As a young ambitious female in the industry, who loves to hear the stories and opinions of inspirational women, I’ve decided to create, curate and share interviews to learn from them and encourage fellow women in digital to aspire to be the best they can be.
I’m very excited to share my first interview with you. A truly inspiring woman who makes me wonder how I can pack more into my day!
Baroness Martha Lane-Fox co-founded Europe’s largest tavel and leisure website lastminute.com with Brent Hoberman in 1998, they took it public in 2000 and sold it in 2005.
Martha was appointed a crossbench peer in the House of Lords in march 2013. Martha is currently founder and executive chair of doteveryone.org.uk. Doteveryone is the first institute dedicated to making Britain brilliant in the networked aged. Initially, it is focusing on three key areas – women and technology, digital leadership and building prototypes for public organisations. For more on Martha visit her website.
Based on Martha’s early career as a founder at lastminute.com I was interested to understand what learnings Martha had to share to other aspiring entrepreneurs based on her start-up experience.
Q:What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start up a business today?
Martha Lane Fox: I think two things, make sure you have the right skills in your team and build around it and hire absolutely the best people.
Martha has been a woman of many firsts throughout her career, so I was interested to find out what motivates her to be such a progressive.
Q: What has driven you throughout your career?
Martha Lane Fox:Two things. One, i’m really energised by the the possibility of what the internet can bring for society. I still feel there is a long way to go for everybody getting the benefit from the original promise of the internet and secondly i’m someone who likes starting things and bringing a new energy so i’ve been very lucky with most of the things that I have done in in my life have been entrepreneurial even if it’s been not for profit.
As a leading female within the technology sector and as someone who has faced discrimination in the past, this question was an opportunity to discover how Martha see’s the industry evolving.
Q: In the time that you have been involved in digital, how do you think things have changed for women? and what more can be done to get women into technology?
Martha Lane Fox:That’s a huge question, I’ve written a lot about it recently so perhaps have a look at some of the things on my website and so on. I think things have plateaued and I think that it’s very very important because the sector is growing.
There are a number of exciting developments, a huge number of different things happening too much to go into now. The equal pay issue is just one part of it, it really isn’t the main thing as only 4% of the world’s software engineers are women. This just means women and absent from one of the most important developments that we have really had in history and that is fundamentally unbelievable.
The next question considered Martha’s role as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords, and as a ‘digital activist’.
Q: What is the role of the internet in politics?
Martha Lane Fox: I don’t think it plays one at the minute. I don’t really think it has really begun to have a profound effect yet, I think that if you look at even the general elections, they are not yet organised around the internet. I think we are right at the beginning of this process of change.
Dot everyone is a new campaign launched in November, the aim of this question was to understand what drove Martha to initiate such a bold vision for the UK’s role in the world.
Q: What inspired you to set up the dot everyone campaign?
Martha Lane Fox: It’s not a campaign, it’s a new institution for the digital age, I think that we need to build and organisation that is worried about the non-universality, and include non-commercial voices to shape our digital future. It is a new kind of organisation to reflect some of that. To address the array of complex issues as we enter into the networked age.
Martha is also an active philanthropist and I was interested to understand her attitudes towards charity and potentially what more the public can do to give back to the digital society.
Q: What can people do to help shape our digital future?
Martha Lane Fox: I think that the first thing is that we have over 12 million adults in the UK who can’t do 4 basic things online, when you think that if you have to get a job it’s predominantly advertised on the internet nowadays. So the first thing is to make sure that everybody has got access to this incredible and important tool.
There’s also the impact on the social sector as over half of charities in this country don’t have a web presence at all and that’s so disadvantaged in terms of raising money or reaching constituent groups.
Addressing these groups is exactly what GoOnUk is doing we’ve got 10 corporate partners around our boardroom table, doing programmes of work to map this out.
Lastly looking forward I asked.
Q: What does the future of the internet look like to you?
Martha Lane Fox: [Laughs], I wish I could answer that question. I’d be interested in everyones views on that, the only thing I can say with some certainty is that the Internet is going to get more dominant not less and I think that we’re going to see every device become connected and in fact every single one of us be connected.
To round up, Martha is a ferociously ambitious woman, who has achieved significant success in her career and no doubt has been a role model for many of today’s high-flying digital women, but as she’s pointed out – there’s still a lot of work to be done – and a lot of opportunities for women to make their mark on this new technological frontier. Its both and exciting yet challenging time ahead.