• Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Women in Identity’s 2020 Annual Report is out now!

    Women in Identity continues to grow, in terms of membership, sponsorship and all the opportunities t see more

    Women in Identity continues to grow, in terms of membership, sponsorship and all the opportunities that have been created. Our progress is true testament to how important the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is within our industry. And how passionately so many of us feel about it.

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    The Privilege of Context

    Listening to the recent Women in Identity webinar on Diversity by Design, Savita and Emrys from Cari see more

    Listening to the recent Women in Identity webinar on Diversity by Design, Savita and Emrys from Caribou Digital posed the question: “How would you prove your identity to me?”. 

    The responses were (thankfully) consistent and aligned to their thinking: namely that “it all depends on the situation”. Identity is highly context-driven. It made me start to think about the issue more broadly. Not only is the way we prove our identity contextual; a lot of ‘who we are’ and how we behave is entirely driven by the situation we find ourselves in.

    For instance: how you behave is, in part, a manifestation of who you are. And it will change depending on the situation, the environment, in which you find yourself. And it’s your prerogative, your fundamental right as a human being, to change your behaviour to suit your given situation.

    But what if I told you that the context or the situation is irrelevant? I already know who you are. And anything you say or do will either reinforce my pre-conceptions or be simply disregarded as irrelevant.

    Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about George Floyd, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and what black identity means. 

    As a black person who has lived almost all of her life in the UK, I don’t have the same lived and learned experiences as a black person in the US (or anywhere else in the world for that matter). 

    As a black woman in the UK, I don’t have the same lived and learned experiences as a black man in the UK. 

    What is common though is that, unfortunately, being a black person overrides most situational context. The incident that occurred between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park is a perfect example of this.

    The cruel and calculated way that Amy Cooper weaponised her skin colour, and her understanding of the relationship between the police and African American men, showed she had a very clear understanding that a black man in such a situation would not be afforded the privilege of context.

    Speaking from my own personal experience, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been followed around shops by security guards. Or been the only person to be stopped when an alarm goes off in a supermarket – even though I walked out at the same time as at least six other people. 

    The worst incident occurred when a group of people tried to physically ‘apprehend’ me whilst I was out for a run – simply because a police car was also passing down the road.

    Yes, I know that we all make assumptions. 

    We all use heuristics to help us navigate the complex and complicated world that we live in. But these shortcuts become defaults. And these defaults ultimately form the basis of racism. 

    They make us biased – whether for or against certain things.

    Whether for or against certain people. 

    At their mildest, these biases result in comments like: “You don’t sound black; you’re too well spoken.” Or, at their most severe, they result in kneeling on the neck of another human being for 8mins 46secs, ignoring his pleas for life.

    All people deserve the right to situational context. To be exactly who they are in whichever way they determine is appropriate to the moment. 

    All people deserve to start with a blank sheet of paper, free from harmful assumptions and biases. 

    Black people are no different.



    Louise Maynard-Atem

    LouiseLouise is an Innovation Lead in the Global Data Exchange team at Experian, working to build new data driven products for both consumers and businesses globally. She has previously worked in highly analytical roles across both public and private sector. Louise is also currently the research lead for, and executive committee of the non-profit organisation, Women in Identity.

    She co-founded the Corporate Innovation Forum in 2017, and is passionate about utilising data and technology to drive fairer outcomes for consumers, as well as helping businesses make better and more informed decisions.

    Louise is also an advocate for the promotion of STEM education and careers to young people, and volunteers with a number of charities focused on increasing participation of under-represented groups in STEM subjects and professions. Her background is in chemistry, and she completed her PhD in materials science at the University of Manchester in 2013.

  • Lilian Tseggai posted an article

    Findings from User and Expert Interviews on the Human Impact of Identity Exclusion

    Even after obtaining identification, Fuchsia faced challenges using her IDs for financial inclusion see more

    “It's incredibly important to have agency over your own life … without an ID you lose the person who you are. In finance, you lose the ability to make choices, sign forms, earn money, open bank accounts, rent or buy a house. The impact of not being able to do all this is huge.” Fuchsia, Candidate Care, AMS


    We commissioned Caribou Digital to research the Human Impact of Identity Exclusion. As part of that work we spoke to Fuchsia (project launch shared here). Our research involved speaking to users and experts in the identity space. Fuchsia, who works in candidate care for a major retail bank, was both a user and an expert . Physically disabled, she also lives with neurodivergence, autism, and dyslexia, all of which affect her interactions with institutions. At various times, this has impacted her ability to obtain an ID (including a driving licence and a passport). Even after she obtained identification, Fuchsia faced challenges using her IDs for financial inclusion:

    “I felt exclusion very viscerally … just to give you an example ... there was a bank [near where I live] that I couldn't get into because it was up three stairs and there was just a little bell to push. The banking clerk would have to come out, take all my identification, take my bank cards, take my money, go back and do my banking for me and leave me there with all my belongings gone. And I found that so uncomfortable to the extent that I would actually drive to another town to go and do my banking, because I did not want those things leaving my sight.”

    Fuchsia’s experiences illustrate the strong relationship between ID and identity—IDs define us, but they are also a pathway to having “agency over your own life,” as Fuchsia says. On top of that, Fuchsia’s interview shows that IDs are also very much physical, despite current debates on digital identity;— as Fuchsia said, “I did not want those things leaving my sight”

    Fuchsia: Photo Credit Habitus Insight


    From our interviews with ten identity experts and twenty users in the UK and Ghana (five experts and ten users in each country), we conclude the following:

    • There is a strong need for a global Identity Code of Conduct to address the human impact of identity exclusion, particularly in accessing financial services.

    • Identity exclusion is experienced by certain demographics: those who are older, or youth, those living with physical disabilities or mental health challenges, those who are unhoused or are on the move, refugees or newly arrived migrants, those who are transgender or enacting name changes, and ethnic minorities. Women also experience exclusion disproportionately compared to men.

    • Factors that constrain a user’s ability to obtain ID include: a lack of finances, lack of breeder ID (e.g., birth certificate), poor knowledge, difficulties in circumstances impacting the ability to pursue an ID (e.g., disability), and changes in legislation. In Ghana, for example, the mandatory requirement of a biometric ID to register a mobile phone SIM card is proving problematic for many users who cannot access the ID registration service (e.g., because they live too far from an urban centre).

    We are calling for an Identity Code of Conduct based on some fundamental principles arising from this research. These lie in acknowledging that:

    1. The user is at the centre of an ID ecosystem. There is not just one, but many, interrelating ID systems. As one expert in Ghana put it: “I think every new government tries to solve the identity problem, but the problem just becomes more complicated. They create new ones and the old ones don't work well with them.” We need to acknowledge that identity systems are not built in a vacuum or on a blank slate.

    2. Social norms are changing and we need to acknowledge these. For example, not everyone will have a passport or driving licence, credentials that are often considered key IDs for financial inclusion.

    3. We need to move towards proportionality (only needing to show the minimum ID required), tiered Know-Your-Customer, and e-Know-Your-Customer in financial inclusion (drawing from other government data) to reduce the burden of identity on the user,

    4. Identification may be individual, but we live in networks of people that already know us—we need to better account for delegated authorities and intermediaries.

    5. It is essential to build diversity in ID or ID-based design and development teams in order to understand the breadth of experiences users have and build empathy for users. 


    This research was fundamental in understanding the landscape and human impact of identity exclusion. As Research Director Louise Maynard-Atem puts it, “The lack of diversity and inclusion in identity systems and how they affect access to even basic financial services is a widely discussed problem. But the actual human impact is often far less well-understood. This work highlights the stories and struggles of those who have faced exclusion firsthand.”

    Building on this research, we are planning the following workstreams to expand our work on the Identity Code of Conduct:

    1. Report on Economic Impact of ID Exclusion that frames the foundational econometric model to measure the cost of exclusion and the datasets required to build a benchmarking tool.

    2. Develop an Identity Code of Conduct by consulting with solution providers and users on what guidance they need to support them and how this could be best implemented. 

    3. Develop an Implementation Framework to illustrate the Identity Code of Conduct in practice, which shows the design of a new (fictional) ID system with critical decision points and key questions (as defined in the Code of Conduct) that need to be considered at every stage of ID product development.


    Read more about this project at ID Code of Conduct and follow us at @womeninID @WomenInIdentity @CaribouDigital #DiversityByDesign #ForAllByAll #IDCodeofConduct #IdentityExclusion

    Download the Human Impact of Identity Exclusion' report here.

    Sponsor the ID Code of Conduct and help shape its development.

  • Lilian Tseggai posted an article

    Talking legal identity, race and belonging with Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf

    Women in Identity interview with Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf about legal identity in DR. see more

    Women in Identity interview with Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at London University’s Institute of Modern Languages Research.


    Eve recounts how the case of Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic is a cautionary tale for all those working to achieve the UN’s goal of legal identity for all by 2030. And we talk of the huge human impact of technological advances in identity – and the often unintended consequences that can result.



    Buy Dr. Eve's new book  here!

  • Article

    Remote work – taking a further step towards diversity and inclusion

    Women in Identity member and Technology Strategist, Anna Sarnek, shares her thoughts on working in t see more

    Women in Identity member and Technology Strategist, Anna Sarnek, shares her thoughts on working in the “new normal”.

    Remote and flexible work environments had become a point of interest and the new buzzword before the forced shift during the COVID pandemic. Flexibility gradually gained traction among the tech sector, particularly in the startup culture that started associating flexibility with work-life balance, accrediting it as fundamental to innovation, happier employees and better work culture. While there are companies like Auth0, Bug Crowd and GitHub (now part of Microsoft) that have been fully remote from their founding, perhaps the most notable pre-COVID flexibility came from Microsoft’s announcement of a 4-day work week and the productivity increase that the company noted.

    For those of us who were office bees, the shift to a fully remote work environment gradually repositioned remote working as the “new normal”. This was further amplified by companies like Microsoft and Facebook as they announced their intent to allow employees to remain fully remote. Yet I’ve had several conversations with team leaders at a number of these companies over the last 16 months which highlighted that they fully expect their teams to be both home- and office-located. I started scratching my head at this mixed messaging. It seemed misaligned with the corporate message. I realized that corporate intent does not always translate down to a specific team leader’s intent. This, in turn, led me to ask: “Are you actually ready to be remote?”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are specific job functions that flourish from an in-person working environment, particularly in product development where innovation often spins out of coffee chats. I’m also not about to minimize the significance that the office environment brings to company culture – my teams and colleagues were part of what made my own career so enjoyable. I also recognize that my newest friends in the industry are those who I’ve met once in person and who reside in South Africa, California, Texas, and Washington State. What I question is whether organisations may have untapped pools of talent that they are missing by not exploring these remote options. And is there and another layer to diversity and inclusion that we’re not addressing by dismissing the benefit of remote work.

    It is no secret that we’ve made strides in closing the gender gap in employment as women in America have become the breadwinners of the family. It is easy to measure diversity and inclusion through data like headcount, demographic data and income statistics. (Although, I would point out that while US companies gather disability data, disability seems to be an often forgotten criterion in diversity and inclusion.) I wonder whether the next transformative step towards increased diversity and inclusion resides in cementing a work environment where location and commute are no longer a factor. At the end of the day, what makes us unique doesn’t just stop at human characteristics. It extends to our day-to-day environments – often the ones where we can best foster unique ideas and diverse perspectives. It is easy to claim successes in diversity by normalizing the entire employee base, stripping away the fact that environment is a substantial factor. There are unique characteristics as to how each family unit will operate, or how each individual will fit into society. These should be an important consideration when redesigning the “new normal” of workplace management.

    At a personal level, I’m not currently constrained by a need to put my family first. Nor do I have a physical or hidden disability that affects my ability to work from an office. But as a partner of someone in the US military, I am all too aware of the tension that exists between juggling career and family life. So I ask you to think, is your team really ready to be remote?

    Why not join the Women in Identity team to develop this theme at our interactive discussion on “Recruiting for Diversity”?

    Tuesday 29th June at 16:30 BST - Recruiting for Diversity – an interactive workshop


  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Dear Leaders in Identity…

    We set up Women in Identity just over a year ago with a mission ‘to inspire, elevate and support a m see more

    We set up Women in Identity just over a year ago with a mission ‘to inspire, elevate and support a more diverse workforce in the digital identity industry’. We understand the vital importance of representation within our sector. And we are committed to ensuring that the voices of all  under-represented groups – whether through their gender, race, age, sexual-orientation, socio-economic status – can be heard.

    We’ve made progress. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far. But, it isn’t enough.

    We don’t pretend to have all the answers; but we do understand the problems.  And we want to work together with our industry to find the answers. It’s not about diversity as a general issue. It is about identifying and addressing solutions that fundamentally don’t work for large elements of our planet’s population. When we get it wrong, we deny people access to services that – in some cases – are enshrined in Human Rights and Equality laws.


    To tackle this we need your help.

    You will no doubt have issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. You will also, most likely, have celebrated PRIDE month in your organisation. But what comes next? Words are not enough.

    • We need allies.
    • Allies who have powerful connections and networks that can help us achieve change.
    • Allies who will walk the walk with us ….

    Systemic inequality is deeply ingrained throughout our society and our sector is not immune. More than other areas of technology, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that identity systems intended FOR all are built BY all.

    That’s why we have decided to create a D&I Code of Conduct & Implementation Framework specifically for the identity industry. This will offer organisations a toolkit to adopt a more diverse and inclusive approach, particularly in the development of identity products.


    Will you work with us? We need your allyship:

    Banner - Our teams should be as diverse as the problems they're trying to solve


    Let’s use this moment in time to transform our industry into something that is fair, just, and representative of ALL the people that will ultimately have to use our products.

    We thank you for your support,

    The Women in Identity Executive

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Why, yes! I AM in the right bathroom

    Reflections from an androgynous, ‘out’ gay woman in the world of technology see more

    Reflections from an androgynous, ‘out’ gay woman in the world of technology

    Pride month often makes me reflect on how far the LGBTQ+ community has come, but also on how far we still have to go. I have read so many moving often heartbreaking “coming out” stories and have often wondered if I should write my own. Then it occurred to me that I have never read anything about what it is like to be an ‘out’ lesbian in the corporate landscape. In fact, it is only recently that I have met and connected with other gay, bisexual and transgendered women in technology – one of the many benefits of being a part of Women in Identity, I guess!!

    Let me start by saying I refer to myself as a “gay woman”. For some reason, the term “Lesbian” just sounds too clinical to me – like a condition for which one may possibly need shots :). The term “gay” somehow sounds far more fun and life affirming. Really though, it is a personal thing – all about which one fits with your heart and your head. It’s a core part of one’s own identity. For me, gay fits.

    I officially came out at the age of 29, a few years after the birth of my son. Although I always knew I was “different”, no one could ever accuse me of not giving heterosexuality a good ole’ college try! Therefore, it was vital to me to spend the rest of my life “being me” without apology – and that has meant professionally as well as personally.

    My formal training was in Fine Art, but my meandering career path eventually led me to technology. For more than 25 years I’ve had various roles from Strategic Alliances and Product Management, to Research and Strategic Marketing. Today, my focus is on Remote Identity, Document Verification and Digital Identity.


    It’s not just who you are – it’s where you are

      countries where sexual orientation discrimination in employment is illegal


    I am very thankful to be a Canadian, always have been. Canada has been one of the leaders in human rights and citizen protections through concrete legislation. It is certainly worth celebrating that employment laws and societal acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights have shifted dramatically in last quarter of a century. Even the US Supreme Court just made a landmark ruling forbidding workplace discrimination, protecting gay and transgender employees.

    Still, even where there are laws providing protections and legal recourse, there is still a challenge in changing ingrained perceptions, stereotyping and commonplace discriminatory behaviours.


    Starting a new position in a male dominated industry

    Everyone has experienced the nervousness and excitement of joining a new company. Being a woman in an industry that is male dominated is one factor that causes anxiety enough! (In 2018, only 20% of all jobs in technology were held by women.) Now add in being androgynous and gay. It may be intersectionality at its best, but It brings with it nagging questions like:

    1. How do I collectively “come out” in a clear but informal way? Heterosexuals never have to announce their sexuality to their new colleagues. Imagine discussing this casually with your team, your boss, your department, your whole company. You have to either intentionally choose to:
      • Be vague – changing pronouns, being disingenuous, and not connecting on the same level with your coworkers around the “water cooler” – for your entire career
      • Be true to yourself but understand it may have negative implications
    2. Will my identity affect:
      • My work environment?
      • My access to visible projects?
      • My road to promotion?
    3. How will my male colleagues treat me?
      • Like “one of the boys”? This has pluses and minuses.
        Plus: You are a “quirky” equal. Which is rare for many women.
        Minus: They may make assumptions that you feel exactly the same way as they do – including about women. Not easy when conversations become disrespectful or shift towards sexual harassment.
      • Like a threat or competitor?
    4. How will my female colleagues treat me?
      • Candidly, I do not fit in well with the ultra view of a powerful businesswoman. I often feel like a different species.
      • What will happen if I have to share accommodation with other female colleagues? Will my status as a gay woman make the situation uncomfortable for everyone?
    5. What happens if I have a problem with a co-worker, a supervisor, a client?
      • Are there policies specific to LGBTQ+ concerns and redress?


    A History of Workplace Challenges

    In the late ‘90s, I chose to leave a job as the result of homophobic remarks specifically about me. I demanded an apology from the CEO and threatened legal action but, ultimately, I decided I needed to be in a more inclusive business culture if I were to thrive.

    71% of women have worked in a tech company with a strong “bro culture.” The majority that have worked in male-dominated environments have felt excluded, unsafe, and uncomfortable.

    At another company, my personal property was destroyed and my workspace violated when a nameless person vandalized my office. The catalyst for this action was not difficult to determine:

    • An LGBTQ+ Film Festival poster was removed and some kind of liquid poured over it;
    • A calendar with daily LGBTQ+ historical facts had been shredded and thrown in the garbage and;
    • A calendar of Michelangelo art was on the wall, depicting “The Creation of Adam”.

    I did what you are supposed to do: I filed a complaint with HR. (The company was suitably shocked and supportive.) But the incident was never resolved nor spoken of again.

    No policies were ever changed.


    Lots of room for optimism

    Shelley at an event

    Despite these instances of workplace homophobia, in general, my career through technology has been a successful  – and a happy – one. I continue to make important connections and contributions. I feel I have been able to climb the corporate ladder unhindered, especially in this last decade.

    Today, I am the Director of Marketing at WorldReach Software, a Canadian company and leaders in remote identity and document verification. WorldReach not only has truly diversity-driven and inclusive policies, their company statistics prove it:

    • A woman founder
    • 50% of Senior Management are female and have been with the company for more than 20 years
    • 40% of all staff are women, including 67% of Technical Team Leads and
    • 19 different Languages are spoken by employees

    Now I can just be me  – at home and at work. It is a blessing. Every now and again, I get called “Sir” or am asked to leave a women’s bathroom when I’m travelling. Given how far LGBTQ+ rights have come, I can live with that.

    I am exceedingly grateful for the scores of gay, bisexual and transgendered women who suffered greatly and fought hard for the rights I enjoy today. They have paved the way for the promise of equality for all. I commit to doing everything I can to make it easier for the next generation of LGBTQ+ people to thrive. It is the very least I can do.



    ShelleyShelley Bryen

    Shelley Bryen has been the Marketing Director at WorldReach Software since 2009. Having worked in the technology industry for more than 25 years, Ms. Bryen has broad experience in digital content management, marketing communications, social media, strategic alliances, product management, event management, marketing research and strategic marketing. Her industry knowledge includes embedded technology, public safety, consular, border management, immigration and digital identity verification. Her professional activities include: the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada’s (DIACC) Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF) Expert Committee (TFEC), the International Border Management and Technologies Association (IBMATA), and the Biometrics Institute.

  • Article

    Why PRIDE matters to me

    I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, raised a Catholic by Mum and Dad and attended chur see more

    I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, raised a Catholic by Mum and Dad and attended church until I left secondary school at age 17. Looking back on it now, it was obvious from a young age that I wasn’t ‘straight’. You know the type… a tomboy; never liked dolls; played lots of sport; was the first girl ever to make the cricket team in primary school. Despite all the obvious ‘signs’, I didn’t realise my sexuality until I was in my early 20’s and, even then, it took a few years for me to pluck up the courage to do anything about it. 

    I recall my prevailing emotion was shame. I was scared of being rejected by my family. 

    Sometimes in life you need a little help and mine came in the form of (my now best friend) Jon. I met him through my first proper job working at BP. He was out and he was confident and he helped me to take those first furtive steps out of the closet.

    Together with Jon, we managed to find our tribe, a group of misfits if ever you saw them. We loved to dance and would hop from gay bar to gay club every weekend. I felt safe, but in truth I still wasn’t out – neither at home nor at work.


    Celebrating at Mardi Gras

    Around that time, I went to my first Mardi Gras – a huge LGBT event in Sydney. It’s hard to explain the excitement of it all: planning different outfits to wear to the parade, the party and all the various other social gatherings I rocked up to. At that time the gay centre of Sydney was Oxford Street, Paddington, and it was extraordinary to see every kind of queer person walking down it. 

    It was the first time in my whole life that I truly felt like I fitted in. The parade was like nothing I’d ever seen with hundreds of thousands of spectators all celebrating together. A hugely life-affirming weekend. 

    And yet, as I recall,  I told neither my work colleagues nor any of my family where I had been nor how amazing it had made me feel.

    Fast forward one year and another Mardi Gras under my belt. I was ‘out’ to my siblings but not to my parents, though I suspect they knew. I guess it was a bit of a “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” policy. 


    Then life threw us a curve ball. 

    My Mum got cancer. It started in the lungs but spread everywhere. 

    In her last days I told her who I was. It was hard, but I am glad I did it. But it was only at her funeral that I learned from one of her good friends that Mum had always known – but wanted to wait for me to tell her myself. 

    I was just 23.


    A sense of belonging

    pride flagsI know lots of kids choose not to share things with the parents – it’s almost ‘de rigeur’ for teenagers.  But I do regret that I was too scared to share this fundamental part of my identity. Today when I see young, queer, adults brimming full of self-confidence, I know it is in some way because of all those who trod that path before and made the decision not to hide. 

    But I also know there are some kids whose families – for whatever reason – still struggle to accept who they are. For them, seeing people from all walks of life celebrating life at Pride is a huge boost to realising they are not alone.

    It certainly helped me. 

    By most measures, I have had a successful career. Maybe not linear but I have worked for great companies in Melbourne and in London, the city I now call home. Today, I do my best to bring my authentic self to work. 

    In short: I am upfront that I am married … to my amazing wife, Jo, and I choose never to work for an organisation that doesn’t accept me for who I am. But things were not always like that for me and we all know that homophobic and transphobic discrimination still takes place across the world.

    In the US

    • 20% of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs. 
    • 32% of LGBTQ people of colour are more likely to experience sexual discrimination than white LGBTQ people (13%).
    • 22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers

    The statistics in the UK tell a similar story: 

    More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.

    • One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (10%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year.

    When I started working for Barclays just 6 years ago, it was the first time I had ever worked for an organisation with an LGBT employee resource group. I got involved, amazed to know that the business wanted people to be truly open about who they were. For a few years I helped coordinate our involvement in London Pride. It was fun; it was exhausting but walking down Oxford Street with 200 of your colleagues and thousands of people cheering you on is an exhilarating experience. After one particular march a friend told me that, as a result of seeing the Barclays march, a friend of a particular colleague had finally found the courage to come out to his family

    For a young guy or girl, seeing organisations of all shapes and sizes from large corporates like Barclays and the London Metropolitan Police to the Gay Man’s Choir, tells them that, whoever they are, they deserve their place in the world. By hosting and celebrating Pride, we also send a message to the world that we are open, diverse and accepting of all. 

    But the sad facts remain that

    • 68 countries in the world ban sex between same-sex, consenting adults
    • 12 of these countries impose the Death Penalty as potential punishment.
    • Earlier this year the High Court in Singapore dismissed a bid to overturn a law that prohibits gay sex.
    • And, even when it is not illegal, State-sanctioned homophobic activity is on the rise in many countries – including Poland where ⅓ of towns and cities are self-declared LGBT-free zones


    Our work is not done!

    I describe Pride to my sister as a “Gay Christmas”. It is a time of year when we outwardly and openly celebrate who we are. AND it is a time of protest. It reminds us not only of how far we have come but also how far we still have to go. 

    When I think back to that 20 year-old me, I know that, without Pride and the Mardi Gras, I would have struggled to find those people who looked – and felt – just like me. The people who helped me realise I have an absolute right to be here. 

    If only my Mum could see me now!

    Happy Pride Everyone!



    sarahSarah Munro

    Sarah Munro is a Product Development Leader, but like many came to Digital Identity through happenstance (a redundancy led to a new role / opportunity), but has spent the last 6 years developing Identity solutions in the UK. Sarah is considered subject matter expert on the subject, speaking at various events and has provided contributions to papers, including for the Open Identity Exchange and the World Economic Forum. Additionally, Sarah is a proud member of the LGBT community, having been part of employee resource groups and currently sits on the board of an LGBT charity, as such is very much interested in the intersectionality between women and LGBT communities. Sarah is married to Jo and has made London her home, though still prefers vegemite on her toast and was drinking flat whites a long time before they were introduced in the UK by her fellow antipodean compatriots.

  • Article

    Why we need to talk about racism

    Racism exists. It’s a fact. It impacts every part of the lives of people affected by it. see more

    Racism exists. It’s a fact. It impacts every part of the lives of people affected by it.

    As an organisation of influence within our sector, it is our responsibility – and our moral duty – to use our position to campaign for change wherever it is needed.

    Fact The average white worker in the US makes 28% more than the average black worker.

    Fact While the U.S. poverty rate for white men is 7%, it is 20% for black women.

    Fact In the UK,  homeownership among black families is 24% – less than half the UK average (53%) and even worse when measured against their white counterparts (56%).

    In 2014, the major tech players (inc. Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft) started publishing diversity reports.

    The highest level of representation of black employees was 6% (Apple).

    Fast forward to 2018 and there was little sign of real progress.  6% was still the highest level of representation, again at Apple. Facebook and Google saw increases from 1% to 2%, and Microsoft reported an increase in representation of black employees from 2% to 3%.

    We see similar trends in the UK.

    The British Computer Society estimates that only 1-2% of tech employees are from a BAME background. And only 4 out of 152 board members at 16 of the UK’s top tech companies are filled by individuals from a BAME background.


    Racism,  whether structural, institutional or at an individual level, is a problem in our sector. And it is why there are so few black people in our teams.

    This is the uncomfortable truth.

    Women in Identity is not just about bringing women together. It is about building a community that can join forces and stand up for the rights of everyone to play an active and valued role in our industry, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social status, disability or age.

    Because diversity ultimately makes us, our products, our industry and our impact… better.


    What can we do?

    Stand up, be an ally.

    It’s not good enough to be silently non-racist.

    Now is the time to be actively and vocally anti-racist.

    We need to push back against all acts of racism and actively support our black colleagues.

    1. Educate yourself. There are plenty of great online resources and literature including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
    2. Check in on your black colleagues, suppliers, friends and family – don’t assume they are ‘OK’.
    3. Ask what they need. This isn’t about you and what you can do so be prepared to listen and act only when asked to.
    4. Challenge those organisations that you follow to speak up about black issues. It isn’t enough to be a silent supporter.
    5. If you can (and haven’t already) donate to funds supporting those protesting peacefully across the US.



    About Karyn Bright

    KarynI’ve been working in Tech Marketing & Communications since the 1990s and I absolutely love the way data allows us to tell stories abut the world we live in.
    I’m an instinctive collaborator and I love bringing ideas to life through the natural creativity, individual strengths and vision of teams across our sector. Whether it’s a communications campaign to change perception or a product launch to drive revenue, I tend to look at how real people - in all their diverse individuality – will be affected. It’s why I love Women in Identity and its campaign for maximum inclusion. No matter how technologically advanced or sophisticated the solution, at the end of the day there is always a unique human at its heart.


  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Colette D’Alessandro: Selling software and starting Women in Identity

    What do you do in the industry? I’m in sales at a software company called Ping Identity. I’v see more

    What do you do in the industry?

    I’m in sales at a software company called Ping Identity. I’ve always liked technology and have always been competent at figuring it out, but I never thought I would be a developer or anything like that, so sales at a software company suits me.  Ping is my first identity security company but I’ve been here for a few years now, originally in Denver (my home town) and now in London. As an Account Executive I speak to people about the business challenges they’re facing and help them figure out a way in which our solution can help them. I enjoy helping all different types of organisations solve their identity challenges. Whether it’s a transportation company or a financial services organisation, their problems and how you solve them vary and it keeps everything quite interesting!


    How did you end up in the world of identity?

    I started out Rally Software, an Agile project management software company. It was a tool that enabled developers to do things like track their sprint progress, with an overall project view to allow them to organise their teams most effectively across global organisations. It was a great company to start out in as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after college. I went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Boulder is a big tech start up hub. Also, my dad works in software so I hadn’t really considered working for a company that did anything else- to be honest it didn’t occur to me that there are other types of organisations out there!

    At the time I felt like either sales or marketing seemed like a good fit, but thankfully I got a sales job because it’s perfect for me – very high stress and effectively relationship and crisis management, which is where I tend to thrive. My time at Rally meant I understood how software development worked (to an extent!), which has actually helped me quite a bit as I’ve stepped through my career.

    During my time at Rally I was also getting my Master’s degree at night in Denver, which is about a 45 minute drive from Boulder. I was doing crazy hours to split working and studying because I’d hedged my bets leaving school and applied for both jobs and a masters program (not really confident I would get either), but ended up getting both and thought that the stars very rarely align twice.

    Four and a half years ago I started at Ping Identity after about nine months of chatting with the recruiter there. One of the things that I loved about Ping is that it is a global organisation with offices pretty much everywhere in the world.  I was super keen to come and work in the London office,  so when my current boss came to Denver in one of his first weeks at the company,  I asked him for a super early coffee as I knew he would be jetlagged and likely up anyways and I’m a super morning person.

    Hilariously and not surprisingly he had no idea who this girl asking him for a 7AM coffee was and thought I must have been very important. Instead he had an entry-level Territory Development Representative   telling him she wanted to work for him, that she had an Irish passport and a Masters in International Business and oh when could she start. Ha!

    He was still growing his team but for the next year every month or so I continued to make my case to him; I would email and call him, meet him for coffee every time he was over. It was seeming like a long shot that it was going to happen, so I bought a place in Denver. Then 1 month after I moved in he asked if I would be interested in coming across the pond to join his team in the in the UK. I didn’t tell anyone so as not to jinx it but when I told just my parents they were like  “We’ve just spent all summer painting your apartment!”. Jokes aside, my parents were very supportive and there is no way I could have made the move in less than two months without their help.

    Now that I’ve been here three years, that same boss has become a wonderful mentor to me and I’ve moved up two roles since being here and definitely have become more confident in what I’m doing. He challenges me to own my own ‘business’ while supporting me and having my back whenever I ask or need and for that I am very thankful.


    What does a normal week look like?

    A normal week looks like meeting with and talking to current and prospective clients about how we can solve their identity problems using Ping’s solution. I like to meet in-person so I travel around quite a bit to Ireland or other places in the UK.  It can all get to be quite technical, but the key is humanising it for people. We don’t want a solution to be so techy that it doesn’t solve the problem at hand in a way that makes people’s lives easier. We forget on the other side of technology are humans interacting with it.  The reality is, I don’t have to be that technical for this job. I get to facilitate relationships and find the right resources that the customers need to solve their challenges.

    Identity software is one of the hardest things to sell because it’s often a bespoke solution and it all happens in the backend, so you can’t really demo anything. The Agile project management company was a tool that you could demo to sell, which makes it so much easier for people to understand how it would work. The only identity thing you can demo is Multi Factor Authentication (MFA), as everything else goes on in the background. It’s is a really broad topic so you have to able to pivot in your thinking. You see some parallels across industries, like companies that have similar challenges or regulations to meet and as we have digital transformation we see those problems all overlap. But then you get vastly different use cases that can be solved in many different ways, like in healthcare you need to enable a doctor to access patient records on an iPad and then use a machine in a totally different part of the hospital. In finance what do you do with someone who’s a business banker, a personal banker and also an employee of the bank? How do you make sure that’s all streamlined? Financial services are particularly tricky as it’s so highly regulated and as soon as you’ve got a solution the regulations change. You see comparable issues, but each company is unique which is interesting.


    How did you set up Women in Identity?

    It was a bit by accident to be honest. Ping hosts an annual conference, now called Identiverse. That year the conference was in New Orleans and Pam Dingle put on a breakfast for women working in identity. It was a last minute meet up and overall it was great, but there were 2 things that I didn’t like about it. Firstly it was shocking that only slot available to women was 7am, after everyone was out super late the night before. Granted, lots of women showed up but there weren’t as many as there would have been and there were no men there. Secondly, these spaces are very important but it wasn’t as constructive of a conversation as it could have been in a lot of ways.  I have, as I’m sure every woman has, been treated poorly because of my gender, but I work with so many amazing men that I’m very lucky to have as mentors and colleagues. The last thing I want to do is alienate them and make them feel unwelcome at a meet-up.

    After the event I spoke to Pam and said I wanted to help in any way I could and we organised a couple more meet ups with a different format. It was all working nicely and casually and then I moved to London. This was a huge opportunity to get more European meet ups going so Pam introduced me to Emma Lindley, who’s become one of my closest friends and allies. I was ready to do whatever was required for Women in Identity and with Emma, Pam and I working together on it globally it’s totally evolved from quite casual meet up groups to be a complete not for profit organisation.

    I wonder if all businesses that start from scratch have a moment of retrospection, realizing that it’s become something far bigger than you realized it could.

    Anyways, we had a number of women volunteering and felt we’d better put some guidelines in to make sure we’re doing what people in the industry were looking for in a group like this, because this isn’t for me, Emma and Pam, this really wonderful organisation, it’s for everyone else. Its purpose has grown far beyond women working in identity. It’s for diversity and inclusivity in identity and technology. Politically it feels like an opportune time, as we now have the tools and the global recognition that there’s something broken with the system. People want to fix it, so change is happening which in turn gives a greater voice to all supporters of the movement, of all genders. It allows everyone to have a voice not matter their gender or background.


    Why is Women in Identity important?

    For me the coolest thing about Women in Identity is the potential impact we can make – more diversity means we develop new technology, which results in better businesses, returns more profit and grows the economy while also ensuring that groups of people aren’t left behind in the digital era. Previously people have forgotten as we go through digital transformations, there’s whole group of people who don’t have access, or maybe do have access but the technology wasn’t built for them because they don’t have a voice, but this is changing. People are working on making sure there’s space for everyone at the table now. We’re all guilty of forgetting what’s outside of your own bubble-myself included. It’s important to check yourself every now and then, which I feel Women in Identity can help do for everyone not only because of our mission, but because of the diversity of our leadership and advisory teams supporting us.

    Personally Women in Identity gives me an opportunity to give back, as it’s much bigger than what I’m doing on a day to day basis. We need someone to stoke the fire. In the past identity was just a technology function, it served a purpose, but now everyone has a digital identity and a footprint, so how do enable them to manage that? People generally aren’t interested in these things until there’s problem. Now there’s been a shift in the way people consider their data and how it’s being used and the risk of a potential breach in one of the organisations that holds their personal information. No one thought twice about getting a government issued ID and what that meant. Realistically you’d go to a hole-in-the-wall office and a copy of your driving license would be tucked away in a filing cabinet for years. Unless you’d committed a horrible crime, it would never have any ramifications. But now that it’s all online, what happens if someone takes your digital ID and creates a fake one with your information on it? People are starting to feel that their data is their possession and they need to control it.


    What book/film/piece of art would you most recommend?

    book cover A Place For UsI love reading and find I go through phases in genres. Right now I’m super busy all the time so I read fiction to unwind.  Not as educational as non-fiction but better than constant Netflix. I just read A Place for Us by Fatinma Farheen Mirza about a Muslim family in the us pre and post 9/11 and their story. I could not recommend it more. Another is Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is loosely based on Fleetwood Mac, following a band in the 1970s telling the story from each perspective in interview style. I also rated The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s just a great outlet because at 7pm, when I’ve had a really long day and read through our whitepapers and many annual reports, I just can’t take another article about identity!


    If you were CEO of a company, what one thing would you make compulsory and what would you ban?

    I would want to ensure that every person, no matter their level in the organisation has a voice. No idea, no matter who you are in the organisation, shouldn’t be heard. I’m lucky to be outgoing, be able to talk to anyone and have made connections that helped me get into the industry and grow in my career. What about the people who are introverted and find it hard for them to involve themselves? It’s difficult to manage but having a very flat structure helps I think, which is why I quite like the startup vibe rather than extra large organisations.

    Another thing, someone asked me the other day how they could hire a more diverse group for their team, which was quite refreshing because it’s so easy for people to hire the person you relate the most to. You need to look outside of that to challenge yourself as a manager and what you’re doing as a company. You need to think about anyone different from you. Give them a shot, go take the risk on that CV that just looks a little bit different.

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    The Year We Had to Rethink How Conferences Worked

    The last couple of weeks, I have watched as Covid-19, aka the Corona Virus, has wreaked havoc on the see more

    The last couple of weeks, I have watched as Covid-19, aka the Corona Virus, has wreaked havoc on the conference circuit. Already this year, major conferences have been cancelled or postponed. To avoid communicating the infection, shows including the Adobe Summit, Mobile World Congress, and the Gartner CIO Symposium have fallen by the virus’s sword (or protein shell). The list is long, and no doubt impactful on the shows’ organisers and the people who were looking forward to talking and mingling and generally being educated on their subject matter.

    Covid-19, may be a conference party pooper, but I for one am glad that the virus has stopped us in our conference tracks.

    As a person with a chronic health condition that sometimes makes travelling difficult, the situation with Covid-19 only reminds me of how the conference circuit is often out of reach for certain sectors of society. So, I am taking this opportunity to explain why conferences can be elitist and how we can make them more inclusive for all.


    The Chronically Ill and Conferences

    In the 6 months up to March 2012, I flew to Australia, the USA, and a number of European countries to attend or talk at conferences. I felt like I lived on a plane. I liked it too. I got to meet industry colleagues, hear amazing people talk, and was able to build my domain expertise through shared knowledge. I had it all. The conference circuit was enlightening and fun and it was MINE!

    Around the same time as this intense period of conference going, I became seriously ill. When I think back to what initiated the disease that was to change my life, it seems to fit with a bug I got at a conference in Dallas. I can’t be sure; but certainly, that moment was a defining point in my life.

    Between 2012 and 2019 I was simply unable to go to any more conferences. Last year, I attended a single conference – as a panellist at Think Digital Partners in London.

    Then, in January this year, I was due to present at Data Sharing Days organised by WiD member, Mariane ter Veen. But, in the run up to the event, I started to have health issues. My disease has progressed over the years from acute to chronic and now I have an on/off struggle with mobility. I was placed under physio and upped my meds to get on top of the problem. As the conference neared, I realised I would not be able to travel. So, I contacted Mariane.

    Instead of dropping me from the agenda, she coordinated a remote session to allow me to speak.

    She gave me my voice back.

    On the day of the show, instead of standing up and talking directly to the audience in The Hague, I gave my presentation to the packed room – from the comfort of my own laptop.


    Tech Conferences for All

    Being disabled or suffering from a chronic illness; being financially inhibited or with family responsibilities should not actively bar women – and men – from playing an active part in industry events. In her tweet, writer Karrie Higgins makes a telling comparison with the current state of play regards Covid-19, conferences and being disabled.


    Conferences in the tech industry have up until now been run primarily for those who can afford them, have the ability to travel to them, or the lifestyle to include them. Unwittingly they have been exclusive, focussed on those privileged enough to be able to attend. But this leads to agendas that end up the ‘same’ with little innovative or representation of different perspectives. In the identity industry, we have a special responsibility to include those who are more representative of the ultimate users of our digital identity solutions. That means looking for speakers who can present different ways of thinking about the problems we are solving.

    I know that there will be many reading this who live with disability and chronic illness and yet travel the world for work. I know this because I did it. But it pushes us to the limits of our endurance – and our health. But there are different ways to bring people together – already in use in other sectors of the economy.

    Neuroscientists last year hosted a global ‘Twitter’ symposia and academics in environmental science are experimenting with the “Nearly Carbon Neutral Conference Model (NCN)”. Surely we can take the best of their learnings and apply the same to our technology events, creating agendas and speaker programmes that are truly inclusive of all?


    “NCN conference was arguably much simpler (and certainly less expensive) than a traditional, fly-in event, especially as there is no need to coordinate air and ground transportation, hotel accommodations, catering, venue and audio-visual setup, conference dinners, and so forth. It does, however, require a modicum of digital expertise.”


    A ‘modicum of digital expertise?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but as a veteran of the tech industry, I am sure we do have some of that ol’ ‘digital expertise’!!




    susanSusan Morrow

    Having worked in cybersecurity, identity, and data privacy for around 35 years, Susan has seen technology come and go; but one thing is constant – human behaviour. She works to bring technology and humans together. 

    Find her @avocoidentity

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Why Women in Identity?

    We often get the comment “identity isn’t just about women, so why are you called Women In Identity?” see more

    We often get the comment “identity isn’t just about women, so why are you called Women In Identity?”

    And it’s true. Humanity is diverse and therefore identity – and digital identity – has to be intersectional. It has to represent humans in all of our multidimensional elements. People are rarely one thing…they can be different colours, classes, religions, genders and mix of all of these! 

    A movement can start in many ways but it needs a catalyst. For the digital identity industry, Women in Identity has been that catalyst. 

    It is our mission to ensure the debate around identity moves far beyond the levels of diversity currently represented in our industry. 

    The debate should be reflective of everyone who may use an identity system and have a view on the way the world works. Only by including a diverse range of people in the design, development and deployment of identity solutions, can we ensure that identity solutions will work for everyone. Human-centred design is critical in identity systems, we need to walk the talk. 

    Two years ago a few women in the digital identity industry decided to start a small group because:

    1. Women are an underrepresented group in the identity industry: FACT.
    2. When we attend conferences or business meetings, we often feel a surge of ‘imposter syndrome’, translated to “what am I doing here?
    3. Finding people with whom we have lots in common is hard. When the room is full of people who look entirely different to you, you instantly hear that inner voice rear up; “You don’t belong here.”

    Yes, we started Women in Identity because we wanted to create an instantly recognisable place where women could go to meet others.

    But it has quickly become so much more than that because if you look at points 1,2 and 3 above and ask the same question of race, class, ability, ethnicity and other intersections, the answer is the same. 

    All these groups are underrepresented in the digital identity industry – just go to any identity conference, you’ll see. and the limited diversity is clear to see.


    Digital identity systems intended to work for everyone should be built by everyone


    Today, with nearly 1000 members (men as well as women) worldwide with chapters in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, The Netherlands, New Zealand, UK and USA, we are championing a much more fundamental cause: that digital identity systems intended to work for everyone should be built by everyone.  And through our partnership with organisations like ID4Africa and the support of global sponsors such as Microsoft and Mastercard, our strategy for 2020 is to expand into new regions and ensure that our membership is a place to be reflective of the humans we are trying to build identity systems for, globally. 

    Anyone can join Women in Identity, irrespective of gender, age, ability, class, socioeconomic background, religion or position.  

    You just need to believe in our vision and mission and connect with our values.

    So…. in answer to “Why is it called Women in Identity?”, we simply answer: Why Not

    WiD event booth


    Emma Lindley

    emmaEmma Lindley is co-founder of Women in Identity a not for profit organisation focused on developing talent and diversity in the identity industry, and executive advisor on digital identity for Truststamp a provider of privacy protecting technology for the identity industry. 

    Over a career of 16 years in identity Emma has held various roles, most recently as Head of Identity and Risk at Visa, previous board level roles at Confyrm, Innovate Identity and The Open Identity Exchange, and was instrumental in the commercial development of GB Group’s position in the identity market back in 2003. 

    She has been recognised in the Innovate Finance Powerlist for Women 2016 and 2017, KNOW Identity Top 100 leaders in Identity in 2017, 2018 and 2019, 100 Women in Tech Awards 2019, and was voted CEO of the year at the KNOW Identity Awards. She has an MBA from Manchester Business School and completed her thesis in Competitive Strategy in the Identity Market.

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Poverty and its effect on identity

    A personal look from WiD member, Susan Morrow, at poverty as an important dimension of diversity tha see more

    A personal look from WiD member, Susan Morrow, at poverty as an important dimension of diversity that is often overlooked……

    I remember lying in bed, staring at the room, it was early morning and cold. I had a feeling of deep sadness that lay with me in that bed. It was the sadness of knowing that when I got out of bed and went downstairs on that Christmas morning, there would be no presents for me or my brother. Earlier that year, my mother said to me and my younger brother. “It’s either food or presents” “your choice.”. This wasn’t said maliciously, it was a practical offer from a mother who had run out of choices.


    Choice and poverty

    Poverty removes choices in life. This is one of its most damaging aspects of being poor. You can cope with little food or even no food for a short time; I used to cope by stealing apples from next door’s tree when there was some. Free school meals were a godsend. You can cope with no money for clothes if you can get hand-me-downs or use a charity shop or jumble sale. You can cope with having no heating by wearing your clothes to bed, so you don’t have to get up and put on freezing clothes the next morning.

    It’s the removal of choice that makes poverty hard to bear and damages opportunities.


    Poverty is relative but still a constraint

    Of course, the poverty that I experienced, growing up and during my early adulthood in the UK, is nothing compared to the levels of poverty felt by some in other countries. But poverty is relative. When I went back to school after Christmas, the other kids would talk about their new toys. I’d be asked what I got for Christmas. I’d lie; I’d say I got a recorder, a Cindy doll, a “compendium of games.” As I said those words, I felt shame. I felt that shame until very recently. The shame that follows you in life is real and it informs behavior and constrains you.

    I was taught to be embarrassed about being poor. I had to hide it in meetings, pretend I was someone else. I have been in a situation where all of the men in the room had been to ‘posh’ schools and talked about things like yachts, things I couldn’t relate to or even truly understand.

    They bonded over yachts while I looked on.

    By the same token, those men couldn’t possibly have understood what it feels like to go hungry, to not have a toothbrush, to have to use old rags as sanitary protection and wash them out at night, to use old newspaper as toilet roll. How could they? So, you don’t let on, but then your Geordie accent gives you away. You are pulled out as ‘northern’, Geordie Squaddie’ jokes are made in the room, you feel you have to laugh along.

    Poverty is relative but absolute. It constrains your choices. There needs to be structures in place to offer choices.


    Poverty, the tech industry, and safety nets

    I was lucky. Those structures I mentioned earlier gave me some choices. I won a scholarship to a private school at 11, but I couldn’t go because we couldn’t afford the ‘accouterments’ of the role; hockey sticks and all that stuff. There may have been some other factors I wasn’t aware of, like travel costs as it was two bus rides away. But I was always quite good at exams. Eventually, after some stops and starts, I went to university and the government at the time gave me a grant to do so. Without that, I would not have gone. It was a hand that held mine, a structure to drag me out of the depths of poverty.

    But being poor holds you back in other ways too. Experience of having nothing can be good in one way, you know you can survive. But it also means you do not have a safety net. When I went into business with my partner and brother, at 30, none of us had a safety net. No parents to go to if it all went wrong. No savings in the bank. Nothing except our naivety, drive, and an idea about encryption. When we started that business, we had to continue to work full-time whilst building up the business to a point where we could replace our salaries. My partner and I had only just moved out of a council flat into a terrace house. We both had young children to look after too. We could not afford to take too many chances.

    We had no choice – we had to replace our salaries otherwise we’d lose our homes.

    It took twice as long to get started, but through determination and a bit of luck, we were able to sell our encryption software to two of the world’s largest companies. If only they knew that their desktop access control and encryption package had been originally developed in the bedroom of a council flat in Newcastle. Of course, they couldn’t possibly know that, could they…

    The shame of poverty can hide amazing things. Poverty can hide talent and drive and potential.


    The potential that Poverty hides

    The word poverty is in many ways a misnomer. I have experienced poverty of material things, including food and warmth, but I have not had a poverty of experience. I know what it is like to be homeless. I know what it is like to be on government benefits in the UK. I know what it is like to be a single parent, a company director, to be a mother, a grandmother, a human being. All of this experience, when channeled into certain areas, can add weight and depth and applicability to technology. After all, technology is about giving human beings tools to do things. By preventing people with certain experiences from being at the technology table you are adding poverty of features and functionality to your products; this is especially true in the case of the very systems that allow us to transact in the modern world – digital identity.


    Risk is also relative

    My ‘yacht’ encountered choppy seas, but I was able to change my life. Being good at exams which allowed me to move across cultures – from working class to educated working class, I’ll never be accepted as middle class. Being working class can be a drag because it is a complex culture. Your family desperately wants you to get out of the situation, but you are also called a snob or big headed if you do. It’s complicated. Even writing this is hard because I can feel my sister, now dead, standing behind me with her critical stare; I know she was proud of me, but I know she felt a bittersweet anger when I bought my first ‘big house’.

    Being poor removes choice from the people caught in its cold embrace. But it also removes potential from the tech industry. There will be a kid lying in her bed on Christmas morning, feeling a deep sadness because she knows she will have to lie to her school friends again this year. She may hold the key to ethical technology or be able to sort out the mess we have created on this planet. Or she may simply be able to give her own kids a good life one day.

    We all need to have choices. Our industry has to build structures to allow those choices to be delivered. Poverty does not just stop people from achieving their own goals, it stops society and the technology industry from reaching theirs.


    What can the Identity industry do?

    Our industry, especially those companies that set aside funds for community projects, can help to build bridges to remove poverty traps. Here are my recommendations:

    1. I had a saviour. My older sister gave me a roof over my head when I left home at 16. She helped me get a part time job so I could support myself while doing my A’ levels. She encouraged me to go to university. Saviours come in many guises – the identity industry, as an individual company and as a body, can become a saviour.
    2. I had a structure to support me into university. Back then, that was a government grant. Those days are gone. Probably forever. But I also remember industry grants available to children of employees in certain workplaces. The identity industry could have something similar or, better still, extend it to reach kids of non-employees.
    3. Stop using unpaid or very low-paid internships. They are divisive and elitist. No working-class young person could afford to support themselves in an internship.
    4. In your inclusivity policy and diversity training, make sure to include class. I have been discriminated against because of my class which was identified by my accent. Eradicate all prejudice, it is harmful.
    5. Create programs that can reach into schools in working class areas to give kids experience of what working in tech is like and show them achievable routes into that work.
    6. Do not discriminate based on university. Some of the brightest minds never went to university. Create your own, salaried, training.
    7. Offer awards that are certifications, courses, paid for conference attendance (including travel and subsistence) for teenagers and older people from disadvantaged backgrounds.


    You may think that all of the above costs a lot of money, but it is an investment in the tech industry and your company. By doing this, you may find an amazing contributor who creates important technology.



    susanSusan Morrow

    Having worked in cybersecurity, identity, and data privacy for around 35 years, Susan has seen technology come and go; but one thing is constant – human behaviour. She works to bring technology and humans together. 

    Find her @avocoidentity

  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    Rising to the challenge of #GoodID

    Emma Lindley, of Women in Identity, explains why diversity in the Identity sector goes far beyond si see more

    Emma Lindley, of Women in Identity, explains why diversity in the Identity sector goes far beyond simply supporting the progress of the women who work in it.

    This week multiple organisations including ID4 Africa, Unicef, World Bank Group, Omidyar Network, Women in Identity and other communities have come together to promote the campaign of a verifiable identity for every citizen across the globe.

    The 16th of September was  International Identity Day and, today, September 19th, hundreds of delegates will meet in New York at the ID2020 summit to discuss how to address the fundamental issue that over 1.1bn people have no formal means of  proving who they are - that’s 1 in 7 people. But it doesn’t stop there.

    The World Bank estimates that in low income countries over 45% of women lack a foundational ID, which leads to a raft of socio-cultural issues that have far reaching implications for the inclusion of women and girls in our social and economic systems. How do we support women to gain foundational identity, to then empower them to build micro-businesses across places like Kenya or Bangladesh?

    In their excellent blog,  Identity is a human right … a woman’s right …  Dr. Savita Bailur (Caribou Digital) Devina Srivastava (ID2020) and Hélène Smertnik (Caribou Digital) highlight that women specifically suffer from identity poverty. They challenge that we need to focus on ways of creating #goodID that considers socio-cultural issues, data privacy concerns and consumer access to relevant technologies, regardless of nationality, gender or financial status.  More than ever, we need the collaboration and the community in those markets made up of governments, regulators, companies as well as the technologists who will produce the identity systems of the future.


    Is the Identity industry ready for #GoodID?

    New identity “solutions” emerge every day, and yet despite them being developed in places like London and Silicon Valley with high levels of diversity,  we still see many start-ups and established companies with little or no level of diversity in the teams building these solutions - they're all people from the same country, same socio-economic background, the same culture and same gender. When it comes to developing solutions that can be truly viewed as global, do we really understand the problem we are trying to solve? And do we have the right mix of people involved in helping us understand?

    In a study on gender diversity, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics examined the gender gap in science and found that, worldwide, only 28% of science professionals are women. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of women are exploring careers in STEM and in Silicon Valley, 76% of technical jobs are held by men. (Source: Forbes). But it’s not just gender diversity that is the issue. In the UK just 8.5% of senior leaders in technology are from a minority background.

    The identity industry is no different. We do not have enough diversity, particularly at the coal face of product development. And this leads to the introduction of bias - a direct challenge to the aspirations of #GoodID.

    We all apply natural biases through our daily lives - in our hiring and buying decisions, reviews and even in casual interactions. However well-intentioned we may be, our unconscious biases perpetuate stereotypes.

    If everyone on your team looks the same and is from a similar background, you may reach consensus quicker on the main priorities for the company. But are those decisions the right ones? If your identity solution is designed to help recognise users that might struggle to prove their identity, how many of your team understand what it means to have no financial footprint or to live on benefits in social housing?

    You may have a healthy representation of women across the organisation. But if they all tend to hail from the same cultural or educational background as male colleagues in similar roles, you’re not going to get much diversity of thinking when it comes to problem solving.


    The effects of bias

    We are now starting to see the effects of bias within technology. And many of the solutions under analysis sit within or adjacent to the identity industry.

    A study by MIT researcher Joy Boulamwini found that some facial-recognition systems produced an error rate of 0.8% for light-skinned men. This error rate increased when a white female face was shown and ballooned to 34.7% for dark-skinned women.

    According to the study, researchers at a major U.S. technology company claimed an accuracy rate of more than 97% for a facial-recognition system they’d designed. But the data set used to assess its performance was 77% percent male and 83% white.

    If the systems that run our banks, public services, travel companies and retailers are designed and tested with this level of obvious bias, the impact on all economies will be huge.  In a world focused on driving efficiencies through the adoption of digital services, we need to ensure we are building for greater inclusion. It is an area that digital identity needs to focus on.


    Can diversity help?

    A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that diversity increases the bottom line for companies. In both developing and developed economies, companies with above-average diversity on their leadership teams report a greater payoff from innovation and higher EBIT margins. The study found that "increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance." Companies that have more diverse management teams also have 19% higher revenue due to innovation.


    McKinsey Delivering Through Diversity


    Additionally, research by McKinsey, Delivering Through Diversity, reaffirms the global relevance of the link between diversity (a greater proportion of women and a more mixed ethnic and cultural composition in the leadership of large companies) and company financial performance,. McKinsey measured not only profitability but also longer-term value creation, exploring diversity at different levels of the organisation and considering a broader understanding of diversity beyond gender and ethnicity.

    These findings are hugely significant for tech companies, particularly given the number of start-ups  where innovation is the key to growth. It shows that diversity is not just an aspirational metric; it is actually an integral part of any successful public, private or not-for-profit organisation.


    What does this mean for the Identity industry?

    When we think about this in the context of identity solutions, the need for diversity is even more fundamental. We deal in humanity and humanity is diverse; so the solutions we develop need to be able to recognise and embrace this diversity.

    As an industry, we are developing standards, technologies and solutions aimed at confirming people’s identity. So we need to consider also how we include those we aim to identify within our teams: in the design, testing and deployment of products and services.

    Digital identity solutions built for everyone should be built by everyone. 

    The bottom line is: we’re failing as a community to build the diverse, inclusive teams that are best equipped to tackle the world’s identity challenges.  And, as a result we run the very real risk of failing to provide the products and services the world's population actually needs.  So, join the campaign for #GoodID by sharing this blog and ensuring your voice is included.



    Emma Lindley

    EmmaEmma Lindley is co-founder of Women in Identity a not for profit organisation focused on developing talent and diversity in the identity industry, and executive advisor on digital identity for Truststamp a provider of privacy protecting technology for the identity industry. 

    Over a career of 16 years in identity Emma has held various roles, most recently as Head of Identity and Risk at Visa, previous board level roles at Confyrm, Innovate Identity and The Open Identity Exchange, and was instrumental in the commercial development of GB Group’s position in the identity market back in 2003. 

    She has been recognised in the Innovate Finance Powerlist for Women 2016 and 2017, KNOW Identity Top 100 leaders in Identity in 2017, 2018 and 2019, 100 Women in Tech Awards 2019, and was voted CEO of the year at the KNOW Identity Awards. She has an MBA from Manchester Business School and completed her thesis in Competitive Strategy in the Identity Market.

     September 19, 2019
  • Francesca Hobson posted an article

    5 minutes with our members @ Identity Week

    We had a fabulous time launching at Identity Week, in case you hadn’t noticed from our twitter feed. see more

    We had a fabulous time launching at Identity Week, in case you hadn’t noticed from our twitter feed. A huge thanks to all of you that attended, and of course to our sponsors. In amongst the action, we grabbed 5 minutes with a few of our members; Ellie, Francesca and Sam, to hear why diversity in the industry is important to them.


    Ellie Stephens, Jolocom


    Why do you think diversity is important in the industry?

    Technology that is built for everyone should be built by everyone. In the identity sector, we often deal with highly sensitive personal information, and highly futuristic – and at times unexplored – technologies that have the power to radically shape the way people live their lives. As such, it’s important that we get a diversity of perspectives on the products we put out into the world, in order to ensure that they take various needs and access points into account, and are truly able to act for all people and without bias.

    EllieFurther to that point, technological advancement has been historically realized by white men. More room needs to be created for others to share in these accomplishments. In order to do that, I think it starts at the bottom. Something as simple as hosting inclusive panels can go a long way. From my own experience as a non-white female-identifying speaker, I get a lot more questions from the women and people of color in the room and, as an attendee, I can see why. It feels safer. That’s why it’s important to up-skill a range of people, to make sure we’re creating inclusive solutions that work for everyone, and so that everyone can share in the technological breakthroughs and have an opportunity to benefit from the successes.


    What technology/trends do you see at the forefront of identity over the next few years?

    I work for Jolocom, so naturally I’m a sucker for Self-Sovereign Identity – SSI for short. I believe that it is incredibly important that we solve the current disaster that is online identity management. Right now we have too many passwords, receive too many creepy ads, get too much spam to our inboxes, and we’ve all seen how much of our data has been leaked in recent years and how, like in the case of Cambridge Analytica, this can have far-reaching consequences. Coming from a background of activism in countries where civic space is severely restricted, this ability to control who sees your data is even more critical. In countries with heavy surveillance, leaked data can cost you jail time, or worse.

    I think decentralised platforms are the way forward, and have seen in my work as a comms manager, that this idea is gaining wider acceptance – though it’s still quite a complex topic. Communicating exactly how it works and why there’s a need for it is probably the biggest hurdle I’ll face in my work.


    Find Ellie on LinkedIn or @EllieStephens5


    Francesca Hobson, Ubisecure & Sam Wakefield, Consult Hyperion


    Why do you think diversity is important in the industry?

    Aside from equal opportunities being fundamental to a fair society, a diverse workforce also benefits organisations.

    There is a well-documented shortfall of cybersecurity professionals, that includes the subset of those who focus on digital identity. We need all demographics to be able to fill that gap if we are to keep ahead of the bad actors and meet the evolving market’s expectations around identity management.

    We’re also creating technology and tools that have to work for all demographics, so it doesn’t make sense to have a limited workforce behind them.  It’s been proven again and again that diverse workforces are more productive, as they’re more likely to think about all approaches to problem-solving and creativity.


    What’s the biggest challenge women are currently facing in the identity industry?

    Often we can come up against old fashioned attitudes that women aren’t as capable of certain tasks, although that is constantly improving.

    The issue of confidence (or, at least, perception of confidence) should not be underestimated, as this has a knock-on effect on how much air time we get. For example, you don’t see as many women talking at conferences, so there’s clearly not enough encouragement or outreach from the event organisers in taking to those platforms.


    What technology/trends do you see at the forefront of identity over the next few years?

    Digital transformation is impacting how seriously service providers are considering improvements to user experience, security and privacy. We see this trend evolving identity into very specific domains around individuals (both employees and customers), organisations (companies, social groups) and things (IoT for example).

    Those technology companies taking the time to understand the domains, how they interact, and at which point effective digital identity management can improve the user experience, security and privacy, will be the ones who will succeed. For example, taking privacy seriously, regardless of whether GDPR starts handing out fines just yet.

    The way the world interacts today has never been so complex, so we need to ensure we protect the integrity of these interactions but also ensure we make it as easy as we can for end users.


    Find Sam and Francesca on LinkedIn.