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Sky boss calls for more women programmers as Leeds launches growth strategy

Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds.. Renee Hunt spaeking25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds.. Renee Hunt spaeking25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
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A boss at broadcasting giant Sky has called upon digital businesses in Yorkshire to take on female programmers that it has trained in order to help diversify the city’s tech sector.

Renee Hunt, director of digital platforms for Sky, said that her firm was running an intensive course to recruit and train women in programming but that the level of people applying was in excess of its operational requirements.

Ms Hunt, who joined other organisation last year, asked businesses to “pledge” to offer them roles.

She made her remarks at the launch of Leeds City Council’s Inclusive Growth Strategy, a 12 point plan to allow the whole city to benefit from its prosperity.

Speaking as a panellist Ms Hunt - whose Leeds team develops news and sport news platforms for Sky used around the world - said the broadcaster turned to Leeds around five years ago after struggling to retain talent in London.

“They did a lot of research and Leeds came out top by quite come margin,” she said.

Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds..25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds..25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The firm has gone from employing 60 to 600 people in Leeds but soon hit on a problem.

“That worked well but the one problem was that every class was full of men.

“So Sky started a programme about three years ago with the idea we could fast forward and bootcamp ladies of any background with a commitment to spend 16 hard weeks learning to code and become a developer when you were done.

“In the first year we had just enough applicants to fill the places, the second year we had 50 women, last year we had 300 women apply. That is incredible.

Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds. Tom Riordan 25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Launch of Inclusive Growth Strategy, at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds. Tom Riordan 25th June 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

“The sad part is I can only afford, not from cost but from shape of the organisation, only so many junior people, meaning I can only take a third of those women. I would like to see us offer women who graduate that course more certainty around their employment. So I am looking for people to take some of these women and offer them roles.”

Judith Blake, leader of the council, told delegates at the launch: “Post Brexit people have been asking why it is that so many people feel left behind. Inclusive growth for the benefit of people of people around the whole of Leeds can bring benefits for this.

“Reducing inequality can in itself drive growth.”

Tom Riordan, council chief executive, added: “The big ticket stuff is important, the 40,000 new jobs on the South Bank etc.

“But the more meaningful ones are those that build up from the bottom.”

The council’s plans for inclusive growth include:

Doubling the size of the city centre

Supporting places and communities to responding to economic change

Creating better jobs

Tackling low pay

Leeds Chamber of Commerce president Paula Dillon said: “My own firm merged with an American firm recently. Leeds is not really that well known there but when they come across to visit they are blown away by what Leeds has to offer. The way to get that message out there is through the culture we have in this city.”