Garbage In. Garbage Out.
A few minutes into our interview with British computer scientist and academic Sue Black we heard about the moment she first discovered the remarkable story of Dame Stephanie Shirley. She then asked the question “Why haven’t I grown up knowing her name? Why isn’t she one of the most famous people in the UK….when she’s done things similar to any of the tech pioneers that we do know about? Most of whom are men.”
It’s an important question to ask because, whilst it has a simple answer — years of cultural and workplace bias — erasing that bias is a lot harder and more nuanced problem to solve. So in Episode 1 we look at how diversity in teams shapes the ethics of products and the challenges organisations face in erasing bias. There are many examples of how software products have gender and racial bias built in so we spoke to scientists, engineers and start-ups to see what they are doing to produce ethical tech products.
Throughout the series we’ll look at many issues women working in technology face and tell the stories of those who persisted through those issues to create change. By shining a light on women from the past and present who are transforming teaching and learning through technology we hope that in the future their stories will no longer be followed by the question “Why have I grown up not knowing her name?”
Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley — Tech pioneer, businesswoman, philanthropist and legend
Dr Sue Black OBE — Computer scientist, social entrepreneur and author of Saving Bletchley Park
Joanna Bryson — Computer scientist at the University of Bath
Chuin Phang — Diversity and Inclusion, Pearson
Jan McSorley — VP Accessibility for School Assessments, Pearson
Carissa Romero — Paradigm, co-founder of co-founded PERTS, Stanford’s applied research centre on mindsets and one of Forbes 30 Under 30 list
Leigh Alexander — Author, journalist and host of Episode 1
Jason Oberholtzer — Music and Sound Designer on Episode 1
Dasha Lisitsina — Producer of Episode 1
Nathan Martin — Exec Producer
Quotes from the episode
“I realised that if you’re in the majority life is so much easier. Going to that conference changed my life and made me realise it’s not me that’s rubbish at talking to people, it’s the environment that’s not conducive to me sharing my research.” — Dr Sue Black OBE
“Whoever you’ve got designing the AI system, if there’s no diversity in the team, then you’re going to get a product that is tailored specifically only for the mindset of the people that have designed and built it.” — Joanna Bryson
“Diversity can’t just be this extra-curricular thing in people’s heads. We see it as necessary as part of the product development cycles and teams.” — Chuin Phang
“We’re making our products better because accessible design is just better design.” — Jan McSorley
“We know that when companies have more of a fixed mindset culture are actually more likely to rely on stereotypes which make sense because stereotypes are essentially beliefs about groups mixed ability” — Carissa Romero
The racist soap dispense mentioned in the episode…
Dame Stephanie Shirley speaking at TED
How the advertising messaging in the 70s changed the culture making tech a male dominant field to work in…
Tell us your story
We’d love to hear about the challenges you’ve faced when it comes to diversity in the workplace — good and bad. We’d also like to hear about the women you think have not got the credit they deserve for their remarkable achievements. 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.