diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesHow can tech companies address the lack of diversity in the sector? Christina Pendleton from Intercity Technology offers her tips on hiring and retaining diverse talent.

With just 15% of the tech sector made up of female workers, it’s clear more needs to be done to nurture gender diversity in the industry.

That figure comes from the recent Technology & Talent Study 2021 by Harvey Nash Group. The annual study also found that not only has the number of female tech workers remained stubbornly low since its first survey in 2016, but also almost three quarters of the women already in industry feel that efforts to support and improve female participation in technology have not gone far enough.

This lack of diversity in the technology sector is something I’ve been battling since I first joined Intercity Technology as HR Advisor in 2014, This led me to start the ‘Women in Tech Networking Group’, a monthly event hosted by the company, which is designed to celebrate gender diversity, encourage more women into technology roles and retain and attract more women to work at Intercity.

Today, there is still a lack of female representation across the industry, stemming from a lack of diverse representation of girls studying STEM subjects at school. This is starting to improve with engagement between employers and schools increasing, but the trend must continue if we’re to see an impact in overall diversity figures.

However, companies need to do more to make the working environment and working practices more inclusive. This should start off by looking at unconscious bias within the workplace to remove any judgements and discrimination that may occur. Women in Tech reported that 40% of women believe their more underqualified colleagues of the opposite sex have been promoted over them. This is a big reason why women and other underrepresented groups find entering or advancing within the sector challenging, resulting in lower retention rates for these groups.

For example, if more female staff are citing lack of progression as a reason for leaving the business, then it’s time to start reviewing promotion practices and begin offering more inclusive mentoring and development programmes.

If female team members are having to hand in their notice due to difficulty balancing parenting or maternity with work, then more effective flexible working policies need to be implemented. Most business leaders I speak to are already doing this, but I think it needs to be accelerated to deliver change.

The technology industry has a responsibility to celebrate and advocate gender diversity and encourage people from all walks of life into the sector. The greater the diversity within a company, the greater the variety of perspectives, approaches, skills and experience that businesses can benefit from.

I’ve seen first-hand that getting it right means you can problem solve more effectively while increasing creativity and innovation, leading to better performance. Our customers and end-users all come from diverse backgrounds, so it’s crucial, as an industry, we aim to reflect those we serve.

In the first instance, it’s vital that companies recognise where they currently sit in terms of diversity in the workplace. For example, organisations need to be aware of their stats surrounding diversity before being able to create and implement improvement plans. From an external perspective, these plans should include working with schools, colleges and universities to help promote the sector to young audiences and diversify the talent pipeline.

Before hiring, companies should take a closer look at their existing culture, values and processes when it comes to increasing diversity. Championing and celebrating diversity should be part of a company’s culture – from senior leadership roles right through to people starting their career in tech. Recruitment strategies should also be adapted to appeal to a broad market.

Networking groups, such as the ‘Women in Tech Networking Group’ at Intercity, give team members a commonality, a shared voice and create a platform to talk through issues they’re facing due to unconscious bias. Creating these groups is a great way to champion women within the company, while helping to onboard new members.

Creating and upholding a culture of inclusivity within the technology sector is vital, and your team should feel encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work every day. They should be proud of the differences they bring to our industry.

Christina PendletonAbout the author

Christina Pendleton is Chief People Officer for leading communications technology company Intercity Technology