By Dr Shruti Kohli, Head of Data Science (Innovation) at DWP Digital

Sharing my knowledge, support and encouragement is really important to me. For International Women’s Day, and for this year’s theme of Inspiring Inclusion I want to share my perspective to encourage action and for women to simply believe in themselves.

I’m proud to lead DWP Digital’s Innovation Lab, Diversity in Leadership is so important for our voices to be heard. I’d like to think of myself as a role model, visibly demonstrating how women leaders and women from ethnic minority backgrounds can get recognised for our hard work and can push through the barriers.

Our Innovation Lab was created as a technology accelerator to tackle complex business problems and explore innovative and emerging ways of working.  It’s given us a framework for rapidly generating ideas and turning them into valuable concepts within the organisation. We achieve this through fast-paced work and collaboration. We use agile sprints to regularly set clear objectives and performance metrics to help us monitor our progress, maintain focus, and adapt our approach as needed to achieve our strategic goal.

Inclusion in the Innovation Lab

The Innovation Lab team is 38% women, significantly above the tech average of 27%. In the team working on our GenAI lighthouse projects, we’re 60% women. Diversity is essential in the Innovation Lab to result in innovative solutions, bringing different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.

We’re dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment, we actively encourage open communication through our agile sprint ceremonies and encouraging feedback in weekly retrospectives. We have a culture of continuous learning, supporting team members to explore new ideas.

I truly believe a leader is nothing without a team that feels included and valued and our Innovation Lab is nothing without diverse thinking.

Supporting women in tech

I’m passionate about supporting women in technology roles, education plays a vital role in fostering inclusion and it’s important to communicate that the skills needed aren’t just coding. Roles involve communication skills, creativity, and problem-solving, all transferable skills that women have from all different backgrounds.

For example, recently, I mentored a colleague working on the frontline as a Work Coach in a Jobcentre. As a Work Coach, she could bring the real pain points from end users, and recommend digital solutions based on this experience. She had no previous digital experience, I upskilled her on what a Business Analyst role involves and how her skills match with the requirements. I was very encouraging, empowering her to overcome her obstacles, building her confidence to apply for the role and as a result reaching her potential.

I also took a chance on another women colleague who had been out of work for five years, bringing her into the Innovation Lab and motivating her to think beyond her limitations.

My top tip for women wanting to excel in a tech career is to have a mentor at every step of your career. Mine helped me to develop a practice to say ‘no’ more often when I needed it at an early stage in my career and now, I’m giving back, don’t forget to pull up others to grow.