Keri Lambden founded budding website WebHeroines.com, a project aimed at getting more women into web industries. We caught up with her to find out more about her work and aims.
Hi Keri, tell us about yourself and WebHeroines.com.
I fell in love with the concept of the internet at the age of 13. We had our first home PC and I remember connecting via dial-up using Internet Explorer 1, looking at early websites and thinking how did they do that. Leaping forward I set up my first company whilst studying at university and a couple of years after graduating I co-founded an Open-Source web design agency Wintercorn.I’m now directing a new tech start-up, Informed Choices, a privacy consultancy helping large corporations towards compliance with the EU Privacy Directive.
My love of tech and the internet spurred me on to set up Web Heroines. We’re a not-for-profit on a mission to inspire and engage more women with design and technology and increase the number of women working in the field. We’re excited about sharing the fantastically innovative and creative opportunities available in design and technology. I set up Web Heroines mainly because I wanted to meet and chat with other women in the industry who are doing the same things as I am and hear their experiences. There are plenty of other women’s networks out there but what makes us unique is that we’re specifically for women who love web design, programming, mobile app design, user experience and user interface design etc. We’ve also got a very distinctive brand identity, inspired by the women of World War II who worked hard for women’s rights and fair pay.
How did you get into web design and what importance does it hold for you?
I see web design as an excellent platform for creativity. Once you know the ropes and understand the technology, the web is your oyster. I taught myself the basics of HTML and CSS because I needed a website for or a community group I coordinated during my degree. Having such a presence meant our group were contacted by similar organisations from across the globe. We were able to meet peers and gain new audiences. I loved the connectedness our website gave us to the world. Web design for me has been the spring board into other ideas and opportunities. I enjoy the development of the technology particularly in mobile and innovative web apps.
Why is it so imperative to get more women into digital and technical industries?
The design and technology industry represents great opportunities for women. There may be some women who want to stay at home and raise their children but continue working . I’ve met many female designers that build websites and mobile apps, running businesses from their homes. Frequently I’m asked to source female programmers, designers and technology writers. As more and more women start businesses there is a demand for female techies and designers with many women preferring to hire other women to work on their websites and products. This might be because they feel a woman is best suited to understand the needs of their customers, or they want to create a balance in the workplace. It’s been noted by Catalyst, a not-for-profit supporting women in business, that Fortune 500 companies with higher numbers of women board directors, on average financially outperformed companies than those with the lower numbers of women board directors, by significant margins.
There’s a risk that specifically highlighting women in tech automatically segregates them as a niche group (‘female designers’ rather than just ‘designers’). How can the industry stop this from happening in the long term and whose responsibility is it?
It’s true there is a risk. I hate being segregated myself.I’m a designer and I run my businesses regardless of my gender. In my research before setting up Web Heroines I met with a great deal of women many of whom told me what keeps them motivated is seeing other women in the industry doing great work. For Web Heroines positive role models are particularly important, for women already in the industry and for those just starting out. We’re not out to segregate women, we want to showcase talent and feedback to our audience. In our recent panel debate hosted in partnership with the British Library I talked about how the responsibility of the future of women in design and technology is shared. I think we need to work together to build a strong community and support network. Sometimes women just want to get together and chat about what they’re doing, Web Heroines provide the platform.
What are the biggest challenges for women in digital creative industries at the moment?
In my opinion the attitudes of women towards other successful women still needs some work, though this isn’t unique to digital creative industries. Having met many women in the field at all career levels there is sometimes a little bitchiness towards women in top-level jobs; which I’ve found is often due to a lack of understanding.
In my experience the biggest challenge for women right now is having the confidence to go for it and transform their lives. Many women that work in design and technology are working at the administration level but aspire to code or start their own design businesses. I’ve noticed they often lack self-esteem or don’t realise that they undervalue their worth, something that Web Heroines are working very hard to change.
You recently fuelled The Emerge Mini-Conference, aimed at getting more women into and interacting in the design and technology industries. How did it go and what reaction(s) did you get to it?
Our inaugural conference took off so well that after the event my inbox was filled with heart-felt stories and thank-you’s from women and men, many wanting to get involved or asking for more events. We had such a positive response mainly because we included women who’d never presented before alongside well-known speakers, making sure that we had a breadth of experience and opportunity. We ran a survey after the conference; 95% of attendees said the conference was useful and that they would look forward to attending again but that they would prefer to physically be in a room together. So for our next conference we’re looking at a series of venues and events across the UK.
What was your biggest takeaway from Emerge?
Without a doubt my biggest takeaway was hearing that a group of women who met at the conference are now collaborating on a mobile app with a view to setting up in business together. For me that was mission accomplished.
What advice would you give to someone looking to arrange a conference or talk for the first time?
Understanding your brand and tone-of-voice is key. If a company contacts you about sponsorship and they are not the right fit for your identity, don’t take their money. Another important tip I’ve learnt the hard way, get all your leaflet and goody bag printing done early, simple but very useful.
You’re running ‘Wings’, a series of free digital workshops in the UK. Who are they aimed at and what do you hope people will get out of them?
We set up Web Heroines with the hope of reaching out to the most disadvantaged women in our community who’ve had a tough time in life and who lack the confidence or skills to get into design and technology employment. We want to show positive role models and examples of women who are out there innovating and making their ideas happen. Wings is about giving women freedom of choice and equipping them with technical skills, know-how and enough savvy to charm the pants off the company they most want to work for or helping them kick start their design/tech careers.