InnovateHer are a team on a mission to create a more equal and diverse tech industry. We caught up with CEO and co-founder Chelsea Slater to hear about how the business is evolving and how the Beyond programme helped her lean into leadership.
What’s InnovateHer all about?
Our mission is to get girls ready for the tech industry, and the industry ready for girls. Only 19% of the digital tech workforce in the UK is female, compared to 37% across all sectors and we want to change that. By making the tech sector more equitable, by increasing diversity across the industry and creating more inclusive workplaces.
Our journey began in 2013 as Liverpool Girl Geeks – a community with a goal to create gender equality in tech. We quickly saw that stereotypes are so entrenched that to deliver real change we needed to work with girls still at school. So in 2017 InnovateHer was born.
We currently work with students in under-resourced schools in Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire with plans for expansion into new regions. We collaborate with industry partners like The Co-op, Liverpool Football Club, BAE systems, Sony Playstation, and The Very group to provide services to schools for free and we also help the industry identify ways to improve their EDI practices to help them better attract and retain young talent.
How do you support businesses to become more inclusive?
Whether they are at the start of their EDI journey or have a fully-fledged strategy, we can support them through training, networking events, and opportunities for their teams to engage with the next generation through our ambassador scheme.
We have three core packages that we offer businesses depending on their aims. When a partner joins, we do an EDI Health check – an online workshop that helps us to assess where a business is at when it comes to recruitment, culture, fairness, representation, and leadership. I like to see us as chief encouragers! We help businesses set objectives, and then keep them accountable to this throughout the year.
You’ve recently been on Gather’s Beyond programme – why did you decide to join it?
We’ve taken lots from Gather programmes in the past, the collaborative and practical approach really works for us. The Beyond programme in particular enabled us to work with a coach over a number of months, who gave us a practical steer through a series of workshops that catered directly to our specific business needs. The coach that we were matched with aligned with our values and felt part of our team too, which the team and I really enjoyed and appreciated.
How has Beyond helped you as a leader and InnovateHer as a business?
It helped me to truly listen and step into the headspace of my team, something I think leaders don't do often enough. Creating a safe space for people to be vulnerable, open and honest with each other is something I try to cultivate, but through Beyond, I was also able to participate, which is something I appreciated, as it helped me to really connect with the team.
As the current CEO I design and set the ambition for the organisation and lead the team and the support of our business coach really gave the confidence to fully embrace leadership and lean in to the experience.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Our biggest challenge – which I was only talking about yesterday – is translating our value to corporate clients. We do brilliant work as a social enterprise and my team are so dedicated to our mission, that it shines through our work. And we’re fortunate that this attracts attention from businesses who are committed to doing good stuff and growing diversity in their team.
Getting businesses who have D&I further down their agenda to recognise the importance can be a challenge. When you consider that having a diverse workforce can increase profits by 35%, productivity and innovation by 83%, and can generally make people feel happier in the workplace, it’s something that all businesses need to be addressing.
What does the future look like for InnovateHer?
We're at such a pivotal time in our journey and I'm so excited and hopeful for our future! Over the last few years we have transitioned from being a face-to-face training provider to a fully-fledged EdTech company, with our own platform that schools are using across the country.
We have a 10-year ambition to work with over 1 million students across the globe, so over the next 3 years we will be refining our processes, growing our team, and will be continuing to build high quality, interactive experiences that contribute to real change.
Do you think the tech sector in the region is in a good place?
Our first home was in the Baltic, and I see the creative and tech scene there as like a big warm friendly hug! There are definitely challenges for the sector in our region, particularly around funding, PR, and marketing – we still don't get talked about in the same way as Manchester for example. And whilst we have brilliant universities in the city, I think talent is also an issue as remote roles mean smaller independents are competing with global businesses.
But there’s so much incredible stuff going on and I think there’s an opportunity to showcase our digital and technology heritage and present. Not just the success of scale ups and tech businesses but how the things the city is inherently known for – football, arts, music – are being driven by tech too. Liverpool Football Club for example hire over 400 people in their tech teams. This is what we should be celebrating, the diverse opportunities and growth of tech across a huge range of Liverpool businesses.
If you want to know more about InnovateHer, you can visit their website here.