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Ada Lovelace Day: '2020 has been a hard slog'

BBC Technology 12 Oct 2020 11:23

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter

Clare Muscutt, Jess and Lily Ratty, Varsa Amin

From caravans to kitchen tables, and podcast production to pregnancy, I've been speaking to many women in and around the technology sector about how they have adapted to the challenges of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Research suggests women across the world have shouldered more family and household responsibilities than men as the coronavirus pandemic continues, alongside their working lives.

And they share their inspirations, frustrations but also their optimism.

"I have a new business and a new life," says Clare Muscutt, who lost work, her relationship and her flatmate as lockdown hit.

This Tuesday is Ada Lovelace Day - an annual celebration of women working in the male-dominated science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sectors.

And, this year, it has a very different vibe.

Varsha Amin, technology and digital skills coach, Hampshire

Varsha Amin
image copyright@Shadz_ig

Initially it felt like business was paused. Confidence went.

I've now gone fully online. The tech is there to support it. And weirdly, I think I've benefited from it. I'm booking up months ahead.

Then, you add in the complication of Covid. And you think everything is going to go backwards. But actually, digital is growing exponentially.

I'm a firm believer that tech can really enable anyone from anywhere to start their own business and make it fly.

There were days when I sat in front of my laptop and cried. Getting the right balance is difficult.

Jess Ratty - entrepreneur, technology public-relations company founder, Cornwall

There is absolutely no doubt that this has been the hardest year of my life.

I had worked so hard to get to where I had got to. And I was filled with fury that a pandemic had taken it away.

I find myself working longer hours to be more visible to my clients.

I'm used to working from home. But the biggest problem was having my eight-year-old daughter suddenly with me 24/7, when the schools closed.

It was really difficult having to work and do childcare at the same time.

I'm embarrassed to say that she spent a lot of time watching Netflix and Disney+.

I'm now launching a new business, this time in edtech [education technology].

Clare Muscutt, digital customer experience entrepreneur, Essex

What I used to do doesn't exist anymore.

As soon as the pandemic hit, my diary just emptied.

Then, my relationship ended. My best friend moved out of our flat. And suddenly, the only contact I had with others was through Zoom.

It made me think: "How can I bring this style of conversation to the world, to help inspire others?"

After a bad experience, I taught myself how to do the production. And it has led to me being paid to interview tech leaders elsewhere.

Before the pandemic, I was living for the future - always looking forward to the next big event or trip away.

Rebecca, cyber-security specialist, Ireland

Eventually, I finally got an old desk from a friend. And I was so happy.

Sometimes, it's small amounts here and there, sometimes large amounts.

I'm also four months pregnant with our first child.

Plus, I am limited in the times I can go out. I don't drive. It has to fit around work. And we can't go at busy times, because standing in long queues is so exhausting.

In addition, they haven't yet figured out how they are going to hold antenatal classes.

Claire Broadley, technical writer, Leeds

Before lockdown, my husband and I ran our own company, producing user guides and written content for websites.

We weren't eligible for any government grants. And because we still had a small amount of work, we couldn't furlough ourselves.

In May, to my astonishment and relief, I was offered my dream job, remote writing about the internet and technology.

My son is seven. He is very scared.

The real issue for us now is testing.

Suw Charman-Anderson, founder, Ada Lovelace Day, US

For Ada Lovelace Day, we usually hold a cabaret-style event in central London.

In November, we're running our first online conference, which will span 29 time zones.

It's been quite stressful working out how to run our online events affordably and dealing with the additional work involved.

Despite that, I'm really excited by what we're doing.

2020 has been a hard slog. And we're not out of the woods yet. But I hope we'll emerge stronger and able to reach and support more women in Stem.

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