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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.

Inspirational Woman: Dr Femi Olu-Lafe | Senior Vice President, Culture & Inclusion, Kinesso

Dr Femi Olu-LafeAs the Culture and Inclusion leader at Kinesso, Femi leads the diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies for Kinesso and its sister IPG agencies, Matterkind and Acxiom.

Her responsibilities include extending the impact of existing DEI efforts, identifying opportunities for new programs, and championing the companies’ focus on ensuring their data and technology products serve all people in a respectful and inclusive manner. Femi’s passion lies in ensuring employees have meaningful ways to engage so they can continue co-creating the diverse and inclusive culture that is core to each company’s values and culture.

Prior to joining Kinesso, Femi was a Senior Consultant at YSC Consulting, where she used her expertise in cognitive psychology and applied data analysis to provide leadership insights, executive coaching, and partnership to organizations wishing to develop and execute bespoke DEI initiatives. Before that, she was part of Catalyst’s Diversity and Inclusion practice. Femi earned her PhD in Psychology at Boston University, her MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London, and a BA in Psychology at Cornell University.

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

As the Senior Vice President of Culture and Inclusion, I lead the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies for Kinesso and its sister IPG agencies, Acxiom and Matterkind. My responsibilities include extending the impact of existing DEI efforts, identifying opportunities for new programs, and championing the companies’ focus on ensuring their data and technology products serve all people in a respectful and inclusive manner. My passion lies in ensuring employees have meaningful ways to engage so they can continue co-creating the diverse and inclusive culture that is core to each company’s values and culture.

Prior to joining Kinesso, I was a Senior Consultant at YSC Consulting, where I used my expertise in cognitive psychology and applied data analysis to provide leadership insights, executive coaching, and partnership to organizations wishing to develop and execute bespoke DEI initiatives. Before that, I was part of Catalyst’s Diversity and Inclusion practice. I earned my PhD in Psychology at Boston University, my MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London, and my BA in Psychology at Cornell University.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never planned anything out in a lot of detail, but I knew early on that I was very curious about others and wanted to help others grow, but what that looked like has evolved with time. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind!

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

Like most people, I have faced various challenges along the way, but I have been fortunate to have allies along to way to support. At moments when things felt particularly challenging and there was a lot of things piling up, taking time out to reassess, breathe and prioritise what’s most important has been helpful for long term resilience, and being able to overcome challenges.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

For me it was my PhD, which I’m incredibly proud of having seen through to the end, but it was a difficult journey. It’s still hard to believe I finished!

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

For me it has been predominately three things. The first one has been learning and staying aware of myself and how I operate, as well as being mindful of what I need to feel rejuvenated and stay as able to do the best work I can, as much as possible.

The second has been not being too rigid in thinking about my career journey and where I might end up. I think it’s important to be flexible when interesting opportunities arise, but there’s also something be said for ensuring there is some broader goal or purpose that you are actively working towards at the same time.

Finally, it’s been wise counsellors and the guidance that I have picked up from them along the way that has really helped me. Sometimes you need other perspectives and points of view to help you make decisions and having some trusted people you can count on as mentors or even just a quick sounding board can be invaluable.

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

The first would be to not give up at the first hurdle. This kind of thing can be a long, gradual journey, but one that rewards persistence and patience. It can be tough to stay on course and maintain morale. It’s difficult, but use the resources that you might around you in terms of support and resilience. You might have colleagues for example that are particularly inspiring or helpful, or get involved with external mentoring programmes.

You also need to celebrate your own accomplishments and take the time to appreciate the progress you’ve already made. I’ve observed that it can sometimes be quite common to downplay strengths or successes, and focus instead on areas of development.

There’s also something to be said for the way you approach and think about future career moves. It pays to not be too rigid in where you see yourself, and while others can serve as inspiration, it can be limiting to only follow the paths of others. Finally, carve out time regularly to reflect on what’s working, examine potential alternate approaches to do things, and to leverage resources around you such as team colleagues, sponsors and mentors.

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

I believe so, and I think a big part of resolving that would come from companies actively listening to the women in their workforce, and taking action in response. Many companies recognise there is work to be done in this area, but it’s really in the doing – the policies and programs – where they will be able to make a difference, instead of just talking.

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

One part of this is in being flexible with how work happens, and where it might take place. There has been a lot of progress in this area over the past year, and I think if companies are smart in how they retain the elements of remote working that are beneficial, they’ll be able to support a more diverse array of candidates and bring them on board. But it’s also about retention, and recruitment and review processes alike needing to have clarity, transparency and equity as foundational principles if they’re going to be successful in any way.

There are currently only 17 per cent 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?

We need a lot more empathy within the typical workplace. Again, I think the pandemic’s effects have humanised us a lot more, and made us aware of individual’s own situations and the challenges they’re facing alongside work, but efforts to respond to that need to continue.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m a big fan of Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead Podcasts.

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.

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

Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

Women supporting women: New vendor-client mentorship programme aims to boost diversity

Four young strong women or girls standing together. Group of friends or feminist activists support each other, women supporting women

Co-authored by Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat

It’s no secret that women are hugely underrepresented in the tech industry.

According to a study, two of the biggest barriers for women are a lack of mentors and female role models within the industry.

This ongoing diversity problem can often leave some women in tech feeling isolated, undervalued or like imposters.

That’s why it’s important we branch out and support other women, allow them to feel heard, valued and enabled to reach their career goals.

Here, Anushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, discuss collaboration can empower women through a new vendor-client mentorship programme.

Taking back the reigns

Due to disruption caused by COVID-19, which impacted the way we lived and worked, studies revealed years of hard work to fight gender equality in the workplace could be reversed if no action was taken.

At the height of the pandemic – when the social side of work was disrupted – Softcat decided to launch a new vendor-client mentorship programme with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to create a safe space where women could meet, share and learn.

In March 2021, a week-long campaign was launched for International Women’s Day, consisting of a panel session of senior leaders from both organisations.

Following the campaign’s success, the Mentorship Circles programme launched in June 2021 to provide a place for women in predominately junior to mid-level positions to network, share their challenges and support one another.

Collaboration accelerates diversity and inclusion

According to a previous study, the key to embedding impactful diversity and inclusion programmes is having a collaborative approach across all levels of an organisation.

And by merging with a vendor, who equally understand the importance of gender equality and championing women’s voices in the tech sector, Softcat has created three streams where women across both organisations are encouraged to host sessions, build peer to peer relationships, have meaningful conversations, gain insight, share best practices, and learn from external individuals with a different perspective.

The first stream focuses on ‘Building confidence & building your brand’ where women learn how to nurture self-confidence, discuss credibility and visibility to develop their career, build their brand based on values, skills and passions, and share ideas around best strategies and techniques.

Meanwhile, the second is all about work-life balance, where female employees can discuss the importance of balance and how to manage it, talk through challenges balancing career and home life, navigate demands and responsibilities and inspire others to achieve a better work-life balance.

Finally, the third stream is specifically designed for women in technical roles. With such an underrepresentation for women in tech roles, this creates a safe space for individuals to discuss current trends, encourage each other to progress and develop, consider new ways of making technical roles more attractive to women and discuss the challenges they face in a male-dominated industry.

It means so much more than looking at mentorship schemes internally., Collaborating with external vendors adds another element to it and organisation’s need to be looking at ways to refresh their efforts for diversity and inclusion.

A study found that half of the employees believe their company could improve their efforts, while another revealed that some even look at how senior managers focus on it.

By collaborating, individuals can benefit from fresh perspectives on similar experiences that others have had in different settings, which is valuable for growth and progression.

Championing females to overcome imposter syndrome

Unfortunately, it’s still fairly common for women to experience imposter syndrome, particularly those in mid-junior level roles.

However, while this seems unfair to those who are hard at work in workplaces making key changes for gender diversity and inclusion, the harsh reality is that there’s still only just over eight percent of women who are CEOs at fortune 500 companies, despite this number rising.

To tackle the issue, Softcat and HPE’s Mentoring Circles space looks to champion female employees at whatever level of their career, giving junior-mid level roles a chance to talk to those in senior positions.

Plus, there is scope to create more streams for females in apprenticeship positions and senior-level employees to share expert opinions on topics across multiple circle sessions.

Through careful mentorship, Softcat hopes to aid employees across both organisations find their voice and value within the company and give them the confidence to progress further up the career ladder.

If women support women, women in the tech sector have the chance to thrive in an otherwise underrepresented industry.

About the authors

Ellie TindsleyEllie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat PLC

Ellie Tindsley, Services Engagement Manager at Softcat, is an active part of Softcat’s community networks, including Supporting Women in Business and Softcat’s Pride network. Ellie has worked in the Manchester office for nearly 5 years, and believes diversity of thought is a super power which everyone holds.

Anushka DaviesAnushka Davies, Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion at Softcat PLC

Anushka is Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity at Softcat plc. Anushka joined Softcat with a Maths and Computing degree to go into IT Sales. 11 years ago Anushka moved into an L&D role, as Softcat began their journey in opening regional offices to drive the need for talent and support customers nationally. She has run an L&D function of 11 people who are truly focused on ensuring that a learning culture is adopted in all parts of the organisation.

Anushka now as Head of Talent, Engagement & Diversity looks after leadership programmes whilst looking after succession planning and is responsible for overall employee engagement ensuring that employees are happy at work. She also works on all things Diversity and Inclusion related and mental health. Over the last 18 months a huge amount of focus has been paid on ensuring we can remove the stigma associated to mental health in the workplace. Softcat signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge in January 2018.

Supporting and developing women at disguise through allyship


Article provided by Fernando Kufer, disguise

Becoming a male ally for women in the workplace does not have to be triggered by extreme events like misogynistic comments or biased hiring decisions.

Research shows that people do not need to wait for something severe to happen in order to be an effective ally.

The presence of a gender equality ally reduces anticipated feelings of isolation while simultaneously increasing support and respect. Through communicating that we care about gender equality and our commitment to acting as  allies  for our female colleagues, we aim to boost women’s feelings of inclusion in male-dominated spaces.

At disguise, our mission is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for both our end customers, but also the people that make up our growing and diverse workforce.

We are a global visual storytelling technology company that, for the past 20 years, has been powering the world’s most spectacular live events – from concert tours to theatre shows and video installations. More recently, with the sudden halt in live events, our business focus has pivoted to extended reality and virtual production – where we are reinventing modern filmmaking, broadcasts and virtual events while laying the building blocks of the metaverse.

As we work towards lowering the barrier of entry to virtual production and making it easier for everyone to use our workflow to realise their creative vision, we share the same ethos in our people strategy. We strive to create an environment where everyone belongs and can do their best work every day.

Creating a space where women feel valued

When I became CEO of disguise six years ago, my aim was to not fall into the common tendency for tech companies to be male dominated in their workforce, leadership and way of thinking. I wanted to create possibilities through diversity and inclusion, because true progress can only be achieved with a healthy balance of perspectives and backgrounds.. I made sure to communicate these values clearly to the rest of my team and was incredibly fortunate to bring on board our Chief People Officer Lorna Bains who, in the past three years, has led the way in making disguise a nurturing and supportive workplace for women.

Due to the increasing global demand for our technology, our workforce has grown from a company of 55 at the start of 2018, to a total of 200 today. During this time, Lorna and her team were also able to attract more women to our growing team, especially into leadership roles, going from a 24% female workforce to 40% today, with women taking up two of our executive-level positions, six in senior management positions and three in regional management positions.

This year, Lorna’s team has also launched a suite of inclusion policies focusing on developing and supporting all individuals at disguise. These include policies supporting women with menopause and any employee who undergoes fertility treatment.

Our employees can also take up to 50 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave which enables both parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.

Mentoring and building the next generation of women in tech

Being an ally also means mentoring young or emerging talent  exploring  their true potential. A number of our senior leaders are mentors to junior team members, challenging and championing them to step out of their comfort zone to build new skill sets or even explore cross-departmental working. Just one such example involves a young woman who joined us a year ago as an Inside Sales rep, who, as a result of mentoring and fast-track development within our commercial team, will now be moving to Australia to help set up our new Australia and New Zealand entity as a Regional Sales Manager.

Our Chief Commercial Officer, Tom Rockhill, has also partnered with Rise, an award-winning global advocacy membership organisation supporting gender diversity across the media technology sector, on external mentorship opportunities for aspiring young women in the sector. He even shared his experience and learnings in a webinar we co-hosted with Rise on International Women’s Day this year.

This year we also created internship opportunities for young people who wouldn’t have necessarily considered a career in tech, with a deliberate focus on appealing to women and those from the BAME community. These efforts have created a pipeline for future tech talent, while also supporting young people affected by poor employment prospects. This is the first iteration of internship programmes offered by disguise and forms a key part of our CSR plan by giving back to the community, whilst also helping build the future generation of tech talent.

Belonging is one of our core values at disguise. I am incredibly proud to have a number of inspiring leaders on my team that are committed to making everyone feel welcome here.

Recruitment bias is holding the STEM industry back when it comes to inclusion

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

Recruitment bias is holding the STEM industry back when it comes to inclusion, according to a new report.

The annual STEM Returners Index, a survey of a nationally representative group of more than 750 STEM professionals on a career break who are attempting to return to work or who have recently returned to work, found that recruitment bias was revealed to be the main barrier preventing them from returning to work.

In the survey, which comes at the start of National Inclusion Week, 37 per cent of participants said they experienced bias in the recruitment process due to their age, while 43 per cent of people who identified as BME said they had experienced bias due to race or ethnicity.

Female engineers are more likely to be victims of recruitment bias – 27 per cent of women said they feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to their gender compared to eight per cent of men.

STEM Returners is now calling for companies to do more to challenge recruitment bias within their own organisations to help the industry become more inclusive.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, is urging recruiters across STEM to update their processes and challenge unconscious bias, so this highly skilled group of people can gain employment and the industry can become more diverse and inclusive.

She said, “There is a distinct lack of diversity and inclusion in STEM industries – that is not news.”

“But there is a talented pool of professionals who are being locked out of roles, which is severely hindering efforts to be more inclusive.”

“The pool of STEM Professionals attempting to return to industry is significantly more diverse than the average STEM organisation.”

“Those attempting to return to work are 51 per cent female and 38 per cent from black and minority ethnic groups, compared to 10 per cent female and six per cent BME working in industry.”

“Companies need to do more to update recruitment practices, challenge unconscious bias and actively seek out diversity, which is proven to increase business success.”

WeAreTechWomen launch partnership with Speakers for Schools to inspire the next generation of technologists

Speakers for Schools & WeAreTechWomen Partnership-1

WeAreTechWomen are proud to announce a partnership with Speakers for Schools to inspire the next generation of technologists.

Speakers for Schools help young people access the top opportunities through free inspiring school talks and eye-opening onsite and virtual work experience.

As part of this partnership, WeAreTechWomen and Speakers for Schools will be hosting an event – “What does working in Technology look like?” – on 02 November.

The event will bring together an amazing array of WeAreTechWomen’s award’s community with girls and young women, to help encourage them into STEM and technology careers.

The super-talented technologists, from across gaming, special effects, climate change, cybersecurity, web design, artificial intelligence, engineering, space technology and more, will share their career stories and advice.

During the event, there will be the opportunity to pose questions to our experts and to find out what a career in technology really looks like.

Vanessa Vallely OBESpeaking about the partnership, Vanessa Vallely, Managing Director, WeAreTheCity & WeAreTechWomen, said, “WeAreTechWomen are delighted to be partnering with Speakers for Schools to encourage more young people to consider careers in technology.”

“Our children’s tech conference will showcase the career stories of ten of our previous TechWomen100 Award winners and enable over 200 children to find out what it is really like to work in technology.”

“I am exceptionally proud to be partnering with Speakers for Schools and to be able to provide a platform for our award-winning role models to pay it forward and  inspire the next generation of technologists.”

Jason ElsomJason Elsom, Chief Executive Officer, Speakers for Schools added, “We are delighted to partner with WeAreTechWomen on this brilliant event.”

“In a world that is increasingly digitalised, there are a growing number of exciting job opportunities in the technology sector, but as they are less traditional by nature, young people can be less familiar with the career paths available.”

“Partnerships like this ensure we connect young women to careers in dynamic industries, no matter what background or circumstance.”

“This event is a fantastic opportunity to encourage young people into the industry.”

Discover more about Speakers for Schools below

Have you ever wondered how apps are made or how social media platforms are built? Have you ever seen computer generated images in movies and wondered how they did that?

Have you ever played a game online and questioned how those images were made or wondered how websites are built? The answer is technology – something we all use every hour of every day!

From buying tube tickets, to buying clothes online, Googling, making calls or sending messages. There are millions of technologists all over the world, in thousands of different jobs, who bring this technology to life. These individuals not only enable us to enjoy life through the use of technology,but they also build tech and systems that save lives and help solve big societal issues, like poverty and climate change.

Join Speakers for Schools and WeAreTechWomen as we take you on an incredible journey, where you will hear career stories from a group of super-talented technologists in gaming, special effects, climate change, cyber security, web design, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering and space technology. The day will run from 10.30am-2pm on 2nd November. During this event there will be the opportunity to pose questions to our experts and to find out what a career in technology really looks like. What are you waiting for?