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International Women’s Day: 'We can be the change'

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The DVSA digital team is diverse and inclusive. To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we spoke to some of the female members of the team about their work as women in tech.

Tina Churcher, digital delivery lead

I would love to say that a career in IT was my passion, but, like many of my female colleagues, it wasn’t.

I didn’t start in IT, I started in operations – moving up the ranks and, about 15 years ago, after a business change, I found myself in IT.

Evidence shows that to bridge the IT/technical diversity gaps, we need to start in schools – and there is absolutely no doubt for me that changing the conversation about gender (or indeed any) stereotypes is where the future lies.

I love it when my daughter Millie’s school report comes back and tells me she’s a dab-hand at “debugging simple code”.

We can’t wait a generation

But we can’t wait a generation for women to feel they ‘belong’ in digital. Diversity in digital fields can’t be considered as just a “workplace target” – diversity is as key to the success of the solutions we build as the technology we use to build them.

So, we need to remove the bias, industry labels and assumptions, and remove the mental barriers which still exist that mean women may not think a career in tech is achievable. Roles in digital have changed so much in recent years these assumptions are just not valid any more, careers in tech are now as varied as the apps we all use on our phones.

And we all want to be successful and measured on our input and our value, not by the label we happen to tick on a diversity questionnaire.

What if we could remove some of the personal risk – in terms of gaining and learning new skills like coding – and make careers in tech an opportunity for all, male or female, 16 or 61?

What if, by the time our daughters reach working age, they are no longer trail-blazers because of their sex, but because of their skills, their perspective, their absolute certainty that anything is possible for them at any time throughout their life and career?

What if they had this absolute certainty, because they had seen us “be the change” now? What if we, as women, as mums, as a generation that has already achieved so much, what if we finished the job that our own mums started, and showed our children first-hand what the art of possible truly looks like? Wouldn’t that be something?

Nia Hatchett, head of user services

I’ve been head of user services for nearly 2 years now within the Applications and Infrastructure team, and I’m based in Swansea.

I’m a civil servant of nearly 20 years’ experience, with time spent in DWP, DfT Shared Services and DVLA before moving to DVSA.

As head of user services, I’m focused on the provision of a single, seamless, ‘one stop shop’ service to users. I’m responsible for leading the function to support internal IT live services in alignment with user needs, and I’m accountable for the provision of user support when services are interrupted or degraded.

Society could do more to improve STEM education

DVSA is a great place to work, it encourages diversity, inclusivity and opportunities for all in many ways from secondments, training, open learning ventures, flexible working hours and more.

Over the next decade, as a society, I hope we can continue to improve the education of children and society, so that STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and professions are seen as accessible and viable options for all, regardless of gender.

Nichole Browne, user researcher

I’m a senior user researcher at DVSA in Nottingham. I’ve been involved in research my whole career. Most of my work has been in high-tech industries, such as pharmaceuticals and telecoms, but I also worked for 5 years in the not-for-profit sector.

At DVSA, I work on the vehicle operator licensing (VOL) service. This service lets lorry, bus and coach operators apply for and manage their operator licence.

My role is to identify our users’ needs and ensure we meet them in an effective, easy to use manner. I gather feedback from our users on new features and collect insights into how our services are contributing to our strategic goals.

Accessibility is about listening to everyone’s needs

Most recently, I’ve been making sure VOL can be used by users of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. One in five people in the UK has a disability and 10% of the adult population are ‘internet non-users’.

While assessing our service for accessibility, a tester told us about his family’s haulage company. He said his father is a technophobe, so using our service falls to his mother and occasionally to him – though he lost his sight as a teenager. Through chatting to him, we know for a fact that his family could not carry on their business if our service could not be used by blind users.

DVSA is embracing leading-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, but we must consider the abilities of all users.

And user research is core to the development of good digital services. This is one way that we are bringing people with diverse skills and backgrounds into our technical teams.

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