By Flossie Palmer, Features Editor
After a year of online events, Bristol Technology Festival is relaunching physically on 7 October at Engine Shed, with in-person events spanning the week of 11-15 October. In a bid to diversify the technology industry and provide greater access to employment within it, the events of the week-long Festival revolve around the all important theme of ‘changing the face of tech’ to represent the modern world and workforce, encouraging greater inclusivity in STEM fields.
The Festival will shine a spotlight on local, Bristol-based tech businesses, celebrating their work towards diversifying the technology industry through a series of showcases and keynote speaker events throughout the week. By providing a hub for tech businesses within the local area to connect, Bristol Technology Festival is cultivating a space in which like-minded organisations can take action on diversifying the tech industry, as well as inspiring their audiences to participate in enacting this change.
This year, the Festival has expanded to the biggest it has ever been, with over 50 events being held online and in different locations across the city. The schedule of events offers something for everyone no matter your interests, with keynote speakers ranging from the global tech giant, Deloitte, to Bristol-based SMEs such as Atomic Smash, an innovative web design studio. All the events are free to attend and only require a quick online registration, providing easy access for students wanting to gain an insight into the technology industry.
As part of the event programme, in-person events will allow attendees, including students, an invaluable chance to network and learn more about how to break into the technology industry no matter your personal background. Keynote speaker and University of Bristol graduate, Antonia Forster, is particularly dedicated to diversifying the tech industry and improving access and inclusivity in STEM to those who are stereotypically excluded from the field.
Bristol Technology Festival is cultivating a space in which like-minded organisations can take action on diversifying the tech industry
Antonia is also most well known in Bristol for her popular TEDx talk titled ‘LGBTQ+ and Polyamory in Animals’, as well as her impressive contribution to We The Curious’ infamous planetarium, located in Millennium Square, in which she developed first-of-their-kind dome optics and programmed its outer-space displays.
Named one of Bristol’s Top Nine ‘Women to Watch’ in STEM as well as being an award-winning LGBTQ+ activist, Antonia will speak as part of the Bristol Technology Festival on 11 October, 12:00-2:30pm, about how to tackle both gender and racial inequalities in the tech industry to make STEM fields more inclusive.
Delighted to announce that I will be the keynote speaker for Bristol Tech Festival! 😮🎉— Antonia Forster (@AntoniaRForster) October 5, 2021
I'll be exploring some of the mechanisms that perpetuate inequality in tech, and evidence-backed solutions to combat it. Thank you @tech_bristol @EngineShed_BB for this amazing opportunity! https://t.co/Lyh9fCcab9
On participating in the Festival, and particularly its aim to ‘change the face of tech’, Antonia highlighted the importance of her identity and speaking out in order to incite change; ‘I am a LGBTQ+ woman in tech, and I come from a non-traditional background - I was an animal handler and a zoo educator before I taught myself to code!’
‘However I also have a number of privileges - I am white, cisgender, and able-bodied. We all must do more to amplify the voices of under-represented people in tech: women and people of marginalised gender, BAME and BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ individuals, neuro-divergent people, and people with disabilities.’
‘This isn't just a matter of moral urgency' Antonia continuted, 'companies are more innovative and successful when they have diverse voices in positions of leadership, and we need that innovation to solve the world's most pressing problems.’
In celebration of Ada Lovelace day – commemorating the world's first known female computer programmer – Engine Shed and SETsquared are hoping to inspire women to get involved in the tech industry by hosting a panel of influential women in STEAM on October 12, such as Jenny Button, the founder and CEO of female-led startup Emm, to find out how they broke into the industry.
The University of Bristol is also taking part in the Bristol Technology Festival with its event, ‘Quantum in the City and Quantum Europe’ on 14 October, which will provide attendees with an introduction to the Quantum Technology Ecosystem in Bristol and a virtual tour of the Quantum Technology Innovation Centre, located in Bristol City Centre.
Gapsquare is tackling pay gaps for employee demographics such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.— Bristol Tech Festival (@tech_bristol) October 6, 2021
Dr @ZaraNanu reflects on how inclusive and supporting the Bristoltech community are and how that helped her grow @gapsquare.https://t.co/Z80zxIqg5Q#BTF2021
However, no matter your level of knowledge about technology, or your personal interests, events throughout the week will cater towards a wide audience with the aim of providing greater to access to all. Technology is even set to be demystified through events such as ‘Let’s Make Art With AI’, which demonstrate how technology is yet another mode of art and expressing creativity despite the popular misconceptions of STEM being a non-creative sector. In fact, 'STEM' as an acronym is being re-evaluated even beyond the Bristol Technology Festival, with the new adoption of the acronym 'STEAM' encouraging the integration and importance of ‘Arts’ within STEM industries.
With Bristol Technology Festival paving the way for introducing greater diversity and creativity in STEM, it is just as important to re-evaluate our own misconceptions about those industries. No matter whether you belong to the School of Arts or Engineering at University, and regardless of your personal background, STEAM, as it is now coined, makes space for all to get involved.
To find out more about the Bristol Technology Festival and how to get involved, see their website here.
Featured Image: Bristol Technology Festival
Will you be attending any Bristol Technology Festival events?