Leeds based social initiative ‘Empowering Women with Tech’ is set to welcome 275 attendees to a sold out evening in celebration of International Women’s Day.

The conference will celebrate the contributions of women in the digital, science and technology industries with talks from Accenture, the European Space Agency, Google, The Guardian Newspaper, and is supported by Accenture Digital and Leeds City Council.

With the second gender pay gap report deadline looming for businesses, this event seeks to showcase a diverse line-up of senior female role models to inspire more to consider a career in STEM, but also importantly into leadership roles.

A 2016 report by the global consultancy McKinsey found women made up 37 per cent of entry-level roles in technology but only 25 per cent reached senior management roles and 15 per cent made executive level.

The speakers will discuss their career paths to date, plus offer the audience tips on career development and dealing with imposter syndrome. They will also be offering a fascinating insight into their current projects.

Based in the Netherlands, Vinita Marwaha Madill, space operations engineer at the European Space Agency (ESA), will be exclusively speaking at the event to discuss her work in spaceflight operations, including her work on designing spacesuits and currently developing a new robotic arm which is being launched to the International Space Station (ISS).

Vinita is named by ELLE magazine as one of the '12 Genius Young Women Shaping the Future', and will discuss how Yorkshire-born astronaut Helen Sharman OBE was her inspiration to pursue a career in space.

“I’ve always being inquisitive about space and I remember being enthralled, aged six, when I learned that the first British astronaut Helen Sharman flew to the Mir space station,” she said.

“In that moment looking at the image of Helen Sharman in her Sokol spacesuit, I realised that that woman could be me.

“Being a girl born at the end of the 80s in the UK I realised right then that maybe I could be an astronaut too. That changed something inside me.

“She was, although I didn’t know it yet, a role model to me. She showed me at a young age that my dreams were possible.”

Speaking of the need for more visible role models in STEM, Natasha Sayce-Zelem, head of technology at Sky and the founder of Empowering Women with Tech said: "I launched 'Empowering Women with Tech' in 2017 to help improve the gender imbalance in the digital,  science and tech industries.

“Role models and mentors can play a pivotal role in shaping a career so to celebrate International Women’s Day, I wanted to focus on our speakers sharing the benefit of their experience.

“Role models can show you career paths and opportunities that you didn’t know were out there and most importantly, they can also inspire.

“Sharing stories, tips and experience is a great way to work through challenges and opportunities. Simply put, you can’t be what you can’t see.”

The event will also highlight the continued growth of the technology sector in the region with Leeds City Council providing insights on why so many companies have chosen to move technology teams to Leeds including Channel 4, NHS Digital and Sky.

Niamh McKenna Managing Director at Accenture Health UK, will be discussing the company’s newly released 2019 Technology Vision, a trends report that looks at technology’s impact on the world, from healthcare to ethical considerations.

Speakers line-up:  

  • Ana Jakimovska. Director of Product Management, Guardian News & Media 
  • Milena Nikolic, Director of Software Engineering at Google 
  • Niamh McKenna, Managing Director at Accenture Health, UK 
  • Vinita Marwaha Madill, Space Operations Engineer at the European Space Agency (ESA) 
  • Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer Economic Development at Leeds City Council 
  • Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults at Leeds  City Council. 

Speakers will be interviewed at Howard Assembly Rooms on 8th March by Natasha Sayce-Zelem, head of technology for Digital Service at Sky and founder of Empowering Women with Tech.