08 Mar 2024

How data centres can boost career opportunities for women in tech in Manchester

International Women’s Day 2024 is again shining a big light on women, inspiring others to do more, be more inclusive and land more opportunities, addressing inequalities in all sectors - and tech is no different.

Research tells us there is still work to do. PwC’s study called, Time to Close the Gender Gap, among 2,000 A-Level and university students, identifies that the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of a female’s life .

Confidence or imposter syndrome is highlighted in the Breaking Barriers: Women in Tech Speak Out report - co-authored by Becky Taylor from Manchester’s pioneering Tech Returners brand, as one of five barriers that need to be tackled to help women fulfil their potential.

Lack of awareness or contact with the tech industry, lack of visible role models, exclusionary hiring processes and discrimination are also all featured as challenges we need to overcome.

This is clearly well out of kilter with the needs of the tech world which is innovating faster than ever before and with skills shortages everywhere including critical industries such as AI, digital infrastructure and cyber security. Therefore there is an urgent business case for bridging the gender divide sooner rather than later.

Manchester has a history of disruptive women taking aim at traditional male paradigms and like the suffragettes of the early 20th century who fought for the right to vote there is a new set of females seeking to bridge the gap. The efforts of fantastic organisations like Code First Girls, which has taught over 150,000 women how to code, or Manchester Digital’s Digital Her programme, partnering with Manchester City FC to empower a new generation of female techies, as well as events like Women in Tech from Manchester Tech Festival, are all making great strides in the right direction.

So how can we do our bit at Kao Data?

Well, in the past 12 months 60% of our newest recruits have been female so we are making tangible strides into diversifying our workforce and as we build our £350m data centre in Stockport, which is on track to open in 2026, we hope more women will feel encouraged to apply for some of the 100+ jobs on site, either via ourselves or sub-contractors.

Not only that, we hope they will benefit from the countless jobs more compute power in the Manchester city region will deliver. Data centres are the stages on which the tech rock stars of the future will do their thing and we for every Mick Jagger equivalent we also need techs answer to Stevie Nicks.

Our Chief People Officer, Kala Moodley agreed. She said: "In the future, gender diversity in the data centre industry will be synonymous with innovation and progress. At Kao Data, our role is clear: championing diversity through inclusive policies, empowering women in leadership roles, and inspiring the next generation of female talent to thrive in this dynamic sector."

As well as transitioning our compute power we are also bringing our community outreach and education programme to Stockport.

The Kao Academy is a section of our website aimed at school children and I am so proud to be a part of this pioneering initiative which talks to girls and boys at key stage two about data centres with hands-on experiences and interactive learning opportunities. We are keen to encourage girls to explore their potential and challenge the misconception that they are not as naturally inclined or passionate about technology-related careers

It is fantastic to work for a company that is committed to breaking down stereotypes and demonstrating the exciting possibilities within the data centre field for women irrespective of age or circumstance.

Jo O’Riordan, Customer Service Manager, says as a working mother, Kao Data offers her a level of flexibility that is invaluable when juggling both professional responsibilities and family commitments.

She said: “I feel empowered to manage my schedule in a way that suits both my career aspirations and my role as a parent. Additionally, Kao Data's commitment to diversity and gender inclusion means that I have the opportunity to explore and contribute to a wide array of business areas. This exposure not only keeps my work dynamic and engaging, but also allows me to broaden my skill set and knowledge.”

Wendy Bailey, Customer Implementation Manager, explains how her role as a female Mental Health First Aider helps other women to feel more comfortable seeking support.

She commented: “I aim to promote our inclusive working environment and remind our colleagues that we are supported whether we are, or identify as, male or female. My sincere hope is that my colleagues would feel comfortable to confide in me and discuss anything that is concerning them, whether it be a work-related issue or a major life experience, where additional support may be required.”

Compliance Officer, Katie Harper, touched on how a female perspective adds value to her role in a traditionally male-dominated field: She added: “Women often bring a collaborative and empathetic approach to problem-solving, fostering a more inclusive work environment where a range of diverse voices are heard and valued. This inclusive mindset not only enhances the team dynamics but also leads to more comprehensive risk assessments and compliance strategies. I believe this adds depth and richness to our compliance efforts, contributing to the overall success and integrity of our data centre's operations.”

The UK data centre industry is expected to grow by over 10% by 2029 which makes it the third fastest-growing marketplace in the UK - of any market. That comes with a set of responsibilities to lead on issues of gender and we intend to step up to the plate.

Our investment in Manchester is a signal to everyone that you don’t have to go to London to pursue a career in tech and women - with the right encouragement, training and opportunities - can do equally well in the sector.

In a recent top 50 of North West Tech Transformers over 50% were female leaders including those heading up digital change in some of the region’s best-known companies - PZ Cussons, Talk Talk and AstraZeneca. These are our trailblazers. Our time is now.

Lizzy McDowell

Lizzy McDowell is the Marketing Manager at Kao Data and she has considerable experience in developing and executing B2B marketing strategies for a wide range of companies within the Technology industry. Lizzy is passionate about promoting opportunities for Women in Tech and engaging young girls in STEM at an early age.


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