Launching the Diversity Network at the Digital Economy Summer School

18Jul - by Angelika - 0 - In Digital Economy Diversity Network

Janis and Angelika went to the Digital Economy Network Summer School on the 3rd and 4th of July. This year, the summer school was hosted by the CDT for Embedded Intelligence.

After checking into our accommodation for the night we had a quick breather and then headed into the Olympic Park to go on a hunt for Loughborough University’s London campus. After having to trust our maps app rather than the actual maps that were dotted around the Olympic Park (because they didn’t actually have Loughborough University’ on them!) we finally found the drinks and popcorn reception for the summer school. It was here that we started talking to students from other DEN funded CDTs and started to talk about the Digital Economy Diversity Network.

What was almost shocking to me when talking to all of these different people was the reactions I got. Going to a very computer science and engineering heavy summer school (Embedded Intelligence is focused on manufacturing, and seems to be very similar to what I would consider UbiComp…), I thought that maybe we’d have to work hard at justifying the necessity of diversity or a diversity network within DEN. But that wasn’t the case. Everyone I talked to (and after having chats with Janis, also everyone she talked to) could come up with a reason why a diversity network would be useful in their own CDTs. Everyone could think of a time where something didn’t sit quite right with them. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us!

The next day was the official start to the summer school. After an introduction from the Embedded Intelligence CDT manager, there was a panel that ultimately concluded with: to get the right job in manufacturing industry, you have to have the right attitude. It was strange to listen to this panel, just because it was something so out of what I am used to! I think it was the first time I went to an ’employability’ event for PhD students where the assumption wasn’t that we all wanted to end up in academia. It was a welcome change to the usual assumptions, but…it really was a very strange panel.

Towards the end, I asked a question that was supposed to critique this notion that we just have to have ‘the right attitude’ to get a job that had been so present throughout the first half of it. I asked whether gendered or cultural experiences, and / or whether aspirations for family planning would inhibit our ‘attitude’; that it would mean we didn’t have that ‘strong warrior spirit’ that is needed to make it in industry. I coupled these concerns with another question surrounding imposter syndrome, and whether having it meant we didn’t have the right attitude?

While the CDT manager ended up talking about it a little bit and getting the gist of it, no one on the panel really knew what imposter syndrome was.


At the end of the day, Janis and Angelika gave a talk about the network and advertised our first meet-up. Essentially, we launched the network!

Giving the talk was a little strange since we had talked to so many CDT students about it previously and heard so many reasons for needing it. The experience of listening to the panel about employability in manufacturing industry also just made it so much more clear why we need this network.

We need a student-led initiative to give us just that little bit more power to stand up to ‘the system’; to support one another and to value our own experiences (both good and bad); to value gendered, cultural, class experience; language differences; to foster exchange and support; to make clear that imposter syndrome is not an issue we have with attitude.

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