Dynamo 19: equality key for tech sector success

June 20 2019 @ 17:23 by Alison Cowie

Workplace equality was top of the agenda at this year’s Dynamo conference, which took place today (June 20) at the University of Sunderland.

The underplayed role of women in industry was outlined by keynote speaker, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE (pictured), who is committed to breaking gender stereotypes in tech.

Dr Imafidon is recognised thought-leader and heads STEMettes, a social enterprise inspiring future generations of women into STEM-related roles. She was one of the youngest people awarded a Master’s in Mathematics and Computer Science by the University of Oxford – aged 20 – and is listed among the top 50 women in tech in the world by Forbes, voted fifth most influential woman in IT by Computer Weekly and has received the Barclays UK Woman of the Year award.

Drt Imafidon said at the event: “There are companies and organisations that are doing so much to break down gender stereotypes because they recognise that it helps them attract more talent, but we must continue to make sure opportunities are presented to girls in a way that captures their imagination.

“Hopefully, the main take away from [Dynamo 19] will be for firms to simply think more about equality…and maybe change a few things.”

Echoing the call for equality was fellow speaker Susan Bell, CEO of Durham-based Waterstons, who urged businesses to put faith in youth to drive the next generation of successful businesses and deliver economic growth in the North. She challenged firms to empower younger employees, outlining how it is through their ideas and creativity that firms will stay relevant.

“When I started out, I naturally thought you had to go to London to forge a career, but I don’t want that for my daughter,” she said. “I want her to know she can carve out a career in the North.

“It is up to us to keep creating high-quality jobs and businesses that convince young people that they can fulfil their ambitions here and what Dynamo is helping to do is bring together the businesses, organisations and institutions that will create these roles.”

Dynamo 19 – delivered by the industry-led initiative to connect and grow the North East’s tech sector, attracted around 300 delegates from IT and software companies, councils, specialist professional services, universities and colleges.

The event was hosted by BBC’s Charlie Charlton and also featured a number of breakout sessions and panel discussions that focused on cybersecurity, digital construction, gender balance and what makes the North East’s tech sector so vibrant.

The conference was once again sponsored by Sage. Alistair Ridley, a graduate software engineer at Sage who delivered a welcome address, explained about the career choices he has made and how he was inspired to choose the North East to carve out a career. “I have friends in London who want to come back to the North East because they see how engaged we are as a community and events like Dynamo 19 only help raise our profile further,” he said.

Other sponsors include University of Sunderland, MAKE It Sunderland, Mincoffs, Innovation SuperNetwork, North of England P&I, Academic Health Science Network North East and Cumbria, Nomad Digital and Opencast Software.

Post-event, Anne Macdonald, head of engagement at Dynamo, reflected: “Dynamo 19 really delivered, and it was fantastic to hear two keynote speakers so focused on the future and outlining how we open up the sector to groups who currently may feel excluded from the industry.

“With presentations and workshops from the Institute of Coding; an immersive tech panel hosted by PROTO; an innovation showcase panel chaired by Ignite, and a Dynamites’ Hall of Fame, during which Dynamites Awards winners will share their stories, it was a vibrant and inspiring event.”

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