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'Embrace Equity: The Digital Women in 2023' a panellist’s view

This article is written by Zahraa Murtaza (Principal Agile Delivery Lead / Consultant, GFT) following the recent 'Embrace Equity: The Digital Women'.

On International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8th March), my colleague Dawn Blenkiron and I attended Embrace Equity: The Digital Women in 2023.

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Emma Grant, Head of Talent and Skills at Manchester Digital

The event was hosted by Digital Her, hackajob and Bruntwood SciTech to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 here in Manchester.

I was part of the final panel focusing on ‘equity’. It was a tough panel with some very interesting insights into the digital space, especially for women.

We had a packed agenda starting from 3pm and finishing at 8.30pm.

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Ellis Wadsworth and Frankie Rooney, Hackajob

The event started with the inspirational Emma Grant, Head of Talent and Skills at Manchester Digital, introducing DigitalHer as well as the fabulous Frankie Rooney (Senior Customer Advocacy Manager) and Ellis Wadsworth (Senior Talent Acquisition Manager) from hackajob.

The event was broken down into five sections (two panels and three feature talks).

There is far too much to include in one article – so here are my key takeaways from the panel and feature talks.

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Gill Maiden, EMIS

Feature talk: Technology for Good, From Corrie to Covid by Gill Maiden, Programme Director, EMIS Group Operations

Key takeaway

You don’t need to know what path to take to end up in tech. Tech is for everyone and you can sidestep as well as move up the ladder doing something you love as well as making a difference to society. Thank you Gill for the amazing work you do at EMIS – I’m sure your father-in-law will have a lot to say in your sprint retrospectives.

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Emerging opportunities in tech & digital in 2023

Panel: Emerging opportunities in tech & digital in 2023

Host: Sherelle Fairweather, Digital Strategy Lead, Manchester City Council


o    Tracey Butler - Group Head of IT at EMIS Group

o   Jules Hyam, Director of Talent Acquisition Strategy at 6point6

o   Elisabeth Mancini, UX Manager, The Very Group

o   Barbara Schädel, Senior Product Manager – Mobile Apps, Boohoo

o   Eliza Latesen, Head of Marketing, VCG Technology Services

Key takeaway

Tech embraces those who fail fast, but most importantly those who try. Again, most of our panellists didn’t anticipate themselves being within tech and having such rewarding careers in tech. The closing statement of ‘tech is here to stay’ couldn’t be truer. The amazing panellists clearly showed how tech really is an industry for all.

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Laura Bayliss, Founder and CEO of TimeTrove

Feature talk: Find your purpose by LAURA BAYLISS - Founder and CEO of TimeTrove

Key takeaway

I’m a huge fan of Laura! A sole-founder of an inspirational tech-for-good company. Laura captivated the audience and showed how, in times of adversity, you can see the silver lining and be rewarded and recognised by not giving up! I really admire the work Laura does, as someone who doesn’t like social media and the effects it has on young people. TimeTrove is something we didn’t realise we needed. For anyone interested, please visit TimeTrove

Final panel (which I was part of):

What equity means for the digital woman in 2023

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What equity means for the digital woman in 2023

Host Parul Singh, Recruitment Marketing Partner, XDesign


o   Ineshka De Silva, Senior Design Consultant, Capco

o   Roselyn Mutongerwa, Innovation Consultant/Founder & DE&I Advocate, Wazoku/WEMVision

o   Jessica Stewart, Software Engineer, BAE Systems

o   Zahraa Murtaza (Me), Principal Agile Lead, GFT

o   Laura Brewis, Acting Engineering Manager & STEM community lead, XDesign

We had 5 main questions around equity:

1)    The focus has shifted from ‘equality’ in the workplace to ‘equity’. What does ‘equity’ mean to you?

2)    What systemic obstacles have you experienced that have prevented equity in the workplace?

3)    What is your opinion on advertising the term ‘imposter syndrome’?

4)    How can women build resilience in the workplace and should they?

5)    What needs to change in corporations to ensure a more equitable tech sector?

Key takeaways

First of all, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our host Parul and my fellow panellists. This was my first ever panel and it was a great opportunity to sit alongside these wonderful individuals to discuss very important topics. 

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Zahraa Murtaza, Principal Agile Lead at GFT

In terms of equity, we need to understand that each person is an individual with a different start in life, and we should embrace this rather than set a ‘target’ for it. We’re all different, and we need to embrace our differences. We discussed how to create a more diverse workplace and the need to start engaging diverse individuals from a young age. 

I’m extremely lucky that at GFT (thanks to our amazing Marketing Manager Dawn Blenkiron), we are speaking to schools here in Greater Manchester and showing young adults, especially girls, that anyone can pursue a career in tech. For us at GFT, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a major topic, thanks to the efforts of our Chief People Officer, Judy Pitrakou

Being a female South Asian Muslim, I don’t actually feel any different from any of my other colleagues, thanks to GFT and our UK Leadership Team, showing anyone, especially young girls, that tech is the future... and it starts with each individual!

Regarding the term ‘imposter syndrome’ – my opinion would be not to use this term. If you feel you can’t do your role, you’re probably in a role that is right for you as it will give you the opportunity to stretch your skills! The previous panel spoke about how we as females, see a job description and tend to focus on what we can’t do rather than what we can. I say let’s apply for roles that stretch and develop us. No one is perfect. We can only learn to better ourselves by failing and learning! Let’s start changing the narrative. Let’s start stretching our skills.

I’m extremely lucky in that I’ve never felt or had any obstacles in the workplace – apart from myself! We need to start building ourselves up and take risks. If you fail, it’s a learning experience, not a rejection.

Final feature talk - The importance of not undervaluing your value

Donna Jennings, Cyber Security Architect at 6point6 and Jules Hyam, Director of Talent Acquisition Strategy at 6point6

Key takeaway

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Jules Hyam and Donna Jennings

‘Throw it in the don’t care bucket’

We need to stop caring what others say and think about us as individuals. We need to feel valued and be rewarded fairly. I really appreciate Donna running through her experience of gaining and securing a fair salary. We need to speak up when we’re treated unfairly and ensure we’re all paid a fair wage, especially when we know a male counterpart is being paid more. I suggest using external websites to figure out what your worth and value truly is.

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Digital Her role model speed networking

The final part of the evening was a speed networking event. The premise was to get everyone talking and split into groups of three.

You had to pick out three topics (descriptions of yourself) and then someone would look at your label and strike up a conversation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and would like to thank Manchester Digital for the opportunity to participate. 

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