Put Women at the Heart of Technology

Put Women at the Heart of Technology

Did you watch Martha Lane Fox of LastMinute.com fame deliver the #Dimbleby Lecture on BBC1 last night?

I am neither a technologist nor a digital entrepreneur; I use the Internet and Social media at an ‘amateurial’ level and to address fairly basic business and professional requirements.  BUT I could not help but feeling totally inspired by Martha’s passionate and fiercely intelligent delivery as to why we need to understand the Internet better, and what is more why we must ‘give it back to the people’.

Martha says that the UK has the potential to become the most advanced digital nation, but for that we need to act faster. Moreover, we need to counterbalance the immense power sitting in the hand of digital giants, to ensure that the Internet remains for everyone (doteveryone is the institution she would like to see created for this purpose) and it is used for important civic aims public projects. She gave a powerful example of the billions that could be freed up and used on frontline rather than back office staff within the UK National Health Service simply by investing in technology.

To achieve this aspirational digital dream Martha highlights three priority areas: education, women and ethics. I quote from a blog she wrote yesterday on guardian.com : ‘Second, doteveryone must put women at the heart of the technology sector. At the moment, there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in parliament. Something that is for everyone should be built by everyone. I believe social media platforms would have done more to stop abuse if they had more women in senior positions, And how about the Apple health kit that went to market without anything to do with periods? Building an awesome cohort of female coders, designers and creators would help make us the most digitally successful country in the world and give us an edge.Why not launch a national challenge to source the best ideas? Why not offer every unemployed woman free education and training? There are exciting projects happening in the UK such as TechmumsStemettes and Codebar, but there need to be more of them, with bigger impact, so we foster the maximum breadth and depth of digital talent. Surely there must be a couple of new Ada Lovelaces lurking in this land?’

In travel, we know far too well how important the digital revolution has been and indeed it continues to be. If there is one sector that has benefitted, but has also been changed and challenged by the Internet it must be Travel. Martha Lane Fox’s LastMinute is just a living example of it. But she also talked about the old lady in the UK’s north-east who looks after her heavily disabled husband and whose life was changed for the better through access to virtual reality – in fact virtual travel  – via Google Maps.

So as women in travel, let’s embrace technology to the full. Let’s not shy away or indeed fear technology but let’s aim to understand and use technology for the sake of our travel businesses, our customers and our daughters. As Nobel Price scientist Marie Curie once said ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is just to be understood’.

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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