Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK and chair of the Digital Leaders board, and Edie Lush, Executive Editor of Hub Culture and Host of Global GoalsCast, discuss the 2018 UK Government Review of Post-18 Education, the tech skills gap and what this may mean for the UK and economy in general. In this wide ranging discussion, they explore how closely inclusion is tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Jacqueline de Rojas
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, is the President of techUK and the chair of the Digital Leaders board. She sits as a Non-Executive Director on the board of UK technology business Rightmove plc; on the board of Costain plc, which is committed to solving the nation’s Infrastructure problems; and was recently appointed to the board of the online retailer AO World plc. Jacqueline serves on the government’s Digital Economy Council and is a supporter of the University Technical College in Newcastle. An advisor to fast moving tech businesses and a business mentor at Merryck offering board and executive level coaching. She is the co-chair at the Institute of Coding, advises the board of Accelerate-Her and is especially delighted to lend her support to the Girlguiding Association for technology transformation. Passionate about diversity and inclusion which informs where she places her support.
In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence – Digital & Social and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. She was presented with the 2017 Catherine Variety award for Science and Technology and the 2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity.
Jacqueline was awarded CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2018.
Happily married to Roger Andrews, they have three children and four dogs.
You can follow Jacqueline on Twitter @JdR_Tech.
Edie Lush, a British-American Journalist, is an Author, Executive Editor of Hub Culture, a Communication Trainer and MC. She is co-host for the CBS distributed Global Goals podcast, which is part of the ‘We Are All Human Foundation’, an organization devoted to promoting radical inclusion and diversity and fights racism and discrimination.
Edie has thousands of interviews under her belt. In her role as Executive Editor at Hub Culture she is responsible for creating impactful social media content around the globe, from events in Davos to the UN General Assembly in New York to the COP Climate Summits. She has been the Economics and Political correspondent for Bloomberg Television, a columnist at The Week magazine and the Associate Editor of Spectator Business magazine. She is a regular contributor to the Spectator Magazine and the BBC. Her work has appeared in many publications including Prospect and Techonomy.
She runs her own business providing senior Leaders, Influencers, Academics and Executives with Communication training. In 2016 Edie toured the US after publishing a book on Speaking in Public with Macmillan and creating an online Communications Course with the How To Academy.
Before moving into journalism Edie was a political analyst for investment bank UBS in London and New York-based hedge fund Omega Advisors. She was an International Relations specialist for both the Secretary General of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C and Hungarian political party SzDSz in Budapest. Edie studied Political Science at UCLA and holds a Masters in International Relations from Yale University.
She is a regular speaker and Event MC – her areas of expertise include Technology and Entrepreneurs and the Sustainable Development Goals. She has chaired three Literary-style Festivals for Intelligence Squared including one on Climate Change and another on Everest. She has been Chair of the British American Project and currently sits on the board of the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers.
She is married with three children and loves ski touring and running.
You can follow Edie on Twitter @edielush.
Series Five, Episode Two Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion and diversity in financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.
Today I’m joined by Jacqueline de Rojas and Edie Lush. Jacqueline de Rojas is the president of techUK and the chair of the Digital Leaders Board and Chair of Institute of Coding. Her pedigree speaks to her career as a champion, advisor, mentor and innovator working with growth tech firms, and she holds non executive board positions at the PLC’s Rightmove, Costain and ao.com. Jacqueline sits on the government’s Digital Economy Council and is deeply passionate about technology, enterprise, trade and innovation. Her list of awards is far too long to mention. But top of the list surely must sit her 2018 New Year’s Honours CBE for Services to International Trade and Technology. Jacqueline, welcome to the show.
Jacqueline: Thank you for having me.
Julia: Edie Lush is a British American Journalist, Author and Broadcaster. She is co host for the Global GoalsCast, which is part of the We Are All Human Foundation, an organisation devoted to promoting inclusion and diversity and fighting racism and discrimination. As Executive Director of Hub Culture, Edie has interviewed and leading lights from the World Economic Forum in Davos, to the UN General Assembly in New York to climate summits around the world. She has been the Economics and Political Correspondent for Bloomberg Television, Economist at The Week, and Associate Editor of Spectator Business Magazine. Edie, welcome to the show.
Edie: Thanks for having me, Julia.
Julia: As always at the start of the show, we invite each guest to talk about what they’re up to at the moment. Jacqueline, let me start with you. What are you particularly focused on?
Jacqueline: So many things! On the business side, I am focused on something that’s very concerning at the moment, which is that we are happy to educate students in the BAME segments. One in four students are of ethnic descent, and yet that is not reflected in how we employ. I am looking at that ratio, I find it astonishing that even when you look at leadership in our sector, we don’t see BAME representation in the top levels. That’s concerning me, and I’m wondering how to attack that. That’s very, very important. So, that’s on my mind.
Secondly, I am focused on the government’s post ’18 review of education. So, that’s all to do with student fees, and it’s very hard because there are so many constituents in that. We’ve got to do the right thing to educate for a future that is arguably already here. Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, I’m a new granny. I’m very excited about that. That’s what’s keeping me awake at night.
Julia: The workforce today and then also the student talent coming through, and the generation yet to come, how wonderful. Edie, what are you up to at the moment? We’re lucky to have you in London.
Edie: I am really pleased to be here. What has been keeping me busy? In Davos, we launched Season Two of Global GoalsCast, which is really exciting. The podcast has a lens of diversity and inclusion. We look at the Sustainable Development Goals with an eye on how exactly we’re going to bring these goals to everybody. We don’t actually need to worry about diversity because the world is diverse. We don’t need to make it any more diverse, but what we do need to do is think about inclusion. We need to make sure that everybody around the world is brought on to the playing field because then we all do better. That has been proven so many times.
Julia: Let’s talk about techUK because I’ve got this right, there are 900 companies in techUK, which is half of the tech sector jobs in the United Kingdom. I’m really intrigued, Jacqueline, to hear about how do you encourage your organisations right the way across the country to really take advantage of the commercial potential of inclusivity and diversity?
Jacqueline: It’s a really interesting question. We have a huge opportunity to improve the conditions for women. Actually, not just women, but other minorities in the workforce. Currently we sit at 17% of women in tech, and the needle has not really moved. In fact, when you look at cyber, it’s 10%, it’s even lower. When I joined as President in 2014, what we did was to create a manifesto for change. That manifesto was quite short, it was about how do we encourage young people into tech? How do we encourage women returners and parents to come back when they’ve left? How do we hold companies, our members to account when they have a diverse workforce opportunity?
When you look at all of those things, it’s things like returners programmes. How do you stay connected with people when they leave the workforce to go on a break, a maternity break for example? How do we get them back? What we found was the returners programme was not the issue, because lots of companies have them. We happen to host a lot of them so people can find them all in one place. The point is that people don’t declare when they’re going, and not coming back. We almost need a way to electronically tag people so that we can find them. You can only drag them back if they self declare. It’s quite an interesting problem. It’s where are they? Not how do we get them back into the workforce. It’s a location thing. I’m thinking we must be able to do that through GPS in some way.
Julia: As you look out to your members across the UK. I imagine you probably travel around quite a lot to go and see them. What impresses you? What inspires you when you go out?
Jacqueline: It’s never about the big things. It’s always about the small things. It’s the tiny actions like, are you a bystander or a participant? Are you watching and waiting for the cavalry to arrive and say, “I am going to change this for you. I am the government, the company or your boss? Or are you the person that says, “My decision, my action will actually make a difference”? That could be someone who is hiring on a team, and they choose to go out of their comfort zone and say, “I’m going to test my tolerance here, and choose someone who isn’t like me, but who could bring an awful lot to the team.”
That in technology does really matter, It matters, because the rate at for example, we are building algorithms, if we don’t have everybody’s voice represented at the table, we will build algorithms that are exclusive and not inclusive. That is something that because of the rate that we are creating those algorithms, we can’t govern them through policy or regulation. We have to create a climate of doing the right thing. That can only really be solved by having all of our voices at the table.
Julia: How do you help the Hiring Managers? Because it is quite a courageous step. It doesn’t matter what size of organisation, whether you’re a startup or a global organisation, it takes some courage to say, “Look, I know I need to hire the diversity because of all these compelling reasons we’ve presented. But actually, I’m just so much more comfortable with knowing what I know, because I know it works. And at times of economic uncertainty I’ve just got to hit the numbers”. How do you inspire them to think differently and act differently?
Jacqueline: It’s a really interesting one, isn’t it? Because when you look at what’s required in a world where tolerance matters more, you actually have to invest in people’s leadership skills. That right there is where the problem is. This always boils down to people’s ability to be more intellectually open to the possibility of both success and failure. In fact, we always think that success is a straight line from nowhere to somewhere. Actually, we learn our most through failure, and we don’t tell people that. I would say it’s in leadership investment that we really enable people to open up, be more tolerant, be more vulnerable themselves. I certainly think as a leader, I have grown more when I have admitted that I have vulnerabilities.
Julia: Edie, let me bring you in here because I wanted to shift a little bit to the UN Sustainable Development Goal. Your podcast talks about these incredible, inspiring stories. I think the essence really is about individuals, exactly as Jacqueline was saying, “Are you going to be a bystander? Or you’re going to be a participant as well?” What’s particularly impressed you? What’s inspired you in your interviews?
Edie: First, I think the thing to say is that the Sustainable Development Goals were developed by the United Nations in partnership with hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. Actually, they’re your goals, and they’re my goals, and they’re everybody’s goals, they’re like the world’s to do list. It’s everything from eradicating poverty to educating everyone to reducing inequality, to life on land, life in the sea. They’re a measuring stick that we can all hold our leaders accountable to because they were signed by 193 countries in 2015. These are the goals that we want to achieve by 2030, that’s the first thing.
Second thing is just an anecdote, for something that Jacqueline said about algorithms. I actually continually have my own interaction with this algorithm problem because I interview Zambian farmers, Uruguayan space scientists, I’ve interviewed Indian comedians and I put their interviews through an automatic transcription software, and I cannot tell you the things that come out. For educated and American probably California, absolutely perfect, literally not even the syntax is incorrect. But it actually turned my co host, Claudia’s words she said, “I’m Hispanic.” It turned it into “terrorist”. Turned a comedian that I interviewed called Sindhu Vee into “Cindy movie”, and the Zambian farmers, I had to do the whole thing myself, not even one word did they get correctly.
It’s just an explanation of what happens when you don’t include, when you don’t get people from around the world with different accents programming this kind of stuff into a computer. It wastes everyone’s time and money. That’s just a tiny example of what you were talking about.
Jacqueline: What’s also interesting is though it’s not just algorithms. When the seat belt was invented women and children died, they died because they were invented by men of a certain weight and height. It’s not just algorithms, it’s everything.
Julia: The heart of innovation. Absolutely.
You talked with a lot of people about how they embrace technology and bringing it back to a technology and skills and potential question if you like. I was listening to one of your amazing podcast about a woman who works on ranches in Uruguay embracing technology. What’s impressed you in terms of how entrepreneurs and thinking also about financial inclusion and the potential for technology? What initiatives have you seen that have pushed and embraced diverse cultures to use technology?
Edie: I’ve seen so many. Just to take one, the Zambian farmers for example. They were given a smartphone and trained how to use it, and they were shown how to use an app. This app, happened to be created by the World Food Programme. It’s one of our partners on the podcast. I also know that MasterCard has an initiative like this. There’s a couple of other groups, companies out there that do this.
It’s a mashup app of Google Maps, Mobile Money, eBay, and Chat. So, I’m a Zambian farmer, and I am way at the end of a dirt road. I take a picture of my bambara nuts that I want to sell, and I send it on to this platform, and then hundred hundreds of miles away, a trader in Lusaka Market can look at those nuts and go, “Yep, looks good.” That person has a couple of good ratings from other traders, I’ll buy them, then through the chat, they can locate a truck going through the area, pickups the nuts. In one year, this has transformed the lives of these farmers.
Of course, not everybody has got the technology, but what’s really exciting is that a couple of these farmers that I’ve spoken to and an amazing man called Golden Lewindi a trader called Charity in the Lusaka Market. They’ve helped the community around them to grab onto this technology. They take pictures of their neighbour’s crops and get them up onto the app, get them sold. They’ve brought people along with them. Golden has started a seed bank, another woman, Maina Chipota, she has started a library in her house after school, for kids to learn to read.
Julia: They’re built on technology platforms?
Edie: Yes, so it’s all built on the fact that just a phone and some technology has increased their income, which has given them more time, which means that they can give back to their own communities. It’s pretty incredible.
Jacqueline: I think that doesn’t just happen internationally. I think it certainly happened across the UK as well. #NotJustLondon, there are so many tech hubs now, which are supporting communities that have been quite regionalised. By that, I mean dark spots, technically across the country. We’re now finding infrastructure rolling out to rural Wales, the Isles of Skye and Mull and all of that, where you can be an international trader, whereas before you had just a very local small opportunity for a lifestyle, possibly survival kind of existence. Now, the whole world opens up because technology offers you that opportunity, and that’s why infrastructure matters.
Julia: As we sit here in the square mile, but talking out to an international audience, we have listeners around the world. The big question in my head is, what can financial services learn from this when they’re thinking about what the industry or the world needs today, and what it needs tomorrow? Edie, can you can just kick us off on that question?
Edie: I’ll be totally honest, MasterCard is one of our sponsors. I was speaking to Ann Cairns the other day, who’s the vice chair of MasterCard, who’s telling me about an incredible programme that they’ve worked on with the Government of Egypt, which is actually about alimony payments to mothers. The whole thing was in disarray. Women weren’t getting paid, the whole thing was just blocked up. They digitised the payments and actually managed to increase the amount of money and the speed at which women were getting these payments.
Cisco sponsored an episode last season, and they have a very cool thing called Global Problem Solvers, where they work with middle school students to come up with problems in their area, and train them in technology to help them solve the problems that they face. Whether its water, pollution, graffiti, lack of inclusion in classrooms, all those kinds of things. They help them use technology to achieve their goals. There’s tonnes of things that I think financial companies can do.
Julia: I think as we look out across the UK, thinking about how the generation today and tomorrow manages money, both as entrepreneurs and investors and savers themselves. Do you have any insights on how this is changing the world, and particularly things that the financial services industry should be focused on?
Jacqueline: It’s not just bleeding edge technology. It’s also a technology that’s been there for a while, because when you look at the tap and go technology and The Tube. We now have probably extended the life of Victorian infrastructure by 20, possibly 30 years, because we’ve got rid of the queues, we don’t need a ticket. We hardly break a stride as we go through the barrier. I’m really excited about that, because that was a technology created by the banks. Two to three years ago, we wouldn’t even dream of waving our credit cards around because “it’s going to be cloned!”
In fact, we even had those don’t clone me kind of steel things to put our credit cards in. Now, convenience, overtakes risk, I feel, and we wildly wave our card around saying £30 is not enough, thanks very much. Whereas, it started off with £10. I think that kind of technology is very insightful, what I love about that is that there are people in our world who can spot the friction. Someone spotted that it wasn’t queue management that was needed, it wasn’t a faster ticket machine. It was just how do we get through the barriers faster, and the person that can spot that problem is going to be what I would call a proper futurist.
It’s the same, for example as the Flight App, which is the app you have in Pizza Express. When you want to leave after you’ve eaten your pizza, you can’t get anyone’s attention. They don’t pay any attention to you because you’ve already been served. When you say I do want the bill, they bring you the bill, but then they don’t bring the machine! So, what they have done is they’ve put table numbers on. You can just go on to the Flight App, pay your bill and go. That is another point of friction and a futurist will have spotted that, and that to me is so exciting in the FinTech business.
Julia: That’s a wonderful moment to bring in Robert and Cynthia with some research to support today’s discussion.
Cynthia: According to PWC’s 18th annual global CEO survey, published in 2015, 85% of CEOs at the helm of organisations with a diversity and inclusion strategy said it had enhanced performance. Highly inclusive organisations also rated themselves as being 170% better at innovation.
Robert: The 2018 UK Government review of post 18 education and funding will look beyond universities to examine choice and competition across the education sector, and make practical recommendations based on the findings. Reforming technical education and increasing the standards of apprenticeships and vocational courses will help to provide young people with more choice. T Levels, which are designed to be a high quality technical alternative to A Levels, will be introduced. A network of institutes of technology will also be built. These institutes will specialise in equipping people with the advanced technical skills that the UK economy needs.
Cynthia: The review isn’t just about young people. As new technologies continue to impact the economy, retraining for promotions or career changes will become increasingly important. Finally, the review supports flexible, lifelong learning, including part-time and distance learning.
Julia: Thanks, Cynthia and Robert. The links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.
Edie this year, there you are in Davos in the snow, rumour has it that diversity and inclusion, and equality was on the agenda. Tell us a bit more about what you heard.
Edie: It’s been increasingly on the agenda for the last couple of years. I think you do have to note, however, that the number of women, for example, in the official delegations to Davos still is hovering around that 20%, that hasn’t changed very much. But that’s only inside the congress centre. When you go down the promenade and you’re outside, it is an incredibly diverse scene. You now have the equality lounge, which is all about bringing gender to the table, down the promenade at Hub Culture. I used to have to say, “I’m going to give you 50% women and now it’s like, oh wait, no, I got to get some men in there”. It’s a lot easier than it used to be because people are there first of all.
Julia: With regards to Hub Cultures, is that’s a physical space at Davos?
Edie: Yes. We have a corner on the promenade in Davos. It’s a double story building. We’ve got an ice house on top, which is all built of recycled, recyclable materials, then I have my studio which is entirely glass, I’m sure it’s sustainable, studio and everyone who comes into my studio, there was a tonne of talk about diversity and inclusion. I had Caroline Casey who was talking about disability, and about her Valuable campaign.
Julia: Where’s Caroline from?
Edie: She’s originally from Ireland. She has impaired sight, and she was invited to talk about disability within, and bringing that into the whole inclusion conversation. Youth was an enormous topic this year. The co-chairs of the conference were all very young people and I interviewed one of them, who is involved with Feed America, in America, weirdly enough. There’s also a tonne going on with female FinTech founders in Africa. A lot of them were there and I spoke to a bunch of them. They have to talk about financial technology and financial inclusion and have to talk about just women.
Julia: My big thought as we sit here, looking ahead to 2019, it’s very interesting to see how that is reflected in Davos 2020, is when we’re on the rise, when economically we’re on the climb, it’s very easy to talk about diversity, inclusion, equality, right the way across the spectrum. However, in economically uncertain times I wonder how do we keep it top of the agenda? Not become the thing that gets just moved aside. Jacqueline, let me bring you in here. My question is, why does diversity matter at times of economic uncertainty?
Jacqueline: I think it matters more principally because technology is here to stay. We are simply creating more jobs than we can fill. The borders are arguably closing. The domestic talent pipeline is way too small. Perhaps, when we also look at the wall for talent, perhaps diversity and inclusion has found its moment, because we can’t do it without the others. I think the big question is always where are the others in this diversity and inclusion conversation?
Julia: As is always the way of these podcasts, the time passes so quickly. It’s been a fascinating conversation. I just want to take a moment to thank you both Jacqueline and Edie. Thank you.
Edie: Thanks for having me.
Jacqueline: Thank you.
Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.
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