When women talk…

Back When women talk…

When women talk…

Starting a network for women, and people who identify as women, in a business profoundly led by men was going to be a task. Then throwing digital into the mix, well, that really upped the challenge. Luckily, I like a challenge and looking back over the decade of our existence, it has been a career highlight.

Leading Arup’s Digital Women Network, alongside my inspiring team, I have been able to give a voice to others when they thought they wouldn’t be heard, open opportunities to colleagues to learn and understand what digital means and unpack how it can benefit their career progression.

One of the most vital areas of the network is the events we run which enables us to hear from thought leaders in the digital world, interesting topics and digital ‘takes’ on important agendas. We ensure there are opportunities to meet someone new and our speakers get a chance to hear our members voices and opinions on their agendas.

How can digital help design safer cities for women?

Most recently, we hosted an event with an external and internal audience on this topic. Our aim for this event wasn’t only to inform and inspire the attendees, but find women speakers from a range of disciplines, geographies across our UK offices and at different stages in their careers. The presentations focussed on how cities are not designed for women, how using digital technology and data enhances design, and how to listen to the people we’re designing for.

The talks were inspiring to a wide-ranging audience, who in turn, were given their own voice to express their thoughts during an interactive live polling session. When asked how many ‘safety measures’ our members took on a walk home such as ‘carry keys in hand’, it was shocking to see how many women responded yes to most of them. Capturing live data with eye-opening results, underlined the message of how digital technology has an instant impact. The results from the poll encouraged further conversations and surfaced the burden of the often-unconscious behaviour we do to keep ourselves safe.

Research + passion = action

I was completely blown away by witnessing hard-hitting research driven by passion. All five women presenters, including our client London Legacy Development Corporation, had no idea of the journey they were embarking on when they started, and indeed the great impact they would have with their projects. I was shocked and saddened by some of the findings whilst being incredibly uplifted by how these results are encouraging women to act and work towards creating a safer and more inclusive environment for their gender.

One point really stood out for me. A group of teenage women were asked what they wanted from a new park, and they didn’t know because, quite simply, they hadn’t been asked before and didn’t ever use one – mostly for safety reasons. It was clear to me that we must do better to engage women in the design of our environment, that it is on their terms, and we dig deeper when the answers are not forthcoming. Good use of user research and digital tools can help with this goal.

The urgency of this issue is clear. However, with the rapid emergence of AI, hearing diverse voices is critical to ensure we do not design in and amplify the biases we experience in the physical world today.

As for women, well, we just need to keep talking – and crucially, be heard.