In my previous role as CEO of the Coop Academies Trust, I had the good fortune to work with the Coop’s amazing digital team. They enabled many pupils and students in the trust to experience first-hand what life in a digital business is really like. These colleagues were welcoming, encouraging and warm-hearted.
It was clear, however, that as the trust grew the Coop’s digital team would be overwhelmed by the level of demand from the academies. It was at this stage that I was introduced to InnovateHer, a not-for-profit business, located at The Federation, in Manchester. https://innovateher.co.uk/
The Federation is a digital community run by the Coop for digital start-ups and larger well-known digital businesses. To use the services in the building you needed to adhere to co-operative values and principles. https://www.coop.co.uk/the-federation
InnovaterHer (previously known as Liverpool Girl Geeks), are committed to ensuring more girls and young women are prepared for a career in digital technology and that the industry is ready to welcome them. Unfortunately, women are significantly out-numbered in the industry.
When I started working in Blackpool in October 2019, I was keen to encourage as much digital awareness as possible, so I often referred to the work of InnovateHer as an example of what can be achieved. I am pleased that through my prompting, InnovateHer recently secured sponsorship from ITS Technology Group, for up to 50 young female secondary school students to undertake their foundation programme, free of charge. The intention is to use this tranche of students to test out the programme in the town and use the experience to draw other major local and regional businesses into supporting future programmes so that they remain free.
ITS are the company responsible for the fibre optic cable that runs along the seafront and are a key element of the new Atlantic fibre optic cable project. They have been great in engaging with the Council and InnovateHer. https://www.itstechnologygroup.com/
The reason for explaining all of this is to share with you a dilemma I have. My support for InnovateHer has always been based on the fantastic experience I had working at The Co-op. Recently, they approached me to join their Advisory Board (an unpaid role). They feel that my experience and awareness of their work make me a suitable candidate. I have pondered over whether to accept the invitation primarily because I don’t want anyone to think that my support for InnovateHer in Blackpool was based on the advisory role that I have yet to formally accept. I thought the best thing to do was to be honest and open about the dilemma and explain what I intend to do.
I have decided to accept the invitation from InnovateHer. I will continue to be a big supporter of developing digital skills in Blackpool so I will do all I can to connect people and develop programmes where possible in the town. I will declare my role at InnovateHer, when appropriate, and withdraw from any discussions before my impartiality can be questioned. If this position is not sustainable I will withdraw from advising InnovateHer until I no longer have a working association with the town