Inspiring Inclusion: it’s a group effort

The world has come a long way since the first International Women’s Day rally 113 years ago, but there is still a notable distance to go before gender equality is achieved. Within the technology sector in particular, despite having produced some of the most renowned female figures in history - from Ada Lovelace to Marie Curie - women still only represent 26% of the workforce and 5% of management. To truly #InspireInclusion, eight technology professionals comment on what must change and emphasise why this is indeed, a group effort.

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Inspire begins with I

“There are several ways that women can overcome barriers in the tech space,” Shirley Knowles, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, Progress, begins, highlighting how a focus on skill development, confidence building, and mentorship will enable women to empower themselves.

Elaborating, she advises that “women should continue to educate themselves and develop their skills in technology fields through formal education, online sources, workshops and certifications” and “should work on building their confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness to overcome imposter syndrome and other barriers that may hold them back in the workplace.”

“Building a strong professional network and seeking out mentorship from successful men and women in the tech industry can provide valuable guidance, support, and opportunities for career advancement,” she finishes.

Agreeing, Lindsay Gallard, Chief People Officer, Six Degrees, adds that it is also important to mentor others. He recommends focusing on goals, reality and options:

“Where is it that you want to get to? What's your boldest aspiration? Where is your starting point with respect to that? What could some next steps look like for you, or how can you engage with people who could help? What will you do next? Or, put another way, who will do what, and when?”

Through this, he summarises, “we can create an urge for more, or different, or better within someone just by showing them what's even possible.”

Encouraging diversity and inclusion within organisations

Implementing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) processes within an organisation should be viewed as strategically critical, with two-thirds of British workers saying workplace EDI is important when job hunting. Here are some examples of easy ways organisations can implement better EDI practices.

1. Encouragement

“Encouragement to speak out and shout about achievements is the first step,” Carolyn Medland, Senior Director, Associate Success, Blue Yonder states. “At Blue Yonder, our ‘Fearless Females of Supply Chain’ LinkedIn Live series highlights women in the supply chain and technology field, hopefully encouraging other women to jump into the field, knowing there are others ahead of them cheering them on.

“However, organisational initiatives can only take you so far; a lot of the important work needs to be done at an educational level in schools. For many people, the trajectory of their careers is already in motion by the time they enter university, so organisations should be engaging in programmes that are aimed at girls in school, enflaming their imaginations about the wonder of technology and how women have shaped the world.”

2. Diverse voices - from top to bottom

“Women and men often approach problems from different perspectives,” acknowledges Oylum Tagmac, Senior Director, International Partner Management, Commvault. “This diversity of ideas and approaches fosters innovation, which is crucial for making a meaningful impact. The role of leadership commitment in fostering such an inclusive workplace is crucial. Central to this effort is the cultivation of an environment where every voice is not only heard but valued.”

Speaking about the financial industry in particular, where women only hold 21% of board seats and 5% of CEO positions, Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder, Aqilla, reiterates: “Female representation needs to improve so that young girls interested in maths have visibility of women in senior leadership positions and have something to aspire to. We can’t afford to be deterring girls away from this sector!”

3. Inclusive policies

One of the most significant ways women are impacted in the workforce is the discrimination and inequality they face for taking career breaks and maternity leave.

Hana Rizvić, Head of AI, Intellias, elaborates: “Prolonged absence can lead women to fall behind through no fault of their own. I advocate for companies to provide ample support for women upon their return, offering opportunities for learning and catching up to mitigate the impact on their advancement and promotions.”

“More work needs to be done to stop the gender pay gap,” adds Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce highlights, as “career breaks, caring responsibilities and long stints of working part-time contribute to women falling behind men when it comes to wealth accumulation.

“At Fluent Commerce we are committed to pay transparency, making sure we review salaries rigorously and regularly. Additionally, we offer equal support to men and women when they become parents. However, there is a lot more businesses and leaders can do - and I'm including myself here. We can’t implement one or two changes and then rest, or we risk a backslide or stagnation.”

A continued steady climb or risk a landslide

“It is not a secret that gender disparity is a big issue in the tech industry,” Samantha Thorne, Head of People Policy & Global Mobility at Node4 summarises, but “this doesn’t stem solely from a lack of women entering the industry but is exacerbated by the fact that those that are encouraged in are soon chased out by the male-dominated culture. New research reveals that one in three women contemplated leaving their tech jobs in 2023 and a quarter of those that did, left the industry for good.”

Additionally, “there have been attempts in recent years to roll back women’s rights,” states Fluent Commerce’s Jackson, “with these movements gaining momentum around the world. Combined with a growing number of young men and boys who believe that feminism is causing more harm than good, it’s an alarming trend.”

Clearly, with recent research highlighting that 19% of men in the UK don’t believe gender inequality exists, more work needs to be done to ensure efforts are clear and voices are heard.

“With a greater focus on education, inclusion at work and fearlessness when it comes to recognising great work, we can ensure this day continues to be a bastion for female celebration,” Blue Yonder’s Medland concludes.

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