Gender Diversity: Let’s Do This!

Gender Diversity: Let’s Do This was the great motto of Thursday’s panel on diversity in tech at Bath Digital Festival. I was invited along to represent Women’s Tech Hub and join a bunch of other people not content with tech’s current lack of diversity. It was great to meet people who I have only ‘met’ online before, and reconnect with familiar faces – a few WTHub regulars and a couple of our Diversity in Tech event panellists from June. (nb really must write that event up more fully!)

Cat from The Dot Project introducing the session

So, back to Gender Diversity: Let’s Do This. The session was organised by The Dot Project, who are developing a Tech Talent Charter that echoes so many of the aims and objectives of Women’s Tech Hub, and was facilitated by the excellent Debbie Forster. I particularly loved that Debbie stated at the outset that she was going to assume we all agreed that there is an issue that needs fixing. This ensured we didn’t spend the whole two hours going over old ground for so many of us, we could focus on what to do. Debbie started with some Facts – I haven’t included all her stats, just the headlines.

Fact #1 >  Gender diversity in tech is “broken”. Analysis of UK labour market statistics shows that women make up less than 17% of the tech workforce.

Fact #2 > The entire talent pipeline is not just broken, it is leaky as well.

Fact #3  >  Fixing the pipeline isn’t just “a good thing” to do. It is good business.

Fact #4  >  Although there is no magic bullet, there is good practice & opportunities you can draw on.

Great start! After Debbie’s introduction we had two panels of five people, each panel lasting about half an hour to get everyone’s ideas across, and a chance for some audience questions.


Debbie introducing the first set of panellists

Panel 1 –  What is going on to improve gender diversity?

Panellists were: Pauline Roche (RnR Organisation), Gabby Shaw (ADLIB), Jane Ginnever  (SHIFT), Michelle Carpenter (Verisk Maplecroft), Rav Bumbra (Structur3dpeople).

Panel 2 – What are we doing about it in Bath, Bristol & the southwest?

Panellists were: Zara Nanu (Gapsquare), Roja Buck (Riverford Organic Farmers), Dr. Constance Fleuriot (Women’s Tech Hub), Nathan Baranowski (Ojo Solutions), Ian Andrews (Nationwide Building Society)

Both panels covered so many points – from job description wording to specialist recruiters ability to put forward all-women short-lists, on making the business case for change as well as the ethical dimensions of these issues. Standout for me was probably the mention of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 5 Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 8 Economic Growth: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

Being inclusive and treating people equally and realising when you are not as enlightened as you think is a global problem. The trick is to work out where we can all start to effect change where we can. Pauline pointed out that we can all make a bit of time to start doing something – even small companies can support employees to volunteer in the community as a way of increasing awareness of more diversity and encourage change in mindsets.

We are trying to make a start where we can in tech – Jane pointed it’s not just the pipeline into the tech workforce leaking diverse people along the way, but the whole bucket (tech industry) is broken and leaking men as well as women. When more diverse people get past all the obstacles to get into the tech, they find it still neeeds to be made fit for all. Jane talked passionately on how inclusion and giving employees more voice is about more than sorting out gender imbalance.

A question around using gender to define people was also raised from the audience, with a desire to move beyond binary definition, which prompted brief but interesting discussion on how companies can be more inclusive. A lot of it is about recognising that we can educate ourselves and it’s an ongoing process of encouraging conversations where we listen to each other. Roja talked about how his company realised they didn’t always need to know the gender of clients for their data collection especially if they weren’t going to send out marketing targeted by gender, and also on a workplace level, changing the labelling of employees toilets to be non-gender specific. Small changes can have great ripple effects.

We also heard about taking carrot or stick approaches when working with companies – some worry about their reputation whereas others only respond to legal obligations for larger companies to publish data on gender gaps etc. Compliance came up as a useful tool to use with those reluctant to change and enter the 21st century. I didn’t manage to make notes while I was actually on the second panel so do look out for other write-ups of the speakers, and if anything else comes to mind I will update this blogpost.

Workshop: Fixing the pipeline in Bath, Bristol & the Southwest

After the panels, the whole room broke into groups and attempted to map what is going on in Bath and the South West to fix tech’s leaky pipeline.  We were given handouts which identified four ‘pipeline’ areas – Inspiration/Education/Teaching, Recruitment, Policy & Practice, Retention & Culture. These are all familiar subjects that we are used to discussing at Women’s Tech Hub, and it was great to feel as though we were on a similiar wavelength. All the groups were having lively discussions and it will be interesting to see what everyone came up with. I do enjoy having the chance to connect with others in sessions like this and it was great to be invited, and getting such vocal support for what we are trying to do at Women’s Tech Hub.

I’ll just finish by leaving some info here from the TTC, who we look forward to connecting with more.

The Tech Talent Charter

Tech Talent Charter aims to engage with companies of all sizes and aim to have 100 companies signed up to them in their first year. Debbie mentioned that they very aware that they are currently rather London-centric and want to connect with like-minded people across the UK. Headline facts are here:

</>     It covers both organisations in the technology sector itself, and organisations across all other sectors, who have employees in digital roles

</>     Although it is very much an employer-led initiative, the TTC was supported in the government’s March 2017 policy paper on the UK Digital Strategy

</>     The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce of the UK

</>    Signatories of the charter make a number of pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention