Supporting International Women’s Day 2022
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, techUK is looking at how we can break the bias (the theme of the day).
This year we aren’t just talking about equality anymore. We are talking about building an equitable tech sector. In particular, building this in a world where the pandemic has disproportionately affected different groups of society.
For tech to work for everyone, those creating it must reflect the society it seeks to serve. Currently it doesn’t. This means we are building products that aren’t for everyone – products that may reinforce privilege and biases.
There’s still so much to do to #BreakTheBias in order to increase the number of women in tech, particularly in more senior roles. Throughout my career I have often had to defend my credentials in a way that my male peers haven’t e.g. in the opening stages of meetings. I end up either labouring on my technical education and experience or feeling obliged to make a particularly insightful observation or question that I really don’t need to ask – in order to demonstrate that I’ve “got this”...The tech industry needs to stop talking about the confidence gap as something inherent in women and instead recognise that this chipping away at those who are different from the majority erodes confidence.
How Advanced looks to #BreakTheBias with their talent philosophy
Unconscious biases are the beliefs that we hold which are outside our conscious awareness and control. Unconscious bias is the sworn enemy of diversity and inclusion because people tend to inherit ideologies from their environment that are not always well-informed or politically correct. However, there are more effective ways than others in tacking this, and Advanced's talent philosophy is a great example.
Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women is all about data bias and a world designed for men. In the book, Caroline spotlights the many ways in which a lack of diverse teams has led to bad products being designed – sometimes with fatal consequences.
Take the seatbelt. When regulation was first introduced requiring seatbelts, the crash dummies that were used to test the efficacy of the seatbelts being designed were based on the average man. The most commonly used dummy is 1.8m tall and weighs 76kg (significantly taller and heavier than an average woman). That meant women got seriously hurt. It took until 2011 – almost 60 years later – before female crash dummies started to be used. I can’t help but think that if there were women around the table at the start of that conversation then we would never have ended up in that situation.
And then there is the fact that if you don’t have diverse perspectives round the table at every stage – from conception to design to creation – you will end up with, at best, a sub-optimal product. It is no surprise that the first smart watches didn’t have female health tracking features – an all-male design team just didn’t think about how useful such a function would be to approximately half of the population.
We must break the cycle to break the bias.
Although women represent 47% of the UK workforce, women only make up 19% of the UK’s tech workforce. Entrenched biases and gender stereotypes can drive women away from pursuing a fulfilling career across sectors.
techUK is proud to continue our focus on elevating the voices of those around us.
Role models matter when it comes to providing mentorship and discussing shared experiences to promote STEM to underrepresented groups. Diverse role models create a dialogue allowing other colleagues to understand others experiences in the workplace and the challenges they face. This is why techUK has committed to abolishing all-male panels. It is important to ensure diversity among speakers at events as we want to hear from a variety of perspectives and do not want to compound unconscious gender bias that exists within the industry. By elevating the voices of women, we can show girls and other women that people like them are choosing our sector.
Our QinetiQ Inclusion 2025 programme focuses on the role we all play in creating an inclusive working culture. Through our training, campaigns and team talks, we are sharing why this is so important to the success of our business; from improving how we feel about our workplace, to how it is essential for innovation. A high performance inclusive culture is one that values diversity in all its forms and a great indicator that we are breaking down some old barriers is the progress we are making in improving our gender balance. We are delighted that we are seeing a steady increase in women in leadership and across our company and a reduction in our gender pay gap. Measuring progress and setting targets is important, but so too is celebrating success. That is why International Women’s Day is so important to us, to celebrate the successes that women have achieved in the workplace and to have conversations about what more we need to do. Everyone can play a role in supporting gender balance. From our Executive sponsor to our Gender Balance employee network; women and men are working together to help drive gender balance in QinetiQ. We will be running a series of “lunch and learn” sessions – with a range of fantastic role models to share their perspectives.
A stark sign of the lack of gender diversity in the cybersecurity industry is shown at technology conferences where women are in such a minority that they rarely have to queue for the loo. In 2018, techUK helped launch the Queue for the Loo initiative; a series of events and online resources aimed at women in the cyber security sector. The initiative, spearheaded by Sian John of Microsoft, includes quarterly networking events for female cyber professionals to network, exchange ideas and find mentors. This initiative looks to not only create a stronger network between women in cyber but also to encourage them to do more to get others to consider their options in this space. The aim is to increase the breadth of talent in our industry by encouraging more women to join it so that we are more included, and a sign of success will be when women have to start queueing to use the facilities at cybersecurity conferences.
Bumble was one of the first companies to introduce a company wide week off in 2021 and has also announced updates to employee benefits including bereavement leave for miscarriages, gender-neutral parental leave (both men and women receive the same) and increased paid time off for caregivers.
We also need to support our male allies, who are shifting the dial on unconscious bias and gendered stereotypes. We in the workplace are collectively responsible for our office culture. It’s about making colleagues aware when they are talking over people in meetings and highlighting areas where unconscious bias may have had an impact on promotions and staff hires. Simple actions can truly enable a better working environment for women.
It’s time we all became male allies
Fujitsu believes that all of us can and should take personal responsibility in driving that change and playing an active role being champions and role models in our workplace. For men this means becoming an ally. Some of the most impactful actions male allies can take is to look at making incremental changes to overcome unconscious bias and the impact that this has on inclusion.
Over the past year we’ve placed a greater emphasis on diversity in recruitment, recognising that this is the key to greater equality across our future organisation. We now have multiple pathways open to people joining our Security & Defence business, including our National Security Academy that celebrated a 50:50 gender split last year and revamping our Graduate hiring tools to reduce bias. We’ve also piloted the use of training and recruitment schemes with Mindweaver and TechReturners that have further widened where and how we recruit and opened opportunities to people returning to the workforce after a career break.