By Sarah Counts, Chief Operating Officer at innovation scale-up Wazoku

In 2023, it feels like a no-brainer that any workplace should be inclusive, supportive and empowering to women. As we all know, though, that isn’t always the case, especially in technology firms.

It’s something we have always taken seriously at Wazoku. Our entire proposition – a crowd and platform that helps enterprises find, manage and store ideas and innovations – is based on inclusivity and the premise that anyone can make a valuable contribution, so we are starting from a strong position.

But it still requires focus, intent, resources and time to create an empowering work environment that allows women (and different ethnicities and neurodiverse) to reach their full potential. Wazoku was recently announced as one of the UK’s best workplaces for women, our third consecutive placing. This is how we did it.


The right workplace environment does not happen by accident. It needs thought and intent, a strategy to achieve your longer-term goals and the right tactics to ensure you stay on the right path.

Any organisation can say that gender, ethnicity and neurodiversity are not factors, but saying so is one thing; doing so is another. We are now in a position where women fill eight out of our 14 C-Suite and Director-level roles, and we have more than twenty nationalities across our workforce.

But to get to this position, we put in place transparent measures that ensure we do our utmost to be fair in recruitment and to create the right workplace environment. Without this intent, any progress will be slow and limited.

Inclusive job advertisements

Much research shows that women are more likely to ‘self-opt out’ of applications if they don’t meet all the criteria. Men are more inclined to think that if they cover some of the requirements, it’s worth applying. This means that right from the start, the tech talent pool has more men in it.

To address this, we’ve ensured our job advertisements are more inclusive. We’ve included a clause which says: “If you are excited about this role but your experience does not align perfectly with every qualification in the job description, we encourage you to apply anyway”, as well as changing our experience expectations for roles.

We saw an upturn in applications by women because of this, and it was frequently mentioned in cover letters, which was especially gratifying.

Trust and flexibility

Trust is one of the most underrated qualities in business. If you rate someone enough to offer them a job, then you must trust them to do that job in the way that best suits them. You might want to establish some core working hours – we say that people should be working between 10:00 and 16:00 – but apart from that, trust people to get the work done when it’s most convenient.

This makes an enormous difference in terms of supporting women in the workplace. Working women – mothers and non-mothers – still tend to do more childcare and housework. This needs to change, but providing the flexibility that allows people to do the school run or attend to urgent life admin plays a significant role in establishing a supportive work environment.

Of course, this flexibility must also apply to work locations. Since the pandemic, hybrid working has become much more common. While there is much to be said for having people in the office, that’s only sometimes realistic or desirable, so any organisation should offer hybrid working now as a matter of course.

Understanding employee needs

The modern world of work is a landscape that forces employers to be more understanding of their employees’ needs. This is an enormous leap forward for women and anyone in the workplace.

The demands of modern life mean there is more strain on wellbeing and mental health than ever. Putting in place measures to support this is vital. For example, we have launched a ThanksBen rewards initiative that gives every employee £30 a month for health and wellbeing purposes. Private healthcare insurance and a flexible holiday policy are also important. Additionally, we provided guided meditation, financial wellbeing seminars, desk yoga, cooking classes, and reflection sessions during World Wellbeing Week.

In the last twelve months, we have launched a more inclusive maternity and adoption policy, ensuring that new and expectant mothers across the business can take the time to be with their children before returning to work. We plan to further develop this, with a new salary sacrifice on nurseries. We will pay for it; the cost is taken from gross salary and reduces taxable income. It’s a great benefit and eases the exorbitant cost of childcare.

In 2023, creating an empowering workplace isn’t just a goal; it’s a societal imperative. But building and sustaining an empowering tech workplace for women demands intent and deliberate action. Our approach demonstrates that fostering diversity and empowering employees to reach their full potential leads to a thriving work environment.

About the author

Sarah Counts Counts is Chief Operating Officer at Wazoku, the innovation scale-up that works with organisations such as NASA, HSBC and AstraZeneca to crowdsource and manage ideas and innovation. A proud inclusion, Sarah helped Wazoku achieve B Corp Certification in 2022 and to win many awards and commendations for equality and diversity in the workplace.

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