This month’s exclusive cover story focuses on how global digital agency Valtech is on a mission to inspire organisations to…

This month’s exclusive cover story focuses on how global digital agency Valtech is on a mission to inspire organisations to embrace inclusivity, supporting everyone to succeed in tech…

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Technology and its ability to transform the human experience for all the stakeholders of any business, from customers to employees to partners, is the defining theme of this issue of Interface.

Read the latest issue here!

At the heart of this line of inquiry, our cover story reinforces why technology should be for everyone. Valtech, a global digital agency focused on business transformation, is on a mission to encourage organisations to embrace inclusivity, “inspiring everybody to have an authentic voice” by supporting women and people of all walks of life to succeed in tech-based careers. Our interviewee, Sheree Atcheson, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion, pledges: “We are trying to do something that leaves the world better than we found it.

Elsewhere in this issue, we explore the rise of AI in banking and learn how solutions are being deployed by UnionBank of the Philippines. Dr. David Hardoon, Senior Advisor for Data & AI, explains how the bank is better leveraging data to drive financial inclusion with the delivery of services to the underserved and unbanked. We also speak with Alexandre Kozlov, Head of International IT at Kelly Services, and discover how the staffing giant is embracing business relevant IT with tech that puts people – clients, candidates and recruiters – first.

Also in this issue, we.CONECT tell us how they are using technology to bring people together for virtual live events; we explore AI’s influence on data centre management, and discover why security can future-proof your digital transformation journey.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Gayle Carpenter, Founder and Creative Director at Sparkloop, discusses her incredible journey and the way she has smashed– and continues to smash – gender-based barriers in business…

It seems incredible, in 2021, that female founders remain a rarity – especially when it’s been proven, time and again, that the influence of women entrepreneurs is an incredible force for good. The Treasury recently commissions Alison Rose, CEO of Natwest Group, to lead her own independent review of female entrepreneurship in the UK [LINK:] digging deep into just how influential women can be and exposing the barriers they face.

The goal of the review was to tap into the economic potential of female entrepreneurs; one of its key findings was that up to £250bn of new value would be added to this country’s economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. In response to Rose’s report, the government now has plans in place to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by 50% by 2030 – this is around 600,000 women.

The business case for why this is so important is crystal clear – it’s the much slower march of the way society views women that still needs an overhaul. You’ll hear people claim that sexism no longer exists in the UK because there are no specific laws that bar women from doing anything men do in business, but that’s a deeply short-sighted claim that completely discounts the pervasive nature of negative gender-based stereotypes. 

Even the highly successful Gayle Carpenter, Founder and Creative Director at Sparkloop, faced that one-dimensional mindset from her father when she was choosing what to study. While her passion lay in the arts, she initially chose a business degree, because he’d told her, “girls can do art, but if you want to get a proper job, you’ll need to do business”. Carpenter soon realised she’d made a mistake, and switched to art and design – something that didn’t stop her launching her own business 15 years ago, flying in the face of what Carpenter Senior expected.

Challenging perceptions

“The two things – arts and business – are completely united now,” she says. “My father’s viewpoint spurred me on to prove him wrong in the fact that you could be artistic and commercially creative, and make a career out of it.” Carpenter describes Sparkloop as “an ideas business”, a creative agency which specialises in branding, and all the associated channels of delivery. While the fundamentals of what Sparkloop does, as a business, haven’t changed much in a decade and a half, the way it delivers what it creates certainly has.

“The channels in which we deliver our strategy are beyond the imagination, now,” she explains. “You can’t recognise the output from 15 years ago. So, whilst staying true to our core skills and beliefs, we do make sure that we’re just one step ahead in terms of technology.” This has enabled Sparkloop to remain at the top of its game, and, unsurprisingly, the words and attitude of her father have stayed with Carpenter every step of the way, challenging her to continuously prove his perceptions wrong.

“Part of the reason there’s such a gap in female entrepreneurship is the perception of women in leading roles,” she says. “My dad, bless his soul, had a really old-school attitude towards girls in business – but have we actually moved on that much? There’s still that perception that if you were to start a family, you will be at home, potentially, or at least have to take a step back in order to do that. And that’s a real challenge for many women. Sadly, I do genuinely see that kind of ‘old boys network’ idea at play, but I think you can find or start your on network, and what I’m seeing now is a much more diverse network of people who are like-minded, rather than it being a ‘who you know, not what you know’ situation. It’s really, really nice.”

Everyday barriers

Times are indeed a-changing, but Carpenter has still been up against her fair share of barriers – the kind that remain common today. “I’ve been in a lot of male-dominated teams, and even at creative head level, there would be stereotypical response to my opinions; I was seen as ‘feisty’ as opposed to ‘assertive’, yet the ego-driven, crazy creative director who would throw hissy fits constantly was just ‘eccentric’! It’s interesting how we’re labeled, and how that’s so set within the psyche. But I am seeing it change.”

When we talk about those deep-rooted prejudices, language choice is often how they emerge. People are so used to describing powerful women as ‘difficult’ for standing their ground, and praising men for the same behaviour, that they don’t always realise how damaging that can be and how it influences their own viewpoints and actions surrounding women leaders. For Carpenter, personally, the best way around that has been to take what she’s learned and make sure others know they can come to her for guidance and advice.

Creating the change

“I would say I take much more of a mentoring role,” she says. “I like nothing more than when I started to work with, or collaborate with, clients or other people in my sector and they then almost outpace me. It’s a sign of success in terms of how they’ve grown. I never set out to do it in a structured way, but I’ve worked with a lot of clients who have just naturally asked me for advice, or 360 feedback, and that’s turned into more of a conversation and a bit of mentorship, where they’ve then gone onto do really great things with the confidence and the voice to make a difference. That’s really heart-warming for me.”

Carpenter’s team, just by chance, happens to be very diverse, including her ‘right-hand woman’ whom she brought on board as a junior and who is now a great senior creative. And Carpenter herself has been the recipient of a mentor’s sage advice, which – consciously or unconsciously – shapes the way she has worked with juniors now. 

“When I was at university, I did some experience at a small agency, headed up by a male and female team, and I later went back to work for them – it was one of the happiest places I’ve worked,” she says. “Looking back on it now, in this particular creative head, who was female and had children, I can identify the qualities I’ve noticed in woman leaders and that I would like to draw on myself – kind, but firm, and with a real tenacity. I actually didn’t realise, until now, how much of an impact that particular personal situation had on me, perhaps because it was the only time within my career where I had been working for a female head. So it enabled me to start as I meant to go on, very early.”

The future’s bright

For Carpenter, it’s important to reiterate the fact that giving women equal opportunities shouldn’t be seen as a threat to men, and opening doors for one doesn’t close any for another. It’s also vital to highlight that diversity isn’t just about men and woman – it’s a far broader conversation including gender, sexuality, race, health, and beyond. But regarding female leadership, the issue still lies within perceptions creating barriers that needn’t, and shouldn’t, be there.

“I’ve got a son, and I want to be a role model for him as much as I do for other women, to know that it’s right and fair to have this diverse attitude going forward,” Carpenter explains. “I certainly see that playing out in him, which is wonderful. He doesn’t see male and female roles in the same way that we ever would have, as kids, so that’s fantastic. Additionally, my other half works in finance, which isn’t the most diverse industry, but some of his favourite roles have been when he’s had female bosses, because he says they often have more divers teams which have been more successful.”

Things are moving in the right direction, from Carpenter’s perspective. The fact that gender is an everyday topic of conversation, now, is a step forward, and she’s seeing a general increase in the numbers of women in business. “It’s a lot more split, now, in terms of who I’m seeing as decision-makers,” she says. “There’s a real blend, and that’s really reassuring. I think you just have to have a certain mindset or ambition, regardless of gender, and if you have that sort of natural instinct it’s hard to let go of it. I’m constantly trying to stay one step ahead of myself, always challenging myself. I talk to other female – and male – leaders and use their mentorship to spur me on. 

“Just stay true to yourself, don’t be something you’re not. As a woman, you don’t have to try to be a man to be successful – be who you are and have confidence in that. Never take your eye off the ball, look after your clients, value your team, and that will pay you back in dividends. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. Test, learn, challenge yourself, keep moving forward, and be prepared to make measured risks – it’s the only way you’ll grow.”

Unfortunately, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineer professionals across Europe, with countries such as Cyprus showing close…

Unfortunately, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineer professionals across Europe, with countries such as Cyprus showing close to three times as many women in similar roles. Throughout this article we will focus on women’s relationship with the STEM and manufacturing industries.

There has long been a stereotype surrounding the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) industries. Unfortunately, despite the stereotype being very out dated, its presence still lingers, with women in the industry still at a very low level.

The impression most have on the sector is manual labour, long working hours and rows of assembly lines. While this may not be the case, a survey carried out by Women in Manufacturing (WiM) found that almost three quarters of women would not consider a career in manufacturing as a viable option.

Selling the industry to women may seem like a fairly complex task, but in order to want to fill a job yourself, you must be able to envisage yourself in it first. For a woman, looking at a male dominated industry, it is virtually impossible for them to do so. Therefore, to encourage more women, companies need to have more women — starting at the top.

In 2018, it was reported by the FTSE 100 that there had been a rise in female held directorships. Despite the number of female executive directorships remaining the same between 2017 and 2018, directorships rose from 294 to 305, a rise of 1.3%. Out of these 100 companies, those in the construction and building sector only featured twice.

An industry of untapped talent

Unfortunately, 51 per cent of women who work in the sector state that they have been treated worse because they are female. This moves away from stereotypes however and into a dangerous position of discrimination. Women being in these roles has proved to be beneficial not only in plugging the gender gap, but also for the company’s profitability themselves. Research suggest that every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity relates to a 3.5 percent increase in gross profit.

When looking at why more women are moving into the industry, the first point worth considering is how much of an untapped industry it is. A 2016 survey found how manufacturing had the largest pool of untapped talent, simply because there were very few women in the roles previously. Not only is there an abundance of female staff available, they are also highly qualified, most possessing not only a bachelor’s but a supplementary master’s degree.

Marci Bonham, Managing Director of Hilti, proposes ‘that supporting women as they take their first management steps within the industry will have a positive impact overall’. 

The Shine Theory

Here is where shine theory makes its appearance. This is because it carries significant relevance to women trying to crack the heavily dominated male industries. The workplace can be a hard place for anyone starting new, but for a woman starting off in a new role surrounded by mainly men — well the aforementioned stats speak for themselves.

The shine theory concentrates on how women can progress if they were befriending other females in the work place instead of battling against them. Effectively, this American concept emphasises how surrounding yourself with positive and successful women will create a positive atmosphere within.

Early development            

In 2018, a study by the Guardian discovered that women constitute only 14.4% of all people working within STEM in the UK. This is despite the fact they make-up almost half of the work force. The best way of encouraging this, is to establish more prominent idol like figures within these subject areas.

Take for example Brian Cox, it is easier for young boys interested in getting into physics to relate to him. Alternatively, Donna Strickland, a physicist from Canada, became only the third woman ever to win the Nobel Prize award for her science. Her name, along with others who achieved spectacular heights needs to be promoted throughout kids of a young age.

However, this should not to detract from the unimaginable advancements which have been made. In 1918, women over earned the right to vote, while women being accredited for such contributions to science as Donna Strickland, is certainly a recent development.


Apprenticeships are becoming more popular as the traditional degree route is proving to not be for everyone. The statistics for the sectors women are choosing to carry out apprenticeships in doesn’t bode well in supporting this plug of the gender gap.

Subject areas including learning support, travel services, and beauty therapy, all had 80% or more female applicants. On the other hand, vehicle maintenance and repair, gas industry, and construction skills all had below 10%.

Here, we look at two companies who continue to push to enhance the number of females on their apprenticeship schemes:


Lookers, one of Centrica’s Top 100 employers, sell a range of automobiles, including commercial Ford vehicles, launched its female apprentice network last year with the scheme being based around setting up regular meetings between female apprentices, providing them with the opportunity to share their new-found knowledge and experiences.

British Gas

There was an emphasis by the energy provider placed on getting women to apply for their apprenticeship scheme. They did this by offering examples of applicants with examples of some of their highest achieving female members of staff. They similarly draw upon the fact, that by putting more women into male dominated apprenticeships, the gender pay gap is likely to be bridged.

Civil Engineering Consultancy, Patrick Parsons, is also an example of this.