‘If tech is building the future, let's make that future inclusive and representative of all of society’ – An interview with Charlotte Jee


February 27th, 2018

Charlotte Jee is a journalist specialising in technology and politics, currently working as editor for Techworld. Charlotte has founded, hosted and moderated a range of events including The Techies awards and her own ‘Women in Tech Speak Up’ event series. In 2017, Charlotte set up Jeneo with the mission to give women and underrepresented people a voice at Tech events. Jeneo helps companies source great individuals to speak at their events, and encourage event organisers to source panellists from a range of backgrounds. We spoke to Charlotte in a live Twitter Q&A to find out a bit more about Jeneo and Charlotte’s experience as a woman in the tech sector.

Packt: Why did you decide to set up Jeneo?

CJ: Good question! Basically, blame manels (aka all-male panels). I got tired of going to tech events and not seeing even one woman speaking. It's symptomatic of a wider issue with diversity within tech. And I resolved to start to do something about it!

Packt: What have been your most interesting findings from the research you've carried out into women at tech events?

CJ: Interestingly, the ratio of women to men speakers varies hugely across different events. However, promisingly, I've found that those who have worked on this specific issue have successfully upped their number of women speakers. The general finding was that from the top 60 London tech events, women comprise about a quarter of the speakers. The full research hasn't concluded just yet – so stay tuned.

Packt: How has the industry changed since you started in Tech? Do you think it is getting easier for women to get into the Tech world?

CJ: To be honest, I don't think that much progress has been made since I started working in tech. However, in the last year with scandals at Uber, Google and VC sexual harassment, the industry is starting to finally really focus on making itself more welcoming for women.

Packt: What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?

CJ: I think the answer is the same regardless of your gender – the tech industry is at the forefront of the latest innovations within society and it is constantly changing, so you never get bored.

Packt: What do you think is the worst part of being a woman in the tech industry?

CJ: To be clear, I believe the majority of workplaces within tech are perfectly welcoming to women – however for the persistent minority that aren't, women can face all sorts of discrimination, both subtle and unsubtle.

Packt: What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry?

CJ: Go for it! I honestly can't think of a better industry to work in. You can pretty much guarantee you'll be able to find work no matter what, so long as you keep your skills up to date.

Packt: In what ways – positive or negative ­– do you think our education system influences the number of women in tech?

CJ: Good question. I actually think that it's in education that this problem starts – from the experts I've spoken to, it seems like our education system too often seems to actively discourage women from pursuing careers in tech.

Packt: What has been your biggest success in your tech career so far?

CJ: I was really honoured when my boss promoted me to TechWorld News editor in 2015. Recently, it'd have to be the Women in Tech Speak Up event for 300 people I organised (single-handedly) in August 2017. Also, creating this list of 348 women working in tech in the UK which in many ways kicked this all off.

Packt: What advice would you give to help tech companies to help increase their gender diversity?

CJ: Way too much for one tweet here. Get senior buy-in, look carefully at your hiring process, be clear on culture/working practices, collect and publish data, provide flexible working (men want this too!) – if you want to more detail please get in touch with me.

Packt: What do you think the future looks like for women working in tech?

CJ: I feel more optimistic now than I have at any point. I think there is a huge amount of desire within the industry to be more inclusive. However, it's translating that goodwill into action – that's what I'll be focusing on.

Packt: Are there any tech companies doing awesome things to increase diversity in their business?

CJ: There's some impressive work from Monzo at the moment, who are highlighting the need for a diverse and inclusive team that represents their user base. There are plenty of others doing good work too, including Amazon UK.

Packt: Are there any particular women in tech who have inspired you and who should we be following on Twitter?

CJ:How long do you have? So many:

That is truly just for starters. And of course, I have to add, the original woman in tech who inspired me is my Mum, Jane Jee (@janeajee) – she's CEO of RegTech startup Kompli-Global Compliance (@kompliglobal). Plus, obviously everyone on this list.

Packt: Do you have any tips or advice for women to get on panels or bag speaking slots at tech events?

CJ: Start small if possible, build up your conference – don't be afraid to put yourself out there! My research has found speaker submissions overwhelmingly come from men, get proactive and contact events you'd like to speak at.

Thanks for chatting with us, Charlotte! Find out more about Jeneo here and follow Charlotte on Twitter: @CharlotteJee.