Women in Tech: Transforming the DNA of our Organisations

Written by James Fintain Lawler, President & CEO of Digital Alchemist Consulting Services International

In late January, Digital Leaders South East held a salon in the Thames Valley on the Reading University campus. The key topic of discussion was how we could accelerate the growth of Women in Tech to develop the right skills for the digital DNA of our organisations.

The discussant leads at the salon were Gini Ekstein, Microsoft EMEA Director and Business Psychologist, and Leigh Smyth, Head of Group Digital Inclusion, Consumer Digital, at Lloyds Banking Group.


A recent World Economic Report, entitled The Global Gender Gap, highlighted that the United Kingdom is ranked 18 in the Global Rankings behind countries such as Germany, France, Netherlands and the Nordic Countries, etc. It also highlighted that the UK’s position is primarily driven by its ranking in Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment.

In addition, the World Economic Forum’s recent report on The Industry Gender Gap Women and Work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which forecasts that the gender gap could be further exacerbated as the digital world accelerates with the development of AI / Robotics, etc, where some types of jobs could be significantly impacted.

Microsoft: managing change to deliver the right digital DNA for your organisation.

The key learning points from the Microsoft discussion included establishing the business case for change, which included three key elements:

  • The new skills required for power users to successfully change the business
  • The effect on new key business processes
  • The new behaviours and values required to achieve the culture that is needed to successfully transform the organisation

These aspects, along with the obvious financial and customer benefits, are essential to transforming your organisation into a social enterprise, where you are valued for what you share and not just what you know. This view therefore means that “culture eats change for breakfast”.

The discussion then focused on how we could make necessary changes to our culture and build in sustainability to achieve a culture that is conducive to accelerating the growth of women and bringing greater value to the organisation.

The key aspects to facilitate cultural change included:

  • Reprogramming our unconscious bias
  • Developing expert communication skills
  • Delivering grassroots enablement

One of the key aspects in delivering a digital culture is to recognise where each individual resides on the Geoffrey Moore Technology Adoption Lifecycle curve.

The salon discussion focused on how Microsoft is systematically training people to overcome unconscious bias that facilitates gender equality.

The four phases to address this concern are:

  • Unconscious inability
  • Conscious inability
  • Conscious ability
  • Unconscious ability

The observation was that organisations tend to stop too early at the conscious ability phase when what is really required is the need to achieve sustainability of the final phase – unconscious ability. “Training does not equal habit.”

The Microsoft organisation challenges itself on each hiring decision in order to ensure that an unconscious bias does not occur during the hiring process.

Some of the key measures of showing progress on unconscious bias include improved awareness, identifying the right skills and delivering the right business ROI.

The salon then went on to discuss how we need to recognise the “fight or flight response” when managing change, and how this affects each member of the team or group. (See note 1). The key approach to solving this phenomenon is to share each step on the change journey transparently and communicate what it means to us, even if we are unsure of what each specific step will be. It is important to establish a cadence for transparent communication at each step and use our stories to gain both an understanding and a buy in. “You are only as good as how much people understand what you are communicating.

Lloyds Banking Group: Creating a digital family friendly environment

Lloyds Banking Group’s colleagues are fundamental to its strategy and with engaged and customer focused colleagues essential in it becoming the best bank for customers and providing further competitive differentiation.

As part of the Group’s commitment to Helping Britain Prosper, Lloyds Banking Group has made a public commitment on gender equality to have 40% of senior roles filled by women by 2020.

It has also proactively formed partnerships with universities and polytechnics to acquire the right skills.

The salon went on to discuss the importance of mind-set and culture, and how integral they are in the development of digital skills, as well as agility skills and the ability to deal with ambiguity.

Creating a very family friendly environment is the next key aspect of Lloyds’ digital environment, as it enables people to manage both their family and business life.

The routine sharing of case studies in order to inspire other women is another aspect of Lloyds’ success in developing women. It has also created a digital apprenticeship and graduate scheme to ensure that there is a skilled pipeline of women who are available for future roles in the organisation.

In addition, the Group has created a “breakthrough network” of circa 13,000 women that focuses primarily on life skills. The network utilises typical digital tools, which include teleconferencing, mobiles, Facetime, etc.

The Consumer Digital Index can be found here. 

11 Step Plan to building the Nation’s Digital DNA

We then discussed how we could both adopt and adapt the Jacqueline de Rojas 11 Step Plan so that it could include what we had discussed and learnt during the salon, and how we could then build this into creating the right platform to accelerate the growth of women in the organisation’s Digital DNA. We then discussed how we, as a nation, could create the specific steps required to address the digital gap for each generation, so that all ages can smoothly adapt to the digital world. Please find the 11 step plan here and here.

Key takeaways

  • Encourage girls at an early age to challenge their own unconscious bias, which can limit their own potential
  • Consider the proactive coaching of girls from a very early stage to ensure that they will optimise their career and life
  • Challenge the organisation when it makes hiring decisions to ensure that there is not an unconscious bias in the hiring process
  • Integrate consultants and contractors into your organisation’s digital ethos
  • Utilise polytechnics, as well as universities, to hire and develop the right digital skills
  • Develop a scholar’s programme that focuses on developing the less fortunate young people in our society
  • Recognise in your cultural change plan where each individual is on their digital journey and support them accordingly
  • Proactively involve men in the development of women so that we can all become the best that we can be

My Final Thought

“When you get women in roles of leadership, we make things happen.”

Melinda Gates

Thank you to everyone who participated in the salon and thank you once again to Gini Ekstein, of Microsoft, and Leigh Smythe, of Lloyds Banking Group, for leading our excellent salon discussions.

I look forward to seeing you all at the next Digital Leaders South East Salon in April.

Register for future events: http://digileaders.com/

James Fintain Lawler is the Digital Leaders South East Region Partner and can be contacted via [email protected]

Note 1: The flight or fight response, also called the “acute stress response”, was first described by Walter Cannon in the 1920s as a theory that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system. The response was later recognised as the first stage of a general adaptation syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.


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