I gave a speech at the annual Wired conference this morning – I thought I’d share my notes – I’m sorry they’re not fully written up but I thought they still make some sense.
I owe thanks to the brilliant Amanda Foreman who drew my attention to the nomadic people of the Steppe. Apologies if I spelt the professors name wrong!
PART ONE :
PICTURE THIS – I’M ON SIDE OF ROAD IN 1993 WITH MY BEST FRIEND TRYING TO HITCHHIKE FROM ULAN BATOR TO NOT SURE WHERE in kyrgyzstan
DIRTY, HUNGRY AND WONDERING WHAT THE HELL MESS WE WERE GOING TO END UP IN – only half a mars bar left between us after five weeks eating only boiled goat intestines + sour goats cream
NO IDEA that at the same time some amazing discoveries being made all over the nearby landscape
Nomads in the steppe – 600bc
Who roamed around from ukraine to mongolia
herodotus wrote about them describes how women chopped off a breast so they could pull bows and arrows better
pazyruk, scythian + sarmatian
natalia polozmak famous archaeologist found in the same year – 1993 ice maiden from 400bc
kept v well preserved cos of ice – buried with horses, jewels
further west over last 20 years peoples discovered with no written language but masses of remains
prof leonid jablonsky one of world experts who excavated kurgan burial sites – univ archaeology moscow
What he found was women central to culture – work tools, weapons all in their graves
military leaders men but women in army – new bone analysis improved and therefore see mistakes of excavators and see many graves are of women
grave treasures now in orenburg – beautiful jewels and also arrows and weapons with v small handles
As Amanda foreman in her brilliant documentary said “dont need to be physically strong to handle a bow and arrow”
“precariousness of survival meant gender segregation unhelpful”
Women recognised cos of their skills.
LIFE CREATES SOME FUNNY PATTERNS DOESNT IT?
as i sat there in mongolia i had no idea these amazing archaeological leaps were being made
or that my own journey over the next ten years would lead me to the internet – arguably the ultimate weapon for us as individuals and us as a society.
and when i embarked on my adventures with the internet in 1997 i certainly thought that it would be a democratising, empowering force for men and women… that we would see a diverse, balanced workforce emerge in this new industry.
so, one of the most baffling aspects of the internet sector to me, a dot com dinosaur, is that it hasnt been and that numbers of women in our industry are at best plateau-ing and at worst going down.
whats this got to do with the plains of mongolia?
well, i think that we need to think about creating a new army of warriors – digital warriors – digital women warriors… taking our inspiration from the nomadic plains.
i think that if we were really imaginative and created the most gender balanced workforce in the world here in the uk we would have a huge economic advantage both at an individual and national level. and more than that – although we are not in a war that would look familiar to the nomadic
peoples we are, we are fighting chronic disease, climate change, massive inequality and we need warriors to help us. Digital warriors. The answers will be organized around the Internet.
PART TWO :
cos in fact women haven’t always been so absent from our industry.
starting with bletchley park through to the advent of computing.
1950/60s saw computing begin to impact industry – starting with the Lyons cake factory
mary coombes was first woman appointed as a programmer on leo
ERNIE and premium bonds machine operated by women.
Stevie shirley starting her business in early 60s
2000 women all working at home, all working flexibly
Not on easy projects – black box for concorde, polaris – hardly a walk in the park.
but something happened
now – 4% programmers women
10% start up founders
no women running google, fbk, twitter, linkedin, amazon, ebay, wikipedia,
1.18m IT specialists working in the UK in 2014, of which only 17% were women. This
compares with a figure of 47% for the workforce as a whole
PART THREE :
i would argue this is just a massive waste, a waste of talent and of ideas and for sure MONEY
WE KNOW COMPANIES WITH MORE DIVERSITY HAVE HIGHER PROFITS AND WE KNOW THAT THE WHOLE ECONOMY BENEFITS when more women are employed.
Most importantly the digital sector is undrpinning everything and IS THE ECONOMY of the future so lets get ahead and become the most talented country on the planet.
on top of that, its just dumb to release products with no involvement from women when we *might* be half your customer base – are you listening apple? no periods on your health app?
there is so much happening in the uk – from go on uk’s focus on making sure everyone has basic digital skills (foot soldiers) to the awesome anne marie inmafidion encouraging stem to sue black and tech mums turning people into mini entrepreneurs but lets be bolder.
Lets think about the incredible opp that the uk, a small country with small pop has to create a kickass army of digital warriors. women armed with the weapons of the 21st century. Not just coders but product designers, marketeers, founders, investors….
how about a big vision, some new funding and a shared sense of purpose?
how about some new ideas like how to crack this- currently 800k unemployed women and 600k unfilled tech jobs…
doteveryone is a new kind of public organisation i am starting to help make the uk brillliant in the networked age – and being brilliant in the networked age means championing the role of women.
AS THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR WHO FOUNDED WORLDPULSE SAID RECENTLY – I BELIEVE A WOMAN WITH A LAPTOP IS MORE POWERFUL THAN A MAN WITH A GUN.
So, just as they reassessed those 7th BC graves and found the women were buried with bows and arrows – what will the archaeologists of the future find? usb ports? microchips?
Let’s make sure they look back at us in awe when they find a grave like this?