enable networking, the next part of the evening was a tactile exploration of film props. Using Douglas Adams’ Technology Rules as inspiration, Sharon 3d printed some sci-fi artefacts provoking discussion about flying and autonomous vehicles, medical diagnosis through artificial intelligence and robots and droids. As groups recognised how many fictional technologies are now becoming reality the cyber-physical nature of the fourth industrial revolution once more came to the fore.
Attendees commented on their enjoyment of the informal atmosphere and inspiring speakers. With thought provoking discussion, Women4.0 events will continue in Bournemouth and beyond to further understand the barriers for women to pursue pathways into and careers in engineering. Through 2019 these will aim to ensure young people have an understanding of the excitement and variety a career in engineering offers, and the potential contribution they can make as an engineer, and to provide a supportive network for all to learn more about Industry4.0.