Time is running out to apply for a new programme, launched by TechSPARK, to help tackle the issue of diversity in the South West tech cluster by amplifying underrepresented voices.

Aptly named SHIFT, the free course will provide twelve individuals from underrepresented groups with the skills and backing to go on to become the region’s tech conference speakers, board members and mentors – bringing new insights, inspiring others and shifting the perceptions of who’s out there in the cluster.

“The SHIFT initiative will empower women, people from black and ethnic minority groups and other underrepresented communities to make their voices heard”

As well as an in-depth speaking and confidence course, the programme aims to connect participants with key figures within the region’s thriving tech community at invite-only events – which comes with exclusive access to speaking opportunities, conferences, judging panels and more.

The course is backed by Bristol’s tech hub Engine Shed, the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and specialist recruitment agency, Thatchers and supported by community partners across the South West including OiConf, VoxxedDaysBath RubyCreative Bath, Bristol Media, Design Build Market and Women’s Tech Hub to name a few.

Community backing
The programme couldn’t come at a better time. Despite a recent report from McKinsey stating that the most diverse tech companies outperform the average by 33%, it still stands that women represent just 16% of this workforce.

And with people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds also sorely underrepresented in the region’s tech cluster, the view that diversity in the tech cluster needs to be urgently addressed comes from both an ethical, practical and an economic standpoint.


“There are so many talented unrepresented voices in the industry who have the potential to make the Bristol & Bath’s tech sector even better”

As Marina Traversari (pictured left), the Programme Manager at Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator (OSCA) in Bristol explains: “Diversity within the tech industry is a valuable commodity as it helps produce new ways of thinking and operating including boosting productivity, profitability as well as making companies standout.”

Dr Zara Nanu (pictured right) founder and chief exec of Gapsquare, a data-driven startup aiming to tackle the gender pay gap, adds: “The lack of diversity at events, senior roles and boardrooms merely shows one part of underrepresentation in the tech sector.

“There are so many talented unrepresented voices in the industry who have the potential to make the Bristol & Bath’s tech sector even better, so we’re really happy to support SHIFT to celebrate diverse voices in our region.”

Get involved
Anyone from an underrepresented group who wants to become more involved in the South West tech cluster but feels they lack the confidence to get started is welcome to apply to take part in the SHIFT programme.

All you need to do is head to the SHIFT website and fill in the application form before the deadline of 2 April.

There are 12 fully-funded places on the first intake, with the course running from 25 April to 22 June.

For more details, FAQs or to get involved, head over to the SHIFT website or follow the programme on Twitter here: @ShiftProgramme.

Ben Shorrock

Ben has been working to help grow tech and digital business for the last decade. He is currently the MD of TechSPARK the Southwest’s network for tech startups and scale ups working with 25,000 people a month to help them recruit, network and raise capital in the UK’s most productive Tech cluster (TechNation 2019). He sits on the boards of the UK Tech Cluster Group, Bristol’s ONce City Economy Board, Tech Swindon, Tech Southwest and is a co-founder of Bristol Tech Festival. Prior to working for TechSPARK, Ben worked in consultancy with businesses opening new sites internationally. In this role, he helped set up Invest Bristol & Bath and the Netherlands consulate for the north of England.