The 17%: Addressing the diversity challenge in tech

Written by Laura Fox-Newby, Strategic Partnership Manager, Epos Now

The ‘17%-Banking on Diversity in Tech’ was an event held by Digital Leaders and Women in Banking and Finance to re-examine the ‘leadership capabilities’ needed to transform the sectors, and to look how future leadership could become more diverse, digitally-enabled & agile.

Head of Projects and Strategic Change, Sam Notley and Strategic Partnership Manager, Laura Fox-Newby, attended the event to see how we could apply some of these learnings within our business.

17% was hosted by Lloyds Banking, who in 2014, made a bold public commitment on gender equality to increase the proportion of senior management roles held by women to 40% by 2020. The importance of this commitment was highlighted in the keynote held by Digital Leaders Chair, Jacqueline de Rojas.

Jacqueline highlighted our generation is with technology, announcing we were borderline smug, until the harsh realisation came… are we confident the younger generation has the skills to innovate the technology that has not yet been developed? The skills gap is a very real risk that we must address.

We are advancing in technology but are work cultures moving at the same pace? Using Epos Now as an example, Norwich is a small pond when recruiting new talent. If technology enables us to communicate with text, instant messaging and video conferencing, are we casting our net wide enough by offering remote working?

Jacqueline finished with a few interesting stats:

  • 50% of gamers are women however of that only 7% are design developers
  • There are only 23% of females working in the technology industry in the UK
  • 1 in 20 are Senior Executive positions within the technology industry are held by women

We need to inspire the new generation to pursue careers in technology, providing the right skills and leveraging the technology available to diversify our workforce. This is something addressed in the #changetheratio workshop lead by Lloyds Director of Innovation, Claire Calmejane and CEO of Acorn AspirationsElena Sinel.

Elena shared some of the great work done by Acorn Aspirations encouraging teenagers, particularly females, to promote problem-solving behaviours through by holding hackathons. As a mother, it was reassuring to see the positive change that is happening and the innovations that are knocking on the glass ceiling.

The final panel discussion addressed the fine line between diversity and positive discrimination, a challenge faced by businesses everywhere. Nick Williams, Managing Director of Consumer and Commercial Digital at Lloyds noted the importance of being able to attract, develop, and retain top female talent as companies with a gender diverse senior management perform better, than those without.

This lead onto challenges faced by women in the workplace, looking at returners, not only maternity leave but anyone who takes a career gap. How we enable their path back to work? How do we support those parents and allow them to be fantastic in both areas of their life? Is it possible to have it all?

This question really made me reflect. That day I had got up, travelled to London and walked into a room full of powerful and successful businesswomen. I felt self-assured and confident that I belonged there. However, just the day before I was sat waiting to go in for my son’s parents evening feeling conscious that my son had not completed as much reading at home as he could’ve if I wasn’t running late or focused on work. I was already on the defensive, being so used to having to defend my choice to be a working mum.

Both experiences have left me feeling energised and inspired. The event was an amazing opportunity to address the issue of diversity and inclusion. We are hoping to raise the next generation of tech superstars who won’t need to be taught about inclusion because they won’t know any other way.

The importance of role models, diversity and inclusion is something we can all contribute to, whether male or female. If you are male, you may be a parent with a daughter, an uncle with a niece, or brother to a sister – how are you supporting or encouraging their dreams? Technology is an opportunity for everybody to innovate.

“It’s difficult to name female role models within the technology industry, but that is no reason to stop striving. Be the role model you want to find.

This article was originally published here and reposted with permission.

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