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08 March 2024

Diverse Perspectives – Inspiring Inclusion for IWD24

On this International Women's Day 2024, our Senior Comms & Events Manager Heather Lough reflects on our Edinburgh Software Developer MeetUp that Waracle ran for IWD 2024.

On Tuesday 5th of March, Waracle celebrated (somewhat early!) International Women’s Day 2024, by putting on an event at Edinburgh’s hidden gem, Bellfield Brewery in Abbeyhill.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 is #InspireInclusion and as we work in the world of designing and engineering digital experiences, we set ourselves some aims:

  • To have three female speakers with strong perspectives on inclusion
  • To encourage a stronger female contingent to attend
  • To represent where tech is being used to inspire inclusion and serve under represented groups

Thankfully we managed to make good on our objectives by booking three inspirational speakers, increasing female percentage attendance by 25% and creating a strong content narrative about designing for and serving under-served or maligned groups.

We had a blast and decided to share some of the highlights with you!

Buckle up, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the two and a half hours.

Setting the scene

Our wonderful Chief Operating Officer, Sharon Dickie kicked off proceedings with a short presentation about why inclusion still matters as a topic and why the hard work for many of us, is still in front of us.

Reminding us that biased datasets and incomplete research groups have led to unsatisfactory outcomes for women in the design of many, many things such as:

  • Clothing – Why wouldn’t women need pockets
  • Car seats – Male test dummies make it safer for men to be in road traffic accidents – Women are more likely to be severely injured
  • Map Apps – Always suggests the quickest, not the safest, route
  • Fall detection – Men carry smartphones in their aforementioned pockets – and women usually have their bags on the ground

As Sharon said, “We need to redouble our efforts around macro trends because no country on earth has achieved gender equality’.

A sobering yet optimistic intro from Sharon.

Empathy in action

Second up was Jenna Maudlin of the Firefly project, who bravely approached the topic of grief and the personal experiences that drove her to start a company focused on grief education, proactive grief support, and design techniques that can be leveraged to understand the sub-optimal experiences of young people going through grief unsupported.

Having worked as a volunteer as ‘a part of me’, Jenna was given the opportunity in 2021 to work on a project commissioned by the Mayor of London to develop a culturally competent bereavement service for young Londoners.

She shared the following startling facts about bereavement’s impact of our society writ large:

  • 4 out of 10 young offenders have experienced childhood bereavement
  • 25% of under-20’s who die by suicide experienced childhood bereavement
  • 3 out of every 20 mental health issues in the UK stem from unresolved grief

Jenna is trying to create a holistic solution for grief support by focusing on education, community and advocacy, looking at awareness, support, curriculum changes and policy changes aimed at “Breaking taboos and reducing the stigma of grief”.

As Jenna pointed out, grief is something we don’t really focus on or like to address. However, it is the one unifying experience that provides common ground, as we will all lose someone we love at some point in our lives.

Hearing The Firefly Project’s aims to address this across many channels, underpinned by empathetic, human-focused service and product design, was incredibly inspirational.

Monitoring for good

Bringing the night to a close was Lucy Fraser from Albyn Housing Society, who was along to tell us about how they are utilising a £30 digital device and a WiFi signal to monitor vulnerable and ill people in their accommodation across the Highlands.

The disturbances in the WiFi signal in the housing association homes create daily routines for the tenants which can then be utilised to detect changes in behaviour within the home. From an inexpensive device, the team at Albyn Housing can determine activities and what the occupant is doing, where, when and to what efficacy by categorising movement around the home.

This isn’t just important for fall detection in the elderly but is essential for clinicians and healthcare professionals to understand and augment the treatment path or recommendations that it gives to patients. Lucy said that for many residents deterioration in capabilities is not recognised as early as it could be leading to cumulative issues appearing before interventions are made. So by having ambient monitoring available the sensor system can understand complex information like:

  • How long they were out during the day or night
  • How long did it take them to get dressed
  • How long did it take for them to wash themselves
  • How often and how long did it take them to eat
  • How long did they spend doing living room activities
  • How long were they activeHow long did they sleep for
  • How many bathroom breaks did they have during the night
  • Valuable contextual information that can support the best possible care and treatment for the residents
  • The system can be used by family and friends as well as professionals carers and support staff

The talk was incredibly inspirational, as Lucy addressed the benefit of such systems, not just for the frail and elderly, but also for other under-served populations like people recovering from drug and alcohol dependency, repeat offenders coming out of jail and others leaving institutional care.

We tend to think of monitoring as patient monitoring and worry about the ‘big brother’ element. But if you really think hard about it, monitoring shows that someone cares, that someone wants the best for you and that the systems put in place for vulnerable people have a desire and belief that they can get better over time.

The tenants controlling and managing their own data enables them to take an active part in their own health and wellbeing.

Wrap up

We took over the running of a dormant Meetup group that had fallen by the wayside during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hope that we might revive it and in doing so create a bright, fun, engaging Edinburgh community of technology enthusiasts.

It was our fourth event and the best attended yet, so we definitely feel like we are making progress, but it has plenty of room to grow and develop… and that is where you come in!

If you would like to join our community, you can do so, here:

If you’d like to speak at one of our events, reach out here:

And lastly, if you’d just like to attend, please keep an eye out for our next event in June or sign up for our London Event on April 18th.

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Heather Lough
Senior Comms & Events Manager


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