The Women of Silicon Roundabout started as a relatively small event two years ago, has grown rapidly and is now part of a global network of events, attracting over 4,000 attendees from the tech world.
In their own words, the Women of Silicon Roundabout event is designed to enable 'people and organizations to connect, learn and take action on gender diversity and inclusion', and I can honestly say I came away from the conference with clear and tangible actions that any company should consider taking up to help achieve a gender-balanced workplace.
I will cover highlights from the conference here, and some topics that I will go into further detail about in a future blog, along with my own insights as a ‘woman in tech’.
Diversity and inclusivity is not a nice to have
There is no doubt that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is the right thing to do. This point is brought into acute focus when considering the rise of AI. Those of us responsible for teaching the machines how to think have to be careful not to make them think like a limited set of people. As highlighted by Raia Hadsell, a research scientist at Google DeepMind, ethical stewardship of AI is paramount. It is not possible to be value-neutral and we need to ensure we don’t build the deep-set prejudices ingrained in our society into this emerging technology. Diversity in your workforce of developers and researchers is one simple way to ensure values are challenged.
As well as a clear moral responsibility, it is starting to be recognized that this attitude is essential to success. The world is diverse and, if we do not develop products that meet the needs of our diverse global population, then we will flounder and fade. Having a diverse team of developers in your workforce is one obvious step to avoid potentially developing something that will only make sense to one type of person in the target market.
Flexible working makes room for diversity
Working at Level, I’m lucky enough to be part of a company that recognizes the value of flexible working. Not everyone in your company is the same, which is a good thing, so working conditions should be as flexible as reasonably possible to help draw out the best in your employees. Is working from home or remote working an option? If so, don't insist on your employee commuting unnecessarily and diverting energy from their work or personal lives.
Proactively inclusive recruitment
The stark reality is that in the tech world, if you just throw a job advert out there without thinking about it, the stats say that only 1 in 10 CVs that you receive will be from female applicants. How can you make your pool of applicants more gender balanced? Expedia had some easy to implement actions that you can put in place from today:
- Target social media groups for women in technology.
- The language and tone of your job description can put off women from applying. Applications such as Textio can be used to scan through your advert, and highlight language that can be perceived as a barrier by certain groups.
- Is a degree in this area really a requirement for the job? If a degree is a requirement, consider applicants from non-STEM subjects also.
- Women are more likely than men to be put off applying for a job if they do not meet 100% of the criteria. Consider keeping the core criteria as loose as possible, and based on the personality traits of the person that you want for the job.
Create an inclusive culture in your company
How do you do that? Of course, have the policies and procedures in place but, first and foremost, make sure you employ people who believe in your core values. Expedia have a very simple way of determining this - just ask them what they think in interviews. Include questions in your interview process that make sure you employ the right people to create an atmosphere that will be comfortable for a diverse workforce.
Close the gender pay gap
Offer women a competitive rate based on their skills, experience and the current marketplace. Don’t think in terms of adding a percentage to their current pay as we know there is a current problem, so using a woman's current pay is compounding and prolonging the issue of inequality of pay.
Pay special attention to minority groups
If your workforce is made up of significantly less women, take some simple steps to support them, for example:
- Mentorship Programs
- 1 to 1 Career Development Meetings
- Support Groups
Make long-term investments
As indicated above, a significant proportion of students studying STEM subjects are male, that means your talent pool will be predominantly male going forward, unless we all attempt to combat this issue now. The drop off for girls studying such subjects occurs at GCSE level so partnerships with schools, colleges and universities can offer you a practical opportunity to tell them that this world is exactly where they belong.
Ask for help
It’s okay to ask questions and strive for answers that will make your company more inclusive and diverse. Go to conferences like this one, do the research and hear how other companies overcome similar issues. Contact social media groups and companies who focus on inclusivity and diversity to ask for their advice. Read the latest articles in the media.
A great buzz
It was truly a pleasure to be part of this event, a rare opportunity to hear prestigious speakers from major technology corporations discuss the subject of diversity and inclusivity so candidly. There was a great buzz and it was wonderful as a woman to feel part of the majority at a technology conference. Also to see so many people who recognize that inclusivity and diversity is not a nice to have, but an area that needs significant consideration and is essential to growth and survival.