Kainos, a leading provider of Digital Services and Platforms, is celebrating after Tech Outreach Manager Gemma Crothers picked up the ‘Woman of the Year (SME)’ award at the national Women in IT Excellence Awards, held in the Hilton London Bankside Hotel on 1 November.

The awards, which set out to celebrate the female entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders and pioneers working in IT, saw Belfast-based Gemma come out on top in a tough category in which 10 candidates from a diverse range of organisations across the UK were shortlisted.

With over a decade of experience in the IT industry in a variety of consultancy roles, as Tech Outreach Manager at Kainos Gemma now heads up the company’s education outreach programme, designed to inspire, enthuse and educate young people to secure the future of the digital economy.

Over the past four years her work with Tech Outreach has directly benefitted the lives of over 4,000 young people in the UK and Ireland, catering for students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and with a high percentage of female students taking part.

Gemma said: “It was an honour to be a finalist for this award, never mind win it, especially when you consider the amazing women who joined me on the shortlist.

“It’s a great platform for me to draw attention to the important work the Tech Outreach Programme is doing. I’m so passionate about the need to equip today’s young people with the digital literacy and critical thinking skills that our future economy will so desperately need.

“Jobs that will exist in 20 years haven’t even been invented yet and that’s why it’s crucial that the next generation is aware from an early age of the sheer scope of roles outside of the typical IT stereotypes.

“Our message to young people is clear; not only can you be part of the digital revolution, you can drive it! It’s our job to build both their skills and their confidence and to ensure a diverse range of people are entering the industry.

“It’s a sector that has traditionally been male-dominated and we’re working hard to make sure that both men and women understand and can access the wealth of opportunity that a career in IT can offer.

“On a personal level, I want to see other young women afforded the same opportunities within the digital industry that I’ve had. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of female students taking part in our activities – around a quarter of participants at our recent CodeCamp were girls – but there’s still more to do. That’s why I’m currently part of a panel that’s developing an exciting programme of events for a future conference around women in technology,” she added.

Partnering with organisations such as The Prince’s Trust and Code Club, as well as running large-scale events such as CodeCamp and BelTech EDU, each year Kainos donates over £120,000 and 1,000 hours of staff time to initiatives within the Tech Outreach programme. Kainos also works with education boards and policy-makers to refine and shape the ICT curriculum at all levels.

Find out more about Kainos’s Tech Outreach programme: www.kainos.com/givingback