Meet ROWIT: The event series championing Women in Tech

Home  ❯  Interview   ❯   Meet ROWIT: The event series championing Women in Tech

7th November, 2023 No Comments
Left to right: Laura Clark, Toni Gregory, and Jade Southwood, of GoCardless and ‘Rise Of Women In Tech’.

Tell us a little bit about you, and what lead to you launch “Rise Of Women In Tech” (or to shorten it ROWIT?)

Laura: Jade, Toni and I are all part of the Employee Resource Group at GoCardless called Inspiring, where we strive to promote gender equality. One of the goals we wanted to achieve for Inspiring in 2023 was to help women within GoCardless grow their external network, as we know how valuable this can be. This led us to host the first Rise of Women in Tech event.

Jade: With this vision in mind, our events have transitioned into a really successful networking group. We started working together to understand the best way to make an impact in the fintech world, thinking beyond just our organisation. We’ve always wanted to ensure we aren’t just doing the same thing as the next business.

This isn’t a tick-box exercise for us, we want to make sure our events feel different, have panellists who are not afraid to offer up their true selves and focus on making each event worth people’s time. With this in mind, we looked at what was currently in the market and tried to position ourselves as the one that stood out. 

So how does this differ to other events on the circuit?

Toni: I think what sets us apart is how candid we encourage our panellists and network to be. We’ve all gone to networking events and heard the same questions asked, with the same generic answers. Sometimes you need the raw truth or a blunt answer, or you need to be able to ask a question that’s meaningful to you. ROWIT is a safe space to do that, and we believe it means people get more out of the events.

Also – and yes, I know how cheesy it sounds – but we always have icebreaker games at the networking. Going to events alone can feel awkward or isolating, and we’d rather unify people in something cheesy than have someone stand-alone wondering if they should leave.

Jade: Absolutely, first impressions are everything. We want to ensure every event we put on feels the same. We do this through a cocktail as you walk in, elevated snacks to show we mean business, icebreakers to make sure people feel included and inclusive drink options throughout the evening. I truly believe that ensuring a space is set up for success means so is the event. 

Laura: I’d also say that because we all work in different areas and have very different day-to-day jobs, we all have a different skill set that we bring to the table. As a result, we work really well together. We have a shared desire to make the Network a huge success, and we knew from the start that we wanted to make sure we weren’t just emulating other events we’d been to and, instead, that we were focused on empowering women.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for women in tech at the moment, and how do your events seek to help support people facing these problems?

Jade: A Lot of companies have started reducing their hiring and this is causing a knock on effect where people not getting the same opportunities. Whether that be internal moves, new roles or promotions. We aim to stay relevant to the issues going on and allow those who identify as women or non-binary to discuss their struggles and hopefully walk away with a new tip to help them advance their careers.

Also, whilst women and non-binary are our primary Network audience, our networking events have an open invitation for anyone! So long as you work in tech and care about gender equality, you’re welcome to be there, as we know that allies play an important role and their voices should be part of the conversation. 

What sort of tech companies and verticals are you working most closely with, and are the challenges fairly similar across the board, or does each ‘vertical’ have different issues?

Toni: Because we work at a fintech and have hosted some of the events at our office, it’s naturally attracted others in that space. However, we intentionally curate panels of speakers from different types of tech companies who all have very different roles. We’ve had Chief People Officers, Founders, Head of Compliance, Engineers, the list goes on, but it’s a decision that’s drawn in people from all across the tech sector which is amazing. 

From what we’ve heard so far, most verticals have the same overarching issues, but the age and size of an organisation can be a factor. Company culture comes from the top, but there are still plenty of ‘pale, male and stale’ leaders and it can be a blocker to women entering and staying in the tech space.

What are your biggest goals for the ROWIT initiative?

Jade: World domination! We want to become a well-known networking group where people feel empowered, safe and actually network. We want to ensure that these events provide people with a new perspective that other events don’t provide. 

Toni: We’ve had such a positive response from people who have attended, and it’s led to some great collaborations with other organisations. It would be amazing to grow the network and host in other locations or formats so we can make it more accessible. Our goal is to gain a reputation where people know they’re welcome and the events are worth attending. 

What would be your best piece of advice for women in tech to advance in their career?

Toni: There’s a lot of healthy competition in the tech space and it’s too easy to spend your energy running someone else’s race. Take the time to think about your own goals and ambitions, and factor in the ‘why’ behind some of your actions. Through listening to amazing women across the industry at our events, it’s clear that confidence is key to unlocking so much, but for some of us that can take time to develop so keeping your ’why’ in mind can be a driving force. Most of us have no idea what we’ll be doing in five years time, but we do have control over the next 12-18 months and can focus on the areas we truly care about.

Jade: Don’t be afraid to reach out to female leaders in your business for mentoring, a 1-2-1 or a quick brainstorming session. If the ROWIT events have demonstrated anything, it’s that you can learn a lot from other people’s challenges and lived experiences.  

Laura: Finally, I’d say don’t think you have to follow a traditional path in order to move forward. We’ve heard from some amazing speakers who have taken a side-step or started their own company because traditional workplaces weren’t set up for them. We might be the co-founders, but we’ve learnt so much from our networking events and from speaking to others, so I would always encourage others to do the same and soak in what others have to say!

You can attend the next ROWIT event by signing up with Eventbrite.

Time: Thursday 16th November, 2023 18:30 – 21:00.
Location: 145 City Road London EC1V 1AZ

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