In this instalment of our TechUPWomen blog, we’re meeting one of our mentors. Stevie Ward is a volunteer mentor for our programme, and we caught up with her to find out a little bit more.
Please tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to mentor for the TechUPWomen project.
I have 11 years’ experience in community, marketing and public relations, helping gaming and tech brands like CCP’s Eve Online + EVE Valkyrie, Activision’s Guitar Hero Live and Multiplay’s Insomnia Gaming Festival. I am currently a Community Developer at Future Publishing on space.com and livescience.com, a member of the BAFTA Games committee, co-founder of Women Making Games and ambassador at SpecialEffect, developers of technology for people with disabilities. As a community veteran in the gaming scene, it has always been important to me to champion women in the technical sector.
How have you found the mentoring experience so far?
Really enjoyable and rewarding! My mentee and I ‘clicked’ straight away and I’m now lucky enough to call her a friend. In fact, she was round my house eating pizza this week. Is making a mentee decorate your Christmas tree an abuse of power? Oh well.
You’re currently working on some other STEM projects, can you tell us a little about them?
At the moment I’m a community developer for two brand new STEM communities – Space.com and Live Science – where members can share their fascination with space, biology and physics.
Space.com is an online community where space lovers can keep up to date with the latest news on space exploration, astronomy news and comprehensive coverage of the latest discoveries, as well as skywatching guides and stunning photography. You can visit Space.com community here.
Live Science is a tight-knit and friendly community for the intellectually curious, exploring the weird, wonderful and fascinating world of science. The editorial team, which is predominantly female, is made up of some of the best people in STEM journalism. My first meeting with them was astounding and I’m incredibly lucky to work with such an amazing team. You can meet them here.
My personal projects include my ambassadorship with SpecialEffect, a company who find ways for people with disabilities to use gaming technology through modified joypads and eye-control systems. By levelling the playing field, they bring families and friends together and have a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
I’m also co-founder of Women Making Games, developing an organization that aims to support women and gender-diverse individuals in gamedev in the North East, and create safe spaces for them to relax, network and develop games.
I am also a board member at Northern Exposure. This event features talks from tech business owners, industry leaders, and professionals and experts, allowing them to share stories of successes and challenges. Our attendees can hear expert tips and nuggets of wisdom to inspire their own business and games. I sit on the board that chooses the speakers, and we champion diversity in the industry and tech in the northeast.
How do you feel projects such as TechUP Women, WOMGNE and LiveScience can have an impact on the gender imbalance in STEM subjects?
Simply put, the more visibility there is for women in tech, and more recognition of their work and contributions, the greater the chance to grow the number of women pursuing technical careers.
The ‘there’s not enough senior women in tech’ excuse has been used to argue lower salaries and lack of promotion for women in tech industries for decades. It’s time for that to change. In gaming, we still have to fight to appear on panels, advocate for management-level roles and opportunities and challenge the ‘bossy’ vs decisive labelling that hampers career progression for senior level women in STEM. The more education available, and the more visible female role models and projects run by women celebrated, the easier this becomes.
What would you say to any women contemplating pursuing a career in a STEM subject who feel discouraged by the lack of women in STEM disciplines?
There are women in STEM. They are just fighting for recognition, rewards and chances to speak/lead. With programmes like TechUPWomen, your voice can be heard and your professional journey guided by those who walked the path before you. Come on in, the water is fine, and full of badasses.
Follow Stevie on Twitter: @Stevie_SG