In this guest blog, Jennifer Major, head of internet of things (IoT) at SAS UK & Ireland, discusses the obstacles and the opportunities involved creating diversity in analytics.
In the face of the constant soundbites we hear about the British tech sector’s “worrying” lack of diversity, what are the steps being taken to resolve this mounting problem?
Globally, the context and cultures groups find themselves in have restricted their potential to excel in tech. Although progress has been achieved towards equality and increasing diversity, it has not been a straightforward process. There is still an uphill battle to be won.
It has to be clarified that this is not about “political correctness”! Increasing diversity in tech makes business sense. The impact that these previously excluded groups can have on science and analytics needs to be realised and harnessed.
The doorway to diversity
Many of the obstacles facing excluded groups are cultural. Habitual bias, or the assumption that a certain race, gender or religion is less capable, can exist in many situations, whether explicitly or implicitly. This might be the case for educational institutions, employers and recruitment processes, or just the domestic environment in which people grow up.
To break down the barriers of exclusion, our societies, institutions and decision-makers need to be made more representative. Diversity isn’t only important to a single race, religion, gender or group – depending on the context, the barriers of bias can limit anyone’s potential.
Educating earlier is the way to encourage greater diversity in science, technology, engineer and maths (Stem) subjects. By focusing on young people as a group and ensuring they have a level playing field on which to start their journey, we stand the best chance of increasing diversity in the field as a whole by helping to build a meritocratic industry.
Equality of educational opportunity is not a new idea, but the need for it is real and pressing. Indeed, in some advanced economies we seem to be moving backwards. In the US, for example, the number of computer science bachelors’ degrees awarded to women peaked in the 1980s and has been dropping ever since.
At the same time, however, there are causes for celebration. Rapid progress has been achieved in BRIC countries where, despite challenges, large numbers of women are eschewing arts subjects for degrees and careers in technology. In China, Brazil and Mexico, women make up 36%, 38% and 45% of the total IT workforce respectively. This is compared to only 17% in the UK.
To make further progress at home, we need to address perception problems towards Stem subjects. Old stereotypes of the sciences being the preserve of middle-class white men or awkward social rejects are being undermined every day. Yet those ideas still shape public thought. If children are repeatedly given perceptions that Stem is for a certain or special kind of person, it can reduce the chances they will pursue careers in maths or science.
We are often told that Stem skills can be the foundation of a lucrative career, but is that the most effective message to get children’s attention? In the end, we need to do more to convince future generations that Stem can be fun, fulfilling and useful. Maths and science aren’t all about dry formulae: they are practical and powerful, driving amazing innovation everywhere.
Analytics for everyone
Success in data science depends on a wide range of complementary skills. As data and analytics move closer to the top of the corporate agenda, the ability to communicate simply and inclusively will be crucial.
The real power of analytics is that it democratises data for everyone, from the boardroom to the factory floor and everyone in between. That means that the demand for more skilled staff in analytics is increasing day by day. Despite the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the crucial role human analytics teams play in extracting valuable insights from raw data cannot be ignored.
Businesses need to ensure they are recruiting as widely and with as much diversity as possible to ensure they get the most skilled people for the job.
As the day dubbed “Equal Pay Day” approached in the UK, I caught up with Sarah Kaiser, diversity and inclusion lead at Fujitsu EMEIA, to learn more about the difference between the Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay.
Much like many buzzwords these terms can become confused, and are often used interchangeably.
But Kaiser points out they are two very different things.
“Equal pay is when men and women are doing the same job, a job of equal value, are they actually paid the same amount?” she says. “The gender pay gap is totally different – it looks at average pay of all men and all women in an organisation, regardless of what role they do or how senior they are.”
While Friday 9 November has been dubbed “Equal Pay Day” what it also shines a light on is the pay gap between men and women as a whole.
Because of the current gap in pay between men and women, as of Saturday 10 November women are technically working for free until the end of the year.
What this really highlights is that men are more likely to reach higher-paid positions such as those in the c-suite, rather than women being paid less to do the same job.
Now I’m sure that does still happen in some places, but paying staff doing the same job role different wages solely on their gender has been illegal in the UK since the 1970 Equal Pay Act.
It’s no secret that in many organisations the people at the very top, and are therefore the higher paid, are predominantly men.
For this reason it’s no surprise that in the technology industry suffers from a significant gender pay gap – a diversity problem leads to a gender pay problem.
This is why so many people think the gender pay gap won’t be solved until the diversity gap is also closed.
In Fujitsu there is an equal pay differential of less than 1%, but the firm found it has a gender pay gap of around 16.4%.
Kaiser says: “We know that men and women are paid the same for the same jobs, but we want to get more women at c-level and in some higher paid positions. We have fewer women in technical roles, and technical roles tend to be higher paid, and more women in roles like HR, which sadly is not the highest paid function in the world.”
Some women are marking Equal Pay Day by putting an Out of Offices on their emails to highlight the disparity between men and women in the workplace.
Kaiser says in Fujitsu they have focused on transparency to try and equal the playing field.
“I found gender pay gap reporting really exciting, it was something that Fujitsu embraced as a company, to publish our gender pay gap last year and we’ve published ours this year again. We think it’s the only way we’re going to move the dial is by creating an environment people know where we all are and people are demanding change.” She says, and claims knowing the figures is helping accelerate change, bringing these issues to the forefront of people’s minds.
She’s not the only one who believes so – other experts in the tech sector have claimed gender pay reporting can help highlight the areas that have issues and encourage change.
There’s still a long way to go, but 2018 – the year of the woman – has been helpful in shining a light on how much still needs to be done, and how many people are willing to stand up for equality.
On 1 November 2018 Google staff from offices around the world staged walkouts to protest the company’s alleged poor treatment of women.
Staff across all departments, in several cities globally, have left their office buildings to stand outside in protest, including the internet giant’s offices in Dublin, London and Zurich.
Alongside hashtags supporting women’s rights, such as #TimesUp and #MeToo, the walkout has been largely documented through a Twitter account called @GoogleWalkout which also has information about what staff hope the walkouts will achieve.
The account states it does not represent the views of Google, whilst posting a list of five “demands” employees would like to see the company address.
These demands are ending forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, end pay and opportunity inequality, publically disclosing a sexual harassment transparency report, introducing a clear and transparent global process for reporting sexual misconduct and ensuring the firm’s chief diversity officer reports directly to the CEO.
To me, these seem like reasonable demands, and you may be wondering what has led Google employees to such a drastic display of dissatisfaction?
It has been reported, and suggested on the @GoogleWalkout Twitter account, that there have been several instances in which sexual harassers have been protected over victims in the firm, including the firm paying off an executive after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a female employee.
Last year a Google employee was dismissed after publishing a “manifesto” which suggested women were biologically incompatible for a career in technology, but as put by Computer Weekly’s Editor in Chief at the time: why do tech companies in the modern world continue to employ men who have a problem with women?
Why are technology companies letting men get away with sexual abuse and harassment at the cost of women’s safety in the industry and workplace?
And yes, I’m saying technology companies because Google is not the only example of behaviour that favours men and their out-dated “boys will be boys” attitude.
Many engineers working for Uber claim to have been harassed and discriminated against, and the CEO has openly made sexist comments.
A slew of women from Silicon Valley have also admitted to experiencing sexual harassment, discrimination and misconduct after one woman spoke out about her experiences.
Diversity has been proven to improve business outcomes, but the technology still remains a boy’s club.
The rest of 2018 is still the Year of the Woman and while those taking part in the Google walkout are doing an admirable thing to try and promote change, women shouldn’t have to go to this extent to be treated as equals.
The publicity the event has generated has shone a light on how much needs to change, both in Google and in the industry as a whole.
This takes a number of different initiatives including diverse hiring, mandating an inclusive culture, closing the gender pay gap, among a myriad of other things, and of course men in the industry need to be on board with these changes to push them forward.
As ridiculous as it sounds, thousands and thousands of people walking out of their jobs for a day is only the start.
Several women in tech spoke about the importance of diversity at Splunk.conf 2018 in Florida, some about shocking diversity statistics and others giving advice from one woman in tech to another.
To begin with a deep dive of diversity data, Grace Balancio, sales engineer at Splunk, outlined the following US-specific facts:
During a 2014 diversity gap analysis in Silicon Valley, it was found that 18% of the people working in tech were women, 50% were white, 41% were Asian, 3% were Hispanic and 2% were black.
More recent statistics from the US National Centre for Women and Information Technology found 26% of people in tech were women, and women made up only 17% of CIOs for fortune 500 companies.
When analysing Google trends and keywords, Balancio found diversity and inclusion has been a trending topic over the last ten years, but this is less so the case if the keywords are changed to women in technology or diversity in technology.
When talking about the reason behind needing more diversity in the technology industry, she hit the nail on the head: “Diversity and inclusion has been a trending topic, especially in Silicon Valley. It’s not just a feel good thing. We should all be aware of it, it makes sense, because we’re in tech to build tech for everyone.”
Suzanne McGovern, head of diversity and inclusion at Splunk, was pulling no punches when talking about the same subject.
“I don’t think as human beings we’re showing up as we should be right now,” she said.
“We can do better.”
It’s true that diversity and inclusion is more widely discussed throughout the technology industry, and many people are now focussing on the business case.
Whilst emphasising that “the stats don’t lie”, McGovern said: “We need to move away from the dialogs of this is the right thing to do and everyone will be enlightened.”
And the statistics do exist: for example having one woman on the board of a company reduces the likelihood of that firm going bankrupt by 20%.
While it seems quite cynical to me to only talk about the business case for diversity, it does seem clear that moving the discussion in this direction to make those who can actually do something about it, in other words the leadership in organisations, listen.
It’s true that more needs to be done to increase the amount of diversity in tech and it needs to filter down from the top.
McGovern said: Male allies need to “show up” (something I agree with) people need to be more proactive on calling out bad behaviour in the workplace (something I also agree with) and the hardest part of the work to increase diversity is changing the culture and approach towards inclusion in an organisation (guess what… these are also things I wholeheartedly agree with).
While McGovern claimed “this is not that hard, this is not rocket science, there are ways to do this” it is clear that much more still needs to be done to get organisations working towards a more diverse tech industry.
Computer Weekly’s own research found that though many companies believe they are doing their bit to balance the male/female split in their IT teams, 37% of professionals are not aware of any diversity initiatives taking place in their firms.
It seems that at the moment, the pace of change will be very slow, but each of the women who spoke at Splunk.conf 2018 had some suggestions as to how we can begin to shift the dial.
- Role models
- Holding ourselves and our leadership accountable
- Measurable outcomes
Some of these suggestions are very important and common when talking about how to encourage diverse talent into the sector.
On the topic of holding ourselves and our leadership accountable, Mary Ann Blair, CISO of Carnegie Mellon said firms need to work “from the inside out” – diversity needs to be tackled inside of an organisation at the same time as that organisation trying to help outside initiatives increase the amount of diversity in tech.
She also claimed part of having industry role models is to tackle the negative stereotypes surrounding the technology industry and help girls to understand what a role in technology actually entails.
She said we need to “help girls understand that there’s a lot of problem solving, there’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of game play” in the sector rather than this commonly held belief that the only people working in tech do so alone in the dark crouched over a computer.
Blair said it’s time for people to start calling other people out if they do something that holds people back, like talk over a woman during a meeting or some of the many of the other commonly occurring workplace misdemeanours that only succeed in keep men at the top.
But not everything needs to be called out.
She said: “There’s a time to confront and there’s a time to work your magic behind the scenes.”
As for encouraging young people into the industry, Blair said: “It starts early and it’s continuous. We need to interest them, we need to engage and attract them”
But it is common for women, especially in industries where they are outnumbered, not to recognise their talent and Blair stated when applying for jobs women will commonly look to meet all of the traits required before they will put themselves forward, whereas men will happily apply if they only meet one.
Continuing with this topic, Angie Ruan, SVP of technology for Nasdaq claimed one of the more important things she had learned during her career is that a lot of the time she help herself back, so rather than there being a glass ceiling it can often actually be a “sticky floor”.
Role models is a frequently covered topic when it comes to increasing the number of women in the technology industry, with many young women claiming they wished women already in the industry would do more to encourage them into the sector.
But sometimes not touched upon is the importance of parents in the decisions young people make about the subjects they study or the careers they pursue.
Ruan joked that her mother told her to pursue a career in technology because it would be office-based, so she could use the office air-conditioning to escape the humid conditions outside.
This was a sentiment shared by Haiyan Song, senior vice president and general manager for security markets at Splunk, who claimed she had expecting to become a dentist, but changed direction once her father realised how “impactful” technology would be.
She says: “He was the one who said I should go and apply for it and the time I didn’t know what computer science was at all.”
As well as role models, having a mentor, a sponsor or a support system can be very helpful for anyone looking to progress their career, regardless of gender or industry.
Song says “even just in life having a mentor having someone who will pull you through important critical moments of life is really important” but not to worry if the mentor-mentee relationship is not official.
“A lot of the learnings can be from people who are sitting here, from people you are working with,”
She says. “I don’t think you should zero in on just one person.”
As is frequently stated when it comes to increasing the amount of diversity in the technology industry there is no silver bullet, but one thing can be agreed: the pace of change is too slow to keep having the same conversations without taking action.
In 2018 Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Global Tech Advocates (GTA), won the Male Agent of Change Award at the 2018 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.
Everywoman introduced the Male Agent of Change award in 2017 to shine a light on some of the men who are trying to help to shift the dial in the sector.
While some wonder if there should be a place for men in an event dedicated to showcasing women in the technology industry, Shaw points out that having men present and participating in these situation acts to educate others about what they can do to help make a change.
“Men are part of the problem and therefore must be part of the solution. Getting more women into the tech sector and guaranteeing that we take on the structural barriers that have restricted opportunity requires engagement at all levels,” he says.
“Part of the problem is education, if we are not assessing and redefining today’s current practices then we cannot address the roots of the problem – men must play an active role here and promoting some of the male role models who are doing this well, I think is a good thing.”
It’s not revelation that in order to increase the amount of diversity in the technology industry those who are in decision making positions in firms have to be on board with the process, and a majority of these in the sector will be men.
As the founder of TLA and GTA Shaw himself has played a huge part in pushing for diversity in the space – TLA has created the Diversity in Tech: a manifesto for London which aims to act as a “call to action” for the public and private sectors to do more to tackle the lack of diversity in the tech industry, bringing together insight from experts on the topic of diversity and inclusion in tech.
Working groups such as TLA women in Tech, led by regular on Computer Weekly’s list of the most influential women in UK tech, Sarah Luxford, also play an active role in presenting solutions to tech’s diversity problems.
Shaw urges others in the industry to be “part of the collective efforts” that are in place to support and advance women in the industry, as well as to provide mentorship to women on an individual basis.
“There are great initiatives out there that invite men to take part and act as excellent resources for educating men on how we bring more women into the tech sector,” he explains.
“I think it’s also key to recognise the importance of helping women on an individual to individual basis – be there to listen, provide support, share perspective – these are all important things that men can do on both an individual and collective basis.”
Mentors and role models can play a key role in encouraging people to pursue particular careers or roles.
Many young women have also claimed they wish they had more encouragement from role models in the industry – a lack of visible and accessible role models means young women don’t consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) as if they don’t see anyone like them, they don’t think it’s something they can do.
The same may be said about men in the industry – if they don’t see other men doing their part to promote diversity they won’t see the need to do so.
The Women in IT label can sometimes put men off of attending events or getting involved with initiatives, but Shaw says education surrounding the issues the industry is facing can change this.
He says: “It is vital that these initiatives are targeted at men and that we make sure that the rallying messages are making their way into the areas most dominated by males. Again, this is about education and action. We need to change attitudes but equally make sure that workplace practices are amended to create inclusive environments that allow women to prosper across the tech sector.”
Despite the effort that many are putting into trying to increase the amount of diversity in the technology industry, progress is slow.
Shaw says: “For too long the tech sector has suffered from an unacceptable lack of gender diversity – it isn’t good enough and now is the time for change.”
The 2019 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards will be announced at a special event in London on 6 March next year.
In this guest post Byron Calmonson, director of the resourcing hub, claims the only way to ensure diversity and inclusion in an organisation is to set measurable targets.
Are you getting fed up with the constant talk about diversity and inclusion..? So am I.
Because simply talking about diversity doesn’t mean that anything is actually going to change.
In the resourcing hub’s WITsend blog in November 2017 I wrote about how most companies now have a diversity and inclusion policy, but that there usually is little substance behind it. REAL diversity and inclusion require REAL change and commitment, which in turn require clearly defined and measurable targets.
If your organisation is serious about recruiting a diverse workforce and ensuring that your employees all get equal opportunities to grow and progress, you should set measurable targets and continuously monitor them.
In order to improve diversity within their organisations, business leaders need to first and foremost fully understand what diversity and inclusion actually mean. A significant shift in awareness, attitudes and behaviours is required.
Organisations must also possess the strategic focus, resources and tools to map out:
- Where they are now
- Where they want to be
- What the timescales are
- What changes are required
- How to overcome any hurdles
- Who is accountable
- How success will be measured
An inclusive government
The UK Civil Service is a very interesting case in point. As part of the Civil Service Workforce Plan, the government set themselves the ambitious target to become the nation’s most inclusive employer by 2020.
In order to drive the Workforce Plan forward, the government has created a diversity and inclusion working group. I am thrilled to be a member of this committee and regularly meet with senior government leaders to consult on, in particular, disability inclusion.
The Civil Service has already introduced several brilliant initiatives such as development programmes for employees from underrepresented groups and ‘name and school blind’ recruitment processes. Furthermore, all Permanent Secretaries are tasked with improving diversity and directly accountable to the Head of the Civil Service. There is also a partnership with the private sector and CIPD, the professional body for HR, to define the goals and action plans.
Will the Civil Service meet their target by 2020? Perhaps not, but by then they will be on their journey travelling in the right direction and have every reason to be proud.
Smart Recruitment for diversity
In our business we have trademarked SRaaS (Smart Recruitment as a Service) where we encourage hiring managers to think much wider about talent and resourcing to help attract a high-quality diverse candidate pool. We want clients to move their businesses away from static recruitment processes that exclude a significant proportion of the candidate market to flexible, inclusive solutions.
Effective target setting and continuous evaluation are a key part of this. We work with clients to bespoke and agree specific diversity metrics and key performance indicators for each new job role and recruitment campaign. For example, organisations could aim for 50% women at board level within 5 years or increasing the number of graduates from ethnic minorities by a minimum of 25% during a 2-year period. Some positions offer us more opportunity to be truly inclusive than the ‘harder to fill’ specialist roles, but we will always look to present a range of candidates that offer the client talent from a diverse candidate pool.
Utilising our database and tools we produce regular, tailored reports for the customer providing key metrics and updates on the recruitment services being carried out. Reporting content is determined by the customer’s key diversity performance indicators and targets. We also identify and monitor any challenges or issues.
In summary, I firmly believe that leaders in the public as well as private sectors who invest in targeted, measurable inclusion and build diverse, multi-skilled teams empowered to think differently will reap the rewards. Organisations with a diverse workforce are simply smarter, more innovative and achieve better financial outcomes.
Anyone who plays a part in promoting diversity in the technology industry will have heard of unconscious bias training, and earlier this year I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take part in the unconscious bias training that CA Technologies has provided to all of its 2,000 employees in Europe, regardless of whether or not they are hiring managers.
The point of unconscious bias training is to make people aware of their biases and ways that they can overcome them.
In relation to increasing the amount of diversity in the technology industry, by making people aware of their biases, they will be able to address them during the hiring process, recognising when they may be choosing one candidate over another for psychological reasons and hopefully consider other people for the role.
Knowing your biases, though sometimes uncomfortable, helps you to tackle them.
CA’s training began by talking through how people’s brains work – inherently humans are wired to keep themselves safe, and as such they make millions of unconscious choices a day, some of which encourage a human’s fight or flight response.
Depending on our upbringing, social stereotypes and a number of other factors, our brains may be wired to be wary of certain people, usually in such a way that we are more prone to trust and accept people who look and act like us.
By becoming aware of these biases, we can change the way we assess people.
Part of CA’s unconscious bias training involved looking at pictures of real adverts that have been released to the public in the past that could be considered to be biased in one way or another.
One of the adverts, from Belgian company Re-born to be Alive, was for organ donation featuring a woman in her underwear and the caption: “Becoming a donor is probably your only chance to get inside her.”
This wouldn’t fly in the UK (I hope) and I can say it certainly made me feel uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as some of the comments my friends made afterwards when I told them about it.
They gave the justification that this kind of thing was “probably funny” in Belgium, and that women would probably also laugh at it.
Regardless of whether or not women would find this funny in its intended region, sexism didn’t need to be used in a campaign promoting organ donation.
And for those who are thinking you “can’t say anything these days” or that it’s “political correctness gone mad” I’d like to remind you that marketing is not the same as having a group discussion or going to see a comedian – and neither is making hiring decisions or conducting appropriate behaviour in the workplace.
Some of the women in my group stated that these adverts would not have gone public if there had been at least one woman involved in the decision making process.
Some men disagreed.
And of course there were comments from the men in the group and some male friends afterwards that adverts such as the Diet Coke advert are also sexist.
I agree that these adverts are just as inappropriate, but pointing out (the significantly fewer) wrongdoings in the opposite direction does not solve the issue.
If anything it highlights the importance of equality – no one should have to endure these generalisations.
Of the adverts we saw that opened my eyes the most about bias was for a rail company offering family tickets.
The advert featured a gay couple with a child, all looking very happy. This could be seen as an attempt to promote diversity, saying families are not always the traditional “nuclear” family involving a straight couple, usually with two kids (one girl and one boy) – and many in my group pointed this out.
But looking at the image I had never considered before that the “acceptable” representation of the LGBTQ+ community is white gay men in a committed relationship who have adopted a child who looks just like them.
Unfortunately it seems that unconscious bias training does not have to be given in every firm, and there is, as far as I’m aware, no standard for delivering it either.
I think going forward if we’re to see any change, unconscious bias training is something we should all have to go through to make sure we are aware of the inner workings of our brains and be better equipped to tackle the disparity this causes.
Not only was it an eye opening experience for me in that I learnt more about myself, but I also learnt, through discussions surrounding my opinion on the training, about the attitude others have towards equality, in the technology industry and worldwide – and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
In this contributed blog post Leon Brown, owner of Nextpoint, talks about the role exclusion pays in the technology industry’s diversity gap.
Attracting and retaining skills required to develop and operate technology is a concern for all major companies. Research highlighted by Computer Weekly suggests that the UK is expected to have 800,000 unfilled IT jobs by 2020 – a figure not helped by the rapidly impending Brexit. Organisations who sell to global audiences may find themselves disadvantaged due to skills shortages, increasing salary expectations and being forced to hire applicants who are not ideal.
Through strategic planning, the industry can avoid this scenario while simultaneously addressing the moral issue of inequality through social mobility. Unlike the issue of diversity, where the technology sector must compete with other industries to attract the attention of people who already have many options, there is an opportunity for our sector to gain a monopoly over a segment of society that has as much potential, but has been neglected by both politics and industries alike.
We have the vacancies, the innovations and the earning potential to create rewarding careers – we just need to make them more accessible to people willing to earn their position. It is this last point that our industry systematically fails people from disadvantaged backgrounds at every point from access to technology and learning resources, to education delivery and the obsession with identity politics. Our industry prioritises its efforts to create a level playing field through programmes, funds and incentives to help people break the glass ceiling, while forgetting the people who are sinking in the quicksand. We allow this to happen because the unintentional exclusion of these people from our industry has meant that we don’t have any insight to understand the barriers that restrict their entrance.
Most of us take for granted the support provided by our parents, family and friends from childhood to adulthood. The comfort of being fed without financial worries meant we were able to commit our full attention and ability at school. In many cases, extra curricular activities encouraged and paid for by our parents led to our current success. In other cases it was the inspiration of a role model, advice or an introduction to an employer that led to a job offer that kickstarted our career. Although we’ve worked hard to get to where we are, our success is a product of the people who were positive influences in our path to adulthood.
The path to adulthood is a very different experience for people from disadvantaged circumstances. Financial issues are often the main culprit limiting a person’s potential, further impacted by negative social influences. It’s not uncommon for schools to provide children under these circumstances with the only reliable meal source. Hunger becomes a distraction to learning – leading these children to fall behind in their education. Parents affected by inequality often lack awareness and funds to hire tuition intervention that other parents would take advantage of, creating a situation where their children are left to accept low expectations and unresolved education issues.
Other factors relating to finances include basics we take for granted such as having a home internet connection and not needing to worry about electricity. Where funds are limited, people are faced with the option of topping up the electricity meter, having gas for heating or purchasing food. Even where there is internet access, this becomes irrelevant when there is no electricity. Without access to a working computer and online learning resources, potential to learn skills such as programming is stunted by their inherited financial circumstances. Like hunger, learning in the cold is also a distraction – meaning all options lead to limited learning outcomes.
Social connections also create a barrier to prevent these people from entering the industry. Often without parents, friends or family already in a career, they have no access to the informal careers advice, support and introductions we took for granted from our parents. Despite schools being legally obliged to provide careers advice, this is often second rate and inaccurate – especially for fast changing industries like technology.
The university route is often touted by schools and careers advisors as the only/best way into technology careers, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. People from these circumstances have different requirements to succeed than the average person unaffected by financial and social inequality. Often with issues unaddressed from earlier in their education, along with no support from family and financial pressures to support their parents, these people are at best set up to achieve less than their class peers and are more likely to drop out or perform badly in their degree.
We view it as their personal failure when they don’t get the top exam grades; we tell them they were too lazy and that they should have no problem in achieving the same results as other capable people. We ignore the impact of being poor and its distractions from being able to fully master the skills we want them to have. We won’t hire them if they only received a 2:2 degree or less because we view them as less capable than the average person with a good degree – a 2:1 or above. We look at them as a statistic, comparing them on paper to people who have been provided with advantages at every step in their education – up to and including the job application.
In reality, the people who graduate under these circumstances are often the people we need in our industry. They have the resilience to persevere through adversity and defy expectations. These are people who have learnt how to tackle problems without needing supervision – because that’s the only way to survive inequality when parents and the authorities are unable to help. They don’t need you to micromanage their time to be effective; they will be proactive in delivering results because they recognise the value your employment represents as a route out of their circumstances. These are the minority who developed the ability to escape the quicksand – and have the potential to shatter the glass ceiling if given the opportunity. The question is, are we as an industry willing to give them a fair chance to show their potential?
By no means should we set quotas for businesses to hire people who face inequality. Ultimately, it’s only good for business when we are able to hire the best people for the job – a fair system offers no sympathy at the point of recruitment. So the question becomes about how we can create paths for people to become suitable for the jobs that need to be filled? Our industry needs to actively develop and promote programmes that invite people with ambition who can persevere to become the best – regardless of their background.
How are we able to create a level playing field where everyone has an equal opportunity to become the best candidate for our jobs? How do we avoid overlooking the best candidates through misleading statistics and their exclusion from support programmes? Should we recognise the contribution to inequality created by our obsession with diversity? These are the hard questions the industry needs to ask so that our businesses can benefit from a greater pool of talent without concern for political entitlement.
Our sector and society will only truly benefit from diverse talent when there are equal opportunities for everyone to become the best candidate, regardless of class, background, gender or race. Until then, we will suffer the high costs and missed opportunities associated with our focus on creating the illusion of fairness through equal representation and its politics.
Everywoman is giving people an extra two weeks to put women forward to be considered for the 2019 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.
Now in its ninth year, 2019’s awards focus on the theme ‘achieve, elevate, inspire’ with the aim of showcasing both men and women in the technology industry who have worked towards increasing the amount of diversity in the sector.
In partnership with the Tech She Can Charter, the awards programme aims to create visible and accessible role models to try and encourage more women from across the pipeline to consider a career in tech.
Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman, said: “We are not only championing these women, but also the men going above and beyond to support them. The ever-evolving skills of “Rising Stars” and “Ones to Watch” make a valuable contribution to the growth of the tech industry, which is why this programme focuses so heavily on celebrating their talent and encouraging the pursuit of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.”
The 2019 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards categories are:
- One to Watch Award, sponsored by Computacenter, for a young woman between the ages of 11 and 16 who is encouraging others to study Stem
- Apprentice for a young woman taking part in an apprenticeship who is excelling in her early career
- Rising Star Award, sponsored by T-Systems, for a woman under the age of 26 who is excelling in her career
- Digital Star Award, sponsored by CGI, for a woman who is excelling in a digital role
- Software Engineer Award, sponsored by RBS, for a woman who is making advances in the field of software engineering
- Academic Award, sponsored by Lloyds Banking, for a woman in academia who is making a significant contribution to Stem
- Team Leader Award, sponsored by American Express, for a woman with a team of up to 100 employees how has made a significant different in her organisation
- Start-up Founder Award, for a female founder of a startup business
- Entrepreneur Award, for a female entrepreneur whose achievements will inspire entrepreneurship in others
- Innovator Award, for a woman who is using technology in a creative way
- Leader Award, sponsored by BP, for a women who is in a senior technology role in charge of more than 100 employees
- International Inspiration Award, for a man or woman outside of the UK who encouraging advancements in Stem
- Male Agent of Change Award, sponsored by VMWare, for a man who is encouraging equality in the technology sector
Nominations close on October 15, and the winners of the 2019 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards will be announced at the London Hilton on Park Lane, on 6 March 2019.
This year’s Computer Weekly diversity in technology event focused on the importance of inclusivity in attracting and retaining diverse talent. Inclusivity can mean many things to many people, and creating an environment that makes everyone feel welcome can be easier said than done.
But why is inclusivity such an important topic in relation to attracting and retaining diverse talent in the technology industry?
It has already been proven that diverse teams are more innovative, but part of the point of introducing diversity into an organisation is to reap the benefit of different mindsets, coming up with ideas a team of the same type of people wouldn’t have thought of and ultimately better reflecting the diverse customer base the technology industry has.
Without inclusivity, however, it can be difficult to retain people when they don’t feel like they can be themselves in the workplace, and if people have to put on a persona at work it defeats the point of having a diverse workforce.
For people who fit the stereotypical “IT guy” mould, inclusivity is already built in – they have been the only people in the industry up until this point who needed to be catered to.
This is obviously a massive generalisation, but workplace culture in the technology industry is weighted towards a particular group of people.
That’s why I wanted to tackle the importance of inclusion in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce as part of Computer Weekly’s annual diversity in technology event, in partnership with Mortimer Spinks.
To make it easier for organisations and individuals to understand how they can contribute to an inclusive environment, a number of industry experts and noteworthy women in IT gathered to talk about what inclusion means to them.
Creating a network of likeminded people, making sure people feel comfortable discussing inclusion topics and shutting down any negative-self-talk were all suggestions given to make the technology industry a better place to work for people who don’t match the usual IT stereotype.
But of all the topics covered throughout the day, acting as a role model and seeking out roles models was by far the most popular suggestion.
Joshy Uwadiae, who appeared on one of the day’s panels, has spoken to Computer Weekly before about how positive role models helped to encourage him into his career in IT, and this year’s Most Influential Woman in UK technology Amali de Alwis emphasised that everyone should feel they are a role model – there will always be someone who can benefit from your experience.
Computer Weekly’s annual list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK technology aims to make industry role models more visible and accessible for those who feel they are standing outside of the industry looking in.
In 2018 the longlist reached more than 200, and several of the women who made it through to the next round of judging were new to the shortlist.
Represented among the top 50 were more small businesses and social enterprises than ever before, pushing aside some of the larger corporates and highlighting the number of entrepreneurial women who are contributing a large amount of time and effort to making the industry more diverse.
Alongside the top 50 are Hall of Famers and Rising Stars, representing the two ends of the role model spectrum, and all are important in ensuring more people from outside of the techie stereotype consider a career in technology.
So what does inclusion mean to me? It means feeling comfortable enough to be myself in the workplace and giving the company the benefit of me as an individual. It seems to be working so far…