Gender bias in GPT-2

A man and his son are in a terrible accident and are rushed to the hospital for critical care. The doctor looks at the boy and exclaims “I can’t operate on this boy, he’s my son!”. How could this be?

The answer? The doctor is the boy’s mother

My answer… After puzzling over this for a minute, I concluded that the boy had two fathers. Though I don’t entirely dislike my answer (we have a bias towards heteronormative relationships) I only came to this conclusion because my brain couldn’t compute the idea of the doctor being a woman. To make this worse, I work on algorithmic bias… and the question was proposed at a ‘Women Like Me’ event.

Bias is all around us in society and in each and every one of us. When we build AI we run the risk of making something that reflects those biases, and depending on the way we interact with the technology, reinforces or amplifies them.

OpenAI announced GPT-2 in February, a generative language model which took the internet by storm, partly through its creation of convincing synthetic text, but also because there were concerns around this model’s safety. One concern being bias.

“We expect that safety and security concerns will reduce our traditional publishing in the future, while increasing the importance of sharing safety, policy, and standards research,” OpenAI Charter

Nine months on, and OpenAI have steadily followed a phased release strategy, carefully monitoring the models’ use, publishing preliminary results on the models’ bias in their 6-month update, and now (just over a week ago!) releasing the full model.

In this blog, we are going to take a deeper look into bias in GPT-2. Specifically, we will be looking at occupational gender bias, how this compares to pre-existing biases in society and discuss why bias in language models matter.

This isn’t my first time writing about GPT-2. I wrote this blog about my experience using GPT-2 to write a novel. I think it’s pretty good, but I might be biased.

The results

The goal of our experiment was to measure occupational gender bias in GPT-2, see how the bias changes with different sized models and compare this bias to the bias in our society. Our experiment takes some inspiration from the ‘Word Embedding Factual Association Test’ (Caliskan et al.), a test akin to the ‘Implicit Association Test’, but measured against factual data, the ‘factual association’. Our factual data comes from The ‘Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) and their UK occupational data: a list of around 500 job categories, each listing the number of men and women employed in that occupation and the average salary.

We ran a series of prompts through the various GPT-2 models (124m, 355m, 774m and 1.5bn parameters) to measure the gender association each model gave to various job titles found in the ONS occupational data.

To help you understand our experiment, I’d like you to imagine you’re at a school fair. At the fair, one of the stalls has a jar full of jelly beans. Hundreds of them! Thousands, maybe? Too many to count at any rate. You make a guess, write it down on a piece of paper, post it in a little box and cross your fingers.

At the end of the day, two of the students running the stall look through all the guesses and they notice something strange. Though none of these people knew the exact number of jelly beans in the jar, and everyone who guessed held their own biases as to how many beans there are, if you put all the guesses together and take their average you get something very close to the number of jelly beans in the jar.

Just like participants in the jelly beans game, GPT-2 doesn’t have access to the exact number of jelly beans (or rather, it has not learned the societal bias from the ONS data). Instead, we’re seeing whether GPT-2 reflects the societal bias by learning from the language from a whole lot of people.

This is what we discovered!

gpt-1

The X-axis in this graph shows the salaries of different jobs in the UK. On the Y-axis we are measuring gender bias, with numbers above 0 denoting male-bias and those below 0 female-bias. In the case of the ONS data, this plots the actual number of people working in various careers and their salaries. For GPT-2, we are looking at the strength of the gender bias that GPT-2 associates with those same jobs.

All 4 models of GPT-2 and societal data show a trend towards greater male bias as the salaries of the jobs increase, meaning the more senior the job, and the more money it’s paying, the more likely GPT-2 is to suggest a man is working in that position. The ONS data also shows that this occupational gender bias towards men working in higher paid jobs is even stronger in the UK employment market than in GPT-2.

The trend as we add more parameters to GPT-2 is really promising. The more parameters we add to GPT-2, the closer the model gets to the gender-neutral zero line. The 1.5bn parameter version of the model is both the closest to zero, and has the weakest gradient, indicating the lowest tendency to trend towards male bias as the salaries for jobs increased. Of all the trend lines we can see that the UK society, based on the ONS data, the most male-biased and shows the most prominent trend towards male bias as salaries increase.

Typically we would expect an algorithm to get closer to the ground truth by feeding it with more data or training it for longer, but GPT-2 seems to be doing the opposite. So, why is this?

Remember the jelly beans! GPT-2 was never given the ONS data to train from. Instead, it has learned from the language of millions of people online. Though each person has their own bias which may be some distance from the societal truth, overall it’s astonishing how close GPT-2 has found itself to the societal bias.

Not only has GPT-2 learned from the average of individual biases, but it has also learned from the bias in their language specifically. Understanding this, we might expect that gender-stereotyped jobs show a different trend. So let’s try that…

gpt-2

In this graph we can see a subset of the full results, picking out examples of jobs stereotypically associated with women. The trend towards the societal bias is much closer than we saw in the previous graph. We found the 776m model to be astoundingly close to the societal bias with roles like ‘Nursing Assistant’ being 77.4% more likely to be associated with a female than male pronoun in the model and 77.3% more likely in society. Even with these stereotyped examples, the 1.5bn parameter model still shows a tendency towards gender-neutrality.

A fair criticism here is that we cherry-picked the stereotypically female jobs to support a hypothesis. It’s not easy to find a standard classifier for ‘gender-stereotyped jobs’ and lists online are broadly made up of other people’s judgement. To be as fair as possible, our selection was based on a list from the paper ‘Man is to Computer Programmer as Woman is to Homemaker? Debiasing Word Embeddings’. We took job titles from their ‘Extreme she occupations’ list, excluding those which lack full ONS stats. We also added a few job titles (e.g. Midwife and Nursery Teacher) based on the judgement of our team and the stereotypes we have experienced.

gpt-3

We repeated the process for male-stereotyped jobs and found again that the 1.5bn parameter model was the closest to gender-neutral. The model does, however, almost universally have a male bias in these roles across all model sizes.

What did we learn?

The words you use in the prompt really matter!

Our first lesson is inspired by the challenge we faced in creating accessible job titles for the model. To help explain this, join me in a quick round of the ‘word association game’. What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear these ONS job categories?

School midday crossing guard?

Postal Worker?

Van driver?

If you’re anything like me, you found the ‘school midday crossing guard’ became a ‘Lollipop Lady’, the ‘Postal Worker’ a ‘Postman’ and the ‘Van driver’ was a ‘Man with van’. We modified many of the ONS job titles from what were unambiguous, but extremely unusual, job titles to their equivalent names we expect to hear in society. The ONS categories were just too unusual to be functional in GPT-2 and we had to take great care not to add unnecessary gender bias in the process of modifying them. With the three ‘real-world’ titles that I described, each contains an explicit reference to gender and push GPT-2 towards that gender bias.

There are some instances where we have male/female associated jobs for each title — For instance waiter vs waitress. The ONS contains statistics for the category ‘waiters and waitresses’, which is 55.8% more likely to be female than male. When we run this through the 774m parameter version of the model we find waiter is 15% male-biased and waitress is 83.6% female-biased. Together, we get an average of 34.3% female-biased, quite close to societal bias.

The solution?

Consider the gender-neutral word for each job category. Rather than putting ‘groundsman’ in a job ad, we should advertise for a ‘groundsperson’. Rather than describing someone as a ‘draughtsman’, they’re better titled a ‘drafter’ or ‘draughtsperson’. This is equally as true for the way we use GPT-2 and things we write ourselves. Below you can see the results for the ‘crossing guard’ which demonstrated this point most clearly. Click here to see a few more examples.

gpt-4

A look to the future

Whilst GPT-2 is generally reflective of existing societal biases, our application of the technology has the potential to reinforce the societal bias. Though the trend towards gender-neutrality with increasing model sizes is promising all model sizes continue to show a level of gender bias, and this matters, because GPT-2 can generate plausible text at an unprecedented rate, potentially without human oversight. This may not necessarily make societal biases greater, but rather increase inertia and slow positive progress towards a less biased society. At worst, it could amplify our biases, making their effect on society more extreme. The effects of GPT-2’s bias on our society will depend on who has access to the technology and how it’s applied. This makes OpenAI’s decision to have a phased release and analyse its effects before releasing it publicly particularly valuable.

Digital Assistants, which have exploded in popularity since the release of Siri in 2011, offer a harsh lesson on gender bias in technology. In UNESCO’s report ‘I’d blush if I could’ we journey through the gender-biased reality of digital assistants. Across Siri, Alexa, Cortana and the Google assistant, we see digital assistants presented as women who are subservient to the orders that users bark at them and even brush off sexual advances as jokes. Where digital assistants fail to perform (which they often do), we mentally associate this non-performance with the women whose voices and personas these digital assistants ape. We are now just beginning to see a trend towards male/female options in digital assistants, away from female-by-default and gradually increasing the availability of gender-neutral options.

UNESCO’s report recommends that developers and other stakeholders monitor the effect that digital assistants have on users’ behaviour, with a particular focus on the ‘socialization of children and young people’. Just as we may want to restrict children’s engagement with female digital assistants to avoid them making unhealthy associations between women and subservience, we may also want to take greater care over the use of GPT-2 and other generative language models. GPT-2 itself has no persona and does not identify with a gender, but it’s only a small step to fine-tune the model and implement it as a dialogue agent on a website, for instance, to achieve the same result. Even if GPT-2 doesn’t it doesn’t identify with a gender, the use of gender-biased language could still have the same effect on our behaviour and on young minds. Instead, the UNESCO report recommends that we build AI which responds to queries in a gender-neutral way.

There may be specific circumstances where we should limit the use of GPT-2, such as for writing job adverts, where gendered language impacts the diversity of applicants. A gender-biased language model may slow progress to close the gender pay gap and amplify the male dominance of highly-paid jobs that we see in the ONS stats.

In their 6 month update, OpenAI shared a positive message: that they had seen little evidence of malicious use of their technology since release. While that’s certainly a good thing, we still need to take care around the well-intentioned uses of the technology. There doesn’t need to be any malicious intent to experience a negative effect, but with care, GPT-2 could have a positive influence on our society.

Thanks to the people who made this possible

This experiment wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of some great people. My Sopra Steria colleague Mark Claydon who came up with the experiment methodology, managed all the back-end integration and helped to crunch the numbers. Thanks also to Allison Gardner and Sokratis Karkalas who help conceptualise the experiment and review our results.

Celebrating Black History Month

History & Origin

Black History Month is a celebration and annual commemoration of the history, achievements & contributions of Black people in US history. It was originally introduced by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. The origins of the event were initially introduced as ‘Negro History Week’; but it was later decided that it wasn’t long enough. Civil right movements & the Black power movements pushed the event to become the Black History month in 1969. Since 1976, every U.S President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Find out more here 

Bringing Black History Month to the UK

A visit to America from Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo was enough to found a UK’s version of Black History Month in 1987. Akyaaba chose October to celebrate Black History month (in contrast to Americans celebrating in February). He did so to since  as a way to connect to his roots, since October was traditionally when African Chiefs & leaders gathered to settle their differences.

Find out more here 

In addition to this, October also aligns with the start of the academic year. Many have thought that the decision for Akyaaba was to also give black children a sense of pride and identity.

Find out more here 

Celebrating black British culture and identity

Black culture has contributed significantly to British history, its influence can be traced back to c.125 – 300. Black History Month gives us an opportunity to salute those who have made considerable contributions to the development of our society but who often go without the recognition they deserve. We aim to celebrate black British culture by highlighting some of these hidden stories and by giving a nod to our understated heroes.

We would like to lead this initiative with, John Edmonstone, a Taxidermist who taught students, including the likes of Charles Darwin, at Edinburgh University in the 19th century. Edmonton was born into slavery in Guyana and later travelled to Britain where he gained his freedom and qualified as a Taxidermist. John Edmonton’s accounts of his homeland is thought to have inspired Darwin’s exploration of the tropics. Darwin’s travels across the Galapagos islands allowed him to discover the 12 distinct species of Finches that are differentiated by their beaks. This ultimately led to the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Thus his input should not be omitted from our history.

Find out more here

Trailblazers of today

In this issue, we wanted to highlight the efforts of people who currently support and contribute to the black community. It’s an inclusive look at people who are making a difference within our generation.

Recognising current achievements and celebrating those who have broken barriers and forged a way for those behind them 

‘The Receipts Podcast’ is a light-hearted British podcast headed by three women of colour, Tolly Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez. The podcast launched on the Apple Podcast and the Soundcloud in October 2016 and has seen success through its rising popularity (topped the Apple Podcast chart in 2018). The ladies of the podcast are known for their frank and honest dialogue where they tackle issues such as Colourism in the workplace, cultural appropriation and topics of a lighter nature, such as ‘how to deal with first dates’.

The accelerated uptake of the podcast by the public demonstrates the extent to which conversations within the black community are equally as engaging as those that take place in mainstream media and broadcasting. Representation within the Arts industry is extremely important today, particularly across media platforms.Telling the stories of people of colour as well as sharing their perspectives in this way ensures that the media we consume and interact with is relatable and diverse. The Receipts Podcast exemplifies a group of trailblazers who have taken the initiative to tap into a once closed space by capitalising on the booming podcast industry, providing an assurance that the voices of black women are heard and their opinions are valid. Ultimately serving the black community and the wider British community alike by providing representation and diverse perspectives.

The Receipts can also boast of its success through its recent exclusivity contract with Spotify in June 2019, their partnerships with name brands such as MAC Cosmetics and collaborations with celebrities including Regina King and Boderick Hunter.

Check them out here

Rising stars

Shining a light on upcoming game changers who are making large strides in their respective fields. 

Timothy Armoo is a graduate from the University of Warwick and co-founder and CEO of Fanbytes. Fanbytes is a creative marketing agency that supports brands in advertising to Gen Z and Millenials on social media. The enterprise has allowed brands to partner with Snapchat to reach their audiences directly resulting in a 93% ad-completion rate – outperforming traditional ads by 4:1.The agency is founded on the principle of non-disruptive forms of advertising, infusing advertising with entertainment to drive emotional engagement: Advertainment. Fanbytes has helped brands such as Apple Music, Boohoo and Deliveroo. 

I wanted to build a new advertising offering for the 21st century that would help brands collaborate with online stars and personalities. 

Timothy Armoo, Interview with The Telegraph – 14/11/2016

Timothy Armoo built the start-up as a student in 2015 and is a great example of how we can be successful in changing times, such as the rampant digital revolution that we are currently experiencing. Armoo is cognisant of the inversion brought to social interactions by the surge of social media and demonstrates his creativity and innovation through a model of effective solutioning and problem solving when faced with such changing circumstances as those brought on by the digital age.

Find out more here

Making an impact

Stormzy Cambridge Scholarship Programme

Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper and singer. In 2014, he garnered attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats.

Stormzy started a scholarship programme to help black students read at the University of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge has long been revered as one of the best institutes of learning in the UK & worldwide. The aim of the scholarship is to assist black youths to attend the university without fiscal worry. Stormzy initially founded the scholarship programme to combat a longstanding underrepresentation of black students in the UK’s best Universities. Despite a more proportional spread of academic results in secondary schools and sixth forms, there has bit little to no change in uptake of black students in the UK’s top school. Stormzy initiated the Stormzy Scholarship programme to close this gap and offer more University places to black students.

University of Cambridge’s Outline of the scholarship

The scholarships, which are non-repayable, will cover the full cost of tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant which will significantly reduce the need for awardees to take out government or commercial loans. This support will be available to recipients for up to four years of undergraduate study. For 2019-20 the total award to each student for the year will be worth £18,000. Receipt of this award will not affect eligibility for a Cambridge Bursary.

A statement from Stormzy says everything

 There are so many young black kids all over the country who have the level of academic excellence to study at a university such as Cambridge – however we are still under represented at leading universities. We, as a minority, have so many examples of black students who have excelled at every level of education throughout the years. I hope this scholarship serves as a small reminder that if young black students wish to study at one of the best universities in the world, then the opportunity is yours for the taking – and if funding is one of the barriers, then we can work towards breaking that barrier down.

 Find out more here

Sopra Steria’s Race, Religion and Belief Network

Sopra Steria has introduced a Race, Religion and Belief Network! The Network was launched this October and we had our first meeting to establish and introduce the chair of the Network, Mo Ahmed, & the networks purpose in general. The Race, Religion and Belief Network has introduced a community for people to connect with other members of the business across the UK. The Network is a place for people of all beliefs and backgrounds to collaborate and work together to make Sopra Steria a more inclusive place to work.

We have our first event coming up in celebration of Black History month! We’re having a networking and mixer in London. There will be speakers who talk on topics on the theme of Black History Month & an introduction talk from the chair of the Race, Religion and Belief network as well.

An invite will be sent to all members of the Race & Religion network prior to the event. Being part of the Race & Religion Network is not required to attend the event; but we would like to have you. If you want to join, send an email to inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

The first event for the Race & Religion network will take place on 29th October in the Holborn office (1&2 Hatton Garden). We’ll have the Chair Mo Ahmed say some words alongside a few other speakers. We’d love to see you there or hopefully organise any other events in the office as well. If you have any questions or queries, please forward them to the inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

Co-authored by Ali-Hamzah Ahmed and Naomi Kilonda

Not Just IT

Words and pictures are not enough to describe today, I have been privileged to witness something very special indeed.

Our journey today has felt like a week of experiences in one day, in a good way. First we visited a school sponsored by Sopra Steria, the Bhuvana Krishna matriculation hr sec school in Chennai, where we were greeted by the school elders and a marching band.

Here I cut the ribbon to their new computer room, with 40 computers provided by Sopra Steria, and met some of the students who then had lunch with us. It was a wonderful experience seeing first hand the difference that the Sopra Steria CSR programme makes here in India and not just with IT. The programme also sponsors the schools and Sopra Steria staff volunteer to work at these schools, where they:

  • Mentor the kids through their education
  • Support the families and communities
  • Run summer camps
  • Organise sports days
  • Run arts and crafts workshops
  • Provide guidance on life after school
  • Provide female guidance on life as a woman in India.

Sopra Steria didn’t even start helping this school with IT equipment until later. Not Just IT.

After lunch we were shown around the Sopra Steria Campus; set in 27 acres of landscaped gardens, before meeting the scholars and alumni from the schools in Chennai. Some of the proud parents were also there. One girl was studying two degree courses through Sopra Steria, and was looking to become a chartered accountant in the public sector.

Lastly, we visited the Punjab association destitute home for children; an orphanage, where we were met by 200 children of all ages from 5 to 18. We were then honoured by the lighting of candles as a symbolisation in readiness for Diwali, where Ganesh was surrounded by rings and rows of candles. After this ceremony a bell rang and all the children ran off. They came running back to the dining room with their plates where we helped serve them their dinner, which was provided by Sopra Steria. The children in the home were incredibly sweet, wanting to engage with us and to see photos of my home in Tockenham and the countryside of the UK.

This home really was a home; it felt just like a big family. All the kids were smiling and saying positive things about Sopra Steria and the home. One girl we met earlier at the scholars’ event was now studying to be a lawyer and is in the 2nd year of her course. She is a bright student who was originally a resident at the home.

Authored by John Gough.

An early start for an experience of a lifetime

Wednesday Kim and I had an early start; our taxi took us to the airport at 5am so we were both up at 4am – 11.30pm UK time!

We arrived at the hotel just in time to join the Sopra Steria Community Day in Pune a Share & Support Day in the Sheraton Hotel Pune, the ceremonies started with the lighting of a Deepam, which signifies the removal darkness from the mind and heart of a person. An oil Deepam signifies the light of knowledge, which dispels the darkness of ignorance. It shines itself and causes the objects around it, to shine due to its reflection by giving knowledge, wisdom and intelligence.

After introduction from Gayathri the programme began which included a quiz competition between 8 Sopra Steria supported schools and amazing cultural performances by primary school children and scholars and Sopra Steria staff and even hotel staff. Apart from representatives of schools, children, scholars, we as representatives of 6 countries across Europe also joined in the celebrations with a sing along to Head Shoulders, knees and toes, in each of our native languages, which had everyone on their feet dancing to the same song.

Anil Gokarn was the environment speaker – founder of ProEarth Ecosystems in who process 3.5 tons per day of organic waste processing across 40 odd locations in areas of Pune. His talk and video  on  environmental issues, and particularly climate change, was well received and certainly brought home how this is a global problem that everyone needs to be involved with, seeing so many of the young generations in the room.

The dancing, singing, and guitar playing was of the highest standard and again brought tears to my eyes watching such beautiful performances. Something Kim and I would not have missed for the world. It was amazing to know these young students and scholars had put so much into not only their own educations, but outside of study preparing for this day.

After the event, we had Indian buffet and were able to speak with all of the scholars, students and teachers. The day for me was special, these kids are following their dreams and knowing that Sopra Steria is there helping making the journey even better with the support and encouragement of the SSIF was an honour to see. 

Proof of this was shown in one of the posters at the event of the 660 beneficiaries of the scholarships.

  • 422 completed courses
  • 245 engineering courses completed
  • 5 medicine completed
  • 410 other courses completed
  • With 238 still benefitting from the programme 

Dreams can happen

By John Gough

Our first day – One we’ll both never forget.

Today was a very emotional day for both Kim and myself; we visited the Shri Ghanshyam Sharma Memorial High School, Uttar Pradesh. One of the schools supported by Sopra Steria.

Greeted by the school principal with garlands of flowers on our first day, we were anointed with Tilaaka on our foreheads to honor our visit; we then proceeded to walk in to the school with chants of welcome from the students and showers of rose petals.

 

After introductions, six of the pupils serenaded us, before the younger boys demonstrated their skills and knowledge, asking us for our names and telling us the capital cities of each country they knew of.

We then proceeded to each class in turn, telling them about ourselves while we passed around their mid-morning snacks. We spent some time with some of the primary school age children helping them with their reading ending the day with the planting of a tree, as a reminder of our visit. 

I have never experienced such joy seeing as I had visiting the children, who were as interested in us as we were in them, the hardest part was to leave the school at just after lunch.

Such was the enthusiasm; I could have stayed there all day. It was a truly moving experience and one that brought tears to my eyes – It was a beautiful experience and made better knowing that it was only through the hard work and dedication of the Sopra Steria CSR team and Sopra Steria worldwide that has made this work of the SSIF possible.

For lunch, we were invited to visit the principal’s house for a lavish spread of Indian delicacies, each cooked by his wife. The food was delicious and I made a particular point of thanking the lady of the house for her hard work. We felt part of the family at their house, meeting not only the Principal’s family but also his close relatives and the other teacher and village leaders. It was a fantastic end to our first visit to one of the Sopra Steria’s sponsored schools.

Later that afternoon we proceeded to Nodia and visited the Sopra Steria Head Offices in Sector 134, a very impressive setup with over 3000 employees working there.

We visited the crèche and had a tour of the building, we learnt so much From Gayathri Mohan about the SSIF and the schools programme and its history of how it started over ten years ago, when a security guard asked for help with his daughters education.

The SSIF is engaged with over 50 schools across India, touching the lives of over 75000 children from some of the most challenged sections of society. It sponsors over 660 children studying in colleges whose entire education is funded by Sopra Steria, under the Sopra Steria India Foundation Graduate Scholarship Scheme.

An inspiration and a day we both will never forget. 

By John Gough

Discovering the benefits of giving

Hello. My name is Kim Slocombe and I am a Project Finance Analyst (PFA) in the Finance department.  I have worked for the company via a number of takeovers, starting with F.I., through Xansa, Steria and now Sopra Steria, for the last 26 years.

Three years ago in January, I felt that my children were all grown up and I was not needed as much for them so I decided to start some volunteering work. I was at a fundraising event for Launchpad, which is a Prevention of Homelessness charity in Reading, UK and enquired about volunteering for them. I was accepted and have been spending 3 hours a week helping in their Education, Training and Employment Hub (ETE). 

Launchpad deal with clients who are homeless, in threat of homelessness and, those with housing problems in general.  They offer support; guidance and temporary accommodation to help people get started again.  In the ETE Hub, I help clients write their CVs and apply for work, whilst helping them with basic computer skills so they can continue on their own. 

We also offer skills training courses for computing and keyboard, Construction certificate course practice and Health and Hygiene Food courses. It has been a time of great satisfaction for me and given me a chance to try something new whilst being of some use. It is for my work with Launchpad that I was nominated and won the Sopra Steria “Volunteer of the Year” award. 

I feel very humbled and grateful that my meagre efforts have been recognised in such a fantastic way.  The prize trip to India promises to be a whirlwind tour of the fabulous work done by the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF).

It will be a chance to see for myself what the SSIF, led by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR, do for the children of India. There are projects happening in Noida, Pune and Chennai, which help put around 70,000 children through school and university each year. That we as a company help so many disadvantaged children and families is just an amazing feat. The hard work and care shown by Gayathri and her team should be an inspiration to us all.  I hope to see on my trip how all the projects are helping the children get an education and a chance to elevate their living standards for themselves and their families in the very hard world that they live in.  I have heard of the elation with which Gayathri is received when she visits the schools and pupils her team helps and hope to witness the eagerness to learn, happiness and enthusiasm that going to school gives them.  I suspect this trip is going to be a wonderful experience that opens my eyes to a way of life very different from my own.

By Kim Slocombe

My thoughts on the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the volunteering work we do to make a difference

This year I was lucky enough to be nominated for an award for my voluntary work and was selected as one of the Sopra Steria Volunteers of the Year for 2018 where I won an all-expenses-paid trip to India, to see the amazing work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF), I leave for this exciting trip in a weeks’ time.

Over the nearly 2 weeks I am there, I will visit the international award-winning Community programmes run by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR for Sopra Steria India. Every year, Gayathri’s programme supports around 70,000 children through school, while also providing free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, and a huge number of other educational and social initiatives.

She also runs the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme, where we fund the full university education and living costs for a number of the brightest students from schools we support. So far more than 500 pupils through higher education programmes thanks to the Sopra Steria scholarship programme.

My volunteering

I volunteer every week at the Great Western Hospital Falcon Ward in Swindon, visiting patients on the major stroke unit, providing much needed company for individuals who may have had no visitors, as well as helping with feeding for patients who have little or no mobility.

I was inspired to volunteer after I had fought a very personal battle caring for my sister with Motor Neurone Disease. It was whilst visiting her in the hospital that that I picked up a leaflet asking for volunteers, that was over 4 years ago now. I absolutely love doing it!

I know some of the patients I see have not had a visitor all day, very often I spend time with each person chatting and putting the world to rights, chatting about travel, gardening or cooking before helping the nurses with their feeding and making cups of tea. Just simple things that I know make a difference, being the major stroke unit there are many patients there who struggle with communications and that takes time, time that the nurses don’t always have.

In addition to my work at the hospital which I am still doing and I also volunteer for a local group called “The Achievers” (Adult LD Group) this is a voluntary group in Swindon that gives adults with Learning difficulties a social context in which to interact with other adults and care receivers. We once a month arrange a social get together for the ‘members’ this varies from a meal at a local pub, cinema or theatre visits, day trips to local amenities e.g. Longleat or a canal boat trip. The members of the group have many varied disabilities from eating and drinking difficulties, communication and hearing difficulties, autism, complex physical needs, long term health conditions, behaviour that challenges others, sensory disability & mental health illness. This is a lovely group currently there are about 40 members in the Swindon area and we have just had a summer picnic and walk and are planning a Christmas meal and a trip to the panto in January, I give my time on this the day trips are usually at the weekends and evening functions I do after work.


By John Gough