image: GirlTech at aql

aql hosts Ahead Partnership’s annual GirlTech showcase

aql welcomed Ahead Partnership back to its Leeds headquarters today for the second annual GirlTech event, bringing together 140 13-year-old female students from six schools to help them find out more about opportunities in tech and digital in the region.

Sarah Tulip, aql’s chief operating officer, kicked off the day with her own story, and the unconventional route she took from her hometown of Southport, Merseyside into tech and digital via a brief spell pursuing an acting degree.

Tulip’s background is in recruitment, and she talked about building, from scratch, a software testing company’s award-winning graduate programme. Of the 100-plus graduates who went through the programme over 50% were women – a particular point of pride in a historically male-dominated sector.

She went on to highlight aql’s ongoing commitment to women in tech. Indeed, since joining in 2016, Tulip has overseen an increase in the number of women at the company by over 50% and placed women in every one of aql’s technical teams. Not coincidentally, this has been among the most successful periods in the company’s 20-year history.

aql is also involved in a number of regional initiatives to drive gender parity across all age groups and build the representative workforce needed to transform the Northern tech economy into a true global powerhouse.

Growing up, Tulip explained, it was hard for her to find role models. Her small town wasn’t home to technology companies or big businesses – and even in larger cities, the number of women high up in business was depressingly small. Early in her career, Tulip resolved that, if she couldn’t find a good role model, she was going to go out and be one.

100 years to the day since women secured the right to vote in the UK, it seems appropriate that she, and a cadre of inspirational women, were gathered in a high-tech data centre at the company where she runs day-to-day operations, to talk to so many young girls eager to make their own mark.

Panellists for the event were Dally Purewal, Ideas that Work; Julie Clough, NHS Digital; Philippa Rickard, Sky; Sarah Boyd, Emerald Publishing Group; and Jessica Hornby, thebigword. Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, also spoke.

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