How do we stop going backwards when it comes to D&I?
As a co-founder of a recruitment company, a tech recruiter, and Founder of Women Rock – a women in tech initiative I feel I am right in the thick of things when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Prior to Covid-19 and the lockdown I saw and could feel the positive movements we we’re making as an industry when it came to D&I and I know I am speaking for a lot of people who agree, that it would be sad to see everyone’s hard work be forgotten and we have the need to start again.
We recently read an article which hit home https://www.forbes.com/sites/grantfreeland/2020/05/26/as-if-we-didnt-know-covid-19-reconfirms-that-women-make-great-leaders/#59338dde5302
Grant Freeland of Forbes said:
His biggest fear, he said, is that diversity and inclusion will “take a step backwards” during the current crisis. That’s what’s happened in the past. During the 2008 financial crisis, for example, the number of “women and people of color” in leadership positions “decreased significantly” for two to three years, before slowly rebounding. “It’s taken until 2020 to get us back to 2008 levels.”
LET’S NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!
Both Tiff and myself along with a load others share a huge passion when it comes to D&I and we wanted to share our thoughts and knowledge on how we stop going backwards.
These thoughts come from our own views which we have seen and heard over the past few months and our promise is, we will keep shouting about this and continue to work on promoting underrepresented folk.
Businesses are finding it tough right now. This pandemic has brought about financial uncertainty for businesses and the staff who work within them. Individual team members are facing life challenges that are affecting productivity and team morale and if it wasn’t difficult enough before the virus hit, organisations must still attract top talent in order to survive.
Believe it or not, the most effective way to solve all of these problems is by working on gender equality. Contrary to popular belief, gender equality is not just a nice-to-have. It makes business sense to improve gender diversity amidst these hardships.
Over the past 3 – 4 years companies have realised their diversity and inclusion problems and have explored opportunities where they have created positions to tackle such issues. Companies like Monzo hired Sheere Atcheson as their Head of Diversity and Inclusion, which we know had a huge positive impact on the business and the wider issues around D&I as a speaker and Forbes Contributor. Her role along with many others I have seen head up Diversity and Inclusion have either been made redundant or put at risk due to Covid. Whilst I know a load of companies don’t have the privilege of having such people or roles available, the companies that do are usually bigger organisations which hire in the hundreds, and usually hundreds of white middle class males – I’m not saying anything bad about you by the way you are great but surely someone needs to continue to push D&I. So we need to make D&I everyone’s business and not let this fall through the gaps or take a back seat due to the pandemic!
The tech workforce has adapted quickly due to Covid19 and I know that within the tech industry a lot are fortunate due to the nature of the work that we can work from home, which is brilliant but has this had an impact on company culture?
If people feel – whether virtually or physically – that they belong to the organisation, then they will feel more connected. It is absolutely crucial to properly up-skill our leaders in virtual leadership, and work to create a cohesive, resilient and empathetic culture.”
Now everyone is working from home you might think this is great for women, but it has challenged relationships because we’re part of a system that has prioritised breadwinners over care-givers. During the lockdown period, many women have been forced to give up their own working space to a partner who earns more or have taken on the lion’s share of home schooling and childcare – none of which helps their own career prospects.
- If you know anyone who is living alone, whether they are an employee, family member or a friend, then try to ensure you regularly check-in with them. This can help to recognise noticeable changes to behaviour or mood and identify unmet support needs.
- Even if staff have been furloughed or are working from home, maintain regular one-to-one communication, explicitly ask what they need and agree how best to support them both now, and when returning to the workplace.
- Establish the preferred method of communication with a trusted person, some people might prefer video or telephone calls, whereas others may find it easier to communicate via email or text.
- Listen when people communicate their own boundaries and try not to overload them.
Going back to the ‘new normal’
I’m worried that allowing workers back before schools/nurseries open could lead to two-tier workplaces where more men have been able to return than women. Big decisions/networking then happens among the guys in the office. And WFHers come to be seen as “less dedicated”.
Career changers and Junior Developers – This is from my own views that I have seen over the past few months that most Jobs being discussed and currently advertised are for ‘experienced’ candidates. What about the Juniors not just females but all, our next generation of tech professionals? They don’t have the option to apply or interview for jobs right now as many don’t feel comfortable that they will be able to start their first role in the industry remotely. Think, how can you support the next generation of brilliant minds if you cannot support, trust and mentor them remotely. I’ll add to this in another post next week.
And then career changers. This time at home has given people both more spare time and got a lot thinking about their current career and if it is for them. I am personally helping a fab lady who is switching careers and wants to become a Python Developer. She has recently been accepted to Uni to complete her Msc in CS in September and between now and then is keen to get up to speed and learn as much Python as poss. Ok so she isn’t ready to jump into a tech job right now, but how about the ones that are, they are more than likely going to fall into the grad/junior category. Will they be given an opportunity to land their first tech job whilst we are remote on-boarding and working. It’s a big thing to think about how you can make sure you are opening up these opportunities. It’s going to take time and therefore money from your business to support and mentor someone who isn’t as experienced. Please think about how you, and your business can do this.
On another note, if you are a career changer or someone just super interested in tech. I run Bristol Codebar which is definitely worth a look.
Our goal is to enable underrepresented people to learn programming in a safe and collaborative environment and expand their career opportunities. To achieve this we run free regular workshops, regular one-off events and try to create opportunities for our students making technology and coding more accessible.
They are a great place to get 1-2-1 support from dedicated tech professionals to help you on your tech journey and build your confidence.
Last bit from me is for the people who don’t want to work full-time remotely. It’s great for most, yes but is it for everyone? In the past month alone I am working with female developers who are relocating out of London to Bristol who are looking for a new job. They want to make friends and socialises with the new people they are going to work with (when allowed of course!) They are avoiding companies who have switched to fully remote. Now I get as a co-founder of a business, and also a start-up that office costs are high and for most it makes sense to be fully remote as I agree it’s great but I personally wouldn’t take a job which is fully remote. Females are often more interested in working with people, face to face meetings, building relationships and friendships which cannot be done as well remotely. So companies who have turned into ‘remote first’ there may be an impact on the people who apply for your company/roles. Something to think about.?
Now is the best time to work on gender equality if your business:
1.Is suffering financially. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to have financial returns above respective national industry medians.
2. Has low team morale and productivity. 80% of employees who are aware of the gender pay gap say it is an issue for them. 18% say it is enough of an issue that they would leave or consider leaving their organisation.
3.Needs to attract better talent than your competitors to survive. 62% job seekers care about diversity and inclusion.
Don’t make the mistake of putting your gender equality goals on the back burner during the pandemic. Use this knowledge to your advantage so your business can come out of this stronger than your competitors.
If you want to take action towards creating a more gender diverse workplace but you’re not sure where to start, contact Tiffany for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org or Alicia on Alicia.email@example.com
Thanks for reading, keep positive x
A voice for diversity in tech <3