Digital technologies give women new opportunities to deliver transformational change
By Julie Snell, Chair, Scotland 5G Centre
First published in The Scotsman
Over the last 35 years working in the technology sector, I have often been one of only a small number of women in the room. So, I was particularly pleased to Chair an all women panel at a TechEx event in Amsterdam recently. All held senior management positions from the banking, health and aerospace technology sectors. Each is responsible for changing customer experiences through digital innovation.
This experience was heartening against the backdrop of the recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics. Although showing an upward trend, women are still under-represented in the sector, with only 24% of women working in technology across the UK and around 20% in Scotland.
In my role as Chair of the Scotland 5G Centre I lead, manage, and support the Governing board. Supporting the CEO’s delivery of the Centre’s business growth plan, ensuring a visionary strategy and creative initiatives to strengthen the Centre’s reputation as a key member of Scotland’s innovation system. I am also part of a group of women in leading positions moving the needle in Scotland’s digital technologies sector. This includes my fellow board member Sarah Eynon, Associate Director Scottish Futures Trust and Claire Gillespie, Chair of S5GC Strategic Advisory Group and Digital Technologies Sector Skills Manager at Skills Development Scotland.
At the TechEx conference the women on the panel all talked about the need for collaboration to share new innovations and skills across sectors to drive change for good. In the banking sector, Samaneh Khaleghi spoke about the technology of application programming interface (API) allowing access to customer data in a safe and secure way. The industry has used this technology to transform customer experience. Giving its customers the opportunity to manage their accounts securely from multiple devices whether at home or mobile.
One of the key sectors 5G can support is e-health. Healthcare expert, Eva McLellan, on the TechEx panel was keen to see how data sharing in banking could be used to transform the delivery of healthcare. Over 70% of healthcare costs are dedicated to delivery. The view is that investment needs to take place in innovations to create convenience and ease of access.
The global pandemic has forced a step change in healthcare. The shortage of staff and beds has highlighted the need to deliver healthcare in a more efficient and effective manner. Remote devices and enhanced digitally-enabled connected ambulances mean patients can be assessed and often treated before reaching a hospital. Many conditions can be effectively monitored remotely, enabling many to be treated in their own bed. I am delighted that the Scotland 5G Centre is supporting the data connectivity projects to support these developments and further customer-led uses.
Sharing a platform with influential women in technology and its ability to deliver transformational change was hugely encouraging for me. Innovative technology across sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, retail, hospitality, gaming and social media, are working to encourage more young women into their sectors.
There is still a great deal to do. A recent study by the Learning and Work Institute said the UK was facing a looming digital skills crisis with few girls choosing to study computing. But it isn’t just about the coding. Many technology roles require the skills to understand the end user problem then match the technology development. In my experience women excel in this area of the ‘fifty thousand-foot view’ thinking.
I hope more women will be attracted to the digital technology sector to deliver solutions that can transform lives.