Gender equality in the UK tech sector – how one North East woman is leading the way

With International Women’s Day upon us, there is a growing trend for women in creative, digital and technology to exert more influence and thought-leadership than in other industry sectors.

Here, Rachel Peacock, head of Digital Union, shows us how she is helping women lead the way in gender equality in the UK tech sector.

Do you believe gender equality still remains a big problem in the UK and why are you and DU doing something about it?

According to ONS, there is still a 9.1 per cent gap between the earnings of men and women in full-time employment. The numbers have been decreasing but there’s so much more to be done.

As we know, this issue isn’t only affecting the tech sector, but we each must play a part in correcting this imbalance, from government to education providers, individual businesses and support organisations.

We are committed to working with all of those identified, plus others to ensure that action is being taken and that it is understood why equality is of such vital importance to a growing community, economy and workforce.

In the year ahead, how will DU be honouring International Women’s Day and how will it make a difference to the representation of gender equality in the UK’s creative, digital and tech sector?

We will be attending and supporting a number of events which are running across the region. A lot of people are of the opinion that whilst this day is indeed a celebration of achievements made so far, one day a year is just not enough.

We run a variety of events throughout the year, with the aim to encourage, support and champion new female business owners, as well as promote career opportunities in STEM subjects to schools, colleges and universities, and those not currently in education.

The great thing about this region is that we are all working towards the same goals and want to work together to achieve them.

In addition to the Digital Union events, Tipping Point, Generator’s musical arm has just launched the WeCreate programme which is specifically aimed at decreasing the gender imbalance within the music industry.

This is something the entire team is passionate about. And we are pretty proud that the gender split within our own office is 50/50.

Do you believe the North East and the work done at Digital Union is making a genuine difference to bucking any negative trends?

I do believe we are making a difference and that is thanks to those who are working with us to do so. The businesses, organisations, education providers and local authorities all agree on the need for this to be a joint effort, but change does take time.

The key is to not lose sight of the end goal and to keep promoting the key message that equality is a cornerstone of society and therefore something to strive for, every day of the year.

Rachel, you’re the head of the region’s largest network of creative, digital and tech businesses.

How would you sum up your tenure at Digital Union so far and what have your greatest achievements been to date?

I am really proud of how far Digital Union has come in the time we’ve had it. What started as a simple networking group has flourished into a fully-fledged union that truly cares about its members and promoting the digital scene here in the North East.

One of the reasons it has been so successful is our no-nonsense approach. We’ve gone back to basics and asked companies directly what they need from us, how the sectors and region can standout and to the other support organisations, and what part we can play to support them with their aims and ambitions.

My greatest achievement so far would probably be building the network, taking it from around 40 businesses and organisations in the summer of 2017 to over 130 at the start of the month.

The best part of it is that those involved are committed to the region’s success as a whole. Businesses are giving up their time to get involved in campaigns, workshops, panel events and educational seminars to benefit the wider creative digital and tech communities and affect change.

It’s a great feeling to watch change happen and with initiatives such as the manifesto, trailblazer degree apprenticeships, careers events and so on – it is happening!

Why do you feel that you’re the best person for this job right now?

I believe it’s a group effort and it has to be to ensure the job gets done. I have the same passion and drive that the rest of the team has at Generator, and what’s important is that we all bring something unique and have different experiences and strengths.

I have a real passion for business growth, talent and skills, all hot topics, where it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a ‘Talking Shop’.

I really aim to take the right action through Digital Union and ensure that changes are made, rather than simply discussing the subjects over and over.

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