How to create a people strategy for your tech organisation in four simple steps

Kirsty Carter, chief of staff at cloud and technology services and solutions provider, Solutionize Global.

Team holding hands, diversityIf recent events have taught firms anything, it’s that people lie at the heart of their business’s success. Whether that’s employees or customers, both can dramatically impact a company’s crucial bottom line – and not always for the better.

For tech firms to truly prosper, they must seek to maximise success by creating value, growth and opportunity – for all concerned. That means finding – and integrating – people strategies that drive an enterprise forward and create a sustainable framework which can be adapted and constantly improved.

Having a defined people strategy means that a company understands the role in which individuals play – and how the business delivers on its objectives. Additionally, for those organisations with a firm proposition in place, they must find a way to help their teams work alongside technology to ultimately make them more productive, motivated and efficient for their enterprises.

There’s no doubt that the digital revolution is reshaping the way in which everybody lives their lives – and how it has diversified and modernised companies to remain relevant. And, as business strategies undergo a fundamental re-think, the same must be done for every workforce blueprint.

As first referenced, colleagues are at the core of any business – regardless of what products or services are being offered. They’re the lifeblood of any organisation, because they can determine the success or failure of something instantly.

So, where can tech enterprises even begin when it comes to rolling out a modern-day framework that is agile and human-centred in its approach? Here are four initial steps digital leaders should take…

  1. Develop a strong company culture

A huge focus – particularly throughout the unprecedented events of 2020 – has been around employee engagement and motivation, following the UK’s mass move to remote working.

For many tech firms, they might have already had a robust infrastructure in place – whereby teams were typically rolling out a current model that involved a seamless pathway to working from home. However, even for the most agile of organisations – and their digital leaders – they would’ve been naïve to think that their staff would remain productive if their people strategy was simply sitting stagnant.

A strong team plan begins by implementing and driving a company culture that thrives and meets everyone’s needs. It should not only provide an open environment where all voices are heard, but support individuals, develop colleagues and welcome innovative collaboration.

The impetus lies with tech leaders themselves to build a model that aligns their business structure and strategy with company culture. Ultimately, a positive atmosphere inspires creativity, energises growth, and motivates a change and willingness to do better as a ‘destination employer’.

Develop, implement and sustain a reward and recognition system – where  employees feel empowered to honour and celebrate with their peers, colleagues and team members – and  that will go a long way to breeding a positive mindset, from the inside out.

  1. Establish core values and make them the foundations of your business

Any forward-thinking tech firm should take the time to identify exactly what their brand represents, and the role that their employees play. Keeping staff unified and motivated to do a good job is therefore imperative.

Those that fail to follow through with promises – and deliver empty gestures – may see their workforces begin to lose faith. And when core values deteriorate, reinvigorating a collaborative team could soon become an impossible task.

Understanding what the organisation – and its people – stand for, and implementing those beliefs and drive is critical for employee buy-in. All of these factors bring together a well-rounded people strategy that not only typically creates an unbreakable bond between colleagues but also attracts more business and top talent – to further bolster the company’s growth plans and future-proof its blueprint.

  1. Develop policies and practices

Without specific guidelines that underpin the foundations in which a company is built upon – that embodies sensible HR and legal principles – a tech enterprise can fall at the first hurdle.

Assisting employees to understand how the firm is run enables them to not only meet expectations, but illustrates long-term loyalty that’s embedded in a culture of wanting to be better every single day.

In addition, making sure staff know exactly where these policies sit – and the practices  they must undergo at each stage of their employment – relies  on effective communication from the outset.

  1. Talent acquisition

What makes a tech firm different from the vast digital noise so that they stand out to recruits? In order to attract highly skilled individuals – boasting attributes that will further enhance an organisation – there must be a strong differentiator. And that’s typically down to how powerful its people strategy remains.

Company culture and a clear mission with key guidelines and believable core values – all with technology firmly in place to sophisticate employees’ productivity and sharpen their firm’s offering – are vital ingredients when it comes to acquiring new additions.

Innovators and change-makers know exactly how to bolster a business’s bottom line – but is the company right for them? Does it stand for what they value too? If so, this could be a key factor when determining whether a job-hunter hits send on their online application form or keeps scrolling past.

Having a comprehensive framework that’s supportive, provides development opportunities and an exceptional company culture can captivate talent. It will help to build a team full of loyal members who each play a pivotal role and place the organisation – and its end user’s – interests firmly at the forefront of their minds throughout.

To bring together a successful people strategy, there are key differentiators – and HR professionals must decide how each one impacts the overall framework. Whatever technological innovations lie ahead, it comes down to the investment in people that will make the difference between eventual success and failure.

Kirsty Carter, chief of staff, Solutionize GlobalAbout the author 

As chief of staff at cloud and technology services and solutions provider, Solutionize Global, Kirsty’s role focuses on company culture, employee engagement and organisational growth. As well as leading on evolving the team’s in-house training, hiring, professional development and performance management structures, Kirsty acts as an advisor to Solutionize Global’s CEO, David Bentley. First joining the forward-thinking firm in 2019, Kirsty has enjoyed a 12-year, people-focused career and is passionate about investing in people, future-proofing learning and development and creating an efficient HR function to help scale the business.

 


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The coronavirus crisis throws the spotlight on our urgent need for digital skills

Article by Eleanor Bradley, MD Registry and Public Benefit, Nominet

Team of young coworkers working together at night office.Young woman using mobile laptop at the table.Horizontal.Blurred backgroundThe current pandemic has catalysed a digital transformation in the world of work.

Businesses worldwide are embracing technology in a way they never have before, moving complete companies online and maintaining business-as-usual (where possible) via digital channels.

It’s no overstatement to say that COVID-19 will transform working life as we know it, rushing in the changes that would have otherwise taken years. Unfortunately, it also makes the issues that undermine our digital society become ever more critical, or we risk letting too many fall between the cracks.

Spare a thought for the younger generation. Even outside of the current pandemic, it’s never been harder to make career decisions and plan for a future that is challenging to predict. The rise of digital and the rapid rate of technological change are transforming our jobs market at pace: research from the World Economic Forum reveals that 65% of children entering primary school today will take up jobs that don’t exist yet. We also already inhabit a world in which 82% of advertised roles require digital skills, a percentage which could be increased in the years post-COVID. This means that, even if we can’t guide young people on the specifics of the jobs available when they enter the working world, we can give them every chance of success by equipping them with the digital skills required for their future.

Digital skills training doesn’t only matter to the young people themselves. The UK economy could lose as much as £141.5bn of GDP growth if we don’t narrow the skills gap which already exists and ensure that the future working generation has the necessary skills for – and interest in – the plethora of digital roles available.

We also need to move the dial when it comes to gender diversity in crucial industries like the tech sector: today, just 17% of employees are female. The pipeline is no more encouraging. In STEM higher education, 69% of undergraduates are male. Diversity matters in our sector because we need a variety of different people, perspectives and ideas at the table if we are to build the devices and solutions that work for the populace as a whole. Celebrating – and providing training in – digital skills from a young age could make all the difference in helping both genders become equally inspired by STEM subjects and the potential careers that could follow.

Another issue in need of attention is the current mismatch between supply and demand for newly qualified STEM students. A recent study from Geek Talent  found that 1,000 people studying courses related to computer games development or design in the North East had just 29 relevant roles open to them. The vast majority of graduates will be qualified for roles they don’t secure and may struggle to find other jobs without the knowledge of how their newly acquired skills can be transferable.

Such an abundance of digitally-capable graduates must be guided on how to adapt and apply their new skills to other roles in the sector. We also need to ensure colleges and universities offer courses that provide specific skills for specific roles where there is an industry need.  With more people working in growing sectors like machine learning, digital transformation and AI than ever before, it’s paramount to help our young people understand the market growth and opportunities, then seek the right skills required to fulfil roles in this exciting area.

This is an area that Nominet has been tackling for some time via our public benefit activity, using profits made from managing and running the .UK domain registry for this purpose. We are determined to make a positive and sustainable impact on the lives of young people, with a specific mission to improve a million lives a year through our outreach.

One of the various ways we do this seems appropriate to highlight here as an example of how we can prepare young people for their future. In partnership with Livity, Nominet has spearheaded This Is How, a digital learning platform and podcast that features individuals working in digital jobs in the creative sector. On the podcast, our guests explain what they do and how they secured their role, giving our listeners an insight into the jobs available and what skills they might need to find their way to them. We also share resources on a learning platform to guide the inspired on next steps, aiding them in making productive movement towards a career they might want.

Simple tech solutions like This is How can help us to reach a demographic who spend a lot of time online, plus the form is dynamic enough to reflect the changing nature of jobs today. It may just be a podcast, but it’s a small step towards bringing about the change our society and our economy needs and a means of guiding those making crucial decisions about the part they will play.

As we marvel at how the internet and technology have kept us afloat (mentally and professionally) during this pandemic, we must also be reminded of how crucial it has become to ensure the future generation can cope with a digital world and find their roles within it. Digital skills have become life skills, and we owe it to young people to equip them with what they need – perhaps this is the lesson we can all take from the COVID-19 experience.


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Carving a career in tech

woman and man looking at a computer screen with coding, carving a career in tech

Article provided by Becs Roycroft, Senior Director of Global Emerging Talent Operations at mthree

There’s no arguing that when it comes to reducing the gender gap in technology, we still have a long way to go.

Despite increased awareness of the problem, the fact remains women remain underrepresented at every level.

It is promising that businesses and governments around the world are taking action to attract more women into technology. But to really succeed in recruiting as many women as possible into these roles, we must also take a micro-level view.

As someone who works on recruiting the best emerging young talent, I believe we need to go back to basics by committing to spreading positive messages about the diverse and rewarding careers technology can offer women. So, here I’d like to cover just a few of the benefits:

Job stability

As long as technology is the driving force behind the world, technology candidates will always be in demand. Technology professionals benefit from higher salaries and better job prospects, and now that the coronavirus pandemic has put science and technology under the spotlight, demand is likely to skyrocket. And given the industry is a huge champion for learning and adaptability, working in technology can help you reach the proper balance between growth and security.

Flexible career paths

From web development to cybersecurity, software engineer to AI, the range of roles within technology is huge. And the soft skills, emotional intelligence and technical know-how acquired through these roles can help you go anywhere in your career. Furthermore, roles are in abundance across the globe from leading technology companies to smaller niche organisations.

Making a difference

Beyond making things simpler for people day-to-day, technology can have a meaningful impact by invoking systemic change. When working in tech you have the opportunity to really make a difference in the world by helping to solve critical global issues, such as access to education and climate change.

Equal opportunities

From personal experience I’ve learnt that you don’t have to work in a technical role to succeed in this industry. Technology needs more than just developers and software engineers, it also requires HR experts, communications professionals and great financial minds. So if you don’t see yourself pursuing a technical career, there are still a great number of opportunities to learn more and expand your career prospects.

Becs RoycroftAbout the author

Becs Roycroft is a Senior Director of Global Emerging Talent Operations at mthree - an emerging talent and training partner to global, blue-chip enterprises focusing on their technology and business operations. mthree is owned by John Wiley & Sons, the third largest research, publishing and education provider globally.  Becs is passionate about creating diverse and inclusive careers pathways in technology and has over 18 years experience working in recruitment and management across a variety of companies, sectors and industries. At mthree, Becs is responsible for Alumni and student engagement, client services operations and Re-Skill services globally.


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Women in STEM

Bridging the gender gap: Tackling the shortage of women in STEM

women-in-STEM-featured

Article provided by Jennifer Deutsch, CMO, Park Place Technologies

As it stands, just 24 per cent of roles within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers are held by women. According to a report by Engineering UK, the UK has the lowest number of female engineers of any country in Europe.

This lack of representation of women in STEM is a longstanding issue. The number of women in technology make up just 17 per cent of all those in the UK tech industry and according to the National Centre for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), women hold only 25 per cent of computing roles within UK companies.

What can businesses do to support women in STEM?

Enabling women to flourish in the UK workforce is worth a lot financially. According to research undertaken by the McKinsey Global Institute, gender parity in the workplace could add up to $28 trillion (26 per cent) to the annual GDP BY 2025.

There has been a huge increase in initiatives to tackle the gap and positively affect the number of women choosing a career in STEM, especially within the last five years. Whilst these initiatives are undeniably having a positive effect, especially in awareness, they haven’t yet had the required impact to readdress the diversity balance.

Education is key

Encouraging girls into STEM at an early age, at home and at school, is key to addressing the gender stereotypes that still exist. Currently, only seven per cent of students in the UK taking computer science at A-Level are female, and just half of all those studying IT and Technology subjects at school will go into a job of the same field, according to Women in Technology.

Positive female role models are vital, so companies and organisations should ask their successful female employees to visit local schools to meet with students and share their experiences. By sharing their personal experiences and successes, these female employees can inspire and encourage the students to follow their lead

Businesses can also offer work experience placements or internship programmes, specifically targeted at young girls who are interested in STEM, but who are perhaps unsure about exactly what a career in this field entails.  Park Place Technologies recently sponsored an initiative in Ireland aimed at female college students studying STEM related subjects, who wanted to gain experience in the industry. The two selected candidates have been given the opportunity to fly to our US headquarters for a 10-day internship programme, where they will receive hands-on industry experience as well as the opportunity to network with the senior executive team and go through a leadership training program  Internship programmes are invaluable both for an organisation and students.  For the students it gives them first-hand experience of the type of work involved with that industry, and for the organisation, it can be used as a recruitment process to identify future talent who could one day join the business once they have completed their studies.

Prior to this a Park Place STEM committee was established in Q4 2018, consisting of a diverse group of women at Park Place, many of whom had no formal training in STEM.

More women on the Board

Organisations need to honestly ask themselves how many women hold leadership positions within the company or will have the opportunity to do so in the future? If the answer to this is very few, then you risk losing the already limited number of talented women in your organisation to a more inclusive competitor.  Here at Park Place, there are several high-ranking women who contribute to the leadership of the company.

Benefits to suit women

Employers also need to showcase that they operate a female-friendly environment, and provide reassurance that they adhere to a strong equal opportunities policy that clearly lays out how they are supporting work-life balance and equal pay

  • Flexible hours - Maintaining a work-life balance can be tricky. Women often juggle family responsibilities whilst looking to progress within their career. Many women in male-dominated industries find themselves taking a voluntary pay cut, to have time to spend at home. A working environment that is flexible to the needs of working parents will appeal to more women and encourage them to stay and progress in their career rather than to choose between work or family.
  • Higher salaries - In the same way women feel they must reduce their hours to spend time at home, they also take considerable pay cuts in to maintain a balanced life. Women in Technology found that an alarming 25 per cent of women in STEM want to negotiate a higher salary for their role, but feel they are stereotyped as willing to settle for less money than a man in their same position. Ensuring women can work flexible hours without being forced to take a pay cut is the key to businesses gaining and retaining a key part of the workforce.
  • Opportunities for promotion - Empowering women by offering promotion when it is warranted helps businesses to stand out as drivers toward STEM equality. Many women in the industry feel as though they need to change employers to progress in their careers, whilst research found that 40 per cent of women in the industry have experienced being rejected for promotions that have been given to a less-qualified male.

There is undoubtedly an appetite and acute awareness within the industry about the need to encourage more women into STEM.  The media attention and various initiatives to support STEM diversity are helping to improve the situation, but this won’t happen without widespread industry engagement.  There is clearly more work to do in changing outdated perceptions and unconscious bias and this is where employers can make a real difference -- by showcasing the opportunities available to women in STEM and ensuring access to the same opportunities for all. Employers have an obligation to immerse themselves in these initiatives, and where appropriate drive them to ensure that we are creating a STEM industry that is innovative, creative, progressive and diverse for future generations.

Jennifer DeutschAbout the author

As Chief Marketing Officer, Jennifer leads Park Place’s marketing and communication teams with a focus on growing the Park Place Technologies brand as the global leader in data center third-party maintenance and support.

Jennifer brings over three decades of marketing and brand development experience. She has spent time on both the client and agency side. Prior to Park Place Jennifer was the Founder, COO of Antidote 360 and EVP, General Manager at Doner Advertising. Her client side experience includes past positions at Marriott International where she served as SVP, Global Brand Management where she repositioned and optimized the Marriott brand portfolio. Jennifer began her career at Nestle USA as a Management Trainee and held several positions during her tenure at Nestle including Brand Manager, Lean Cuisine and Director of New Ventures for the Nestle Ice Cream Division.

In her spare time, Jennifer is an avid cyclist and gardener. She is an active community member and on several boards including The Cleveland Film Commission, The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and The Cognitive Health Institute. Most recently Jennifer co-founded and serves as Chairman of the Board of FutureVision, a not for profit organization founded in memory of her father, promoting medical innovation and the visual arts.

Jennifer is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City and the proud mother of two sons.


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Career change, Building a career featured

Develop Your Career by Letting Your Curiosity Take the Lead

Article by Caroline Carruthers

Career ChangeMy bedside table currently has four books. They cover critical thinking, psychoanalysis, nutrition and vampires. What does this have to do with women in STEM? Read on…

First, a confession. I’m considered a data expert, but I don’t know everything there is to know about data. In fact, I probably don’t even understand 10% of subjects that I would like to. The truth is that anybody who tells you they know everything they want to know is lying to you. There’s still so much more that we can all learn, both inside and outside of our chosen fields.

Some people would describe the desire to want to constantly strive to know more as belonging to that of a lifelong learner, but I’m not a fan of that phrase. “Learning” makes you think of cold classrooms, being forced to read textbooks and write on chalk boards (for those of a certain age!). But that’s not what that thirst for knowledge feels like. When I seek out new information, I feel like I’m exploring. I read, listen, watch. Then I try, inevitably fail, and learn from my mistakes. The most important lesson I ever learned was to explore knowledge with anyone who is generous enough to share it with me.

That eclectic mix of books on my bedside table reflects the best piece of advice I could give to young women looking for a career in STEM: let your curiosity lead! Early on in my career, I tried to fit in and learn how people did things by simply following their lead and their orthodoxies. But then I found that the most effective way to really progress and perfect your skills is to understand things at your own pace and let a thirst for knowledge lead your development.

Career development shouldn’t be linear. How can you know what you’re good at if you don’t try new things? On my bookshelf I’ve got books on psychology and food, business practice and fiction. Just because you’ve found something you’re good at, it doesn’t mean you should forego all of your other interests. This is especially true for young women who want a career in STEM.  You shouldn’t allow yourself to settle for something. Rather, you should always be looking to expand your knowledge and branch out into new areas. This will help your career to progress, but it will also help you progress as a well-rounded person.

So, my advice to any young woman looking to break into a career in STEM is simple: don’t limit yourself. Never be afraid to wander a different path or let your curiosity lead you somewhere unexpected. Knowledge is knowledge, and even if it’s not obviously useful today, it could be a game changer further down the line.

About the author

Caroline CarruthersCaroline is an international data cheerleader and was one of the first Chief Data Officer's in the UK. Leading data for Network Rail among other companies, Caroline became a pioneer in the UK data industry. She has used her position to set up a data literacy and consultancy practice and dedicates time to going into schools to encourage and inspire girls to take up careers in STEM subjects.


learning, digital experience

It's always a good idea to develop your tech skills | Sharing some thoughts on how to do it

learning, digital experience

It will come as no surprise to most or all of you that no matter how or where you earn your living, technology will play an important role in your career.

Helene Panzarino – of Centre or Digital Banking at The London Institute of Banking & Finance – offers her tips on skilling up on tech.

At the end of last year, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported that 62% of companies in the UK expected to retrain employees over 2019 – with over half of those businesses citing new technologies or new services as the reason.

While there is concern about the skills shortage in the UK’s tech sector, Britain’s digital skills gap is affecting all industries, even farming, according to Access Government. The workplace is simply becoming more digital. Every industry – from media, banking and recruitment, to health and education – needs more tech savvy workers, and every sector is coming to rely on technological expertise.

So, if your tech skills are good, you can look forward to some great opportunities. If you’re not so confident, now’s a good time to brush up. No need to panic – it could be easier than you think.

Tech skills are plenty, so if you are not looking to take a degree level qualification, which tech skills should you be learning?

This depends on you, your interests and where you want your career to take you.

It’s always worth taking a regular and objective look for gaps in your skillset and asking yourself what you need to take you to the next level.

If you’re in a business strategy role, consider learning more about data analysis for example. People in this sphere are highly valued by employers because ‘data is the new oil’ and plays a vital part in the overall business process. If you’re in marketing and comms, you need to know how to write for the web, what keywords are, and to understand search engine optimisation and user analytics.

Unsure of where you want to go next? Then talk to colleagues, managers, friends or family. Concerned about the cost? Your employer may offer you internal or external training funded through their learning and development budget.

Although it can sometimes feel like information overload, it’s useful to keep an ear to the ground for what’s happening in the wider world of tech. Free online publications, like WiredBusiness InsiderTechCrunchThe Verge and Engadget will keep you up to date. If you have a good idea of what’s going on, this will help you work out where your interests lie.

Once you’ve decided where you want to get to, the next step is to work out what to do to get there. The National Careers Service website offers an online skills health check and details of different careers – including a section on computing, technology and digital. This will help you identify gaps in your learning and experience. It’s also great to seek out inspirational role models in your chosen area, join groups or associations where members share their experience and expertise, or attend topical events, Meetups, and lectures where you can network with people who are doing or have done what you are looking to start.

Skilling up

If you are in employment, it’s always worth asking your line manager what sort of training is available through your employer’s learning and development programmes. For example, we work with banks and financial services companies to offer training in FinTech and digital banking. If training isn’t available in house, your company may fund you to attend an external course, especially if you can make a good case for how the training will support you in your role.

But if you can’t get training through work, all is not lost. There are plenty of affordable – even free – accredited online courses available.

The Open University (OU) has some free courses, including several on data analysis and interpretation, including Simple coding, which will teach you the basics of Python, and a course on Learn to code for analysis. You will be awarded a ‘certificate of completion’ for these when you finish which you can mention on your CV. The OU also runs courses up to degree level, so if you decide you want a career in digital, take a look.

Code Academy and Udemy run affordable short courses, that you can study online in the evenings and weekends. Another good provider is Lynda, which now belongs to LinkedIn and offers training you can do at your own pace at home. Their courses cover everything from computer languages at various levels, to user experience (UX) social media marketing, graphics and web programmes.

Shout about your achievements

Once you’ve completed a course, let your line manager know so that they can help you integrate your new learning into your work. This will be important for your next performance review or when you apply for a new job.

Give your digital skills and experience prominence on your CV and in any performance review with management. Show how you used your skills, what the outcome was and how it has had a positive impact on the business.

Improving your digital skills is a win-win. Apart from improving your salary, it shows employers that you understand what they need and that you have the initiative and ability to pursue your professional development.

Training in technology will help you with problem solving and analytical thinking - both of which are valued in the workplace – and will set you on the right path to succeed in your career.


gender-equality-featured

Trust, tech and gender

Article by Jen Rodovold from Sopra Steria

gender equality, gender balanceTechnology presents greater opportunities for women to achieve their personal and professional goals, such as starting their own businesses, using technology to balance work and life demands, and gaining increased access to critical products, services, information and advice.

Yet technology makers and organisations relying on technology must do more to ensure these opportunities are not undermined by problems such as bias and discrimination, the digital skills gap, and technology-driven displacement – all of which will contribute to the further erosion of trust amongst women in our institutions, especially businesses and government.

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, published to coincide with January’s WEF at Davos, showed that globally people are becoming more distrustful of institutions. The report also sheds light on some of the drivers of distrust – many of which are related to technology.  Eighty-three percent worry about the future of work, with the concern being driven by several tech-related factors, namely the gig economy, a lack of opportunities to retrain and learn new skills, and automation.  What’s more, respondents reported that they feel tech is out of control, citing the pace of change, concerns about being able to tell what is real and what is fake, and a lack of confidence in government to effectively regulate as the reasons behind these fears.

While we wait for the gender breakdown of the 2020 findings, it’s hard to imagine that things have moved on much since 2019.  It was the year that began the #MeToo reckoning, and when, according to Edelman, women were less trusting than men of institutions in general, including business.  Women also reported less confidence than men in their employers’ ability to address issues of opportunity, empowerment, and their contribution to addressing societal concerns.

In October last year, gender pay gap reports from the ONS showed no improvement from the previous year.  We also learned that only 2% of venture funding went to women founders and only 20% of tech investors were women.

Meanwhile, although different studies come to different conclusions about whether automation will have a greater adverse impact on men or women over different periods, the impact will be gendered.  The labour market is still very fragmented by gender (e.g. the higher numbers of women in support and services roles), so as different industries are automated at different paces, and new skills are required for the emerging new jobs, we will need reskilling strategies that account for gender – especially considering the global gender digital skills gap.

We also see more and more issues of bias and discrimination resulting from technology, such as algorithms that unfairly discriminate in recruitment and access to services.

All of this should drive us to recommit and accelerate efforts most organisations have had underway for years now to improve organisational diversity, address the gender pay gap and ensure more women are in leadership positions.  However, they also tell us that we need to bring a technology lens to diversity efforts.

Companies must integrate existing gender diversity efforts into reskilling strategies, looking at how automation and skills gaps in their own organisations might affect men, women, gender nonconforming and non-binary people differently.

They need to be aware of bias creeping into recruitment technology tools, asking technology suppliers to show evidence of rigorous bias testing.  If organisations create technology, they need to do more to ensure diversity in development teams (about which a lot has already been said), and, importantly, in user testing groups. These efforts can help spot bias and discrimination early, allowing companies to avoid defective product roll-outs.

Taking this point further, if we can do a better job of thinking about who our customers are – and who they might be if we designed things differently – there is a huge potential for businesses to serve new markets, create better products and improve the customer experience. For example, Glossier, Rent The Runway, and Rhianna’s Fenty are businesses making tens to hundreds of millions of dollars after tapping into an unmet demand amongst female consumers, and black women consumers in the case of Fenty. Could retail, financial services, and technology businesses find their next market by opening their eyes to the needs of women and minorities?

While the challenges to gender parity are increased by the rapid advancement of some technologies, the reasons to increase efforts to improve it are stronger.  If we don’t integrate a technology gender lens into our diversity and inclusion programmes, these programmes’ progress will be slowed or even reversed.  However, the potential for benefits such as increased customer and employee trust, improved access to talent and new and improved products and services resulting from a gender diversity strategy that incorporates technology issues is great.

Jen RodvoldAbout the author

Jen is Head of Digital Ethics & Tech for Good at Sopra Steria. Jen is responsible for defining and bringing to market new services that address societal concerns, including the company’s Digital Ethics services.  Through Tech for Good, Jen also leads the Sopra Steria Community Impact programme, working with charities, social enterprises, small businesses and community organisations to build a better future using digital technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. With over 14 years of Sustainability and CSR consulting and leadership experience, and over a decade working in the technology sector, Jen is passionate about the power of business and technology to change the world for the better.


diversity, boys club featured

What are the key challenges for diversity in tech in 2020?

diversity, boys club

Article provided by Rachel McElroy, chief marketing officer cloud and technology-focused managed service provider Solutionize Global

With emerging trends firmly focused on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the increased use of tech in vital sectors such as healthcare, building a diverse workforce in this evolving landscape is now more pertinent than ever before.

It’s imperative for enterprises to build solutions encompassing many voices and reflect the input of the talented individuals throughout their teams – to prevent inherent bias in the innovation they bring to the marketplace.

Digital developments introduced by organisations must be truly representative of their end users’ wants, needs and interests. But what does that mean when tackling the immense diversity challenges within the sector that exists and how that will impact on what lies ahead?

To understand the best way to approach this is by reviewing the cool, hard facts on diversity. Yes, times are changing in the technology world – and more importance is being placed on building a diverse and inclusive workforce – but top, diverse talent is still battling to break through into an industry that has innovation and disruption at its heart.

Delving into the data

For example, in 2014 key Silicon Valley companies – including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook published their diversity numbers for the first time – revealing how their teams were predominantly white or Asian men.

Five years on, Apple’s diversity figures still make for grim reading. The phone giant employs the same amount of black technical workers (six per cent), despite 13 per cent of the US population being black.

Meanwhile, delving into Facebook’s released data, 23 per cent of its technical workforce is female – which has seen an increase of 15% since 2014 – and Google reported similar numbers too. And although Amazon don’t publish their numbers concerning the split between technical, distribution and other employees, the e-commerce firm reports that 42 per cent of its workers are women.

When some of the most well-known US tech giants are struggling to make a substantial difference to the overall demographic of their staff list, how can other enterprises realistically make a difference? And how does that translate when thinking about the UK tech landscape?

Analysing the nation’s digital workforces

According to the most recent Tech Nation Report on diversity and inclusion – which analysed 12.5 million UK businesses registered with Companies House – only 19% of UK tech workers are female and 15 per cent are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

In addition, when it comes to leadership roles, 22 per cent of tech directors are women. Comparatively, in the wider business community, such figures are only a little different – with a 71/29 per centsplit between the male and female sexes.

Although things are improving, albeit at a slow pace, it can still make for depressing reading – especially when considering how the last two decades of data show that the proportion of women in tech boardrooms has simply plateaued. And this all comes off the back of many high-profile campaigns and a renewed awareness of how a diverse directorship or senior leadership team can directly, and positively, impact a company’s bottom line.

As the UK tech evolution grows three-times faster than the overall economy – contributing an impressive £200 billion a year – it shows how much it is revolutionising enterprises and providing the exciting, myriad of roles now available to the motivated and digital savvy staff member.

So, why is diversity still such a challenge?

Perhaps something can be said with regards to the lengthy, historical backdrop of poor representation that technology has played when being viewed as a viable career choice for women.

Additionally, education has an important role throughout, as it possesses the opportunity to empower the workforces of tomorrow and showcase the incredible force that digital disruption embodies. For example, ICT has typically been viewed as a sector working in silos and only suited to men with analytical minds. However, it should be highlighted as an exciting, collaborative and innovative career that can truly change the face of how companies now operate.

It’s time to challenge recent research that reveals how 48 per cent of women feel that a lack of mentors was a blocker towards a technology career. This needs to be tackled as an industry and by those working in it.

These are the statistics that really matter to analyse and truly affect change. The Bank of England’s recent analysis shockingly revealed that ethnic minorities in the UK earn around 10 per cent less than white workers.

Could 2020 be the year when enterprises truly focus on recruiting a diverse mix of top tech talent from a range of backgrounds and providing them with a workplace that is inclusive and rewarding to all? Let’s hope so.

It all comes back to one simple question – how can the right digital products and services be built to provide a viable solution for everyone if we all have the same voice?


diversity, boys club featured

How women can beat the ‘boys club culture’ in tech

diversity, boys club

By Alison Mulder, Reporting Analyst, Simpson Carpenter

I have a confession to make - I’m rubbish at conforming to stereotypes.

A reporting analyst with a side career as a competition level glider pilot, I’m used to being outnumbered by men.

Yet, when I compare my experience as a woman in these two areas, my greatest challenge hasn’t been learning to fly, but rather negotiating the barriers and obstacles to forge a career in the tech space.

Don’t get me wrong. Competing as a glider pilot has required real grit and perseverance. But once I slip into the cockpit to compete against my male counterparts, the test is one of skill not gender.

By contrast, as a woman working in the tech scene, despite high profile women in tech such as Kathryn Parsons, Eileen Burbidge and Amy Chang, my gender has been a real issue for some of my male colleagues. Unfortunately, these colleagues have often been the gatekeepers to progressing my career.

The challenges began when I discovered my fascination for data analysis after writing code for market research questionnaires early into my career. From a lack of management support for helping me acquire the necessary skills, to having colleagues take credit for my work, I felt that my tech aspirations were not taken seriously simply because I was female.

Even though I’m very technically minded, the gender-based assumptions my colleagues and superiors made about my capabilities meant that I have worked extra hard to get where I am today.

I’d love to be able to say my experience is the exception, not the rule, but it’s simply not the case. Despite all the awareness around gender equality and equal opportunities, deep rooted and pervasive gender bias continues to exist in tech, especially when it comes to the data space. At Simpson Carpenter, I’m part of a team that values a person’s skills rather than what gender they are.

So how can women beat negative gender stereotypes to progress their tech careers?

Here are three insights I’ve learned along the way.

Invest in your skills

A company I used to work for made the decision to switch its programming language to Python and, naturally, I was keen to get myself trained on it. But the company wouldn’t agree to this and said it wasn’t necessary for me and my role. Today Python is considered one of the top five coding languages every techie and data analyst should know. Missing out on Python training could have been a potential career blocker. I wasn’t prepared to be held back by this decision, so I took the initiative and learnt about Python myself online, along with other programming languages.

With new coding languages emerging all the time, learning the right one at the right time can open up doors and opportunities that give you a real edge in this field. If an employer is not willing or able to offer you the training you believe you will need, look into alternative sources.

For example, Code: First Girls offers coding courses aimed at female professionals while 23 Code Street runs classes and workshops in London in addition to an online webinar. If you are not able to pay for training, check out this list Geek Girl Rising has put together on free online coding courses.

Finally, to stay at the cutting edge in tech, we need to continuously assess our current skills versus the skills we are likely to need in the coming years. This means reading as much as you can lay your hands on about current and future tech trends in your sector, particularly around emerging technologies and the skills likely to be required to work with them.

Find a tech mentor

Whether it be learning from their achievements and mistakes, or being able to tap into their network, having a trusted mentor can help fast track your career progression. But the lack of women within the tech industry means it can be hard to meet and get advice from a woman who has walked in your shoes.

Thankfully, there are now organisations set up to connect aspiring female tech talent with experienced mentors. Some of my favourites include London-based Girls in Tech, which runs six evening speed mentoring sessions, along with MentorSET that helps to match mentors with rising female professionals in STEM. And if you don’t have the chance to meet face-to-face, there are also a slew of podcasts you can tune into like Women who Startup or Fearless Women, which invite real female leaders on to share their stories and offer essential career advice.

Join your own ‘girls club’

No matter how much I got along with and respected my male colleagues as professionals, being the only woman on a tech team can sometimes be a lonely experience - from occasionally being excluded from post-work drinks to not always picking up on the male banter. Pixar’s “Bro Co”, a fascinating short animation perfectly captures what it can be like for women in the workplace.

Thankfully, there are now a growing number of groups that bring women in tech together and help them to grow their support network such as Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code. Tapping into these can help to make you feel part of vibrant and motivating networks of like-minded women.

Our future

Today, in the UK alone, it is estimated that there’s a shortfall of 173,000 skilled STEM workers. With new STEM roles expected to double in the next 10 years, the tech skills shortage can only deepen. The sector urgently needs to encourage more women to fill these roles, and give them the training and support they need to succeed.

But in order to do that, harmful gender stereotypes and sexist views around the roles women can and can’t do need to be weeded out of all organisations. When I’m competing against male glider pilots in the air, gender is not seen. Other pilots, the judges and spectators recognise and celebrate my flying skills - nothing more, nothing less. This gender-blind perspective is something talented women in tech could really benefit from.


Fintech featured

Women in Fintech: driving tech for social good

Fintech

It’s a hugely exciting time to be working in Fintech.

Like most sectors, digital innovation is at the top of the agenda in financial services, with many organisations looking for ways to improve and transform their offerings in a disruptive market. Interestingly, traditional banks and financial services providers have been slow to integrate new technology and have struggled to adapt their long-established cultures and ways of working to be more agile and innovative. With this backdrop in mind, Fintech has come to the fore, introducing new ideas and markets, as well as creating new opportunities for women in tech.

Opportunities in Fintech

Whether you’re part of a start-up or a more established company like incuto, the benefits of working in Fintech are numerous. Chances are you’ll be working within an exciting, energetic, fast-paced and fast-growth environment, as part of an organisation where technology is driving the solution on offer, rather than simply supporting a wider operation. Fintechs can offer significant opportunities to progress, gain responsibility and really take ownership of particular projects and initiatives. It’s also likely you’ll be closer to customers than you would be in a larger organisation.

It does, of course, pay to have experience behind you if you’re aiming for a leadership role. My own career trajectory started with a degree in Computer Science, closely followed by my first role as a developer for a start-up based in San Francisco. I went on to take up a new role in Dublin, working on c++ and java PKI toolkit for a start-up which went on to float on both the FTSE and NASDAQ – a great learning experience for me of going through accelerated growth.

From there, I became testing and deployment lead for an NHS SPINE project in Leeds. This move to a large organisation running one of the biggest projects in Europe provided me with experience of working on a large, complicated and multi-faceted system. Taking on the CTO role at incuto has allowed me to effectively use my skills and experiences to lead a team and create a strategy to support growth.

There are, however, numerous other routes and opportunities for women with an ambition to work in Fintech. At incuto, we encourage applications from a wide range of candidates for our development team, from school leavers through to experienced developers with 30 or more years’ of experience. In addition, we regularly take work experience students from our local schools to encourage young people to consider a career in IT. We’re also proud to be one of the growing number of Fintechs based outside of London, so opportunities for candidates outside the capital are on the up.

Fintech for credit unions

Our own technology serves credit unions, community banks and CDFIs (community development finance institutions). It enables these institutions to better serve their communities and, perhaps most importantly, take on the poverty premium paid by a large portion of the UK population when it comes to loans and banking services.

14 million people in the UK pay more for goods and services simply because they are from poorer households, and many of these end up turning to unscrupulous payday lenders for support. It is well publicised by organisations like the End High Cost Credit Alliance and Debt Hacker, that these types of loans and the continued financial burden they put on individuals and families can cause ongoing hardship for years to come.

The key to tackling the poverty premium in financial services must lie with those organisations who can offer fairer, more ethical approaches to banking and lending. Credit unions are perfectly placed to take on this role. However, there continue to be a number of significant stumbling blocks for these organisations to reaching the individuals they seek to serve.

For example, credit unions often offer their members limited branch networks (some have no more than two branches servicing a given geographical area), plus they are struggling with legacy technology and paper-based systems which make their service extremely slow and inaccessible. Traditionally members have had to physically go into a branch to either withdraw or pay in money using only their membership number.

Our technology is designed to open up the services credit unions can offer and give access to a wider audience through technology. incuto has also introduced better branch access via partnerships with wider networks, plus a debit card (rather than simply a Membership number) allowing the financially excluded to access additionally services at the same price as the wider population, plus better online access and automation.

Innovative technology for financial inclusion

Like all organisations, credit unions must innovate and transform the service they offer Members. And it’s not just about enabling people to apply online in a faster and more efficient way, it’s about financial freedom and access to services and the same level of interaction and engagement that they would receive from a high-street or online bank.

It’s very rewarding to be part of a Fintech which is genuinely trying to help tackle the poverty premium and lift individuals out of poverty through fairer banking and financial education. Tech for social good offers a fantastic opportunity for women in tech, whether they are starting out or have experience to offer, and the need for this technology has never been more important.

Jen AndersonAbout the author

Jen Anderson, CTO, incuto.

Jen gained experience delivering projects in both tech start - ups and major change programmes in NHS. Recognised in top 100 CTOs in 2019, Jen is gaining prominence as a strong voice in the Tech for Good ecosystem.