Woman of Outstanding Achievement

Posted 13th May 2011 by Cary Marsh

Cary Marsh

Cary Marsh is one of the 2011 UKRC Women of Outstanding Achievement. She has set up her own technology business and is a passionate supporter of the WISE Campaign, led by the UKRC.

My school didn't allow girls to choose three sciences at GCSE as it was deemed too challenging .The boys across the road could. Luckily for me I had an extremely supportive mother who marched up to the nuns in charge and told them that I would be taking three sciences. In hindsight I realise how lucky I was. My mother was a successful business woman and a fantastic role model.

I took physics, maths and biology at A-level. I came top of the year in physics and my grade A at Physics A-level is still one of my greatest achievements to date!

I went on to study Engineering at Nottingham University, a degree choice that I know armed me with all the skills to start my own technology business - www.mydeo.com which I set up while on maternity with my first son in 2003. I'm now mum to three boys aged 8, 6 and 1. I doubt whether they will come up against barriers when choosing their educational options, and I hope that girls these days won't either. But my concern is that the statistics show that there are still not enough girls making science and techology higher educational choices.

As a technology entrepreneur I often find myself at conferences where I am one of only a handful of women among hundreds (theres never a queue for the ladies at a technology conference!). But when will this change? How do we somehow increase the talent pool of women in the science, technology and engineering sectors? I believe we must do this, not just because I know these are great industries to be in, but because the UK economy will suffer if this underrepresentation of women in these sectors continues.

In India, China and Japan there is far stronger focus on science and technology in education across both sexes. We've only got to look to at these burgeoning economies where there is a stronger cultural science and technology focus and corresponding better gender representation to realise something will need to change here in the UK if we want to remain competitive on the global stage.

We must work to dispel the bad image STEM careers (science, tehcnology, engineering, maths) still have (geeks, nerds, white coats, hard hats) that put young girls off choosing science and tech at GCSE, A-level and above. We must create role models and mentors who girls will aspire to be like. Right now its usually a model, a pop star, an actress - why not a science or technology entrepreneur?

Everyone of us can think of a person we wanted to be like when we were young. For me it was Martha Lane Fox running a dot com tech startup, getting rich and being on the cover of magazines. How cool was that!

One of the wonderful things about the technology sector I work in is that everyone is judged on their own merits without a thought given to gender, race or age. This is nothing like 'City' culture and Im proud to be part of it! Its a wonderful sector to work in and if more younger girls knew that we'd eventually see more women in technology jobs, contributing to our economy and influencing the next generation.

25 years after my run-in with the nuns, I was extremely honoured to be named winner of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Business and Industry) category at the 2011 Women of Oustanding Achievement Awards ceremony held at the Academy of Engineering. Lord Willis of Knaresborough, in his speech as chair of the judges, talked of how the winners should be celebrated and how more role models were needed to influence and inspire girls to go on to study science and techology subjects.

I therefore find myself with not only the opportunity, but the duty to inspire and influence young girls to consider science and technology career choices. Thats why Im a big suppoerter of the WISE campaign and thats why Im going to stand in front of 900 school girls at my old school to let them know that STEM careers are fantastic. I'll show them the picture below. Turns out those 80s nuns failed to quash our collective passion for the sciences. Katie (top row second from the left) is now a vet, Geraldine (second row up on the far left) is a civil engineer. That's me with the big hair in the front row, and next to me is my (still today) best friend Emma. She studied mathemetics at UMIST and is now an Air Traffic Controller.

Cary Marsh in her school days


Ruth Wilson:

16th May 2011

Hi Cary,

Many congratulations on being one of the UKRC Women of Outstanding Achievement. I know the level of entries was very high. And I love the picture of you and your schoolfriends!

I'd like to know a bit more about your company and what it does. When you started, did you have a clear vision of where you wanted to go, or has it evolved into what it is now through experience and opportunity?

Cary Marsh:

18th May 2011

Hi Ruth

Mydeo started out a a consumer video hosting service - a private online account for your home movies, to allow you to share them with friends and family. I started it because I wanted to show video of my new baby to family in Holland.

What we actually found though was that our paying subscribers were mostly small businesses who wanted low cost high quality streaming video for their websites.

So in 2008 we launched an enterprise service, with more features for business users, but still with very low cost subscription plans.

Six months after its launch, the enterprise service overtook the consumer service revenues and has been showing sustained, profitable growth ever since.

I did have a clear vision when I started Mydeo, but a number of my assumptions turned out to be wrong and Mydeo evolved into a different type of service to the one I envisioned. But that's not a bad thing - in fact it's almost always the case. It's the startups who don't respond and adapt to their customers/markets before their funding runs out that fail.

Khadijah Rafiq:

19th May 2011

Hi Cary, Khadijah from Amey here I hope all is well.

Again, many congratulations on your award, extremely well deserved, you are indeed an inspiration to all young ladies.

Cary, part of my work includes working with schools particularly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

At the moment my focus is schools within the London Borough of Newham (2012 Olympics will be held there) it is a borough with high unemployment and few prospects.

I have an initiative called "Leaders of Tommorow" I would love to take it one step further and work with you directly to enable you to share your inspiration and raise the profile of SET to young ladies within this borough.

I hope you still have my business card, please give me a call or drop me an email.

Best wishes,

Ruth Wilson:

20th May 2011

Hi Cary,
Thanks for your response.
And Hi KHadijah, your leadership scheme sounds great.

I want to flag up a report on women in entrepreneurship. It finds that that only women with well above average entrepreneurial skills find it attractive to self-select into entrepreneurship. It notes that:

a) fewer women than men are entrepreneurs;
b) the proportion of women among entrepreneurs tends to be higher in countries with higher women emancipation;
c) women who break the barrier into entrepreneurship seem to show more masculine traits.

The authors find that once women enter entrepreneurship, "they are equally able than man to translate their ability into outcomes for the firm".

I have only read the synopsis, but that 'showing masculine traits' phrase always bothers me! Perhaps the traits should not be seen through a gender filter. The opportunity to have those traits however is skewed by gender because of politics and conditioning....

I wondered what others think.

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