Inspirational Woman: Nancy Rowe | Inclusion & Diversity Lead, EMEA, Publicis Sapient

Nancy RoweNancy Rowe is Co-Chair of our Inclusion & Diversity Council and is a passionate and committed Inclusion and Diversity champion within a region of 4,000 employees with extensive strategy, leadership and change management experience.

Her experience spans a period of 20 years working in digitally-led organisatons in client facing, strategy, research and insight and people roles.

Her inclusion journey began through her involvement with the Publicis Groupe wide women’s network VivaWomen!, which she Co-Chaired for four years, before transitioning to lead Inclusion and Diversity across the Publicis Sapient International business full time. She has been a member of the BIMA Diversity Council since 2017 and has led a number of events and initiatives designed to shine a light on the benefits of diverse teams and creating inclusive workplace cultures. Working for a leader among Digital Business Transformation Accelerators (Forrester, 2019) Nancy’s interest lies at the heart of unlocking minority representation in technology enabled businesses.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve worked in the UK digital industry for over twenty years. My interest in technology began when I won my local council’s Most Promising Pupil in Technology award when I was 12 or 13 years of age. I’ve always been fascinated by the possibilities of technology; to create an exciting future that is only limited by our imaginations. Despite not studying to become a developer, it’s through roles in interactive creative agencies in both sales and strategy that I have been able to explore how technology can impact our lives and be a force for good. My interest in Inclusion & Diversity began with my involvement in Publicis Groupe’s women’s network, which began on a volunteer basis. After five years of leading our women’s network across our UK business, an opportunity arose to combine my strategy skills with my growing interest in I&D and I took up my current role as the European lead of I&D at Publicis Sapient, the groupe’s Digital Business Transformation Consulting arm. Around the same time I became a member of BIMA’s Inclusion & Diversity Council, which is a cross industry initiative designed to create real and sustainable impact on the inclusivity and diversity of the digital industry in the UK. I’m also a member of the Women’s Forum Daring Circle for Women in AI. A global, cross-industry forum dedicated to ensuring women are not disproportionally affected by the development of AI and that women play a key role in the development of AI.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve never had 3, 5 or 10 year plans but I’ve definitely known at every stage of my career exactly the area I wanted to be working in at that moment and within the next couple of years. In my 20s, life in a digital agency was fast-paced and the opportunity to work alongside talented individuals from both creative and technology fields was exciting and enjoyable. As I progressed in my career it become clear that I wanted to fulfil a greater purpose and combine my research and strategy skills in a role that could demonstrably change the experience of working in tech for marginalised groups.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I started a family when I hit my 30s and on my return to work I was struck by how difficult it was for working mothers to be seen to be committed to their careers as well as being good mothers. It was definitely either/or and there are many people in business who unfortunately still think this is the case. My response however, was to think just because it’s always been this way (for working mothers) it doesn’t have to always be this way, so I decided to bring women together to discuss what we were going to do about it! I’ve been on a 10 year mission to reinvent the world of work to be more responsive to the needs of working mothers (and fathers) and honestly do feel that in some areas we are making progress.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Probably lobbying to have a regional I&D role within my current organisation created to effectively manage the diversity of our talent and drive us towards a culture of inclusion.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Leveraging all the skills I had as a strategist and researcher, anticipating the seismic shifts that were coming in the digital age - an era of globalisation during which those organisations who are able to harness the sum of all their parts are truly the ones who gain competitive advantage.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Firstly, know that technology as an industry is a very broad space. Not everyone who works in tech is a developer – there are marketers, designers, finance teams etc. However, if you do wish to become a developer or a data scientist for example, know that the number of women moving into this space is increasing, many organisations are keen to support women in technology roles and you absolutely will have the right skills, knowledge and aptitude to succeed. The more we all normalise technology careers for women, the faster we’ll get to equal representation of women and men in tech.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Let’s be honest, yes there are still barriers. We’ve already spoken about educational norms being slightly stacked against women in STEM, but there are also societal ones around women in work in general, and especially working mothers. Then within organisations there are also systemic barriers, invisible performance evaluation biases and talent selection criteria which can also be a barrier.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Understand where you are now (in terms of your female representation) from a data perspective. How well does that stack up against women in the total population (generally 50%)? How happy are you with that? If you decide you want to be a force for good, set a target for your gender representation publicly and commit to achieving it by a given date. Hold your leadership team accountable for achieving it.

Use data to evaluate the number of women who apply for roles, get interviewed and successfully appointed.

Once you do employ women, pay them the same as men, regardless of their previous salary. Do not inherit and maintain inequity. Do the right thing.

There is currently on 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Legislate that all technology roles have to be filled 50% by women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

HBR’s Women at Work Podcast

Book: Invisible Women by Caroline Craido Perez,

Meet up: London Tech Ladies

BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report 2019

BIMA logo

The BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Survey is not an attempt to add to the existing pile of census-type survey data but to do something that hasn’t been done before.

By asking employees of diverse age, race, and gender within the industry how they feel, the report explores the experience of being a member of the UK digital and technology community in 2019.

In late 2018 and early 2019, BIMA surveyed more than 3,000 people to explore their experience of diversity as members of the UK technology community.

Their responses showed that, from tackling stress, anxiety, and depression, to fighting discrimination and making more of untapped opportunities for talent and development, our industry has much to do.