Interview with Regus Connect - Enterprise and Co-Working

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Liz was recently interviewed by Regus Connect. She talks about women in tech, co-working, and the fantastic technology and geek communities in the North West.
You can read the interview here - http://regusconnect.tumblr.com/post/76035973496/interview-liz-hardwick-d...

A copy of the interview...

You’ve worked with a lot of organisations that focus on the issues of women in tech. How is this part of your work driven by your personal experiences?

I’ve always had very strong beliefs on equality being equal rights and opportunities for everyone – sounds so simple, but we still haven’t got there.

I’ve always been the minority female in my career path, working in technology, broadcasting and media and have come up against barriers and negative comments linked with being a female. It’s tough, but if you love the job and the sector, you have to stand up for yourself and the others that aren’t as confident and as vocal as you. When I hear “oh you can do that? But you’re a girl?!” it makes me even more determined to support women, as well as other minorities in the sector.

Do you think barriers still exist for women when it comes to going freelance in the digital industries? Do more independent opportunities and more flexible working practices help to promote diversity?

Freelance life can be a massive benefit to parents or carers with the flexibility of hours, ethical traders and those who want to pick and choose who they work for, and perfect for those who want to manage their own work and be, in effect their own boss. However there still is, in my opinion, a trend that women have to work harder to prove they can do the same job and have equal skills to the guys. You still get the few prejudice comments, and potentially uncomfortable situations. But, if you don’t like it, you have the choice as a freelancer, to turn down that work next time.

Why is there a need for events and organisations that focus specifically on women in tech?

When I attended my first women in tech event, it was a really odd feeling, I was in a room full of geeky women! We did exist! I gained a lot of confidence, support and positivity from being in the room with that collective of women, but also supportive men, and I knew I had to replicate that support for others.

The key to a great event is having organisers that realise you need to build a safe and supportive environment, with a welcoming atmosphere free from derogatory comments or discrimination. Unfortunately, till this is common place at all events, women focussed events have to provide extra support instead.

How do you think the rise of coworking affects the promotion of women in tech?

Coworking runs the risk of being a less effective resource for women unless the environment is thought about, and an expected standard of behaviour implemented. An unmanaged workspace can mean you run the risk of having a “down the pub” laddish atmosphere. Hopefully coworking spaces will support a healthy work environment, and make sure some simple respect and guidelines are followed by all. As more women become coworkers, I hope that women are acknowledged and accepted into these unique workplaces.

Has the rise of coworking spaces changed the way you work?

There are only a handful of coworking spaces I know of, but those I’ve been to have been a nice change to the regular remote venues I work in. It’s nice to meet new people, and can be a great place to meet clients, share ideas and collaborate, and share support with others who work remotely too. I try and make an effort to go to a coworking space at least once a month, if there were more, I’d make that once a week. I think it’s great for avoiding cabin fever!

How can a coworking space provide the ideal setting for the ‘geek community’?(Besides plug sockets!)

The ideal setting for the geek community is somewhere with breakout spaces, and a chance to hold evening/weekend meetings where suitable. You find a good percentage of geeks are also remote workers, so they usually want to connect with other geeks with similar interests, again just like a minority community.

Strong internet and wifi connections are a must, along with good coffee, and small amounts of storage can be a lifesaver for organisers. It’s also great if there’s an open dialogue for when we have new ideas and projects that might need some support.

Do you have a favourite coworking city?

I have lots of favourite places to cowork from. From my home town of Chorley, to Preston, Blackpool, Liverpool, and Manchester. I think freelancing in Lancashire is something very special though, I see sparkles and creativity in people, that isn’t as strong anywhere else I’ve been in the UK to date.

Which, in your opinion is the best social media platform for digital storytelling? Do you see either of twitter or facebook losing their popularity with consumers and businesses?

I love Twitter. I think the communities you can connect with on there are second to none. You can learn stuff, share your digital stories, find new connections and I’ve even got some direct work through Twitter, so it’s got many uses. Even though Facebook is more popular that Twitter, it’s increasing in popularity with businesses and freelancers for being an instant form of communication. We train our clients to pick which social media platforms are right for them, and ensure you post interesting, relevant content, and actually communicate with your audience.

Social media will be around for a long time, it’s becoming the third main form of communication for businesses, behind phone and email, so whatever the next big thing after Twitter and Facebook is, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a great place to communicate with the world.