To mark International Women’s Day 2016, we interviewed leading women in the fields of science and technology, to celebrate their achievements and to explore the challenges faced by women in the sector. Tia Kansara is an award-winning cities expert working as Founder and Director of Kansara Hackney, and Chair of the Thousand Network. With experience in sustainability, energy, economics and urban planning, Tia gives guidance to help governments, companies and individuals to make fulfilling commitments that benefit the world around us.What inspired you to begin your work in technology? I'm attracted to new innovations that have a wonderful social and environmental impact. Working in this field I've spent some time searching for ways of living a more sustainable lifestyle and realised my issues were that there wasn't one place to find them. I decided to begin making a central location where you could learn about the science and technology that inspired me to live in harmony with nature. What do you find exciting about your current role? I love my freedom, as the director of Kansara Hackney Ltd and the Chair of the Thousand Network, I've spent a lot of my time working with people all over the world, I love meeting people from different time zones, cultures and understanding what motivates them. What challenges are you tackling in your work? The biggest is in making sustainable living easy. Of course it's about branding and communicating how effecting something is, but the metrics are really important. How does one give points to something that is environmentally friendly but social unfriendly? What can we do to ensure equality in science and technology? Women are stepping up, it's our time. This is where we begin our biggest work, after a hundred years of being allowed to go to university, I'm extremely grateful and happy with the outcome. Now it's about letting the female crowd have an opportunity to be curious and giving them the experience of working in this field as early as possible. So science and technology feature in their decision making when they grow up. How can we help and inspire more people from less-represented groups to become involved in science and tech? Minority groups have the added concerns of their inherited cultures. I remember growing up in an Indian/East African household meant my parents were quite specific about what I could or could not do. So to challenge this, one would need to prove how these alternative fields are just as viable!
Which emerging or future technologies are you excited about? I'm very excited about the new lifestyle technologies that are increasingly more environmentally friendly. I often say that it's not about banishing the television but about having all components move towards biodegradability. Imagine a TV that companies have competed to make more replenishing to the environment. What areas of emerging technology do you think will have the biggest impact your industry? The biggest impact will be in gamifying sustainable living where we get to have fun and compete with each other to live more in tune with nature from our consumer habits. What do you think the biggest barriers are for women entering the industry? How can we overcome these? The biggest barrier is women themselves not thinking creatively about the role they would like to have. And instead trying to fit into a mould left by their male predecessors. If you want to work in this area, be specific about what skills you'd like to develop and or research you'd like to do. Then actively let people know and then go curate! Do you feel you have faced challenges in your field because of your gender? Always, but I've made it clear what my boundaries were to myself and others. What do you feel are the biggest challenges that the world faces today? How can technology and science solve them? Biggest challenge is to help everyone realise they have an individual responsibility to helping Mother Nature back to health. Science and Technology can solve this as we make it faster to share research to those that do not have access and help products onto the shelves of people who would normally not have them, to inspire them to make their own version that is better suited to them. What advice would you give to someone starting a career in science or tech? Enjoy the journey. It's easy to get lost in the destination. But the reality is in enjoying the present and how it unfolds! Check out our Women in Tech & Science series for more Q&As. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, please get in contact with Sophie via our form here.We are holding an evening of discussions & networking around the progress and application of machine intelligence in the healthcare sector, and celebrating the women advancing the field. If you would like to join us at the Women in Machine Intelligence & Healthcare Dinner in London on 12 October, please visit the event site here to book your tickets.