08 December 2015

We’ve got 1.5 million people working in tech in London at the moment, and we need another million in the UK by 2020 – it’s a big ask, and is part of what drives me in my role as CEO of Code First: Girls. We work with companies as well as with young and professional women, to help increase the number of women in tech. We do this to make sure that no one is missing out on amazing female tech talent.

I started my career working in manufacturing and footwear production. Working in this middle ground between technical and creative industries gave me a unique insight into how the two can combine successfully. It also made me realise I have an interest in how we build products and services to fit the people that use them, which led me to a career in research and strategy. I’ve worked in billion pound industries where margins of 0.001% can make a difference.

I’m also a PwC alumni, and during my time there I worked extensively with the senior leaders and thought leadership teams as part of the PwC Trust and PwC Global CEO programmes. Whilst at PwC I also did a secondment year at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. This was a fascinating experience. I met senior people and exposed me to a very different side of industry where private and public sector collide.

Going back to the skills shortage in the tech industry, we have to start thinking differently about tech talent if we want to make up those numbers to avoid being out-skilled by other countries.

Why aren't there more women in tech and entrepreneurship? It's a complex issue, but at Code First: Girls we do believe one thing - tech shouldn't just be a boys club. I haven’t found many people in the industry that are overtly sexist, but more often they are just used to having done things a certain way for decades. Recruiting is expensive. With human time, recruitment time, weeks devoted to bringing someone in and training them, it can often cost around £35K by the time you’ve got a new recruit in the company, so of course the decision must be the right one. I believe that thinking about diversity can actually help with this.

We help companies train their people and develop their talent management policies; and also have a community arm where we support young and professional women to develop further personal, professional and technical skills, including course in coding and programming.

Looking forward, it feels as though things are changing. London is one of the most diverse cities on the planet and certainly the businesses I work with know that their teams are better for having different people in them. Of course, this is part of wider social issues, which I’m looking forward to discussing on 15 December. Thinking about my area of focus, I’m looking forward to chatting with my fellow panellists, on how businesses can make sure that the talent stream from a young age is arriving in the workplace ready and with the relevant employability skills.

You can register for the webcast by clicking here. Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the day. Register now and we’ll send you a link to the recording as soon as it’s ready so that you can catch up a later date.

This blog was first published on PwC in London.

Amali de Alwis 



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