two women sat at table and chairs in office, interview

Article by Emily Nerland, VP of Global Sales at DNS and enterprise networking company, NS1

The concept of diversity has been prevalent in the workplace for years, but it’s all too easy for companies to pay lip-service to it. Part of the challenge is that diversity can mean different things to different people, and this is reflected in organisations.

As women in tech, we will undoubtedly want to fight for equality and fair pay, but there is so much more that we should strive for.

Tech reaches into virtually everyone’s lives whether it’s for communication, information, entertainment or to support our health and wellbeing. Its influence is becoming greater by the day. Those of us working in the tech industry have a duty of care to ensure that each development and every innovation reflects the needs and wants of everyone, regardless of gender, background, colour or culture.

We need a cross-section of experiences, influences and opinions to ensure that the technology we are creating or implementing delivers an appropriate response in every situation, but to get to this point we must delve more deeply into just how embedded diversity is within tech organisations.

Preparing for interview

Companies should be held to account about their diversity policies, regardless of whether they are set in stone or have evolved more informally. And the best time to start asking questions is before you even join.  Remember, an interview is as much about you assessing them as it is about them assessing you.

When you are considering working with a new company you must be aware that any firm can claim to be diverse. In some instances a quick look at their Gender Pay-Gap report – which has to be produced if they are in the private or voluntary sector and have 250 or more employees – will be enough to start building a picture of how fairly women are treated when it comes to average hourly earnings.

Of course, in some organisations the pay gap is skewed by a variety of ‘legacy’ factors such as more men occupying more senior positions, or women switching to part-time work when they have children. In addition, women are less likely to negotiate their pay. Checking out several of the company’s Pay-Gap Reports, however, is a very good indicator of whether the discrepancy is being addressed, and reduced, over time.

On the topic of pay, transparency is also important. Not just for women, but for all employees. In the tech industry many employees hold their roles for years, but their pay is not always commensurate with new joiners who are being incentivised to join with larger pay offers. Companies should pay the same salary for the same job. Benchmarking data ensures they do this, helping everyone, regardless of how long they have been with the company, to be treated transparently and fairly.

While preparing for interview, another approach is to look at the diversity of the senior leadership team and the routes they have taken in their education and careers to reach this point. Does it show a broad spectrum of experience? Can you see yourself reflected in the backgrounds of any of the leaders at the company?

Ask questions, press for honest answers

Once you are in the interview you have an opportunity to tackle the diversity issue head-on. It’s important not just to ask if the company has a diversity policy and what it looks like, but to request an example of when someone was promoted and what they did to deserve that promotion? If you can find out how teams are put together and the process for team leadership, it will reveal much about the culture of the company. It’s equally important to understand how the organisation acts if someone makes a mistake or struggles under pressure. What mechanisms are in place to provide support, and can they give you examples of this?

The speed and willingness to provide answers to these questions will be an indication of how embedded diversity is in the organisation. If it is simply a tick box exercise the responses will be harder won, but if diversity is truly a part of the fabric of the company, there will be no hesitation in providing answers to the questions. In fact, it may well be a point of pride.