</Q&A with Debbie Forster MBE, #DigitalRoleModel and CEO of Tech Talent Charter>
In this blog, Debbie Forster MBE tells us about her digital skills journey and what inspired her to co-create Tech Talent Charter. The IoC is supporting Tech Talent Charter’s #DoingItAnyway campaign and Debbie sits on the IoC’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, so we wanted to find out more about one of the inspiring women behind the organisation and the campaign.
Name: Debbie Forster MBE
Degree or background information: BA and MA both in English (!)
Current position/job role: CEO Tech Talent Charter
1. What motivated you to co-create Tech Talent Charter?
I’d reached a point where, if I’d had to attend another event on “why there are no women in tech” my head would explode; I was tired of watching companies reinvent the wheel again and again. So, when Sinead Bunting wrote the Tech Talent Charter, we saw the opportunity to really drive a focus on practical action and collaboration. Then when 2017 came around, we had the perfect opportunity of Gender Pay Reporting, #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein. Winston Churchill said, “never waste a good crisis”, so we didn’t. We leaned in to addressing these controversies with our 17 member companies and everything just took off.
2. What is the most enjoyable part of working in tech?
The most exciting part about tech is the sheer variety of work that is out there and the fact that tech, digital and data impact everything. If you are in tech, you can help change the world.
3. Of all of the impact Tech Talent Charter has had to date, what are you most proud of?
I love the range and breadth of what we were doing and that we are doing it collaboratively. I was told so many times that this wouldn’t work. We couldn’t get companies to collaborate or share data, we could never do this as a small not-for-profit. But it does work and they are doing it. I’m most proud when I see all the people giving time, energy and expertise to make this work. The current #DoingItAnyway campaign is a great example, but I get to see this time and time again..
4. Did you face any barriers when entering your field? If so, how did you overcome them?
I think I had more internal barriers than external ones to overcome. Like a lot of women, I struggle with imposter syndrome and low self-confidence. It is why #DoingItAnyway utterly resonates for me. I have got where I am by working through the fear, ignoring the imposter voice and risking failure. I’m at my very best when I am doing what faintly terrifies me. And when I can’t do that by myself, I draw on the circle of people who believe in me, who energise me and make me laugh. They help keep me in the game.
5. What guidance or advice would you give to women who are considering a career in the digital/tech sector?
Lean into the fear and uncertainty, ignore the voice that tells you that you can’t do it and get to work. It will be tough and you may “fail” at times. Seek out mentors and allies –people to build you up and help you on the way. Most importantly, don’t try to do it like everyone else, bring your whole self, your whole skill set, your way of seeing the world and doing things to the work—that is what tech really needs.
6. Please tell us a bit about the #DoingItAnyway campaign.
The campaign is based on some research from HP and Fawcett Society that said there are thousands of women out there who are interested in tech but who lack confidence and the knowledge of what to do next. We need to see “women like us” in tech to help us see ourselves there and then to understand what is on offer to help get us there.
Our campaign features eight amazing women from a range of backgrounds who found alternative routes into tech. We also received submissions from 300 additional inspiring women who are #DigitalRoleModels, so there really is someone for everyone. You can see their stories and hear how they got into tech on our website and then you can visit our database to see hundreds of routes to study, train or work your way into tech.
7. What’s coming up for you?
We are currently planning our big annual event at the end of January 2021. It will be an exciting opportunity to showcase our work, including this campaign, to celebrate what has been achieved in 2020, and to throw down another gauntlet for 2021. There is still so much work to be done to make tech more inclusive, not just from the lens of gender, but ethnicity, disability, LGBTQ+, age, mental health, etc. Our event will be an opportunity to understand what we can all do to make sure tech is part of building back a fairer, more inclusive and diverse “new normal”.
If you’d like to hear more about Debbie’s journey or Tech Talent Charter, you can visit their website. To learn more about the trailblazing women making their own way in tech and #DoingItAnyway, visit the campaign website