A new programme is being announced today by TechSPARK, to help tackle the issue of diversity in the South West tech cluster by amplifying underrepresented voices.
Aptly named SHIFT, the free course will provide twelve individuals from underrepresented groups with the skills and backing to go on to become the region’s tech conference speakers, board members and mentors – bringing new insights, inspiring others and shifting the perceptions of who’s out there in the cluster.
“The SHIFT initiative will empower women, people from black and ethnic minority groups and other underrepresented communities to make their voices heard”
As well as an in-depth speaking and confidence course, the programme aims to connect participants with key figures within the region’s thriving tech community at invite-only events – which comes with exclusive access to speaking opportunities, conferences, judging panels and more.
The course is backed by Bristol’s tech hub Engine Shed, the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and specialist recruitment agency, Thatchers and supported by community partners across the South West including OiConf, VoxxedDays, Bath Ruby, Creative Bath ,Bristol Media, Design Build Market and Women’s Tech Hub to name a few.
Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Business Engagement at UWE Bristol, tells us: “UWE Bristol is delighted to be supporting the SHIFT initiative which will empower women, people from black and ethnic minority groups and other underrepresented communities to make their voices heard, their presence felt and their talents recognised in the Bristol and Bath tech community.”
Alex Rosengren, Principal Consultant in Applied Technologies at Thatchers, adds: “We are thrilled to be supporting SHIFT. By actively addressing and assisting underrepresented tech talent, we aspire to be a key player in significantly increasing diversity and inclusion across the Silicon Gorge”.
The initiative, which launches on International Women’s Day, couldn’t come at a better time. Despite a recent report from McKinsey stating that the most diverse tech companies outperform the average by 33%, it still stands that women represent just 16% of this workforce.
And with people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds also sorely underrepresented in the region’s tech cluster, the view that diversity in the tech cluster needs to be urgently addressed comes from both an ethical, practical and an economic standpoint.
“There are so many talented unrepresented voices in the industry who have the potential to make the Bristol & Bath’s tech sector even better”
As Marina Traversari (pictured left), the Programme Manager at Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator (OSCA) in Bristol explains: “Diversity within the tech industry is a valuable commodity as it helps produce new ways of thinking and operating including boosting productivity, profitability as well as making companies standout.”
Simon Starr (pictured right) organiser of Bath Ruby developers conference agrees: “The technology industry’s shortage of diverse voices has long been a problem, not just because it doesn’t reflect the diversity of our communities, but also because a homogenous team lacks the insight that comes from people with a range of backgrounds and experiences.
“The SHIFT programme is a great initiative which has the potential to improve the industry for all of us.”
Dr Zara Nanu (pictured left) founder and chief exec of Gapsquare, a data-driven startup aiming to tackle the gender pay gap, adds: “The lack of diversity at events, senior roles and boardrooms merely shows one part of underrepresentation in the tech sector.
“There are so many talented unrepresented voices in the industry who have the potential to make the Bristol & Bath’s tech sector even better, so we’re really happy to support SHIFT to celebrate diverse voices in our region.”
Anyone from an underrepresented group who wants to become more involved in the South West tech cluster but feels they lack the confidence to get started is welcome to apply to take part in the SHIFT programme.
All you need to do is head to the SHIFT website and fill in the application form before the deadline of 2 April.
There are 12 fully-funded places on the first intake, with the course running from 25 April to 22 June.