Government Digital Service Podcast

Government Digital Service Podcast #17: International Women’s Day

March 9, 2020

Laura Stevens:

Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I'm a Creative Content Producer here at GDS. And for March's episode, we're going to be celebrating International Women's Day.


In 2020 the theme for International Women's Day is 'each for equal'. The worldwide event’s tagline reads, “an equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world, celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, take action for equality”. So from this theme we wrote 3 questions and asked 9 women from across GDS for their opinion.


Let’s hear what they had to say. 


Which woman inspires you in digital government and why?


Charlotte Downs:

I’m Charlotte Downs, and I’m a Graphic Designer in the Communications Team. 


So I love this question, but I am going to cop out. I think I find it difficult to find a specific female that inspires me because individually everyone has different aspects to who they are that are great. And I learn from each of those different bits. 


So I’m inspired by lots of females, our team is mainly female. And I find that each of them, the resilience that they have and just the energy they bring to work, inspires me to be better in my work and in, and personally. 


Liz Lutgendorff:

I’m Liz Lutgendorff, I’m the Senior Research Analyst for the International Team. And as a side gig, I’m also one of the co-chairs of the Women’s Network at GDS.


I think I’m going to cheat a little bit on this one, because it’s really hard to pick just one. And especially I, I guess I’d focus on GDS because I most you know, that’s my main source of knowledge. But I think if you pick any person at GDS who’s working here, you’re going to find something really inspirational about them. 


Even just about you know, trying something that’s really frustrating to them, but might be easy to someone else, but just like putting yourself out there; if you’re scared of public speaking, people are doing speaker training so they can tell their stories about what they’re doing in digital, even though they’re kind of scared to death of it. 


So yeah, I’m just going to have a total cop out and say every single woman at GDS, from our HR people, to our Estates people, to our developers, everyone. Everyone is doing amazing things everyday.


Joanna Blackburn:

I’m Joanna Blackburn, I’m Deputy Director for Communications and Engagement here in GDS.


There actually, when I was asked this question, there are a lot of women out there who are quite inspirational in terms of breaking barriers, but the first person that really came to mind for me is a lady called Rachel Neaman. Rachael Neaman was, at the time that I met her, the first digital leader in the Department for Health. And at the time I was working at an ALB [arm's length bodies] where I was responsible primarily to move out existing websites onto GOV.UK. 


And the reason why Rachel comes to mind for me is because I met her while attending a meeting of very senior people across the Department for Health. And so it was quite an intimidating environment where everybody was of quite senior stature, and here I am in middle management sort of like feeling like an imposter. But I was so inspired by the way she challenged that group of people, and how she said it is their responsibility to drive digital transformation in their work and to role model leadership behaviours so that their teams will do the same. 


So for me, she’s one of the, one of those people that I really believe is transformational in digital transformation for government. 


Laura Stevens:

Can you tell me a story about gender equality in the workplace?


Sanwar Bopari:

I’m Sanwar Bopari, and I’m an Executive Assistant.


I’m really interested in the work that the Women’s Network are doing around the gender pay gap. I think it’s really important because it’s never quite transparent and it’s good to make it obvious to everyone.


Jen Allum:

I’m Jen Allum, and I’m the Head of GOV.UK.


We have diverse panels for recruitment at GDS. And one moment that really struck me recently was interviewing for a role in the GOV.UK programme. And the person we were interviewing referred throughout the interview only to men. So it was all references to he and him. To such a degree that I needed to ask if all of the people that he’d worked with were men. And of course he hadn’t. 


But the thing that really struck me about that was not so much that maybe that had happened, but that the colleagues I had on the panel, who happened to be male, hadn’t noticed it until I’d asked the question. 


And of course I’ve heard the argument about you know, when you hear ‘he’ what we mean is everyone, but I don’t buy that and language matters. So it was a really underlying moment for me in why we have diversity in our recruitment panels.


Leena Taha:

My name is Leena Taha, and I’m a Senior Content Designer on the Brexit Journeys Team. 


One of the people who I used to work with before, he would amplify the voices of other women in the room if they were ever ignored. For example, if we were ever in a meeting then, and somebody made a point that was later ignored, he would circle back to it and, ‘say so and so mentioned this earlier which was a good point’. Which really helped to make everybody's voices heard.


Laura Stevens:

What will you do this year to make GDS a better workplace for women?


Laura Flannery:

Hello I’m Laura Flannery, I’m a Senior Product Manager, I work on GOV.UK.


So I have the privilege of being the co-chair of the Women’s Network, I lead and co-ordinate the Women’s Network and the working groups within it. And we have a lot of things planned over the next year to make GDS a better place for women but also for everyone, because the knock on effects of what we do make GDS better for everyone. That’s an important point.


We’re working on the gender pay gap. We have a working group and we have an action plan. So we’re using data to understand what interventions are working to make the gender pay gap smaller. We have some training on career progression coming up so we’ll be teaching participants how to define milestones that they need to achieve their goals, helping them to gain clarity and direction and the confidence to pursue their aspirations. We’re also planning some public speaking training so helping people to build confidence, find their voice. 


We have a mentoring scheme that we set up a couple of years ago, and we’re going to operationalise that. So we’re handing it over to the People Team, so there is someone who will be looking after it and that is there, that’s part of their job. Because the Women’s Network is a network of volunteers so the fact that we’re able to do that is actually a really great sign and it’s you know, should have good impact across GDS. 


We’ve also recently done a survey on period products in the bathrooms. So GDS provides free period products for women, and reviewing that process so we can make it better to meet the needs of women here. And we’re running, we’re going to run lots of campaigns to raise awareness on certain topics, for example the gender pay gap, women's health, lots of other things. 


Jennifer Marks:

Hi my name is Jennifer Marks and I’m a Digital Delivery Advisor at the Future Relationships and Expert Services Team at GDS.


So I’ve been in GDS coming up to a year, it’ll be my first year anniversary in April, and the one thing I’ve really noticed is the Women’s Network do amazing work but there is one area which I think should really be on the agenda. And that is about women returners; that’s women who have for some reason or other, it’s usually motherhood, sometimes it could be care of relative, have taken career breaks. And they struggle to get back into the workplace, and these are women who, they have immense skill sets and yet because they’ve taken 2 maybe 3 years out of the workplace, or more, the workplace is suddenly closed to them. 


And it’s something I really would like to put on the agenda. I think it’s important. These are women who could have so much to offer, they have the skills, the ability and I think that they would be a great addition to GDS, and I’d like to look at how we can bring these women back into the workplace, what we can offer them. And I have had the benefit of working and volunteering with the Women’s Returner Network. Because I was one of those women, and I think it’s important to help promote other women, help other women make sure they have access to work and what they need to really shine through. 


Eliška Copland:

My name is Eliška Copland and I work as a Cyber Security Analyst. 


So I think that we all know that there is a shortage of women in technology. And it’s one thing to kind of hire more women, and there’s a big push to high more women in technology, but it’s also a completely different method to make them feel like they’re included and a valued addition to the team, and motivate them and drive them to their best. And I think that there are ways that this can be improved. And I think that some teams and some managers do it better than others, and I would like to just understand and learn more about how that, how that can be done. And again I would like to find male allies in this.


So that was, that, that’s one thing. I suppose then I also, just because one of the mottos of GDS is to be kind and be generous, I think generally us women in this male dominated field kind of need to be more generously speaking up when some kind of injustice is happening, either to ourselves or to others, but should do it in a kind way. 


But I think GDS is a wonderful place to, to work and I can’t stress enough that there isn’t that much injustice happening, and most of the time it’s, you meet absolutely wonderful people in this sector. 


Laura Stevens:

So thank you to everybody from across GDS who came in to talk today about International Women’s Day. 


And you can listen to all the episodes of the Government Digital Service Podcast on Apple Music, Spotify and all other major podcast platforms. And you can read a transcript on PodBean. 


So thank you once again to everyone and goodbye.

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