06 Mar 2023
by Udeshika Ratnavira

Fostering an Inclusive Culture of Fairness and Solutions-Based Communications

When discussing diversity and inclusion in the industry, it is important to remember that the technology industry is made up of many companies, and each company must play its part in order for the industry at large to achieve equality. During my 15 years at WSO2, I have witnessed significant progress in the industry towards creating a more inclusive workplace environment by breaking away from its previous male-dominated culture. But there is no question that achieving long-lasting gender equality in the industry requires consistent commitment.  

WSO2 has always championed a culture of equality within its working practices and policies. Instead of hiring to fit a specific quota, the company prioritises identifying the best candidate for the role through a rigorous selection process. To ensure gender biases are avoided, interviewers must provide comprehensive feedback on why a candidate was not selected. If the reasoning is too vague, the candidate may be invited for another interview. This approach has proven highly effective and resulted in hiring decisions based solely on merit. As a result, WSO2 has welcomed female candidates who have gone on maternity leave shortly after being hired, as they were the strongest candidates for the position. In addition, women hold 25% of the senior leadership positions at WSO2, while the gender ratio across the company is 70/30.  

To achieve a more equal ratio in the industry, we must work with the education sector and encourage women to pursue technical subjects. This requires a shift in mindset, as technical roles are often not recommended to women as viable career options. For instance, in the UK, only 23% of students enrolled in computing courses at the undergraduate level were female in the academic years 2019/20 to 2021/22, according to the higher education statistics agency. While this has increased from previous years, it's crucial to continue targeting primary and secondary schools with affirmative messages about technology careers for girls and women. Our ultimate goal is to achieve a higher enrolment rate for women in computing, enabled by education and technology institutions working together. 

In terms of role models and mentors in technology, I’ve been incredibly inspired by Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2’s Founder and CEO. From day one, he has promoted a culture of openness, fairness, and elevated communication, setting high expectations for those around him to embody these values. As a result, bias has no place within the organisation. Advocacy is an important step in breaking this down in the industry and, whilst WSO2 does advocate for these practices, we need to celebrate successes in achieving our collective goal. We need to end gender bias and specific workplace cultures that women don’t feel comfortable in, and this must start from the top down and permeate through the entire organisation. 

I believe that effective communication, which encourages challenging norms, is the cornerstone of our company culture. As an active person, participating on the WSO2 women's basketball team, among other sports teams, has been crucial in enabling me to excel in my role and remain focused when faced with competing demands. Despite most of us being new to basketball, we managed to become division champions in Sri Lanka's annual inter-company mercantile basketball tournament. Being a part of this team has not only energised me but also validated that a supportive work culture allows us to break free from limiting expectations. 

To break through gender expectations, it's essential for women to speak up and feel empowered to express themselves in their own way. This can be achieved through a solutions-focused mindset, being open and transparent in communication, and addressing any instances of bias. Building a culture of communication and confidence not only benefits women but also the entire organisation. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my career within the technology space, with countless learnings along the way. One piece of advice I want to impart to future generations entering the technology industry is to commit to a lifetime of learning. The field of technology is ever-evolving, and it's essential to remain adaptable by continuously acquiring new knowledge and improving your skills. Cultivate curiosity and a passion for embracing new topics, which will prepare you for an exciting and rewarding career in technology. 

techUK is marching forward to close the tech gender gap in 2023. Throughout March, coinciding with International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) on 8 March, we are exploring how we embrace equitable workplaces. The UN’s theme for IWD 2023 focuses on Digital for All or DigitALL, and we are proud to support this.

For more information, please visit our Women in Tech hub.

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Udeshika Ratnavira

Udeshika Ratnavira

Vice President, Human Resources and Administration, WSO2