Anne Marie Neatham, COO at Ocado
by Anne Marie Neatham, COO, Ocado
On the first day of my Computer Science degree, I remember thinking, “where are all the women? Are they somewhere else?” Having come from an all-girls school I did not realise that so few women were really aware of Computer Science in the 1980s. Unfortunately this has not changed much since, which is disappointing.
Unknown to each other, I was the first of six female cousins who went into the technology industry. We all loved maths at school and, up until we started university, had no real idea that what we were doing was unusual. A big factor in our decision was that no one thought to tell us what girls do is any different than what boys do; we were encouraged to do what made us happy.
When you understand technology, you can create rather than consume, you can drive change rather than be left behind. So it’s really important to me that women are more involved in the revolution in technology that is occurring in their world right now.
Technology is changing the way we live and in the future this change will only accelerate. If girls and boys are introduced to technology early, in a way that allows them to create something rather than simply consume it, they will be the drivers for change in the world of the future. So it is vital that as many of them as possible are included early as part of their education.
This was a significant factor in driving Ocado Technology to create the Code for Life initiative, a free resource for teachers that is a simple, fun tool for educating their pupils from the age of four. Through it, children learn the building blocks of coding from a young age.
I’ve learned from discussions with family and female colleagues – and from my own childhood – how powerful early encouragement and enjoyment is for supporting young women (and men) in STEM subjects.
I have a lot of hope for the future. At a recent trip to The Stemettes I met a group of determined young women full of ideas and aspirations, and I know there are thousands more out there.