The Digital Voices programme is helping women in DWP Digital build their confidence and tell their stories. Three of the Digital Voices, Jane, Julie and Lisa played a key role at the recent Women in Digital event, delivering an afternoon breakout session on the day.
In this blog post the trio talk about their experience and what it meant to them.
Thinking about our story
Lisa Payne, Product Owner, DWP Digital: “As part of Digital Voices one of the things we were asked to do at the very start was present at a conference, event or meet-up during the 12-week programme.
DWP Digital's cross-industry and cross-government event for women in the digital and tech sector, Women in Digital, seemed like a great opportunity for us to do this in a really supportive environment. Despite some trepidation about putting ourselves out of our comfort zones, myself, Jane and Julie teamed up and started thinking about what we could talk about in our session.”
Jane Gwyer, Tech Support Manager, DWP Digital: “We decided to base our session around the theme of confidence, talking about our own experiences through our careers and the issue amongst the wider industry.
The opportunity to gain confidence was the main reason we all got involved with Digital Voices and it was something that cropped up during each session hosted by our Digital Voices external supporters, so we know it’s a blocker for many women. We then worked together to pull our content together and plan what we hoped would be an interactive session that drew on our personal stories.”
Taking inspiration from other speakers
Julie Graham, Tech Support Manager, DWP Digital: “We had several practice run-throughs in the morning, just before the event started, because this was the first time we had managed to get together to practice timings. I was very nervous, but practising together made me more relaxed.
Any remaining nerves disappeared when we had the opportunity to listen to the three keynote speeches in the first half of the day. They were excellent, especially the moving and personal talks from the three female speakers from Northcoders. I took inspiration from them and realised that having a lack of confidence doesn’t just affect me and that lots of other women feel it too.”
Delivering our session
Jane: “I’m generally OK presenting to people I know at work but a large-scale event full of people from across the industry was, I’ll admit, terrifying! I’d never done that before. And I was worried that the morning speakers would be so professional that we would sound like idiots. I had the biggest case of “imposter syndrome” ever.
But to help me through, I remembered a lovely quote from one of our Digital Voices supporters, Avril Chester (CEO of Cancer Central): “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid, courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”
Julie: “When it was time for our session I was very surprised by quite how many people were coming into the room. We thought maybe 20 people maximum would choose to come and hear us speak but soon we had all the tables filled and people were even sitting on the floor. Standing room only! Strangely, this didn’t make me any more nervous – seeing that so many people were interested in what we were going to talk about meant I actually enjoyed my part of the presentation a lot.”
Lisa: “Before Women in Digital I was very nervous about our slot in the afternoon. Had we prepared enough? Would people really be interested in what we had to say?
The speakers in the morning sessions really inspired and motivated me, so surprisingly once I stood up to speak, the nerves seemed to disappear. I had my notes but didn’t need to refer to them too often and it actually felt like more of a conversation with everyone in the room. What made a real difference was the fact that everyone there was so supportive, lots of nods and smiles helped me to feel that people were interested in what I was saying and were hopefully finding it useful.”
Jane: "It was great having Julie and Lisa there with me, we had it planned so we each did a bit then the next so there wasn’t too much pressure. Plus we had some familiar faces in the crowd, which all helped. And the positive vibes and gestures that we received from the audience were amazing.
It seemed no effort to go through our bits once we got started because we were so encouraged. And when Lisa got a bit emotional talking through her experiences and then a person in the audience almost started to cry when responding, it was very moving.”
Reflecting on the day
Julie: "I felt fantastic afterwards, I felt I’d really achieved something. I had people coming up to me to say the presentation was really good and that massively boosted my confidence as well.
Overall I really enjoyed Women in Digital. It really struck me when James, the speaker from Northcoders pointed out that Artificial Intelligence is going to be making decisions at a world scale and if the technology is only created by white men then there will be a bias towards that group.
I’ll take away a real passion that I can do something to improve the situation with gender equality and that there are like-minded people out there to support me.”
Lisa: “After we had finished our presentation I was on a high, and was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon speakers. The presentation centred on building confidence armed with hints and tips from the coaches we have had through Digital Voices. I feel proud that we really demonstrated that on the day."
Jane: “Women in Digital was the most amazing day I have ever had at work! I felt so proud and pleased that I gave myself the push to do it. I learned so much about myself and about lots of different issues. I’ve never understood why women are so underrepresented in such a new, non-manual industry, yet I always felt it was inevitable and unchangeable and certainly not something I could influence.
Now I know how passionate so many other people are about this I feel I too can affect change.”
Hear Jane talk about her Women in Digital experience in this short video looking back at the event.