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Our policy briefings represent the interests of those involved in the design and delivery of public services.
Diversity in the workplace is important. Everyone knows this. It gives organisations access to a greater range of talent: unrestricting creativity and opening up resources without boundaries. For the public sector particularly, it also helps provide insight into the needs and motivations of all service users, not just a few.
Despite this, women make up just a tiny percentage of those working in technology throughout the UK. This despite the 2011 census revealing that 51% of the UK population is female.
Alarmingly, a 2015 report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), revealed that just 27% of digital technology professionals were female, a fall from an already low figure of 33% in 2002.
In 2018, PWC undertook research with 2,000 A-Level and university students. Among the findings was how the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. Only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% said it was their first choice.
The survey also found a lack of female role models has reinforced the perception that careers in technology simply aren’t for women. In fact, only 22% of students could name a famous female working in the field whereas two thirds could name a well-known man working in the sector. With only 5% of leadership positions in technology being undertaken by women, challenging girls’ reservations is not immediately easy. Furthermore, for those women already working in the sector at every level, opportunities to network and share excellence with peers can be limited.
Nadira Hussain, Socitm’s Director of Leadership Development & Research explains: “When it comes to encouraging more women to look at careers in technology, it’s about demystifying the world of ICT.
“We need to communicate the fact that a career in technology is not just about hardcore coding, there are numerous entry points. Importantly too we must look at the language we use to attract women to technology related roles, and how we recruit. We need to offer flexible, mobile environments that offer work-life balance.”
Nadira adds that it is vital women are offered coaching and mentoring and a network where issues and ideas can be discussed in confidence – something Socitm actively addresses. Additionally, she says, it is important that male colleagues are understanding and supportive.
Socitm is committed to redressing the sector’s gender imbalance and proactively opens up opportunities for women in the sector. For example, the Socitm Women in IT group has been established as a supportive, confidential environment for networking, sharing of ideas and insights. A melting pot of role models, real experiences and refreshing ideas, the group has a collective mission: to promote the importance of women in technology roles – in the public sector and beyond
The next Socitm Women in IT meeting takes place immediately after Share Cambridge on 25th April 2019. The focus of the meeting is ‘Healthy is the new happy’ and everyone, irrespective of gender, is welcome to attend to share excellence, network, exchange personal experiences and listen to our prestigious programme of speakers, including a keynote from Lisa Harrington (from Socitm’s training partner QA ). Lisa will share her professional experiences, including the ups and downs she faced before taking up her board position at BT and her passion for mental health, from running Broadmoor to championing workplace wellbeing. We hope all Share Cambridge delegates will join us for ‘Healthy is the new happy’ and look forward to seeing you there.
On 25th April 2019, Socitm’s Share Cambridge event focuses on the wellbeing and health of residents and places.
We explore how taking a fresh look at the determinants of people’s wellbeing can enable the public sector in the widest sense - housing authorities, leisure providers, environmental management, education, police, public health, care organisations and health providers - to refocus its efforts on addressing the often entrenched and endemic problems in our communities.
This provides the context for us to examine how digital technologies and better use of data can help deliver this transformation in collaborations involving District, County and Unitary Councils, as well as their diverse partner organisations.
Share Cambridge will focus on improved wellbeing outcomes for service users rather than processes. We will go beyond examining how to digitise public services. Instead, the event will ask how we can use digital technologies to improve services.
We will also examine how sociological improvements have already been made as a result of gathering data, a vital component of a successful transformation strategy that can have an exponential impact on improved wellbeing. For example, councils have made better use of data to tackle problem gambling. In Dagenham, data scientists mapped local mental health problems, homeless shelters, food banks and payday loan shops to show how many vulnerable people were living close to betting shops. As a result, the council was able to rethink its gambling policy for the borough.
Share Cambridge will also consider barriers to creating better digital public services, for example, where service users prefer direct human interaction or digital inequalities make accessing services challenging for some end users.
We will also discuss the challenges associated with changing the culture, internally, of an organisation to make it digitally focused.
Attendance at Share Cambridge is free for public sector and NHS members. Non-member delegates are warmly invited to register and advantage of thought leader talks, best practice seminars and peer networking in this specialised area.
As a precursor to this ground-breaking event, our latest blog explains why our vision is integral to creating an environment that’s happier and healthier with better outcomes for everyone, however complex their needs or the diversity of services required to meet them.
Digital transformation isn’t just about achieving greater efficiencies. It’s also about creating an environment that’s happier and healthier with better outcomes for everyone.
This is the focus of Share Cambridge on 25th April 2019.
For local authorities, central government and the healthcare sector, the biggest challenge facing us is how to achieve these better outcomes for people and communities through transformed public services – harnessing emerging technologies and data in ways that are ethical and avoid exposing people and their data to cyber security risks.
It’s well-documented that online communication can have an enormous impact on people’s wellfare. Managed properly, it can alleviate loneliness, reduce isolation and unite communities. When it comes to people’s health and wellbeing, digital transformation offers powerful opportunities. It enables intervention to take place early at a local, community level. It also allows people to be proactively involved with their own care, encouraging engagement and collaborative response and treatment freeing up resources at the expensive acute end of the system. Digitalisation and effective and secure information sharing can help people to live independently avoiding entry into the care systems. It also means people are better informed about conditions, helping to prevent illness and enabling faster discharge from hospital care.
But the opportunities are far greater than just transforming the care setting. Taking a fresh look at the determinants of people’s wellbeing can enable the public sector in the widest sense – housing authorities, leisure providers, environment, education, police, public health, alongside care organisations and health providers – to refocus their efforts on addressing the often entrenched and endemic problems in our communities. In short, digital technologies and better use of data can help to transform outcomes in collaboration with people in their diverse settings.
However, as with everything, there’s a potential downside. Digital technology also exposes people to significant risk. Cyber security and privacy breaches are a real threat and fear of negative outcomes, including data protection concerns and nervousness about technology itself, can also sometimes make end users wary of engaging with the opportunities presented.
To be successful, digital transformation needs to actively foster inclusivity. It must take into consideration existing socio-economic inequalities and actively address them to ensure services are truly available to all. It must also incorporate a means of training and educating people to ensure they have the skills necessary to reap the full benefits of the digital age.
Factors including age, gender, education and other socio-economic factors have created a digital divide. One that needs to be closed if society is to benefit fully from the positive effects of digital transformation on wellbeing. While this divide remains, digital technology will only serve to create greater inequalities and, in essence, a digital underclass. How do we close the gap between those who are fully engaged digitally and those who have limited or no access to digital technologies and their ensuing wellbeing outcomes?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those most likely to be impacted negatively by the risks associated with digital transformation are those with lower levels of education and skills. Digital literacy is increasingly a requirement for job opportunities and a lack of appropriate skills can lead to people being trapped in poorly paid roles, never receiving the necessary training to harness the benefits of digitalisation.
It is, therefore, essential that education is a vital component of any digital strategy. In a healthy society, inequalities cannot be left to grow and fester. Education needs to be delivered from the grassroots upwards and ongoing. A passion for lifelong learning is born in the classroom and we need to see digital skills incorporated into the curriculum and viewed, correctly, as an essential timetabled subject. Young people entering the job market today need to be able to live and work in a digital world. For their whole-life wellbeing, they need cognitive skills, IT competency, specialist and general skills and the ability to adapt quickly and enthusiastically to change. In the UK, digital literacy is acknowledged as a core component of the curriculum but – in order to deliver lessons of the required calibre – teachers need intensive training too.
Socitm is committed to promoting steps to build a digitally capable workforce and to address gaps in leadership, diversity, and hard and soft skills. We want everyone to have the opportunity to gain the skills and experience required to thrive in the digital age.
We also drive the development of digital leadership in the public sector, championing the need for all leaders and managers to have a strategic vision of the possibilities and potentials of technology. By improving digital proficiency among managers and employees at all levels, we are striving to eradicate digital inequality in the work place. We champion the importance of diverse leadership and teams, including the empowerment of women, for the design of services and products that work for everyone. We are constantly researching the best and most effective ways to gain, re-train and retain people so they have the up-to-date skills needed to work creatively, productively and happily in an ever-evolving workplace.
Innovation and the sharing of excellence are vital to our vision and our operations. We know that when our members and partners come together, break-throughs are made and initiatives that make a tangible and positive difference to society are discussed and facilitated. One of our key policy areas is Health and Wellbeing and we know that, in offering opportunities for open discussion and ideas sharing, we can help shape best practice and maximise the potential of digital transformation to create a healthier, happier and more efficient world for all.
On 25th April Sam Smith, Socitm’s vice-president, is hosting Share Cambridge 2019. Focusing on health and wellbeing, the event will explore how digital transformation can help drive innovation in services supporting health and wellbeing. It will also examine how digital alignment can support service providers.
Throughout the year, we have been fortunate to work alongside our policy partner, DELL EMC, putting health and wellbeing under the microscope and examining how digital transformation really can change people’s lives for the better. DELL EMC are sponsoring this event and will be hosting a human centred design and co-production workshop focusing on the standards and platforms that are being used to deliver innovation and create new health care models. However, Share Cambridge 2019 isn’t just for IT professionals in local government and the healthcare sector. It’s for anyone who wants to unlock the full potential of transforming people’s lives through digital transformation. Socitm public sector and NHS members can attend the event for free and there will be plenty of opportunity to network and share experiences alongside our ground-breaking speaker agenda.
Only by coming together can we equip ourselves to eliminate digital inequality and ensure everyone benefits from the improved wellbeing the technology allows. Just as digital technologies expand the boundaries of information available to people and enhance human productivity, so collaborating and sharing excellence expands the boundaries of our creativity and helps improve the health and wellbeing of us all.
We know diversity, skills and leadership are vital to digital wellbeing. So much so that they come together to form one of our key policy themes. Policy changes people’s lives, helping them to be healthy, active, caring, vibrant, connected, inclusive, sustainable, growing, curious, creative, learning, safe and secure. Download our Diversity, skills and leadership policy briefing to discover how our vision will achieve better outcomes for all.
Sometimes accidents occur out of the blue… but, sometimes, good things come along too, by accident.
Through our association with Socitm, together with a colleague, two members of LGSS were offered the chance to attend the Top Talent Course in December last year.
The course was expertly lead by Colin Litherland. The content was delivered with a light touch in a collaborative way that seemed relaxed but was always focused. Colin moved us effortlessly through theory, exercises, discussions and introspection. We learnt things about ourselves and our general management styles in a way that allowed each one of us to stand back and look at ourselves and reconsider. The course gave us tools and strategies to try and apply in our day to day working lives. It was also refreshing to be able to discuss more personal, thoughtful, collaborative approaches to colleagues and work situations. Dare I say it, but especially as a man in the workplace, we are often conditioned to behave in a certain way and not show a more considerate side for fear of how this might be perceived. It was refreshing to be challenged to think about these behaviours. Even the LGSS colleague I attended with, who Colin found to be a seriously hard case, had some moments of re-think and found some empathy he didn’t know he had ;D
At the end of the course, we split into two groups and each made a presentation. What struck me most was the way in which we were inspired by the course to work together, we were really motivated to do this, and how in small teams, some of us hadn’t met before, we worked effectively and collaboratively towards two excellent presentations. By sitting down together during the course and discussing openly some important issues, I got a much better understanding of every person in the group I attended with and genuinely missed the time I spent with them and missed them when the course, all too soon, ended! My journey has been complicated by an HGV ploughing into stationary traffic on the A14 and the effects this had on my brain. The SOCITM top talent course was a happy accident and I will take the learning I did on that course with me through my professional and my personal life!
By Alex Haidar
Systems Implementation Team Manager at LGSS – Cambridgeshire County Council
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