By Kasia Murphy
During this year’s annual BBC Dimbleby Lecture, Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, founder of Lastminute.com in the 1990s, used the platform to call for the formation of ‘DOT EVERYONE’: a centralised, public institution – like the BBC or NHS – designed with the intention of pulling the nation into the bright, technological future. Crucially, the institution would tackle three of the biggest challenges facing the technology industry and the internet today: education, inequality, and regulation.
Digital is an essential part of any PR campaign today and educating our clients on how social media and the like can be used to make (or break) brand reputation is part-and-parcel of what we do on a day-to-day basis. How could it not be? However, it is the second point that got my attention. Though the focus to try to get more women into the digital field is nothing new – look at the likes of WISE set up 30 years ago – given the country’s tech skills shortage and the inevitable detrimental impact this neglect will have on the country economically, designating this issue as a foundation stone in the formation of DOT EVERYONE confirms that there is finally some momentum gathering.
Having stomped across many tradeshow floors in my three years as a technology PR, grimacing at both the persistent use of ‘booth babes’ and the poor ratio of women to men at these events dedicated to innovation, there can be no denying that there is problem. On an aside, isn’t continuing to use women’s bodies as a promotional tool just poor, unimaginative marketing?
In her speech, Lane-Fox said: “If you take a look at the tech sector as a whole, 14 percent are women. That’s a noticeably lower percentage than the 24 percent I find in the House of Lords. So much for the old fashioned world of Parliament versus the shiny modernity of the internet.” Of course, these sorts of numbers shouldn’t surprise you, the structural and cultural disparities speak for themselves:
- In technology, women occupy 11 percent of executive positions in Silicon Valley – they make up 30 percent of Twitter’s workforce, but fill only 10 per cent of tech-related roles, while, at the global leadership level, 23 percent of Facebook’s workforce is female
- In the media, women represent just 5 percent of the editors of national newspapers
- In politics, the UK is ranked 57th in the world with regards to the number of women in national parliaments – men currently outnumber women 4 to 1 in Westminster
- In monetary terms, the annual gender pay gap between men and women in full-time employment across Europe is stuck at around 26 percent. The pensions gap is about 50 percent
For more depressing numbers, click here. Things need to change. I attended the 5th annual Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre this year to mark International Women’s Day and, among the many things I took away from it, the overarching message is that change can only be brought about through action in your own environment. Lane-Fox’s efforts will undoubtedly be criticised, but to me there’s something to be said for trying and working to influence and shape the system we’re in. We should expect more from the digital sector – it “should not be languishing in a comfortably monocultural world” as she says.
If there’s power in the internet to force /drive /inspire change, then so be it. We need women advocating for each other, and men advocating for women. At the end of the day, inequality – whatever the sum of its causes, and the many guises it can take – is all of our problem.