Wales' 5G advisory group criticised for being all men

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5G promises much faster data download and upload speeds

The appointment of an expert group to advise on superfast “fifth generation” (5G) mobile internet for Wales has encountered a Twitter backlash.

The eight-strong group, set up by Innovation Point, attracted criticism about the fact they are all men.

Auriol Miller, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, tweeted: “Looks like a case of #wherearethewomen? Again. [sigh]”

A spokeswoman for Innovation Point said they had “chosen the right team”.

5G could be launched as early as next year in some countries, promising much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections.

Innovation Point, a Newport-based digital business growth agency, has set up the advisory group to “prepare and shape a coherent national 5G programme in Wales”.

But Cerys Furlong, chief executive of gender equalities charity Chwarae Teg, tweeted her despair at the appointments.

She said: “The digital software and equipment we create now will have a significant impact on people’s everyday lives in the future, therefore it must be designed with everyone in mind.

“That’s why it’s crucial that any expert panel or advisory group is diverse, and represents the people who will ultimately be affected by its decisions.

“We need to stop seeing jobs in tech as jobs for boys, there are talented women across Wales in these industries and they deserve a seat at the table.”

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Analysis by BBC economics correspondent Sarah Dickins

The appointment of this board has ignited two issues in one go.

Firstly that there is an attempt by many across the public and private sector to make sure women are more represented than they have been. Secondly that there are several types of industries where one gender dominates, mainly male.

Construction is still largely made up of men, and people employed as carers tend to be women.

The tech sector in the past has had a geeky image – dominated by young men. In the last decade, that’s changed to a degree – but there is still a way to go.

Industry group Women in Technology reports that there is only one woman in every six technology specialists in the UK and only one in every 10 IT leaders.

So we should expect there will be more men seen as “experts” in 5G. But surely there are women in Wales with equal experience and vision for future technology as the people chosen for the panel?

But that is not the point. In an age when many organisations are working hard to make sure that they are not led by a bunch of middle-aged white men, it seems a little careless, to say the least, to have an advisory expert panel that is looking to the future, to not include a single woman.

Ms Furlong added: “Not only does diversity lead to a better level of debate and dialogue, it also leads to outcomes that work better for wider society.”

Ms Miller said technology did not need to mean “men only”.

“It’s important an advisory group like that reflects the diverse views of the people using that technology as well as those putting it in place,” she said.

The Innovation Point spokeswoman said: “In an industry where women represent only 19%, we have consistently demonstrated a drive to promote and celebrate women in technology.

“Digital Festival is a reflection of the work we are doing in this area where 45% of over 150 speakers were female.

“On this occasion, we believe that we have chosen the right team for this particular phase of the work.”

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