My last trip to King’s Place was to watch a performance by The Swingle Singers; so it struck a chord with me when I had the opportunity last week to return to this amazing venue to attend “Women of Silicon Roundabout”, the largest UK conference dedicated to diversity in technology.
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The morning was a whirlwind of impressive speakers from the likes of Google, McKinsey, ITV, Tesco and Salesforce. I was staggered to hear that women still only make up 3.3% of European tech companies. More astonishingly, if we had equal labour participation here in the UK, it would equate to an additional £600bn to our GDP.

These statistics stuck in my mind throughout the day, and made me ask the big question – how should we be tackling this?

One of the key topics that was touched on by every single speaker, was the importance of taking personal responsibility for your own career. Specifically, the importance of differentiating between a Sponsor and a Mentor. McKinsey’s Naomi Smit informed the audience that men were 46% more likely to have a sponsor in the workplace, demonstrating that women appear to be less likely to ask for help. The evidence was clear, having a sponsor can make a significant difference to how you can progress within a company.

Faz Aftab, from ITV, focused on the importance of being constantly inspired and connecting with the people around you. She highlighted the positive impact of having a mentor to guide you along your own path; where you know your value & can continually build on your confidence. As a working mother, Faz was refreshingly honest about the work/life balance. She said that it is a constant “juggling act, and sometime I have to drop some balls, I just try and make sure they are not the breakable ones” What motivates her, is showing her three young girls that it is possible to have a successful career alongside family life.

Clearly we all need to be proactive in inspiring the next generation of technologists. Melissa Di Donato, (30% Club & SAP) is certainly one of these leaders. She spoke passionately about making positive choices and not being afraid to make mistakes. She encouraged the audience to identify your role models and to lead by example, regardless of what stage of your career. Citing a quote from MIT’s Esther Duflo“A wise girl knows her limits, a smart girl knows she has none” there were strong waves of approval and agreement from the audience.

Feeling upbeat, I was intrigued to hear one of the few male panelists – the charismatic and hugely energetic Dom Price from Atlassian. He took us on the Atlassian journey, how they have successfully built their global business around a culture of innovation & inclusion. Innovation is the responsibility of every individual employee of Atlassian. Once a quarter they form “Ship It” teams, where they have 24 hours to work new ideas that relate to their existing products. This level of both inclusion and participation makes for a highly engaged workforce, who are confident at pushing the boundaries – we need more of this in the UK!

As I digested the flow of opinions and statistics, it occurred to me that having a voice in your role is essential for both adding value to your employer, and (more importantly) your own career. But how do you ensure that your voice is heard when faced with the continuous challenge of unconscious bias? An interesting question was raised by an audience member; who asked the panel advice on how to make a room full of men listen to her: their response was uplifting – regardless of who you are, be assertive, and say it with passion and conviction.

“If they believe in your why, they are joining your cause” Anna Gevorgyan, Expedia

After this event, I am even more determined to adopt a different approach; to not be afraid to challenge the status quo, and to learn from my mistakes. One thing is for certain, as a Millennial – I am passionate to be part of driving this debate. We all have an important role to play in changing and promoting diversity and inclusion in the world of technology – enabling people to understand the long-term value to both themselves and the people around them.

This is a journey that must gather momentum, and it starts with YOU:

“Be your brilliant self and embrace challenges” – Monika Biddulph, ARM

 

 

 

This article was provided by Belinda Whittingham who attended the #WinTec16 event. Belinda is a passionate advocate for inclusive and values based talent attraction & retention. She thrives on the challenges of matching up individuals’ career aspirations to roles with forward thinking tech companies across Europe. She has recently joined a start-up in Shoreditch called Cloudstream Global, who launch in January 2017.