Two months ago, I joined the Sunderland Software City team. What attracted me to the organisation is its sense of purpose. From helping startups get off the ground to supporting the growth of digital innovation or to pioneering new digital skills initiatives, everything this team does contributes to a stronger North East tech scene.

With the breadth of work carried out by the team comes multiple touchpoints with the ecosystem. Our audience ranges from SME founders and teams to large businesses and to the education sector too. The insight we garner from different corners of North East tech is fascinating. While sector strengths are important to document and champion, so too are sector pain points and gaps if we truly want to make things better. Perhaps what I’ve been most impressed with is that when the team do identify areas of ecosystem weakness - they act. LITNE is a prime example of such intervention.

LGBTQ+ In Tech North East (LITNE) is a tech sector diversity support network, set up by my colleagues Penny Day and Rob Currie. Launching late last year, the network aims to help those working in technology and those looking to get into technology, giving people a safe space to come together, grow and flourish.

I’d not previously been aware of the network, so I caught up with Penny to understand why it came about and how it’s adding something different to North East tech.

‘Tech is known for being a really creative and fun industry. Yet when I first came to the region and started networking, I was surprised because I felt that events largely looked the same and the people attending them looked very similar too, crowds weren’t exactly diverse which can be off putting to many people,’ explains Penny.

‘I, along with friends and others within my network who identify as LGBTQ+, felt there wasn’t really a tech network where we could feel accepted. We thought that creating a network focusing on promoting diversity and letting people know about opportunities in and around tech would provide something different and useful.’

LITNE is designed to allow anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+, or allies of the community, to become a member, free of charge. It aims to be able to create a place where people can become part of something that not only supports them, but helps you support others too.

Launching in the twilight of last year, the team have enjoyed two successful networking events in person and collaborated with Women Making Games and PoC in Play to put on a Christmas bash, bringing different areas of the North East’s tech community together to connect, share knowledge and support oneanother. The network recently secured 12-months sponsorship by Ignite.

‘Everything we do is based on the needs of the community, we want people to feel more confident and able to explore the great opportunities we have here in North East tech. Our ambition is to enable companies to be more accepting too of people from an array of backgrounds. We’d ultimately love the North East to be known as a place where diversity really flourishes in the industry’.

With the industry at large being disrupted by COVID-19, Penny and Rob are encouraging people to come and find out more about the network and support its community via an upcoming online networking event taking place on 28 May at 12pm. Click below for more details.