Building The Workplace We Want

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The ever changing nature of the workplace has created challenges for both employers and employees since the days of the Luddites and the Industrial Revolution. It’s not just the workplace that is ever changing. Society is too. An ageing population and greater gender diversity asks new questions for employers at a time when women are still fighting for equality two hundred years after they first entered the industrial mills.

Can the workplace of the future be a flexible, exciting, enticing place for women, women of colour, for LGBT people, for older people, and for all? Hopefully, but to do so would mean that we all have to eliminate our default sense of what a workplace is.

In this episode we look at the changing workplace and how you build a tech company for the future that enables career progression for all genders.


We start off with the story of Sarah Bagley, who in 1835 formed the Lowell Labor Female Reform Association — “one of the earliest successful organisations of working women in the United States”. She went on to become the first female telegraph operator in the United States, a role that also came with the unfortunate title “the first female telegraph operator in the United States to be paid less than her male counterparts”.


Becoming a parent doesn’t need to spell the end of a promising career so Dan Godsall talks to us about how his company, Womba, works with new companies and organisation to help employees get back to their best after maternity leave.

It’s estimated that 1% of the population are transgender. Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund in New York City talks to us about the challenges for employers managing employees who start a job in one gender and transition to another.

Elizabeth Buie is a UX specialist at the consulting firm Sigma and is a member of a group called Ageism and Tech, which seeks to combat what she calls “the last acceptable ism”. Her experience and knowledge of design has made her acutely aware of many of the issues facing older people in many companies.

Rose Luckin, professor of Learner-Centred Design at University College London talks to us about the workplace of the future and how employers need to take more of a holistic approach to understanding the needs of its employees.

Gail Fierstein, a senior VP for Human Resources at Pearson believes that the boomers and millennials have more in common when it comes to what they want out of careers. So we spoke to Malgorzata Schmidt, a Junior Data Scientist, to find out what is important to her as she looks ahead to a career at Pearson.



The Story of Sarah Bagley


Jillian Weiss

Elizabeth Buie

Rose Luckin

Gail Fierstein

Quotes from the episode

“You know first of all I just want to say there are a lot of transgender people. The estimate is that it’s about a half of 1 percent of the population. It might not seem like a lot but if we had a party it would be a lot of people.” — Jillian Weiss from the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund

“We work with women who have said things to me like ‘why does it feel like I’m having to apply for my job again. I’ve been with the company for 10 years. When I had my conversation with my manager before I left [to have a child] we were on good terms. I spoke to them as though they were a friend. We had an open conversation. All of a sudden it feels like they’re speaking in code’.” — Dan Godsall from Womba

“You can’t treat a 55 year old as if they’ve got the same impairments as a 95 year old.” Elizabeth Buie from Sigma

“It’s not going to be that robots take over my job. It’s going to be that automation is going to change my job. Or I’m going to be working with something automated.” — Rose Luckin from University College London

Dan and Helen , founders of Womba
The story of the Lowell Mill Girls
The Future of Skills

References and further reading

Robots taking our jobs? Stop agonising and take action to skill up for the jobs for the future

Future of Skills report

Elizabeth Buie: Are we designing for our future selves?

Lowell Mill Girls

Report of a speech given by Sarah Bagley in the Lowell Offering

The Luddites

Tell us your story

We’d love to hear about your experience and challenges of adapting to change, either from the perspective as an employer or employee. We’d also like to hear about the women you think have not got the credit they deserve for their remarkable achievements in education or technology. Leave your stories in the comments below.

Nevertheless is produced by Storythings and supported by Pearson Education. If you’re interested in the kind of work Pearson do read these fascinating predictions about the future of work and skills which came out of their research project with Nesta and the Oxford Martin School.

Nevertheless is a a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Supported by Pearson. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, TuneIn or RadioPublic.