What we learned from our first UK event – the RISE of a tech GirlForce

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It’s been a great month for Talent RISE in the UK. Last week was particularly special, as on Wednesday 21 November we held our very first event.

This event, called The RISE of a tech GirlForce, was inspired by the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child in October. That day marked the beginning of a year-long effort by the UN to advocate for opportunities for girls to gain employability skills.

The UN’s theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”, reflecting that while educated and skilled workers are in huge demand, roughly a quarter of young people around the world – most of them female – are not currently in education, employment or training.

Talent RISE’s global mission is to inspire, enfranchise and positively impact young people with barriers to employment by helping them to access education and job placement opportunities in the technology sector. In the UK, male tech workers outnumber women by four to one, and some estimate that the country’s Digital Skills Gap could cost the UK £141 Billion in lost GDP growth over the next ten years.

So, doing our bit to support this global UN-led effort was an absolute no-brainer!

Sucesses and lessons learned

Our GirlForce event brought together young women with Talent International’s female staff from across the UK and external guests and speakers. On the surface, our plan was fairly simple.

During the first half of the event the speakers, all incredible women from the tech sector, would share their experiences to help educate and inspire the young women to consider a tech career. The second half of the event was “digi-dating” where Talent International’s staff, guests and speakers could talk to the young women one-on-one.

Overall, the event was a success, and we’ve had some great feedback from those who came along, but there are definitely some things we’ll do differently next time. And because one of Talent’s values is that “we strive for better”, I thought I’d share one of our key learnings.

Youth engagement is difficult for a lot of reasons. Young people have a lot of distractions and even if they’ve said they’re coming along one day, their plans can change overnight. They’re often also reliant on others for transport, so things can get in their way even if they’re trying their best to get to you.

We’d tried to tackle some of these challenges by holding the event in Brixton, so the event was close to them. We’d also allowed half an hour at the beginning to account for late-comers, but in the end this wasn’t nearly enough!

We’d started the event too early, and by 4:30pm only a few young women had arrived. We held on as long as we could, but by 5:10pm numbers were still low and we were in danger of losing those who had made it. So, we pressed on, and while the first speakers were giving their talks more and more young women began to arrive.

In the end almost twenty young women came along, and we all breathed a sigh of relief! We also made a note to start later next time and allow more time for people to arrive. Another way around this is for us to go directly to youth centres so that young people don’t have to travel anywhere new at all.

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Inspiring the next generation

All this being said, I don’t want to take anything away from all the hard work that went into the event and the brilliant end results.

Our speakers really were fantastic, and when we asked the young women what they’d enjoyed the most many said things like “The first-hand experiences of the women in the industry” and “The panel of speakers were insightful and inspiring”.

Talent’s own staff were also incredible, and really enjoyed the event. Director Sarah Bellis said: “I sat with two 15 year old girls who were so passionate about becoming Python Developers, they had brought code in to show us. They didn’t want to leave at the end of the event!”

We’re still going over the feedback in detail but many of the young women agreed that the event had both inspired and educated them. So, all in all a fantastic result.

Next time I’ll return to Talent RISE in general, so stay tuned for next month’s blog!

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I’d like to say a personal thanks to the following without whom this event wouldn’t have been possible:

Speakers Reena Chauhan, Faustine Ladeiro-Levent, Christina Buch-Petersen, Alex Butler, Sereena Abbassi and Regina Oladipo;

Co-organisers and sponsors KARISMATIC MINDS LTD and The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP);

Our wonderful hosts PopBrixton;

Talent RISE Programme Manager Shaun Danquah;

And the amazing marketing team and female staff of Talent International, including Rebecca Trowell who championed the event from the start.