Trailblazing tech programme inspires young women

Ahead Partnership recently brought together female leaders in tech and innovation to celebrate the sixth instalment of Girl Tech Leeds. These inspirational women from some of the city’s most influential businesses united to engage with young women from across Leeds and equip them with rich sector insights ahead of choosing their GCSE options.

The interactive digital insights day was designed by the leading ESG specialist, Ahead Partnership, and seeks to reach young women who lack awareness or connections to the tech sector. By introducing them to the sector’s growing wealth of roles and opportunities, it aims not only to foster their personal development, but to help employers build a diverse pipeline of talent for the future.

The day gave 153 young women from 11 schools across Leeds, including The Ruth Gorse Academy in Hunslet, access to an impressive catalogue of events, including panel sessions, workshops and networking with role models and industry leaders.

The immediate impact of the event is clear in its feedback: only 59% of pupils understood the meaning of the ‘digital sector’ on arrival, growing to 90% by the end of the session; an impressive 94% of pupils felt aware of the key skills, qualifications and entry routes involved in the digital sector by the end of the event, rising considerably from just 67% at the start of the day.

Ahead Partnership delivered this year’s event with the support of several long-standing partners and employers, including Leeds City Council, Netcompany, and multibillion pound Beeston-based organisation, Sulzer. Representatives from the organisations had the unique opportunity to network and share personal insights with the next generation of young, female talent, encouraging them to consider a future in technology and innovation.

Executive President of Sulzer, Dr Suzanne Thoma, said:

“The skills gap in tech is growing, so it’s essential that we engage with young people early and showcase the opportunities that are available to them.

“This is particularly important for young women; with only 24% of the UK tech industry workers being female, the need for change is clear. As longstanding champions for diversity and inclusion, we are very proud to have teamed up with Ahead Partnership to help spearhead that change.

“It was fantastic to see the young women who took part in each of the activities today grow in confidence across the day, and I hope that it will leave a lasting impact on each of them as they consider the multitude of opportunities available to them in future.”

Executive President of Sulzer, Dr Suzanne Thoma addressed the conference

Girl Tech is the flagship event in Ahead Partnership’s Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme. Led and funded by some of the city’s top employers, the award-winning initiative harnesses the combined resources of key employers and partners to inspire and encourage young people aged 10-18 years to pursue a career in digital; address specific skills gaps in the industry and create an inclusive, diverse and skilled talent pipeline.

Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy Culture and Education for Leeds City Council, Councillor Jonathan Pryor, said:

“Today marks a step in the right direction for Leeds. It’s been a privilege to watch so many of our city’s young people getting excited about the role that they can play in the future of tech and innovation through the dedicated efforts of the partners and volunteers involved.

“It’s been a privilege to work alongside the likes of Netcompany and Sulzer, as two companies with a Leeds base but a global impact, and who are currently bringing in millions of pounds of investment into the city. Leeds is the UK’s fastest growing digital sector, but the existing skills gap presents a challenge to this.

“Inspiring young people is the solution, ensuring they receive opportunities to interact directly with those working within the sector across multiple touchstones, helping them to understand the hugely valuable role that they can play in helping to establish Leeds tech sector on the national, and global, stage.”

Ahead Partnership delivered this instalment of Girl Tech Leeds in the year it celebrates its 20th anniversary, marking two decades of continued growth within the ESG and social mobility sectors for the business. Underscoring Ahead Partnership’s commitment to expanding across new regions, Girl Tech will also return to the West Midlands in July.

Megan Lipp, Head of Development at Ahead Partnership, said:

“We are so thankful to everyone involved in this year’s Girl Tech Leeds. Since it began six years ago, the event exemplified the collaborative nature of our city – with over 100 volunteers and numerous key sector organisations investing their time into the future of our young women.

“Research shows that young people who have four or more workplace encounters are 86% less likely to be not in education, employment, or training, and earn 18% more than their peers who did not. This is why events such as Girl Tech Leeds are so important, as they target young people who are underrepresented in the industry, making sure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to access opportunities, even without a family connection.”

“96% of our participants left the event feeling motivated to work harder in school than when they arrived. To see this growing confidence in the participating young women shows great promise for the digital sector and beyond. We’re excited to continue working closely with our network of partners to generate more impact of this scale and ensure true accessibility for all.”

Ruchi Dawkins, Netcompany Social Value Champion represented the business as a Q&A panellist.

“As someone with a biochemistry degree who never thought they would have a tech career, I valued the chance to help others understand that tech jobs don’t require a tech degree – there are so many skills transferrable to the sector. It was also important for me, as a woman of colour, to be able to respond directly to girls’ questions about tackling the challenges ethnic minority groups face and encourage their tech journey. We need more diversity in the industry, initiatives like Girl Tech are vital, for the end users we design for and the working environment as a whole.”

Rebecca Best, Netcompany Social Value Champion represented the business during group activities and careers support.

“Netcompany was the first company to commit to a three-year support plan for Ahead Partnership’s Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme. We recognize the need to bolster the tech talent pipeline, and our team is passionate about volunteering. Our projects with Ahead Partnership are on the increase across the UK this year and we look forward to continuing our sponsorship of Girl Tech next year too.

“Events like these fuelled my journey into tech, so it’s fantastic to find myself on the other side and keep that momentum going! They help demystify careers to newcomers and demonstrate it’s not just about coding: there are a myriad of roles that require problem solvers, project leaders, negotiators, sociologists and brilliant communicators. It was ace to see those skills, and so many more, flourishing amongst the students in attendance.”

To find out more about Girl Tech Leeds visit:


This post is based on a press release issued on behalf of Ahead Partnership


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