Last Wednesday, as part of Bath Digital Festival, we hosted a panel session entitled “A practical guide to equality” at Rocketmakers. With lots of positive feedback on the event, we thought it might be helpful to share our learnings and ideas with others.
- Rosie Bennett, Bath SETsquared Innovation Centre Director
- Andrew Carr, Bristol Head of Development at Scott Logic
- Jane Ginnever, organisational consultant and Director of SHIFT consultancy
- Steven Day, CMO at Pure Planet
- Adam Jones, CTO at Redington
Each panellist focussed on a different aspect of what we can do to make our tech workplaces more equal and diverse.
Having faced imposter syndrome herself, and highlighting the fact that the feeling of not being good enough can affect all of us, Rosie gave us five top tips on how to support employees and colleagues with confidence issues.
- Help individuals to see the bigger picture – who they are and where they fit in the organisation
- Empower individuals to own deliverables and projects – don’t micromanage, let people make mistakes
- Introduce peer mentoring “Everyone needs to know someone has their back in the workplace. I think buddy schemes should be everywhere,” says Rosie
- Encourage individuals to build a network outside of work (Rosie’s own ITGirls Collaborative is a supportive network for women in tech to receive cross generation mentoring, and she recommends Lean In Circles)
- Help individuals to develop soft skills – confidence with public speaking and empathy improve wellbeing and productivity
Unbiasing the interview and promotion process
At Scott Logic interviewers score candidates, grading them for different attributes, and have to give concrete examples to explain each grade – crucially they’re not allowed to talk to each other until they have entered their own scores. Andrew says, “You’d be amazed at how much that can level out some of the bias. It doesn’t remove it completely but it definitely levels it out.”
They follow the same process for promotions. As Andrew explains, “The difference is that some individuals, and especially females, aren’t convinced that they’re ready for it. And it’s only when I go through that process that I actually see who’s a no brainer in terms of promotion and who’s much more on the fence.”
Andrew advises to accept that we’re all biased and have a tendency to hire and promote people who are like ourselves, whether we realise it or not, “Don’t assume, don’t use your gut feel as that contains bias. Use examples, give numbers.”
“Beware experts,” says Jane, “A lot of the problems that we’re talking about indicate that our problems are systemic, and HR people were part of creating them. We need to challenge the assumptions on which things are based. Many are no longer true.”
A huge advocate of autonomy, Jane argues that we should give individuals as much freedom as possible, because it’s an intrinsic motivator of performance and a way to achieve high performance. “Allow people to be their unique, diverse selves,” says Jane.
Jane believes it’s important to put trust at the centre: “It’s that idea of creating a safe space, and giving people permission to have those conversations to overcome those biases, and challenge the system.” And her preference is to reinvent the whole organisation. “Things have got to be aligned,” she explains, “So if the leader is saying I trust everyone and want to do everything I can to help people trust each other, if they leave something that jars with that in the organisation, it’s giving a mixed message.”
When Steven started Pure Planet along with his co-founders, they wanted to implement policies that felt right and were radical. But one of the things they didn’t consider until a young female employee brought it up was the inequality around parental leave. “The men in the organisation were blind to it,” says Steven.
Drawing on the efforts of another larger company, they decided to do things differently. “We’d heard something about Aviva, and we looked up what they did. They put equality across all parental rights entitlement,” says Steven, “We thought that’s brilliant, we’ll do that as well. And we are a very small – we’re about 46. But we chose to make a leap to what to us now seems blindingly obvious.”
Under Pure Planet’s policy, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, gay or straight, or however you come to have a child, whether through adoption, surrogacy or natural birth, everyone is given the same entitlement to have the same amount of time off and to be paid equally when they do that.
Broadening the recruitment process
Adam works at the confluence of two industries not known for their diversity in any way, shape or form: tech and finance. While it was a challenge to get there, Redington has a gender pay gap of just 0.4%, and a diverse workforce in terms of gender and ethnicity, in part thanks to its returnships.
A returnship is a structured programme that allows people to rejoin the workforce after some kind of break in their career. Redington started with women coming back after career breaks for children, travel etc., then moved on to include men – retirees and military returners.
“Through all of those we found brilliant candidates,” says Adam, “Absolutely amazing people. We’ve hired a bunch of great people – our COO, Director of Project Management, our Information Security Manager. Quite senior roles in our organisation have been filled from this approach.”
What is your organisation doing to take advantage of the benefits of a more diverse workforce? For more information on the case studies above, contact firstname.lastname@example.org