Debbie Forster, most influential woman in UK tech 2019 - winner’s speech

  • Clare McDonald, Business Editor

In this video of Computer Weekly’s annual diversity event, in partnership with Mortimer Spinks and hosted by Wellcome Trust, Debbie Forster, CEO of the Tech Talent Charter, gives her acceptance speech as the 2019 Most Influential Woman in UK Tech.

Over the last decade, the lack of women in the technology industry has been a hotly debated issue. While there is still much to be done to reach true equality in the technology sector, the discussion in recent years has moved away from solely focusing on the lack of women in the industry to a lack of diversity more widely.

During her acceptance speech, Forster highlighted how the conversation has moved on from just being about women in tech, to a focus on diversity and inclusion.

She said: “Five years ago, we were fighting to get companies to understand that solving the problem had a benefit, not solving it had a cost. Then companies started waking up and doing things and started working together. We've got the business case that says this isn't just a good thing to do. It's essential. It's the way you survive and thrive in this market.”

While she admits the problem isn’t solved, Forster said a lot of progress has been made, and that the “conversation” around diversity in tech, especially in regards to inclusion as a way to attract and retain a diverse workforce, is “working and moving on”.

Speaking of imposter syndrome that commonly affects women in the tech sector, whereby accomplished individuals are unable to accept their own abilities, Forster encourages those in the audience to realise they have a sphere of influence no matter where they sit in the industry, admitting she herself took time to realise even when “just doing [her] job” she was having an impact on the sector.

She said: “You sitting in the room, whether you want to be or not, you're influencing right now. You're influencing through your thoughts, your actions.”

A lack of role models in the sector is often cited as a reason women don’t choose a career in technology, which is part of the reason Computer Weekly runs its annual list of the most influential women in UK tech – to start making role models in the sector more visible and accessible.

Forster addressed women in the tech sector during her speech, saying: “There's a way to influence that we can lean into wherever you are within the job. Don't just lean in, lean across and pull in somebody who isn't there. And make sure it's somebody that doesn't necessarily look like you, sound like you, or come from a group that you recognize.”

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