Working mums, women in tech, returning to work after parental leave, Group of women in a conference room

How to hire, train, and retain a diverse workforce

Working mums, women in tech, returning to work after parental leave, Group of women in a conference room

Article by SkillsNow

According to recent reports, organisations across the UK are seeking to plug a growing digital skills gap, which is estimated to cost the economy £63 billion a year.

Digital skills demand

As the economy recovers from the pandemic, companies require skilled talent that can help digitise and optimise operations. But hiring, training and retaining the best talent is labour-intensive, so employers are looking to automate the hiring process. While this saves time, it comes at a cost.

Companies risk missing out on potentially fruitful talent pools due to automated processes, driven by a lack of insight and even potentially institutional bias. CV scanners, which weed out applications that do not meet role requirements, are designed with efficiency in mind, meaning they often exclude candidates based on certain factors, such as gaps in employment.

Untapped talent

One of the groups falling into this category of untapped talent are working mums, a group of highly talented and experienced professionals that are often overlooked or undermined in the workplace.

A survey of 520 working mums commissioned by SkillsNow found that 42 percent had been a victim of discrimination by their employer on their return to work from maternity leave. Additionally, 25 percent said they left employment after having a baby due to a lack of support from their employer. A host of capable candidates could potentially be overlooked or discarded by companies due to false perceptions and ingrained practices that influence both manual and automated hiring processes.

What is often forgotten is the skills that come with being a parent. 55 percent of those surveyed said they are more resilient, 60 percent more patient, 43 percent more confident, 47 percent more productive, and 39 percent more agile since becoming a mother. These are all important skills for the 21st century workplace.

Instead of seeing the potential value working mums bring, there has been a perception in many industries that they should take jobs that allow them to parent effectively, rather than taking jobs that fully utilise their skillset. This is reflected in the survey, with 46 percent of women admitting they have skills going to waste in their current role.

Here is a pool of talent – which has only grown in character and experience since becoming a parent – ready, willing, and able to be utilised but currently side-lined by prospective employers. So, what is stopping them from being hired?

Past issues and future possibilities

Inflexible schedules and biased hiring practices, combined with gendered cultural norms around breadwinning and caregiving, have led to discrimination against mothers and perpetuated existing gender inequalities in the workplace.

To address this, employers can look to foster a more inclusive company culture that considers the needs of working mums. Central to this is offering flexibility to allow mums to meet the demands of their full-time job and parenting duties.

Individual circumstances differ, but the top three things survey respondents want from an employer are flexible working hours (61 percent), ability to work from home (33 percent), and hybrid working locations (37 percent). By offering flexible working in terms of hours, location, training, and development, many feel they would be able to progress in their career.

Another old-fashioned view is that women fall behind in their career when they take time off to have a baby. But results from the survey show that two out of three women have expressed a desire for more training and development programmes following parental leave. With training resources now readily available, companies can provide working mums with an online curriculum that allows them to expand their skillset at a pace that works for them. Despite this, 39 percent of working mums stated they were not being offered the skills development they needed, while 14 percent were being offered training that does not fit around their life as a mum.

Open-door policy

Given that 37 percent of women reported a mental health condition after becoming a parent, businesses, and their leaders, need to maintain an open line of communication to ensure working mums feel their voices are heard and issues addressed. Failure to foster such an environment may lead to them either suffering in silence or simply leaving the organisation.

After becoming a parent many mums feel that their performance and job satisfaction at work increases, given the right working conditions. Companies that build a structure supporting working mums will likely be repaid with more effective and motivated employees, offering greater value to the wider organisation.

A culture of inclusivity

By fostering a culture of inclusivity, companies benefit from better staff retention rates and diverse perspectives. Insights, solutions, and opportunities that may have been previously missed can be exploited. In purely business terms, a workforce that is more reflective of society is likely to enable a business to exploit unseen opportunities.

Many of the traits that great mothers cultivate and practice every day can also be leveraged in the workplace to lead teams. Whether it is balancing competing needs, embracing unknown territory, or being empathetic, organisations can profit from the experience that comes with being a mum.

When a woman comes back to work after having a baby, new ways of working are needed. If more companies acknowledge and implement ways of working to accommodate this, then more mothers will feel empowered to take themselves – and their business – to the next level.

Shot of a group of young business professionals having a meeting. Diverse group of young designers smiling during a meeting at the office.

A Business Philosophy: How to build a diverse workplace in the modern world

Shot of a group of young business professionals having a meeting. Diverse group of young designers smiling during a meeting at the office.

Article by Vicky Sleight, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, TM Forum

Recent McKinsey data revealed that, on average, diverse organisations achieve 83% more engagement from employees, experience 20% more innovation, perform 35% better on financial return, and generate 38% more revenue.

These figures have prompted business leaders across the globe to spend billions on diversity and inclusion efforts.

Diversity and inclusion is about implementing the right company culture – and it is becoming an ethical requirement for general business continuity – paramount for overall success and staying relevant to customers and employees. This is particularly true amid the ‘Great Resignation’, which has become more than just a hashtag, as a movement borne of career dissatisfaction gives way to hiring challenges. In the grips of the ‘Big Quit’, it has been difficult for organisations to recruit and retain top tech talent.

Building an inclusive and diverse working environment opens the door to rapid workforce growth and increased profitability—and business leaders now realise not just the importance of diversity in their business but inclusion.

Real change starts at the from the top down

We’ve all heard it before; Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) starts at the top — and it’s true. When I started in tech comms, it was unusual to find a senior female executive leading a meeting in boardrooms or on conference platforms. The lack of a diverse and inclusive culture was reflective of a historical mindset that tech comms was a male and engineering-based industry and technology first.

Professionals across the industry welcome this progress, but the journey the tech comms industry is on still has a way to go. Currently, there are only six women CEOs leading 31 companies within the top global telco space. As an industry, we need to get these diverse employees in leadership positions where they own the technology direction and are a very strategic part of the business.

And it’s not just about recruitment. Companies must help their employees fine-tune the skills necessary to deliver high value in an increasingly tech-centric environment. They must also get better at retaining and growing diverse representation in leadership positions while supporting and highlighting role models to attract talent.

We make real progress by enlisting leaders who want to support from the top by raising the bar with you as they commit to going down the path of the unknown to investigate what we can learn about ourselves, our team, and our culture to grow.

These provide opportunities to listen to employees’ lived experiences, take on feedback and action it.

A data-driven approach: using data to power diversity

As it stands, D&I is front and centre across many industries. However, almost a third of UK businesses still don’t have a strategic approach to D&I. More than half of HR professionals claim that D&I is key “challenge” within their business models. This is likely because many business leaders struggle with simply knowing where to start – which is understandable when there are several ways organisations can evoke greater D&I in the workplace. For example, they can commit to gender pay equity, implement flexible working arrangements, and provide progression support and leadership opportunities for women, to name a few.

However, to truly break down bias and trump diversity tropes, many organisations are turning to data in hopes of finding a solution.

Leveraging data to power diversity is an excellent way to allow innovation to flourish. This being said, that data needs to be actioned into meaningful insights. Regular collation, simplicity in the process and accurate information are critical for success.

The opportunity for data has never been more significant. Suppose organisations want to ‘break the bias’ and incite real change. In that case, they will look to manage diversity and inclusion in the same rigorous and data-driven ways they manage business operations. Once the collective drive and strategic understanding are set in stone, business leaders can start to action genuine change and develop a healthy environment that attracts and retains the right talent to capitalise on the tremendous growth the industry is seeing and creates the future workplace.

About the author

Vicky SleightAs Director of The Human Factor and Diversity & Inclusion, Vicky leads the global industry collaboration and Advisory Board for the TM Forum Diversity & Inclusion Council, along with the Digital Organization Transformation Project (DOT). DOT’s mission is to help companies accelerate digital transformation and succeed in the digital economy by ensuring that tech communications becomes the most diverse industry in the world. Vicky has more than 20 years’ experience in global technology and telecoms in mobile network operations, mobile devices and leading industry forums. She has led collaboration on equality and inclusion with key stakeholders in mobile network operators and the wider ecosystem that includes other telecoms organizations, government and non-governmental organizations, and academia. Vicky has created and delivered global programs and interventions to measure industry-wide progress against diversity and inclusion benchmarks.

How businesses can work towards a more diverse workforce

Front view of diverse business people looking at camera while working together at conference room in a modern office

Article by Poonam Flammarion, Head of Talent Academy, Cloudreach

It’s no longer a case of ‘if’ business will adopt the cloud but a matter of ‘when’.

IT professionals need to be competent when it comes to the implementation and management of the cloud, this is especially true for new talent entering the sector. However, it’s not only a cloud skills deficit the industry needs to wrestle with, but a diversity gap too. In Europe only 2% of the tech workforce are from Black, African or Caribbean backgrounds and just 17% of tech workers are women.

Not just tokenism

The benefits of a diverse workforce are well understood, there are numerous case studies and enough research out there to show that output is boosted when a workforce is more diverse and inclusive. According to a McKinsey study, there is a positive correlation between a more diverse executive team and the financial performances of the companies they studied. So, the argument for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a well understood one. Balanced teams across the board produce better results for shareholders, which in turn produces better solutions for customers and overall lead to a much more engaged workforce.

That is the key term in all of this – ‘balanced’ – DEI hiring targets can’t just be a numbers game and tokenism. Setting yourself the challenge of hiring five more ‘diverse’ candidates this quarter isn’t the way to develop your teams and nurture talent. Especially if businesses want to fix their cloud skills shortage as well.

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Training talent

The sector can’t rely on traditional talent pools to fix either of these problems. Candidates who are in the jobs market and have extensive experience in the cloud are few and far between. Competition for those candidates is fiercer than ever and businesses are no longer able to win attractive candidates with substantial compensation packages alone.

To really close the diversity gap and the subsequent skills gap, businesses need to look away from their usual avenues of recruitment and invest in schemes internally that look beyond your typical tech backgrounds. These fast-track schemes and training programmes will be important to businesses looking to diversify their workforce as many female candidates and those from minority backgrounds don’t follow the traditional channels into tech.

Recruiting and training candidates through hiring initiatives which focus on a broader range of background can help solve skills shortfalls and improve DEI at the same time. These diverse candidates bring with them a wealth of transferable soft skills, which in many cases are harder to teach than technical skills. Developing programmes and schemes that are more open and inclusive removes the barriers that people from disadvantaged groups face, all while allowing you to nurture the next generation in cloud talent.

The talent crisis is not one that will disappear overnight. The lack of supply for cloud ready candidates is connected to the need for improved DEI. Balanced teams have been shown to perform better and in the long term the sector needs so much new talent that it cannot rely on traditional talent pools to solve the shortages.

Poonam FlammarionAbout the author

Poonam Flammarion is Head of Talent Academy at cloud consultancy firm Cloudreach. During her time in the role she has lead the charge in developing the organisations talent academy, a commitment to improving diversity within the tech sector.

The business of diversity: Building a better tech industry

Article by Maya Gershon, Chief Revenue Officer at Vade Secure

DiversityDiversity is a word you hear a lot in the tech business - but you don’t see enough of it.

I’ve spent my entire career striving to be the very best I can be, working hard and climbing the ladder whilst holding down a very demanding second full-time job: motherhood. I’m a huge believer in the positive power of diversity and unlocking the talents of people from every gender, ethnicity and background. But the IT industry needs to do better. How are we going to get to where we need to be?

As an engineer, business school MBA, researcher, developer, sales leader and public speaker, I want my story to inspire others to try. When advising others, it’s a good idea to set a good example. How can we lecture other industries about efficiency when we squander so much of our talent pool? We need to be more diverse and inclusive if we are to show others how to make the most of themselves. As an  example, in sales presentations, I have always found that stories create a much better impact than statistics. So here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Military discipline

After university, my career started at Unit 8200, a top-secret cyber intelligence unit of the Israeli Army. Obviously, I can’t tell you exactly what I did during my time in the Army, but I can say this: it was more egalitarian than the IT industry. I was one of thousands of people who took an entry exam to get into this elite unit. I wasn’t chosen because I was a woman - I was selected on aptitude alone. The Israeli Army is very practical and makes the fullest use of its resources. Under those circumstances, it selects the best person for the job. The general in charge said we were doing a job that was given to adults in equivalent agencies in the rest of the world. There was gender parity because it was vital to get the best possible outcome from the human resources we had.

This points to an important truth. You don’t achieve diversity by fixing the game. You build it by opening up the playing field so anyone can compete. Women don’t need help to get to the top. They just need an opportunity to succeed. Closed doors and sealed networks are no longer acceptable in business. Neither are they likely to be profitable. Open up and you will soar. Close down and you will sink.

Early years

I believe the problems with diversity start early, particularly when it comes to encouraging women to take a job in the tech world. It’s a problem of education and expectation. I was lucky because I grew up with an older sister and two older brothers I was close to. That meant I could be who I wanted. I played with boys’ toys, learned about electronics and I liked building things. My parents encouraged me to develop my interests and I was not restricted to dolls and dressing in pink.

However, when I went to college, I was one of only five women among 250 men. Things have changed a little and Israel is more progressive than a lot of the world but the change is still painfully slow. I was shocked when I went to give a lecture at my son’s school. My talk, which was designed to inspire entrepreneurs, was entirely attended by boys. Meanwhile, the girls were all packed off to dancing class. That lack of expectation is the essence of the problem with our industry. If you can see it, you can be it. Girls should be given role models from the get-go, showing them why tech is a great industry for young women to join.

Education is a priority and it takes a generation to achieve change. To that end I am passionate about encouraging more young women to have the confidence to study technology. We need to instil that self-belief. Meanwhile, there is a more short-term fix. I would train more women to work in the IT industry, even if they have no technical foundations. There are many positions they could make their own in sales and pre-sales. If you take people that are smart and have an aptitude for learning they can thrive. Women can be very ambitious and effective without the ‘right’ background. They can build a bridgehead.

Supporting working mothers

It’s not easy to juggle children with a full-time career. At one stage in my career, I was working by day, studying for my MBA at night, reading to my children at bedtime and then attempting to stay awake while answering my customer’s queries. Meanwhile, my husband had been called up by the army to serve his country and there was footage of the war being beamed onto our televisions. I was so exhausted that one day, when my son fell over and started crying, I joined in. I phoned my sister and she gave me some stern but great advice: be strong and get help. That is the advice I would give to all working mothers. Don’t be afraid to pay for help or even use anything the state can offer you. It’s not easy to get to the top, so make sure you’re using every resource at your disposal. We can build a better tech industry - but we need to work together.

About the author

Maya Gershon featuredMaya Gershon is the CRO at Vade Secure, where she is taking the lead in efforts to grow the company's footprint in the U.S., UK and Japan. Maya has 25 years of experience in the technology sector, including time with Unit 8200 where she trained with the Israeli defence team and progressed to Staff Sergeant. Over the years, Maya has held a variety of engineering, sales and marketing roles at industry-leading organizations such as WeWork, Intel, Cisco, Amdocs, Keysight Technologies and more. Maya is a computer and electrical engineer with a strong technical background in R&D and product strategy and a Kellogg Business School graduate.

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