DIVERSITY in the tech sector is moving backwards rather than forwards, a digital veteran has warned.

Jenni Lloyd, who built her first website in 1997, said the gender imbalance in the industry could limit intelligence and creativity at a time when digital technology is playing an increasingly central role in everyone's lives.

The Brighton-based former director of radical consultancy NixonMcInnes was speaking ahead of the third annual Spring Forward, the UK’s only festival celebrating women in digital.

Running throughout March alongside Women’s History Month, the festival aims to shine a light on the women working in digital and attract more women into digital and technology roles.

Festival co-director and organiser of the 300 Seconds event, Ms Lloyd said: “I always thought that diversity in the tech sector would improve - but it hasn’t. In fact, we seem to be going backwards.

“But technology is playing an ever more central part in everyone’s lives. My concern is that by limiting the gene pool for ideas we’re not getting the level of collective intelligence and creativity that we need to address the wicked problems we face in the best way possible.”

With Brighton’s vibrant and growing cluster of digital businesses which work in a uniquely collaborative way, Spring Forward aims to harness this community to address the diversity problem.

Festival co-founder and director Viviana Doctorovich, added: “Whilst efforts are currently being made to address the gender imbalance in the digital industry, I believe many women are still struggling to find a voice in a mainly male dominated work place.

"My hope is that the festival will act as a springboard for the creation of a support network that’ll encourage women into taking a more active role in shaping the future of the digital industry.”

Following the sell-out success of last year’s festival, the range of events on offer in 2016 has been extended.

Think Nation is broadening the appeal to engage girls and young women, while Sussex Innovation Centre’s Make Your Ideas Happen workshop will help would-be entrepreneurs turn a start-up idea into a reality.

The Career Garden ‘How To Get Out Of Your Own Way’ coaching workshop will help women to explore how to overcome limiting beliefs and achieve career success.

Other events include Ladies that UX for designers, She Codes and Mind The Code for developers, Curiosity Hub for makers, Career Garden for those looking to develop their careers and 300 Seconds for anyone wanting to get better at public speaking.

A full list of Spring Forward events can be found wespringforward.com/