Kate Ryrie meets the Leeds collective on a mission to get more women into digital
Digital is one of those words. Spanning multiple sectors and specialisms, while simultaneously calling out the most specific of skillsets, it’s all too easily underestimated.
But even in a world speeding into the future faster than you can say ‘Pay Per Click’, gender balance is pulling progress back into the dial-up ages. Fortunately for us, She Does Digital – the Leeds collective on a mission to get more women into digital careers – is here to change all that.
It was just going to be a standalone event, but we sold out – people loved it
The She Does Digital team is growing fast, with a band of talented members helping the group make a real impact. I meet two of them at the beginning of January: Christmas is a distant memory, a whole new year lies ahead, and it seems like a good time to be talking about change.
Currently, women account for just a quarter of digital roles in the UK – reasons for which can be complex, and solutions for which even more so. Closing the gap is a challenging prospect, but in a collaborative project that’s grown to include multiple partnerships and organisations across the city, this inspiring team of women and men is making it happen.
“It’s about highlighting all the different roles in digital, educating people on how to get into those careers, and showcasing role models to inspire people,” says Danielle Harrison, Digital Designer at Bolser, and She Does Digital advocate. She tells me how many digital roles are so new that education often hasn’t caught up. “Education is a key area for us – we’ve run workshops with students across Leeds to show them what it means to work in digital and what potential careers are available.”
She Does Digital was founded in 2016, when team members at Leeds agency, Epiphany, put on a Speed Networking event at Leeds Digital Festival, geared towards encouraging women to connect and explore different digital careers. “It was just going to be a standalone event,” says Danielle, “but we sold out – people loved it, and we realised there was so much more to do here.”
“A lot of women came to the event and weren’t scared by the word tech, because digital encompasses PR, account management – lots of things, technical and non-technical,” says Nic Good, Programme Director at Epiphany and organiser extraordinaire for She Does Digital.
Armed with stories from all backgrounds, levels and voices, the group’s emphasis spans the entire sector, and everyone with so much as a fleeting dream of being part of it. When I ask Nic and Danielle about the team itself, they’re clear that despite the core group being all-female, true collaboration and inclusivity will have huge benefits for the industry as a whole – regardless of gender.
“We want to open this up,” says Nic, emphasising the group’s belief that making the digital sector more accessible to women will make the whole industry stronger. “There’s a really collaborative feel to the whole of Leeds at the moment, and we’ve had so much help from everybody – you don’t have to be a woman to help us!”
As talk turns to the future and what’s next for She Does Digital, it’s all about the opportunities heading Leeds’ way in coming year. As the team prepares its next event for Leeds Digital Festival at the end of April, they’ll be strengthening relationships with the city’s universities, partnering up with more educational institutions, and keeping up the momentum with workshops, panel events and ongoing presence. In other words, watch this space.
“We’d just like to see a shift in what we’re aiming for,” says Nic, “and that’s to get more women tapping into digital.” And with talent, enthusiasm and an ever-growing artillery of success stories powering them forwards, it seems like that shift has already begun.