Women in IT and the Financial Ombudsman Service

Date published: 27 April 2023 Blog

Nicola Wadham

Chief Information Officer

To mark International Girls in ICT Day, Nicola celebrates the role women have played in the history of computer technology. And she explains why diversity is so important at the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Since Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first machine algorithm women have played huge role in the development of computer technology.

Originally, the word ‘computer’ meant ‘someone who does calculations’. It was a job title.

Harvard College Observatory employed large numbers of ‘computers’, in the late 19th century, to analyse images of stars and compare their positions. Most of those computers were women.

Similarly, in the 1930s, NASA began hiring women as ‘computers’, expanding its computer pool in World War II by recruiting many college-educated African American women.

Employing women in computer technology was so routine, that IBM UK used to measure how long it took to manufacture a computer in ‘girl hours’. The people making computers for IBM in those days were mostly women.

So was the team that programmed the iconic supersonic aeroplane, Concorde, who worked under a female technical director, Ann Moffatt.

You might even argue that, without centuries of inventive thinking from women and girls, you wouldn’t be reading this blog now on your computer, mobile or other device.

But how is this relevant to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

IT 02

How IT can help our customers

Digital technology is central to helping us improve the service we offer our customers – both consumers and businesses. And since I came to the Financial Ombudsman Service, we’ve been implementing a digital transformation to help us serve our customers better.

We’re currently creating digital portals for our customers – both respondent businesses and complainants. This is just one example of how enhancing our technology and digital capabilities can help us resolve more cases more efficiently and provide a better, more modern service.

Technology also allows us to gather and share our insights more efficiently which can prevent complaints and detriment arising.

Having a diverse team – and the different perspectives and ideas that come with diversity – has been crucial to the thinking behind designing the digital capabilities we need.

We’re a service, rather than a commercial business, and that influences everything we do. It’s at the core of our design thinking and obligations. We have to consider all the different channels people might use to come to us. And we have to be accessible and responsive to all our customers – consumers and businesses.

That’s why it’s so important for us to have a staff with a range of professional backgrounds and life experience. We’re fortunate in that our team is very diverse, and about a third of our IT staff are women.

Girls in ICT

I’ve been lucky, throughout my career, to have worked on many projects that use new technology to benefit organisations as well as the people who work in or rely on those organisations. I’ve also been fortunate to work with many inspiring colleagues from all backgrounds and genders.

I hope today truly inspires more girls and young women to choose ICT as a career. And I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of the many women throughout history – and all over the world – who work in this exciting and important area of work.

Nicola will be the keynote speaker at the Digital Transformation Conference on 11 May, where she'll be talking about 'How to Transform without Transformation'.