University of Salford hosts event in partnership with GCHQ and The Female Lead to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024

Categories: Salford Business School, School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Director GCHQ Anne Keast-Butler delivered a keynote speech to encourage more women to explore careers in STEM and technology. Speaking to more than 500 pupils at the ‘Inspiring Careers of the Future’ event with charity The Female Lead, Director GCHQ spoke about the need for better representation and her commitment to being part of that change. 

Event speakers included Google, EA Entertainment and The Institute of Digital Fashion, while the girls were able to network with tech titans from LinkedIn, Hertility and Debate Mate. Following the event GCHQ will share a series of posts on social media, including its newly launched LinkedIn page, rounding off a month of International Womens Day content designed to inspire women to explore the opportunities STEM has to offer. 

Drawing on her experiences as a mathematician, a spy and a mother, Anne Keast-Butler spoke about how important studying a STEM subject was for her. The curiosity and grounding the subjects gave her paved the way for her career. She shared a memory of being gifted a suffragette statuette as a young girl, noting that it still inspires her.  

Currently, women make up just 29% of the STEM workforce (according to government figures on Diversity and inclusion in STEM). In her speech Director GCHQ spoke about how crucial it is for leaders to open the door for others. Women attending the event, including Anne Keast-Butler, will pledge a follow up mentoring session with students they meet during the networking section of the evening. 

Director GCHQ, Anne Keast-Butler, said: 

“I’m the 17th Director of GCHQ but the first woman to hold the role in the agency’s 105-year history. You don’t need to be a mathematician to be struck by those numbers. It’s one of the many reasons why I’m determined to help create lasting change to the numbers of women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

“This knowledge and know-how helps us understand the world, design how we live in it, and keep it safe. All of which are far too important for 50% of the population to sit on the side-lines. Women need to be represented where it matters, especially in STEM and the tech industries.” 

The Female Lead CEO, Edwina Dunn, said: 

“I started my career at a time when technology was transforming industry and built a company over 21 years that hired hundreds of men and women as data scientists, working in 30 different countries. My entrepreneurial business pioneered the launch of Tesco Clubcard and then forged joint venture partnerships with retailers and consumer product companies around the world.”
“The world of data and technology remains one of the most high growth and creative industries and we know that women make incredible analysts and storytellers. We're delighted to be offering the next generation a window into this world of career possibilities and connecting them to inspiring women who will excite them about the wide range of potential futures open to them.”

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic Development) at the University of Salford, Jo Purves, said: 

“It’s been a real pleasure to host this event and see young girls so engaged with potential careers in STEM and technology. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was ‘inspire inclusion’, and it’s so important that our young women see themselves represented in these traditionally male-dominated industries, so that they know that a career in these fields is achievable. Thanks to GCHQ and The Female Lead for leading on this event: I know it will have been really beneficial for the leaders of tomorrow to meet with experts in the field and hear such inspiring talks.” 

Taking place at The Royal Geographic Society in London and The University of Salford, the event brought together hundreds of industry experts to inspire the girls to explore the wealth of opportunities in STEM and technology education and careers.  

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