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How flexible working is key for improving diversity in tech

Muslim woman working from home, flexible working

Diversity has been a historical challenge for the tech industry.

For example, a recent survey from mThree of 270 US business leaders found that 68 per cent felt there was a lack of diversity in their tech workforce. Nevertheless, female representation is on the rise and flexible working, such as freelancing, will be key for encouraging more women to join this profession. Here Ashmita Das, CEO of open talent platform Kolabtree, discusses why flexible working is key for improving female representation in tech.

If you were to search the internet for ‘tech’ jobs, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of job roles that exist. For example, lists over 25 jobs in its ‘information technology’ section alone, including cyber security analyst, information systems manager, IT consultant, software engineer, and web developer. Considering also that businesses in most sectors can benefit from some form of tech nowadays, it’s clear that the opportunities are many.

However, the tech workforce has historically lacked the same diversity. For example, a recent report from Tech Nation revealed that for every 100 people working in a tech job in the UK only 25 are women, an alarming statistic. Nevertheless, if we look at the broader picture, diversity is continuing to improve, and I don’t see reason for doom and gloom. On the contrary, there are now more opportunities than ever for aspiring female specialists.

New opportunities

The pandemic transformed the way that businesses operate and how many of us work. Remote and hybrid working became necessities, while companies’ HR policies and attitudes towards recruitment shifted to keep up with the evolving landscape — changes that show no signs of stopping. This shift has required companies to invest more in software and communications technology, and many are digitising at an increasing rate.

The opportunities for tech professionals arising from this shift are twofold. Firstly, it means that tech skills are now in very high demand, as IT experts are needed to develop, set up, implement and maintain these systems. Secondly, the fact that companies are now more equipped to work with external, remote professionals means that tech freelancing is a strong career option.

Freelancing offers an alternative route into the tech industry. As well as this, it provides several advantages that can help attract more and more female tech professionals and help them advance their careers.

Newfound flexibility

Control is a powerful motivator that’s important for life satisfaction and fulfilment, so being able to determine your own work and work-life balance is an attractive proposition. Interestingly, over 90 per cent of 542 freelance scientists that we surveyed as part of a social science research project said that flexibility was highly important to them. Freelancing gives people complete control over their schedule, pay, and the projects they work on, so only they are in charge of their careers.

On the other hand, traditional employment — having a permanent role in one organisation — can be very inflexible in terms of hours, so finding time for commitments outside the workplace can be a challenge. For example, if children need dropping off at school each morning, a typical 9-5 schedule can make it harder to accommodate. Meanwhile, freelancing gives skilled professionals the ability to work when and for how long they like and take on other responsibilities that life presents.

Career progression

Raising a family is one of the most rewarding things in the world, but it can sometimes be a hurdle for career progression. One example is parental leave, which often involves a complete severance from work for several months. Returning to work afterwards can be daunting and, when they do, some employees find themselves working a reduced number of hours. According to research by Ipsos Mori, almost three in ten women (29 per cent) thought taking maternity leave had a negative impact on their career, while less than half the number of men (13 per cent) noticed the same effect following paternity leave.  Therefore, there is a clear gender gap in perceptions towards the impact of parental leave.

Meanwhile freelance female tech specialists have the option of continuing to work during those first nine months, at a time and frequency that suits. Furthermore, when the usual parental leave period is over, the freelancer can increase their hours and take on more projects — although working and having a young baby will require some adjustments!

Building up experience

Another advantage of freelancing is having the power to expand your repertoire beyond what’s possible in a full-time permanent job. Traditional employers train staff to become skilled at their specific roles, for example maintaining IT systems in healthcare facilities or maintaining cybersecurity in financial firms. Therefore, in-house experts are often only exposed to the relevant skills required for that role, with limited opportunity to diversify.

However, freelancers can carefully select their projects and gain exposure to a wider array of experience. For example, a computer network expert that’s worked for schools has the freedom to work on a completely different project, setting up or improving a system in another field entirely, or maybe work for a start-up. The new projects are still within the freelancer’s skillset but will raise new opportunities to expand their reach.

Getting started

For aspiring freelance technology experts, becoming an external consultant can be as simple as registering with a platform and creating a profile. Once registered, the freelancer can upload a CV detailing the various projects they’ve worked on and set a desired rate. From, there, they can bid for projects that appeal to them and submit a proposal on how they would offer their services.

As an open talent platform targeting scientific and technology specialists, Kolabtree has over 15,000 experts registered across 175 countries. Its tech specialists have experience working in fields including cyber security, computer and data security, computer networks, wireless communication, computer software, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why not take the first step on your freelancing journey today? Simply visit, click on ‘Join as expert’, and start browsing projects.

Ashmita DasAbout the author

Ashmita Das is co-founder and CEO of Kolabtree, the world’s largest platform for freelance scientists. Ashmita founded Kolabtree to level the playing field in science, by helping small and medium-sized businesses access the skills and knowledge that they need and has been instrumental in its rapid growth since its founding in 2015. The platform now has over 15,000 freelancers on its books.

Smiling man and woman standing on weighing dishes of balance scale. Concept of gender equality at work or in business, equal rights for both sexes. Colorful vector illustration in flat cartoon style.

How to use data to create a more equal and inclusive workforce

Article by Sruthi Mohan, Senior Solutions Engineer, Cloudera

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are crucial to creating and fostering a thriving workplace, helping to spur creativity and innovation as well as to improve employee engagement and business performance.

For DE&I initiatives to be successful, organisations should not treat them as a box-ticking exercise but rather an opportunity for using data to better inform and equip their programmes. By doing so, businesses can establish a truly equitable and inclusive workforce.

Data breaking down bias

There has been much discussion about using the power of data to enhance technological efficiencies and customer solutions, but what about when it comes to developing a more equitable environment and breaking down biases?

By capturing data on employee demographics, a business can better understand the diversity of its employees, the equity of its internal policies, and identify any trends of potential concern.

For example, rather than only outlining the ratio of males to females within a business, it can go further to highlight how many of those females are in leadership positions compared to their male counterparts. At the same time, it can spotlight anomalies when it comes to retention, engagement and promotion rates.

Tapping into data for the use of DE&I crucially allows businesses to diagnose internal discrepancies and eliminate any unwanted bias that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

At Cloudera, we are doing just that by using data to examine and address wage gaps between employees who are comparable in terms of years of experience, role and responsibility – ensuring compliance at all levels and eliminating discrepancies.

Moreover, to level the playing field for underrepresented communities, we have committed to regularly providing financial contributions to non-profit organisations dedicated to creating a more equitable environment for those groups.

 Using data to enact change

To better understand how we use data to drive diversity forward and create positive change, we spoke with renowned civil rights activist and former chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Dr. Mary Frances Berry.

She noted that many DE&I projects that companies engage with are not as effective as they could be due to inefficient and unproductive use of data. As such, it is important that organisations collecting a high density of diversity and inclusivity data find a way to disaggregate that data.

By doing so, businesses can discover the nuances that need to be overcome for them to create initiatives that truly tackle the related issues. In turn, they are better positioned to communicate their intentions and take action that manifests into positive change for employees.

At Cloudera, we believe data is vital in the pursuit of diversity and organisational effectiveness, and it’s this belief that led us to create the Technology for Equality (TeQ) Consortium – an open digital platform that enables individuals and groups to address bias and equity using data, analytics, AI and open-source technology tools.

It’s human nature to have blind spots when it comes to interpreting our understanding of how others are feeling, and often our biases are unintentional. Here, the goal should be for each of us to recognise and have a greater awareness of our unconscious biases and develop methods that are able to overcome them. Only then can we truly create policies and initiatives that are inclusive of the entire workforce.

Diversity of thought

While we have discussed how data can be used to highlight where marginalised demographics persist, it is also imperative to understand why it is important for businesses to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce. One reason is that it encourages and facilitates diversity of thought, meaning a greater range of mindsets, thought processes and perspectives can be found within an organisation’s workforce.

Having diversity of thought at all levels is critical for businesses to have a better chance of troubleshooting problems and for fostering innovation. These differences can then be harnessed to an organisation’s advantage.

Take for example the role of the data scientist. Research indicates that the discipline has a gender gap which is problematic as its related fields play a key role in shaping society, so having equal and proportional representation is important. It’s no secret that men and women think differently – with women typically being more empathetic and compassionate – so it stands to reason they are likely to interpret data differently. This is important when working with data models that impact real-life decision-making especially when we consider that women are more communicative than men, enabling for better collaboration and problem-solving.

For this reason, businesses must look to create a diverse workforce that encapsulates different groups and backgrounds as it allows for greater representation and the bringing of new perspectives and insight to the table.

If not, businesses might find themselves recycling the same ideas and be out of tune with their customers’ needs – limiting their potential growth. To help tackle this problem, we’ve launched Cloudera Now, a initiative we’ve built to illustrate best practices when it comes to how companies can use their data for the greater good, such as their DE&I initiatives.

Power of data 

While it’s positive that DE&I initiatives are becoming part of the boardroom conversation, organisations must look to ground these initiatives with insights based on data. Only then can businesses identify where inequalities persist to take the decisive action required to remedy them and be able to start harnessing workforce diversity not only for their competitive advantage but for the benefit of society.

How technology can enhance diversity and inclusion


By Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at University of Roma “Tor Vergata”

If I were a painter, I would consider a canvas as a neutral means to transfer my ideas and emotions into a painting.

When we discuss the neutrality of technology, we are referring to the idea that the technology is the canvas, and technologists and scientists are the painters. We have the role, competence, and responsibility to make the canvas become artwork.

A blank canvas

The beauty of technology is its intrinsic neutrality. Technology has a huge potential to either benefit or damage the environment, and the teams working on said technology have the opportunity to shape it to fully benefit them. This is indeed a fascinating opportunity, which is open to all in a broad breath of diversity and inclusiveness. The more diverse and inclusive the technology team is, the more diverse and inclusive the application developers are, and the more beneficial the result will be. New technologies which are fair and unbiased are really the best ally when it comes to designing an attractive and lasting future for humans and the planet.

The power of AI

One example of neutral technology can be seen with artificial intelligence (AI). This particular technology often generates mixed feelings, and many individuals have a strong lack of trust with it. What worries a lot of people, is perhaps potentially an uncontrolled evolution of the algorithms which can cause damage to humans. For example, the troubles caused to the protagonist of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by a super intelligent calculator are hard to forget, for people of all generations.

AI algorithms need to be trusted in the most objective way – and what is more objective than a truly diverse and inclusive team of developers? Diversity and inclusiveness could be a strong guideline for the algorithm evaluation from the performance and ethical viewpoints. AI is going to be increasingly pervasive and, if properly developed and tested, is destined to become an extremely beneficial pillar for the sustainability of the planet. AI is just one of the many examples of technology frameworks where diversity and inclusiveness can improve the results, create a powerful osmosis between the means and goals and create a natural outcome.

Collaboration is key

A deep trust in technology and its neutrality is very important to appreciate the role AI can play to create an even environment. For example, when daily activities in either professional or social domains are widely supported by the neutrality of a key-technology such as AI, diversity and inclusion can be more easily guaranteed. Neutral technology is the “guardian” of even opportunities which can contribute to various domains in the most diverse way. Only an unbalanced trust in technology could result in a lack of diversity and inclusion.

As humans, we are intrinsically non-linear, and our unconscious bias is aligned with natural behaviour. The rational approach of AI-based algorithms is an effective means to balance the human non-linear trait in various application domains, like recruiting procedures. The best outcome is teamwork between humans and AI, as this provides a contribution of rational and non-linear behaviour. In fact, the rational and data-driven approach identifies the short list of solutions to a given task or issue while the non-linear contribution helps identify the spike often associated with an ingenious solution.

Any technology which is prone to exchange knowledge from data and to allow the proper use of knowledge is an ally to diversity and inclusion. Going forward, we can expect technologies that have broad coverage and highly reliable speed and latency to be utilised within the super-connected infrastructure.

About the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

Is diversity the key to unlocking the potential of fintech and web3?

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

Work in Fintech is diverse by design, led by a male British born half-Chinese half-Irish fintech entrepreneur, a female former head of digital products at a leading investment bank who is a US national but born in China and a 12-year-old British Asian boy who is a NFT and crypto millionaire.

What do these three people have in common? They all share a love for fintech, a passion for education and they are all on a mission to give back. This tribe of like-minded people is actively helping the next generation build companies and careers in fintech and web3.

Initially, Work in Fintech was set up as a mentoring project in late 2019 by fintech entrepreneur and ipushpull CEO, Matthew Cheung, to help students from his old high school navigate the challenges of entering the workforce. However, things changed rapidly with the global pandemic which caused huge disruption within the school system. One thing in particular was conspicuous by its absence – work experience. Unfortunately, for 15- and 16-year-old students, work experience had completely disappeared as nearly every single company was grappling with their own challenges in 2020-2021.

For Matthew, the work experience he had when he was 15 directly led him to his first job in the City – which was a life changing event for him. As businesses were not offering this, he decided to take matters into his own hands and created a 6-week work experience programme for a group of teenagers from different races and backgrounds. This was a runaway success. The students gained real life experience with firms such as Revolut, TP ICAP and Goldman Sachs and even met the Lord Mayor of London while learning about fintech, financial markets and growing their own network.

Through a podcast series that first aired in February 2021 called ‘Interviews with Leaders in Fintech’, Matthew met Ying Cao and Benyamin Ahmed.

At the time, Ying had just left her role as Head of Digital Products at Barclays investment bank to set up an executive coaching platform called Liyt. Matthew and Ying quickly bonded over a shared passion for mentoring and giving back to future generations. Soon after, they met 12-year-old Benyamin Ahmed, who had gained notoriety by becoming the youngest person in the world to make a million dollars in crypto by creating NFT digital art collections. Although he has enough wealth to secure a comfortable future, Benyamin is keen to share his knowledge with other young people so that they can emulate his success.

With this impactful group of people, Work in Fintech is in full swing, providing mentoring, career advice,  and work experience to students, as well as helping graduates and young people find jobs in fintech and web3.

Diversity in every dimension is important to this founding team, who have strived to ensure a balance of race, gender, age, origin and socio-economic status in order to break through the poor track record finance generally has around the world. Both Matthew and Ying have spent their careers in finance, Matthew in the City and Ying in Wall Street. The lack of diversity in these global financial centres is stark. However, the great thing with fintech and web3 is that age, gender, ethnicity and any other differences are not barriers. It’s one of the most meritocratic industries where skills, ideas, passion and experience trumps everything else.

A fresher outlook, mindset and perspective of many fintech founders who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s means diversity and inclusion is crucially important. However, fintech and web3 firms that are rapidly growing are recruiting talent globally and – unfortunately – the majority of recruits is still white and male. This fact is not lost on fintech founders who want a diverse pool of candidates. This is something that Work in Fintech is solving for.

It’s actually a two-way street, fintech’s can’t find talent, especially those coming from DEI backgrounds, and young people are not aware of the great opportunities in the fintech and web3 space. Traditional finance has been recruiting graduates for decades and many students just aren’t aware of the job roles or the companies in fintech and web3 looking for talent, so they naturally gravitate towards banks and traditional finance.

To help increase the visibility of fintech, Work in Fintech works with corporates such as Adaptive Financial Consulting and who are not only leaders in their field but have identified the shortage of talent from DEI pools as something they want to rebalance with investment and commitment. For students, Work in Fintech creates learning, networking and working experience to give them their first taste of fintech and web3. Ultimately, Work in Fintech will help students find internships and jobs at the innovative fintech firms that are part of the Work in Fintech community.

Uniquely, Work in Fintech is funding these programmes through NFTs. Benyamin has worked with a Black Brazilian artist, Massai, to create a NFT collection that will be sold to fintech’s and corporates. Each NFT holder unlocks access to a vibrant growing community of young people. The proceeds of the NFT collection will be used – and tracked on-chain – to help fund learning and work experiences for students from all backgrounds with a specific focus on helping students from DEI backgrounds.

Diversity is important in all industries as it helps provide opportunities for all. It improves decision making and it’s the right thing to do both socially and morally. It won’t be solved overnight but Work in Fintech is creating the on-ramps today that will unlock the massive opportunity in fintech and web3.

Can recruitment technologies be used ethically?

Diversity starts with recruitment. Organisations are notoriously bad at it, employing more males than females.

And it gets progressively worse with seniority. Women make up 47% of entry level roles, but only 20% of c-suite leaders. At every promotion step, women, and especially women of color, lose out to men. This is because women’s potential is underestimated. In a hiring scenario where there is just one woman in the hiring pool, her chance of being hired is zero. Compared to this, a man’s chance of being hired when he is the only man is 33%. When humans are making hiring decisions, they are affected by bias.

Can recruitment technologies help? Recruitment technology has time and cost saving benefits, but a potentially more impactful benefit is its ability to minimize the impact of bias in recruitment and progression decision. Unstructured interviews are commonly used in selection, yet interviewers are bad at picking up on job relevant skills and attributes during interviews. Equally, structured interviews and psychometric tests are considered the gold standard for recruitment practices, but they are far less common than they should be in application due to their high financial and time costs. Recruitment technologies make these best practices more cost effective and accessible. What can be done to ensure recruitment technology is used ethically and improves representation?

Is it benefitting job seekers, and benefitting all job seekers equally?

Any adopted technology should have clear benefits for job seekers. This can include a chance to get evaluated fairly, or the opportunity to learn about themselves through meaningful feedback. It can also be tangible benefits like decreasing the workload of job applications.

Can job seekers provide informed consent?

Any transaction with candidates need to be transparent. Candidates need to be informed about how their data is being used, what data is being recorded and who will have access to the data. Informed consent is only meaningful if candidates have a true choice. If women can choose only between recruitment practices that are all biased against them, there is no meaningful choice. Recruitment technologies increase the presence of good choices in the recruitment market: Standardised recruitment processes such as structured interviews used in video interviewing analytics compare favourably in terms of fairness to the common unstructured interview.

Is data being protected and treated confidentially?

Recruitment technology must protect and preserve the confidentiality, anonymity, and data protection of candidates. The access to recruitment data should be limited to required decision makers. However, with recruitment, there is also a case for retaining candidate data, in particular to evaluate diversity performance of recruitment tools.  For example, to monitor whether a selection process is bias free, companies need aggregate level recruitment data. Making this data available is in the interest of job seekers.

Are candidates receiving feedback and an opportunity to increase self-awareness?

It is ethical to return as much information as possible to candidates, whether they are offered a job or not. Organizations should engage with rejected candidates, explaining how they evaluated them, and why their profile was deemed a poor fit with the role. Science-based assessments (with or without AI) allow companies to address candidate concerns in a meaningful way, because they can explain what candidates were evaluated on and how.

Is the technology used explainable?

Explainability is an important features of many AI ethics frameworks. It needs to be applied to any recruitment technology used. Providers should be able to not only show that their technology predicts job performance or achieves desired outcomes, but also explain why it does so. For example, organisations should favour tools that boost their understanding of what someone is like by measuring job relevant skills and competencies, rather than simply predicting that they are the right candidate.

In summary, technology can help organisations implement recruitment best practices in a cost and time effective way. In this sense, they are an important tool for increasing diversity in orgranisations. To ensure that the technology in question will indeed achieve this goal, determine that it is beneficial to all job candidates, allows meaningful consent, protects data and privacy where needed, gives back to candidates through feedback and learning, and is transparent and explainable.

Franziska Kiki LeutnerAbout the author

Franziska Leutner is the co-author of The Future of Recruitment: Using the New Science of Talent Analytics to Get Your Hiring Right by with Reece Akhtar and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. Out now, published by Emerald, priced £18.99

Why diversity is important in the Electric Vehicle industry

Article by Gail Rowe, Interim Customer Director at on-street charge point operator, Liberty Charge.

Electric carMy job involves managing relationships and collaborating with local authorities that are interested in deploying EV charging points, and ultimately helping them on their journey to develop their EVCP network strategy.

My background in town planning and passion for community development, mean that every day I am inspired when I see the tangible changes our team are making in real time. I have never before worked in an environment where everyone involved truly feels part of this journey – all of us get excited by what we’re achieving together.

As with any process of change ­– and across all industries – strong leadership is essential, and diversity is key to getting everyone on side. Indeed, if we want to increase the number of people switching to EVs we need to make this mainstream and bring everybody on board, but at the moment the sector itself doesn’t necessarily look like people like me.

I also think that as women, we bring a different skillset, and I firmly believe that the networks and support bubbles that people develop throughout their career play a crucial role in maintaining one’s own health and wellbeing. They also help in developing business opportunities.

What’s brilliant about Liberty Charge, is that we have women in a variety of roles and in senior positions, from engineers, planning to financial controller, network operations, sales to marketing. So as a company, live what we promote. We need to make sure our voices are heard more loudly and then we can have more of an influence.

My advice to other young women considering entering the EV industry is to take a deep breath, and be confident in your own abilities, drawing on your own skillsets and making them relevant. For example, coming from a local government background, I have a good understanding of the local government landscape and can bring this experience to bear in the relationships Liberty Charge has with local government partners.

I’d also encourage people to be proactive, get yourself out there, start new conversations, get involved with networks and play to your strengths. Learning and professional development is key, so making sure to continually refresh your skillset and knowledge base and sit out of your comfort zone, will ensure you remain at the forefront.

I also try to give back and mentor young black planners and believe in engaging with schools, colleges, universities and community organisations keen to find out more about getting involved in the low-carbon transport sector.

Gail RoweAbout the author

Liberty Charge’s Interim Customer Director, Gail Rowe, is an urban planner, regeneration and enterprise specialist with over 15 years’ experience in project development and management. Her expertise crosses a diverse portfolio of projects and programmes within the public sector, and she is passionate about delivering projects that fulfil community aspirations and meet business drivers. She also advocates for the importance of diversity in the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry.

Liberty Charge is an on-street charge point operator dedicated to delivering a safe, accessible and reliable public charging network that helps to ensure EV infrastructure matches the rising demand for sustainable transport.

Smiling Group Of Diverse Businesspeople, Networking

Six things tech programmes can learn from The Apple Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers

Smiling Group Of Diverse Businesspeople, Networking

My name is Dayo Akinrinade, and I am the founder and CEO of Wisdom, a social audio app on a mission to democratise access to mentorship.

We are building an audio community of accessible mentors, to help regular folks overcome the barrier of the requisite “warm introduction”.

At some point in time, many of us have dreamt of starting a company, but few move from idea to action. In recent decades, tech has become more accessible and entrepreneurship has exploded in popularity. Tech founders are the new rockstars — Jeff Bezos is hosting glitzy celebrity-packed parties and yacht-hopping in Europe, and the media care enough to report on it. Startup culture is glamorised as a fast track to overnight success, but the brutal truth is that building a startup is less of a sprint and more of a marathon. A startup is a true test of mental and physical endurance, fraught with high risk and emotional highs and lows. Now strap on a weighted backpack to indicate the racial and gender disparities I face as a Black, female tech founder in the UK, where reportedly just 0.24% of venture funding went to Black founders.

To address the minority founder disparity, there are a multitude of diversity-focused accelerators, bootcamps and programmes. From my prior experience on the founding team of OneTech, London’s largest diversity in tech programme, I had the privilege of providing diversity consultancy to a number of programmes including Techstars, Startup Bootcamp and Space Camp. Given this experience, I applied to the Apple Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders with a healthy dose of pragmatism.

True diversity is intersectional

The world-leading accelerator programmes are at differing stages of their diversity journeys and tend to overwhelmingly focus on the ‘safer’ gender aspect of diversity, at the expense of ethnicity and other intersections. Apple’s approach boldly differs as the Entrepreneur Camp program includes cohorts for female, Black, and Hispanic/Latinx founders and developers from underrepresented communities. Additionally, the camp eligibility requirements include having a Black founder, cofounder, or CEO AND a developer from an underrepresented community — thus ensuring that the cohort composition moves beyond performative diversity.

Give black founders permission to dream

Traditionally, tech founders are expected to start out with a friends and family round. However, this is hampered by the wealth gap between Black and white households which is well documented in both America and Great Britain, where the Black African household median wealth was reported at £34,00 versus the white British household at £314,000. It’s not uncommon for Black founders to save money by living in with and financially contributing to their parents’ households or, to sending regular remittances to support family “back home”.

Startup founders are expected to have a moonshot mindset, and this can be challenging where many Black founders do not have a friends and family network capable of supporting their entrepreneurial dreams. Apple’s programme included a session run by an Apple Technology Evangelist, in which the insight and passion expressed was truly invigorating and inspired me to dream beyond my current limitations.

Indie developers matter

Tech startup programmes have entry requirements, and as the accelerator model has matured, the eligibility criteria of the top accelerators has increased. Currently, it’s not uncommon for programmes to require a full-time team and a functional MVP. This criteria often disqualifies Black founders, as it is not uncommon for minority founders needing to work full-time whilst building a startup as a side hustle. Uniquely, the Apple Entrepreneur Camp accounts for the reality that not every rockstar founder is an Ivy League dropout and gives different archetypes of founders a fair shot by allowing non full-time founders to participate. Helpfully, there is no charge nor equity taken to participate in Entrepreneur Camp.

Black founders need hands-on one-to-one support

A typical tech accelerator programme includes group lecture-style sessions on topics like ideation, legal and product. The content is often high level and founders leave the session with a to-do list to take away and implement. The Apple Entrepreneur Camp is described as “an intensive, hands-on technology lab where you’ll work one on one with Apple experts and engineers to significantly accelerate your app” – and this was accurate. My team benefitted from code-level hands-on support from Apple’s frameworks experts and found it invaluable.

Diversity without discomfort is performative: managers of diversity tech programmes must be equipped to facilitate the difficult conversations.

Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp is based on the thesis that “founders from underrepresented communities face unique challenges especially when starting and leading technology companies”. In my experience, most technology programmes fail to directly acknowledge these “unique challenges”, perhaps because it is impossible to discuss diversity in tech without discomfort. Surprisingly, the Apple Entrepreneur Camp did not avoid the hard conversations. It included a session where participants openly shared experiences of being Black in tech: showing up to a tech company headquarters and being mistaken as the valet, or in my case, I was mistaken as the janitor. We talked about the role of therapy and allyship, which was emotional, yet empowering.

Provide ongoing support and networks

According to NESTA, the main goal of tech programmes is “to provide intensive and time-limited business support for cohorts of startups”. ‘Time-limited’ characterises the duration of one to twelve weeks, and after the programme, there is usually no scheduled or guaranteed support. At best, the founder can contact the programme team on an adhoc basis for generic, non-specialist startup advice. One way Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp really stands out is when it comes to the ongoing support it offers to the cohort. This is particularly critical for minority founders who, due to systemic ethnic disparities, can lack access to mentors. This is where having the opportunity to tap into senior-level support and expertise – even after the scheduled component of the programme has ended – is beyond valuable.

For Wisdom, via the Apple Developer Program – I am able to access resources within the portal and get one-to-one code-level support from software engineers. I can not underscore how helpful this is – when you are building an innovative startup, one-off interventions are great, but to effect sustainable change, long-term support is required. That’s something that Apple’s global network provides and I believe this will go some way to sustainably addressing ethnic disparities within the tech startup ecosystem.

About the author

Dayo Akinrinade is the Founder and CEO of Wisdom. London-born with a Nigerian heritage, Dayo is a minority founder in tech and a former Big 4 IT Management Consultant. In 2021, Dayo launched Wisdom, a leading social audio app, to democratise access to mentorship through a diverse community centred on knowledge-sharing. Since its launch in October 2021, Wisdom mentors have shared over 600,000 minutes of insights and guidance, while listeners have absorbed more than 5.4 million minutes worth of knowledge.

How a silicon valley startup approaches diversity

Young crew of happy excited male and female business partners celebrating completed startup project while looking at camera and laughing, best places to work

Building a Silicon Valley-based startup can seem like manufacturing a plane in the air with duct tape.

While established businesses face pressure to redefine work following the Great Resignation, resilient startups are infusing deliberate, purpose-built foundations based on company culture and values to attract and retain talent.

Rather than resisting the rise of digital nomads or unraveling longstanding hiring practices that lacked inclusion, smart startups recognize that an equitable and inclusive workplace will attract and retain a happier and more diverse workforce. Eager job-seekers are looking for their next opportunity in a sea of available options. It is our challenge to positively differentiate ourselves to candidates and break through the noise of a popular market. To stand out, our company differentiates itself in several areas: diversity, hiring practices and overall company culture.

Pre-pandemic, we missed out on a $5MM early investment because we did not score well on a VC’s AI based on our distributed team model. Ironically, we handled the pandemic quite well because we already knew how to work outside an office. Covid-19 has been an accelerant for change and we were uniquely poised because we already knew how to use the remote work toolkit.

A snapshot of women in startups and finance

Currently, only 2.2% of funding goes to female startups — a pretty bleak representation of the innovation that happens in the market. Only 28% of startups have at least one female founder, and a mere 40% have at least one woman on the board of directors. While there are a number of factors that play into these meager statistics, in 2022 we should expect more from industries across the spectrum.

The fire is certainly starting to spread as more women join startup boards and take on executive roles. And there is more; the return is impressive when investors put their money into female-led nascent companies. In a recent study of over 350 startups, Mass Challenge and BCG determined that women-led businesses delivered more than two times as much per dollar invested than those founded by men. In some cases, VCs could have made an additional $85 million over five-years if they had just spread the wealth and invested equally in women-founded and men-founded startups. Studies show that women entrepreneurs not only outperform all-men teams by 63 percent, but are painted into a corner of pink (food, beauty and fashion).

What factors create a diverse, inclusive and progressive workplace? Focusing on a few new hiring tactics and an emphasis on culture may be what is needed to continue moving the world forward.

Hiring practices that make our team unstoppable

When it comes to sourcing new talent, everyone has inherent, unintentional biases. Our company works to combat this lens by having our applicant screeners fill out a questionnaire specifically aimed at getting to the core of four basic tenets required to fit in to our company:

  • Be the best at what you do
  • GSD – get sh*t done
  • Be a happy person — no grumps!
  • Have your teammates’ backs

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This approach allows us to meet each candidate with an open mind and find those who are the very best for the job at hand.

Indeed, recruiting new talent is a different process in every organization. Our short-listed candidates are screened by colleagues in their target department — and cross functional departments — followed by a second screening in the target department and an unrelated department. By engaging multiple individuals in the screening process, even those who may not work directly with each other, we are able to determine both candidate breadth — an important startup attribute — as well as cultural fit.

As management guru Peter Druecker once said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. There are many candidates from which to choose, but those who bring diversity of thought and experience that add to company culture are by far more valuable to an organization than those who have seemingly expert experience but apathy toward a company’s team and values.

Setting the standard / the new normal

Approaching our hiring practices in this manner allows us to promote a healthy company culture from the very start. Positive, empowering company culture is one of the best ways to attract new talent and promote diversity in the workplace. In 2022, having diverse, inclusive teams should be the new normal. The standard of excellence in this era should be measured by more than just revenue figures, it should also be measured by your organization’s rapport with clients as well as your internal team.

We operate on a platform of transparency and unity. As such, we have been able to consistently expand our team, growing from an innovative thinker to 39 industry experts, with half of our executive team being women. This team of happy, smart people who GSD makes for an innovative and collaborative work environment that will forever change the way institutional finance works.

About the author

Maryanne MorrowMaryanne brings more than 25 years as a corporate veteran in the financial, marketing and advertising industries to her role as founder and CEO of 9th Gear Technologies where she is responsible for leading corporate strategy, scaling the company and investor relations.

She is a capital markets specialist, launching a family of mutual funds and architecting fee-based asset management platforms for banks, broker dealers and insurance firms. Maryanne previously served as CEO of SurgeXLR, a boutique accelerator she founded that focused on faster paths to monetization. She was also involved in two successful exits (to Standard & Poor’s and BNP Paribas) and consulted on the custom content and advertising efforts of many financial firms while working at The Wall Street Journal. Maryanne is an active angel investor and an expert on distributed ledger technology, ICOs and cryptocurrency.

Maryanne was educated at Cornell University (Material Science Engineering), LeMoyne (Finance) and Whittier Law School with continuous learning at Stanford University (Scaling Blockchain, Valuation Modeling, Angel Investing and part of the Blockchain Club).

Using tech to improve diversity in recruitment

Article by Bukola Adisa, CEO at Career Masterclass

Technology has positively changed the face of human activities and interaction.

The world of work has been greatly impacted by tech driven changes which provide data-driven insights and scalable solutions that can challenge our thinking, influence processes and ultimately, change behaviours, according to the World Economic Forum.  Used in the right way, tech can help companies facilitate their inclusion and diversity agenda, and remove barriers to entry for many Black and ethnically diverse professionals.

Research supports this notion and found that applicants with Asian or African-sounding names, for example, have to send twice as many job applications as those with English names to get an interview. In addition to this, women were less likely to be invited to interview than men. This is clearly penalising many talented individuals and is exacerbating the current social mobility problem for ethnically diverse professionals. Tech can play a huge role in mitigating this trend.

Software can facilitate a blind recruitment process and remove any markers that can engender bias e.g. gender, name, school, University etc. It can also create access to back-end data which can be used to analyse applicant pools and query drop off points. Recruiting platforms can be configured to focus on skills and suitability of roles instead of other data points such as previous organisations which can feed into bias.

In addition to this, the general use of tech in the whole recruitment process can widen the pool of applicants to help drive diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For example, hosting remote job fairs and allowing flexible working can widen the demographic of candidates for a role as it opens up the talent pool beyond a company’s head office location.

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Tech can also drive diversity during the interview process, not just at the application and filtering stage. For example, certain tools can help create an objective scoring model for interview panels, where scores are based purely on soft and hard skills rather than experience and the interviewer’s subjective feedback.

It is vital that recruitment becomes more and more objective, to allow diversity and inclusion strategies succeed right from the talent attraction phase. Tech can play a huge part in eliminating unconscious bias during all stages of recruitment, from the advertisement of roles through to filtering applications and down to the interview stage.

However, companies need to ensure that creating a level playing field for professionals is a priority, and then, finding the technology to support this objective will not be difficult. When the goal becomes to start looking at what someone can do, not where they are from, diversity and inclusion within companies will take a new turn and move beyond performative actions.

About the author

Bukola AdisaBukola is the founder/CEO of Career Masterclass which is a platform dedicated to enabling the progression of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) professionals in the workplace. Through webinars, live events and the annual STRETCH conference, Bukola teaches practical career tips to a varied BAME audience which has resulted in tangible career progress for the participants.

She is also a Senior Governance, Risk and Controls expert who has held leadership roles in global financial services organisations such as Barclays, HSBC, RBS, JP Morgan and Deloitte, in a variety of roles spanning Audit, Compliance, Financial crime, Risk & controls.

She was listed in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 PowerList, the 2017 Empower Financial Times List, and the Financial Times HERoes list of executives who have made a substantial difference to women’s careers.v

three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversity

Being transparent & driving diversity in the cyber security industry 

three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversity

Article provided by Kate Dadlani, Head of Security Advisory Services at Logicalis UKI

Cyber-attacks have increased since the start of the pandemic, making cybersecurity a priority for leaders across all industries.

IT Governance research discovered 1,243 security incidents in 2021, leading to an 11% increase compared to the previous year.

As Logicalis UKI’s Head of Security Advisory Services, I lead the development of cybersecurity services that support our customers in protecting themselves as much as possible against these attacks. Being a leader in tech, it is clear that a major issue in the cyber security space is that women represent only 11% of the cyber security workforce. This means one of the biggest problems facing the tech sector is that it simply isn’t utilising or appealing to half of the population. However, the shortage of tech talent is not a new problem. Over a decade ago, more than half of CEOs complained about the dearth of talent for digital roles. To make matters worse, a recent Korn Ferry study found that unless we get more high-tech workers by 2030, the security industry could miss out on over $160 billion in annual revenues.

Ultimately, the lack of diversity means less available talent to help keep up with mounting cyber threats, which has a knock-on effect on business continuity and profitability.

30 under 30: Becoming a leader in cybersecurity.

My fascination with computers started quite young. I remember when my mum bought me my first computer; I took it apart entirely just to put it back together like a jigsaw. Quite naturally, this interest led me to read forensic computing at De Montfort University. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university and achieved a First Class-Degree. My final year dissertation – which was about iPhone backup files as a source of evidence – was even published internationally in Digital Forensics Magazine.

Despite the resistance I’ve experienced from older men in positions of power, I’m in my thirties and I’m already the Head of Security Advisory Services at a large company. I’ve featured as a ‘Rising Star’ in Cyber World Magazine and placed on CRN’s Women in Channel A-List – both are very well-respected titles. I’ve even been selected as a House of Lords representative! I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved, especially considering I’m still relatively early in my career.

All of these things started a foundation for the rest of my career. I’ve worked in a variety of roles, from starting as a Cyber Intelligence Analyst at Lockheed Martin in the aerospace and defence sector to a consultancy role at Ernst & Young. Then three years ago I started at Logicalis UK as Security and Compliance Manager, intending to bring cybersecurity to the forefront of both the organisations and employees’ minds. In less than a year and a half, I was promoted to CISO and now I’m Head of Security Advisory Services.

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The biggest obstacle girls will face is being a woman in man’s world. 

Everyone in the tech industry, no matter their gender, needs to acknowledge and educate themselves on the difficulties women face in such a male-dominated profession. The people working in security are usually older and male. As a woman, there’s always going to be the difficulty of actually being heard. Stepping into the C-suite sphere means having to communicate and battle with already established executives who can be quite hard to persuade. I’ve experienced a lot of resistance and reluctance coming from the top. A lot of it has stemmed from me being a young and accomplished woman, telling them how operations need to change.

I’ve come to the understanding that men and women work quite differently. To create a diverse workforce, more women in the cybersecurity space will lead to a variety of ideas being bounced around. This abundance of different views can prove to be very beneficial to day-to-day business. By incorporating more women into the tech space, we’ll have more women in powerful positions helping to innovate company cultures.

Just do it! Accepting your lack of confidence and fear of failure.

One of the biggest issues is that society has caused men to often be more outspoken than women. I’ve found that women, myself included, tend to be quite circumspect and self-doubting in comparison.

My advice for women struggling with imposter syndrome is to be transparent with themselves and their colleagues. It’s so easy to hide behind a false layer of confidence, but it stops you from reaching your full potential. Recognising both your strengths and weaknesses allows you to realise not only where you can improve but also what you’re good at and how you can utilise those skills better.

Seeing as most tech positions are held by men, it can be discouraging for women with a great interest in the industry. I want to encourage women that it’s incredibly possible to get to a senior level in the IT world. I’m also very wary that this gender imbalance in tech needs to be addressed. One of the few ways to get the ball rolling is by sharing my experiences and supporting other women who find themselves being the only female in a meeting.