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Apps World

Interview with Holly Brockwell, Gadgette

This week we caught up with Holly Brockwell, Editor-in-Chief, Gadgette the smart woman's guide to tech, style and life.

Holly will be joining us @ Apps World this November on our Women in Tech Power Panel on 18th November, 13:35 @ the Developer World stage.

Register for your free expo ticket to attend this panel here


Hi Holly, this year, you founded a tech site written by and for women. What prompted you to do that?

Prior to starting Gadgette, I'd been running ShinyShiny, a tech and lifestyle site for women that had been going for about ten years. Sadly it was winding down, and that gave me the push I needed to go and create something new and exciting. There's an enormous gap in the market for tech content that considers and embraces women - "tech without the testosterone" as someone put it - and I think we're nailing that.

What's the reaction been like?

Well, it's the internet, so unsurprisingly a few people whose parents didn't give them enough hugs have had nasty words to throw at us. Launching anything for women gets you endless criticism - including, sadly, from other women. We've also been trolled quite a lot, to the point that we've had to permanently close our comments section. All of this only serves to strengthen our determination, because when you get comments like "she must be single and frustrated" on your phone reviews, you know there's a problem still to be solved.

That said, the majority reaction has been overwhelmingly - and humblingly - positive. We get messages all the time from women who say they've finally found somewhere that 'gets' them, somewhere that’s inclusive and useful. Even more amazingly, a LOT of men read us, saying they know they're not the target audience but they love our tone of voice and ethos. Speaking of which, we've been clear from day one that people who don't identify as female are very welcome, too. As it says in our FAQs, you don’t have to live in New York to read the New Yorker.

You write a lot about the importance of diversity in tech. How do you think companies can achieve a better balance?

Act like they have absolutely no choice. It’s very, very easy for a CEO to fill a company with people like themselves - people they relate to and understand. But by doing that, they’re clipping their company’s wings. So many of the most exciting ideas in the world have come from people who don’t fit the white male mould, and by letting yourself be lazy about who you hire, you’re not just taking the opportunity away from them - you’re actively curbing your chances of making something amazing.

Tech companies constantly say they’re looking for “superstars.” They’re everywhere, they just don’t look the way you imagine. Look harder. Look in places you might not go yourself. Ask for introductions. Don’t be afraid to tweet that you’d love more women to apply. And if all else fails, ask yourself - if there were no men in the world, could I still fill this role? Of course you could. Now go and do it.

Some people suggest sexism would be easier to solve if we stopped talking about "women in tech" as a separate category - if we stopped making a distinction, in other words. Do you agree with that?

Yes and no. It would be so wonderful if women could stop having to think about the fact that we’re women all the time - believe us, we get as bored as everyone else with talking about sexism. But society reminds us constantly, with its endless microaggressions and put-downs and locked doors.

Right now, we are a long way from equality, which means we have to keep shouting about the problem until everyone’s heard it so many times that they feel like we do - absolutely sick of it. That means giving women and young girls visible role models in tech companies, people to aspire to and be mentored by. It means actively recruiting for women (tip: filling your job ad with words like ‘ninja’ definitely won’t help). It means starting at school and even earlier to show girls and boys what women are capable of.

Believe it or not, what women are ultimately striving for is to be completely unremarkable. For a woman in a tech firm to be as commonplace and ordinary as a woman anywhere else. But some major societal change has to happen first, so it’s our job to keep shouting until the wheel turns.

Since you’re appearing at Apps World soon – which apps are your favourites?

My new favourite is Ditty, which my friend Matt at The Next Web introduced me to when he sent me a video of my name being sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Essentially you pick a song, type in your message and it creates a fun little video singing those words to the tune. It’s kind of silly and pointless, which is why it’s so fun.

I’m also a big fan of Pocket Casts, which is the best Android app for podcasts in my opinion. Speedtest lets me be a loser and test the WiFi wherever I go (the download speeds at Google Campus were insane), and Babylon lets me have a same-day video consultation with a doctor when I can’t get to my local surgery (which is often, when you’re busy running a startup).

And finally, I’ve been using Touchnote for years to send photo postcards to my nan. I pick a photo I took this week (eg. “Here’s me on Channel 5 news!”), write some words to go on the back, and they print it and post it. She loves them.