Madeline Chant | 08 March 2019
Why diversity and inclusion is the strategy you should adopt to address the gender imbalance.
“If you want to serve the world, you have to represent the world” (Satya Nadella, 2018)
Women in Tech
On Wednesday 28th February 2019, I attended the ‘Microsoft Women in Tech’ conference with two of my colleagues – a conference designed to shed light on the dynamic culture change in the technology industry and empower women within a male-dominant environment.
What diversity and inclusion means to Microsoft
Nicole Dezen, General Manager for the Consumer Devices (CDS) division in Microsoft UK, outlined Microsoft’s active movement away from the binary understanding of diversity and inclusion, originally anchored in gender, to creating an atmosphere that fosters the development of all. From Satya Nadella’s appointment as CEO 5 years ago, there has been a noticeable culture shift to developing an objective workplace community. A proportion of Senior Leadership Team (SLT) compensation is dependent on the inclusivity rate of the company, mapped against publicly available figures.
And some interesting statistics for diversity and inclusion in the US
A survey of American workers saw that 80% agree that inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer, with 72% saying they would leave an organization for a more inclusive one. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform non-diverse companies, and ethnically diverse companies outperform further by another 20%. These figures become more profound when you learn that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials, and of those millennials 43% will be non-white. If companies are unable to retain minority workers, they will inevitably loose critical talent that could cost them dearly.
Women in STEM
The disparity in the numbers of girls that carry on STEM subjects from GCSE and those that fill STEM jobs is ever growing. Girls cite “low confidence” and “lack of role models in the industry” as contributors to the 14.4% rate of representation in STEM industries*. There are some positive anomalies, with Bolivia having above average female representation at 63%; conversely in the UK only 11.5% of total STEM management are female*.
As the growth in STEM industries outpaces all other sectors, in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, taking active measures to engage more pockets of society will undoubtedly lead to future successes.
How do you keep them once you’ve got them?
One remark that stood out from the conference was that ‘diversity in hiring is easy’ – however it is keeping people that poses the biggest challenge, hence why both diversity and inclusion targets are crucial – the sense is you have to actively force the issue at least initially to drive the culture change.
And there’s also mindset and behavior to consider
Striving to empower; incite confidence and nourish grit and determination in employees is key. Helen Slinger - the Chair of BT NW Board of Directors stated that people can often feel like saying it’s only a matter of time before they find me out and/or they are not worthy of the responsibility they have been given. Therefore it imperative that they are encouraged and given the confidence to tackle these quite normal emotions by stepping out of their comfort zones into what learning coach Sarah Perugia calls the ‘learning zone’. Learning to manage your behaviour and in effect ‘fake it until you make it’ can ultimately increase your confidence and your opportunities. Physically taking up space rather than hiding from it is a good analogy.
During interactive sessions, we participated in discussions that highlighted the personal impact of our actions, understanding how to be an ‘explorer’ - by being adventurous and brave, rather than a ‘prisoner’ – being trapped in our environment. Interestingly, we discovered that when a woman nods, it is a sign she is listening, whereas when a man nods, it is a sign he is agreeing – as you can imagine this can lead to a lot of misunderstanding in the corporate world! We became conscious of what inclusivity encompasses; the environment created to encourage or support all and the consequences of acting as ‘culture carriers’ as you unknowingly impact others.
The 5 Second Rule
What should be your initial reaction when offered a new opportunity or project, or you have an instinct to act on a goal? Typically, it’s a negative one – people feel compelled for some reason to always think of the reasons ‘why not’ instead of ‘how can I’. Start by remembering this and then count backwards from 5 to 1, then move physically away! This eliminates the ‘devil on the shoulder’ mentality that causes procrastination and doubt. By being open minded opportunities will become more plentiful and maybe more importantly you will be seen as the positive light – nobody likes a ‘drain’ do they..
We found the Women in Tech conference incredibly motivating. Currently, women are the fastest growing demographic - simply put, the future need for female representation is becoming ever more apparent. Continuing pressure should be applied to attract the pipeline of individuals who can play an active role in the future of the industry - spanning beyond just gender to race, sexuality and disability.
We heard about the positive impact of initiatives such as ‘Barefoot’ and ‘DigiGirlz’ aimed at school children, which give kids the experience of coding which simultaneously counteracts the masculine stereotype associated with it. Early exposure will also remove the hesitation and intimidation frequently associated with Data and Computer Science and encourage a career in STEM.
For there to be an inclusive STEM industry, the technology sector must be representative of all. This can happen through grassroots initiatives, creating a positive atmosphere and inciting change when we acknowledge who isn’t in the room.
We gained a real insight into the future culture of the technology industry and felt motivated to become our best selves as we develop through our careers. We now plan to foster what we have learnt, into our own culture at Jarmany.
And a sharp, slightly tongue in cheek quote from Madeleine Albright:
“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women”