Baroness Martha Lane Fox has launched a rallying cry for the tech world to invest in diversity as organisations have “no excuses” not to improve representation in the sector.
Speaking from the main stage at DTX + UCX 2023, the Lastminute.com founder headlined a show lineup including ITV journalist Sameena Ali Khan, Meta Group Director Sophie Neary and ‘People Hacker’ Jenny Radcliffe – and issued a challenge to other firms to “do the work” on diversity.
Fox said that despite the availability of 30,000 female software developers in the tech space, statistics show the sector will never achieve parity at current rates of growth.
Of course, the diversity conversation must go beyond only focusing on gender diversity. “10 million adults still don’t use tech effectively or at all – and that’s directly related to socio-economic groups,” she stated.
At the dawn of a new realm of AI and digitisation, Fox said the industry needs “leaders who are intentful and focused” on diversity and environmental matters for true change, and that the opportunity ahead is great.
“The first trillionaire will be in climate tech,” she told her audience. “The important thing is for new business leaders to make decisions with purpose.
“I don’t see us having a catastrophic relationship with AI, I think we’ll just become more productive. People’s jobs will change in the sense they will be able to do way more [of the important stuff].”
The subsequent panel entitled ‘Twist and Shout’ discussed the importance of a diverse talent pool. with Meta’s Sophie Neary emphasising that organisations “always have a choice”.
“Talent is equally distributed – opportunity is not. [But] we can make the change happen. Successful companies are the ones who are optimistic.”
On the same panel, PwC’s Cloud & Digital Lead Warren Tucker pointed out that 40% of business owners didn’t believe their current model would be fit for purpose a few years down the line – and that rapid change across the sector is inevitable.
Adaptation for the new realm will extend to cybersecurity and ethics, it was revealed across the event’s dedicated cybersecurity theatres, with speakers in cyber war and cyber resilience sessions urging firms to enhance their defence systems to combat advanced cyberthreats whilst focusing on the responsible use of AI.
Renowned social engineer Radcliffe added: “I’m yet to see AI replicate what a human social engineer can do – not that AI isn’t as brilliant as it is terrifying. [But] people are the most unpredictable entity you will ever come across. Feeding off experiential learning from a machine is never going to be as intuitive as a human.”
Meanwhile, Kelsey Hightower, former distinguished engineer at Google, expressed the need to make open source software sustainable for the long term and less dependent on enterprise needs.
On the hype around AI, he commented: “You can rub AI on a can opener at the moment and you would get funding. If you are asking if AI is going to take your job, what is your job?
“My mantra: make influence key, be authentic, and share the credit.”
Across 18 stages – including case studies, panel debates and peer-to-peer roundtables on cloud, networks, cybersecurity, DevOps, software engineering, UC, AI and data, DTX + UCX 2023 also served as a stage for sector achievements. Firms marked the event with the kinds of landmark announcements and product launches that mirrored the fast pace of change and exciting developments that visitors heard from the headline speakers.
DTX + UCX Europe 2023 Content Director Dominie Roberts said: “Bringing the best tech talent under one roof is what we do – and this year we have strived to improve the richness and diversity of our programmes which we are very proud of.
“Businesses are trying to keep their culture, infrastructure and operational design up to speed with the fast pace of tech change – and it is through events like these that tech teams learn how to navigate the latest tools and adopt the kinds of scalable, sustainable and inclusive strategies that will ultimately ensure their success as we enter the next realm.”