Reflections on diversity in tech

Written by Vivienne Artz, President of WIBF

300 people, mainly women, and mainly young women at that, gathered in one venue made for an engaging, fascinating, illuminating day at the 17% Banking on Diversity in Tech event on Thursday 2nd November. Collaboration by Lloyds Banking Group, Digital Leaders and Women in Banking and Finance made the conference possible. Working together – yes, women do that well.

Raising questions about the jobs to of the future that we currently can’t even imagine. This was thrilling stuff.

How can we prepare ourselves, never mind our young people, for the unknown world ahead?

The conference opened eyes, challenged views and expanded vision on what is possible tech wise and diversity wise.

In some ways it is a relief to know that I can’t possibly know it all.

Recent research shows that only 17% of employees in the UK tech sector are women. What is crucial, as in everything, is the leadership leading the digital transformation. The leaders I met and heard today encouraged me to believe that in leadership, at least, we are heading the right way. These senior woman and men were fascinating in their insights and commitment to diversity in digital – and beyond.

The panel I chaired discussed how organisations can address gender imbalance in response to projected future resource gaps in the technology sector. The panel members were outstanding. Justine Roberts, CEO Mumsnet and Gransnet, was refreshingly outspoken while Co-authors of “The Glass Wall, Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Pearl & Dean, and Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at Mediacom, were not afraid to launch in to the fray and challenge and take up the points made by other members of the panel.

The panel instigated a lively conversation from their differing viewpoints, which made for a really useful session. Combative conversationalists!

Andy Clarke, Risk Director, Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) was so thoughtful and ambitious for Lloyds Banking Group around gender and diversity that I suspect all attendees will be searching the LBG jobs pages. He told us that LBG has a target of 40% of senior positions to be held by women by 2020.

We agreed that this isn’t about positive discrimination, it is about identifying the right people for the right role; it is about finding that hidden talent and embracing it. Diversity can only happen if the culture is supportive and diverse.

Marian Bloodworth, Employment Partner at Kemp Little, and WIBF Advisory Board Member, with her superb gravitas and breadth of experience as a lawyer who has acted for individuals and corporates dealing with employment issues when they have gone wrong really brought a new angle to the panel discussion, directing us to think about where things have gone wrong for gender and diversity and what to do then.

Marian pointed out that if you don’t see diversity as a business imperative then change will be slow to happen; she emphasised that gender pay gap reporting helps with transparency.

Focussed leadership with transparent aims and a realistic plan of how to achieve them. This is how diversity will flourish. This is how we will flourish within the digital transformation.

Focus, transparency, leadership.

We can do that.

Photographs of the event can be found on our Flickr Account.

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