Continuing on with our International Women's Day campaign throughout the month of March, we are pleased to share our next feature from Karen Elliot, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise & Innovation at Newcastle University!
“Dr Karen Elliott is a Senior Lecturer in Enterprise & Innovation at Newcastle University Business School. Her passion lies in addressing questions around the topic of financial technology, often shortened to ‘FinTech’; a major growth industry in the UK and a burgeoning sector in the North East region where Karen currently lives.
Often referring to herself as a ‘pracademic’, by this she means that she has had a varied career that had involved working in industry as an entrepreneur, as well as having an academic career that align to her practical experience in her chosen subject area.
Karen and her colleagues were awarded a £1.2m EPSRC Research grant in 2018 to work with Durham Based nationally renowned Atom Bank on optimising FinTech services. FinTrust examines the issue of trust in FinTech organisations, identifying the generic research challenges and establishing fundamental research results. A particular focus is on increased automation through the use of machine learning algorithms, in short, trust engineering where the use of algorithms present challenges to consumer trust via the new services.
Lecturing since 2004 on the assets of innovation cultures at both Durham and Newcastle University Business School, Karen is an enthusiastic teacher, nominated for an ‘outstanding contribution to teaching’ award and integrates her research within the digital ‘Future of Work’ sector to inform her modules, particularly focusing on embedding ‘industry’ skills to postgraduate and PhD students.
Hobbies wise Karen is an amateur triathlete, equestrian and tennis player.”
1. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges women who want to explore a career path in tech and digital face?
The education system should offer coding and programming within schools and encourage coding clubs. Innovate Finance run a great scheme ‘FinTech for Schools’. Likewise, STEMETTES is a fantastic project. In addition, in NUBS I brought Code First Girls into the University to run a coding course but we need more than a few weeks. In addition, for those who wish to re-train to gain skills in data analytics, computer science, coding and programming the opportunities are limited. Again, the university has started to address this gap via the Institute of Coding in Computer Science while Jumping Rivers a local STEM training company also provide great options to re-train. However, costs would need to be covered and thus, employers would need to support re-training and encourage women to learn new STEM skills. Overall, confidence, competence, encouragement and importantly access are required to improve girls and women’s route in these sectors.
2. What do you think needs to be done to attract more women to work in tech and digital?
Building on the above, companies and universities should collaborate to demystify STEM, build access and support women to learn. As I currently work in the NE FinTech Ecosystem there is a demand and I encourage my female students to learn as I did as a social science – take a Python Course, learn R, etc., many companies would offer these opportunities but we need a collective approach to address this gap which women can help fill in the tech/FinTech sectors.
3. What would your message be to women and girls looking to pursue a career in tech and digital?
“The only thing to fear is a lack of ambition” And, speak to your employer if you would like to re-train or develop. There are a plethora of online free (or low cost) MOOCs and course from Code Academy, Udemy, etc. Similarly, if a student, there are many coding clubs and support from myself and other colleagues in academia. External organisations such as STEMETTES, Code First Girls, Innovate Finance, The Institute of Coding, Jumping Rivers and many others in the ecosystem want to support women. The future of work can be shaped by women and girls therefore, working collaboratively we can ensure that women and girls have access to STEM leading into such careers. I am passionate about breaking down the current barriers.