Profile: Barbara Mellish, Director of the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance

Young women carry less career gender bias and more media influence

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Barbara Mellish, Director of the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Barbara Mellish, Director of the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance.

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Barbara Mellish, Director of the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance

Barbara’s expertise is in Banking Payments and Cards. Having held several executive positions in blue chip companies, her last role in the sector was responsible for the integrity and security of the national infrastructure of payments in the UK, transacting an average of over £385bn per day. She is now the CEO of the not-for profit International Think Tank the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance. CCEG is the world’s leading Think Thank in the Movement of Value. She is also the CEO of the commercial arm Seratio Limited, providing real-world applications of non-financial value measurement to the private, public and third sector. Visit www.seratio-coins.world to see whitepapers.

What got you interested in technology?

My interest became really focused by tech capability when I was investigating and buying a neural network for a large fraud project I was heading in the early 1990’s. The learning capability at that time was totally fascinating to me. During my 30 years in Financial Services Sector, Cyber security, System Resilience, Fraud Identification and Prevention together with large scale IT change programmes were a large part of my work.

Rather than a fixed route or plan, my career path resulted from ongoing learning, ambition, seeking and responding to opportunities and a desire to keep changing. I have been fortunate to be able to choose my latest role, running an Academic Think Tank which has become an interesting new twist using blockchain. Although this was not a part of the original thinking, technology has once again enabled a structure to create new models and has the potential to create societal change for the better.

SEE ALSO: “Future applications of blockchain will likely include artificial intelligence and bots” [Interview with Barbara Mellish]

Over the years I have tried to emulate the best of the best people I have known and met. I don’t have a singular role model to quote — no-one person fits the bill. Particularly interesting for me were senior-level women. I always took notice to try to work out how they managed to “have it all” which I think is a myth. Support from family is crucial and a quote I was given of 80% of senior male executive had a stay at home partner, conversely, only 20% of senior female executives could boast the same, demonstrated the divide. I have two children, and no job in the world is more important to me than them. Keeping the balance remains a personal challenge.

Early in my career I regularly had the reaction of mild surprise — “Really? [As a woman]…. you want to study/get promoted etc….” Only once in my early twenties was I informally told that I’d been denied a promotion because I was female. Apparently, my gender had made my to-be new manager very uncomfortable. I got the promotion a year later. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t happened since.

A day in Barbara’s life

I’m now the Director of a non-for-profit Think Tank, the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance, CCEG, which focuses on the movement of non-financial value. Along with the commercial spin out of Seratio Limited, we provide real-world applications of non-financial value measurement to the private, public and third sector.

Right now there are no typical days at the office. We are preparing for a major fundraise to build a fully automated platform to track and record the financial and intangible measure of transactions. This starts on 15th September 2017 and represents the first UK-based offer of Cryptocurrency with Values. More information can be found here.

CCEG has built a following of more than 60,000 subscribers. Internationally we are working with Fordham University’s International Institute for Humanitarian Affairs in New York and University ESTC’s Centre for Cyber Security in China. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies give an opportunity to transact the value we have been measuring. Exciting times.

My current role is my best achievement. Whilst I could quote delivery of big projects, or efficiencies or stability or rescuing an important service from the brink of disaster, I’m now working with the next wave of tech that I believe, has the power to transform our society and communities. The decentralised nature of blockchain and the autonomous governance structure it enables can retain power with the communities the tech is there to serve. The move away from centralised control is a huge step with many opportunities for change. The additional layer of AI provides even more exciting prospects.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

That question is sadly not just confined to the tech space. Why aren’t there more senior women across all industries? I refer back to my 80% 20% quote earlier on partner support. Put simply, women have a lot to deal with and work is one of our priorities, not the only one and maybe not the top one. The situation would be eased through more flexible working, more part-time roles and specifically for tech, more training and awareness of opportunities while in education.

I believe that women bring compassion, peace, determination and rounded thinking. Almost all sectors would benefit from more women. There is no basis for gender bias within STEM per se, educationally girls fair just as well if not marginally better.

I find it shameful that equal pay is still an issue, discrimination still occurs, glass ceilings are still perceived. Obsessions about dress and body shape for women dominate in the media above their achievements. Although we are improving incrementally, I do hope the pace of change will accelerate over time.

Young women, in particular, carry less career gender bias, although more media influence. A certain daily newspaper in the UK still features naked women on the cover – we have some way to go. It is for all women to assert their rights, choose wisely and stamp out gender imbalance, and of course for men to do the same.

Challenges

I’m a firm believer that every challenge is an opportunity and any obstacle can be overcome. The ideas of difficulties are sometimes implanted into women’s psyche and become personal fear even when they aren’t real. So I say turn any perceived disadvantage into a positive. Male dominated gives a chance to be different and share a female view. Being a woman is not and should never be a barrier or challenge in itself.

Tips & tricks

I would say go for it. Follow your heart and do not be put-off by any fear factor. I always urge women to be themselves rather than follow the expected norm, particularly when they find themselves in the minority. What we bring in our own value set is what sets us apart and is worth letting shine through.

Tech is at the heart of our society and is increasingly important to our day to day lives. To be a part of that industry to shape and influence development is a truly exciting opportunity. It would be wrong for that shaping to be over influenced by one gender.

 

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Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is an online editor for JAXenter.com. Before working at S&S Media she studied International Communication Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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