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IWD: Q&A with Emma Godfree

“We seem to have this idea that if we don’t tick all the boxes, we won’t be any good at it – that’s not true. If you try, you might not only find that you’re good at it, but you smash it. Try everything once, and don’t be afraid.”

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day isn’t something I followed until about two years ago. For me, it’s about making sure we’re all treated equally, making sure that we all have the opportunities that we should have, rather than having opportunities just because I’m a woman. We shouldn’t just be a quota to fill. International Women’s Day reminds people that we shouldn’t be discriminated against because we’re women, but we also should be given the opportunities we deserve, not just because we’re female. Opportunities should be about being human, regardless of gender. Just ticking a box because you need another female in the office isn’t the way to do it – hire the person that has the right skills or experience; and if that happens to be a man, so be it.    


Globally, women make up 32.9% of the workforce in tech companies, which is better than it has been previously but still quite low. Do you think we need more women in the digital/tech space and if so, why?

I think it comes down to whether they want to be involved in tech, and whether it’s advertised for women. Tech used to be very much advertised to men or to boys in school who grow up to become techies. Nowadays I think it’s less about gender and more about interests. If women are interested in the tech industry, they should absolutely be given the same opportunities and allowed to pursue that. It very much depends on whether it’s something of interest to that individual. For example, I wouldn’t want to go and work on a construction site but that’s just because I don’t like the cold, not because I’m a woman. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that I can’t lift a couple of bricks because I know I could. I have just chosen not to enter that line of work. Another woman out there may not want to sit at a desk, she might want to go and brick lay! If you want to do it, you should be allowed to go and do it.


What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

I’ve only been in this industry for a couple of years and when I started, most of the people I was speaking to were men, but only because they seem to be the ones who shouted about it (DP & IG) the loudest. They seemed to be the ones who were getting the message out there. Since then, I’ve actually found that a lot more of the people I’m connecting with are women. Whilst we are all in the same industry, we’re all now starting to get on the same bandwagon; everything needs to go in the right direction, data ethics needs to go in the right direction. Everybody now seems to be singing the same tune which is really nice to see.

What’s really different for me now is that my support network is all female. It’s something that struck me the other day, that actually my entire support network is women; strong, independent, knowledgeable women. That is unusual for me because normally it would be mixed. I have no idea how that shift happened and don’t get me wrong, there still are men I reach out to, but the people I depend on almost on a daily basis are women.   


Do you have a women’s empowerment moment in DP that inspired you?

I had quite a bad year last year, and I was struggling; everything was getting a bit much. It was the same support network of women who said to me: “don’t concentrate on things you can’t control, it takes up your time and energy, and that time and energy can be spent on something more worthwhile.” I suppose there hasn’t been one singular moment, it’s been more like a constant stream of support, encouragement, and advice.


What would be your message to women looking to break into a career in Data Protection?

Keep trying. It’s not easy to keep going, but just try everything, keep going, apply for all the jobs you think you can do, regardless of whether you meet all the criteria on the job spec. Make sure that people know you’re willing to learn. If women don’t have all of the skills listed then 9 times out of 10 they just won’t apply for the job. Don’t do it, just apply! Apply for everything you think you could do, apply for everything you want to do, and just keep trying. We seem to have this idea that if we don’t tick all the boxes, we won’t be any good at it – that’s not true. If you try, you might not only find that you’re good at it, but you smash it. Try everything once, and don’t be afraid.


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