The employers on a mission to improve diversity in IT

Big names such as Microsoft, the BBC and Cancer Research UK have signed up to employer-led initiative Tech Talent Charter to broaden the mix in the sector

It’s 2018 and women have made their mark in fields as varied as law, medicine and politics. And yet, in the technology sector, only 17% of employees are female.

This matters because we know that having a broad mix of people in the workplace and in leadership roles is good for business. A McKinsey report earlier this year is the latest to show that diverse teams lead to better financial performance.

To address the imbalance, the Tech Talent Charter was set up in 2017. There have been various companies or initiatives in the past that aimed to tackle the issue, but they tended to duplicate effort.

We want to do things differently. One of our mantras is that driving diversity means connecting the dots, not reinventing the wheel. We’ve grown quickly – 210 companies have now signed up to the charter, including big names such as Microsoft, the BBC and Cancer Research UK, as well as smaller businesses, and our companies are committed to work together to drive diversity in tech across the UK.

If we want to make a difference, we need to take a thorough approach. Part of this is raising awareness that not all technology jobs are about programming – the sector offers a wide variety of roles, including interface design, business analysis and marketing. And the jobs are not just in “tech” companies – every sector is looking for tech talent to drive their business. We also need to look at what’s happening in schools to inspire girls, and we need our members to look at their training programmes, their recruitment policies, their retention rates and the coaching they offer women to encourage them into management. Women can be reluctant to put themselves forward for promotion, so investment in mentoring and sponsorship is important. We’d also like to see more employers develop family-friendly policies, which is something that benefits men as well as women.

Currently the situation is so broken no single company can fix it for themselves, so we encourage them to share what works and what doesn’t work. They’re not treating it like a big secret, because that’s like buying a really expensive shiny fishing rod and fishing in the same leaky barrel as everyone else. Every year we’ll create a benchmarking report that allows companies to see where they’re ahead of the game, where they’re behind and what they need to focus on.

The companies making a real difference are those taking a hard look at how they can change their culture and tackle unconscious bias. Some recruiters like to say they “hire for culture”, which is another way of saying that they’re hiring “someone who looks and sounds like me”. The companies signed up to our charter are starting to realise that to give the best service to their customers, their workplaces need to reflect the diversity of their customer base.

Luckily, there’s been a real shift in the past three or four years. Lots of companies want more women in technology, and many are willing to retrain women who don’t have a technology qualification. If you like problem-solving, if you like creating beautiful and interesting things, then knock on the doors of these companies.

Source – The Guardian

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