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Last Updated: Friday, 3 November 2006, 12:17 GMT
'Giving women tech know-how'
This week, the winners of the Blackberry Women and Technology Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London.

Last year's overall winner Jackie Edwards tells the BBC News website what the award has meant to her and why getting more women into technology is key.

Jackie Edwards
Jackie encourages more women to get involved with technology

"I was incredibly surprised to win," explains Jackie.

"I was competing with the managing director of MSN and somebody from the nanoscience centre at Cambridge University, so I'd actually written myself off at that point."

Jackie Edwards, from Leicester, was chosen for the prize for her instrumental role in encouraging women in her community to pursue technology careers.

She works for the Women's Access to Information Technology (WAIT) course at De Montford University - a one-year course that gives women the technology skills they need to go on to do a degree or get a job.

"WAIT is for women who have no qualifications, who perhaps flunked out at school, who perhaps didn't achieve what they should have done, but who have got some potential but don't really know how to start to get back onto the career ladder."

Robot dogs

It is free and attracts women between the ages of 19 and 65 from all walks of life, and graduates have gone on to a range of careers in IT.

Computers have an image of being intrinsically dull

"I'm an old-girl myself actually," says Jackie. "Before I gave up work to have kids, I was a PA at board level.

"When my youngest started school, I thought it was time to get back to work, but when I started applying for jobs, I wasn't even getting any replies."

So Jackie enrolled on the course, "loving ever minute of it", and then decided to stay on to help other women like herself.

Part of her job, she says, is to visit local communities to try and persuade more women to get involved in technology and to consider joining the WAIT scheme.

"Computers have an image of being intrinsically dull, so I take a little robot dog with me sometimes to show that technology isn't just about typing and setting margins, and that there is some fantastic work going on out there."

A woman's touch

For Jackie, getting more women into technology is vital - currently only 22% of the IT workforce are women.

"I think it is really important we equip women with technology know-how, because I bet they can do amazing things."

She explains that a woman called Teri Pall invented the cordless phone in 1965.

Jackie Edwards
I'm not just a lecturer from a university, I'm now an award winner as well

"She liked the telephone but didn't like it being tethered to a wall. It goes to show that when women are exposed to technology, they find ways to make it work for them."

She says she believes there will be a shift in the thinking that technology is a subject just for men.

As more and more girls are exposed to technology in school, then this perception might fade, she adds.

Workplace changes

As a mother of two children, aged 17 and 22, she says she is still concerned about the way some organisation perceive mothers, and that for the technology industry to fully embrace women, this will have to be addressed.

"Things aren't changing fast enough in this respect.

"I think if workplaces want the good women, or men, who are parents, then they will have to ensure that they put the processes in place that enable their employees to be happy successful parents and employees at the same time."

Now a judge on this year's awards, being presented on 2 November, she says winning the award meant a great deal to her.

"It has made quite a significant different to me and my confidence and my ability to persuade more women to go into technology.

"I'm not just a lecturer from a university, I'm now an award winner as well."


SEE ALSO
Women valued for technology roles
28 Oct 05 |  Technology
Awards to applaud women in tech
27 Jul 05 |  Technology
'Top technology' woman announced
03 Nov 06 |  Technology

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