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Fostering diversity in French tech and driving inclusion through DevOps

Wed 21 Jun 2023

Despite countless studies finding that organisations with a diverse workforce perform better than businesses that do not, there remains a lack of diversity in French tech ecosystem.

The current state of diversity in French tech

According to research published by Roland Berger, just 12% of startup founders in France come from diverse backgrounds, and less than 1% of founders are female.

The ‘French Tech Next 40/120 report published by La French Tech also finds that while women make 42% of the overall startup workforce in France, less than one-third (28%) of directors and executive committee members are women. This lack of representation is particularly striking given that the largest listed French companies have an average of 44% of women on their boards, the highest number in Europe.

In the broader European context, women face their own set of challenges. They make up just 22% of all tech roles across European companies, yet they accounted for a disproportionate 41.6% of layoffs between October 2022 and February of this year.

From a socioeconomic perspective, 60% of business leaders are said come from diverse backgrounds due to their social mobility or level of education. However, this figure is inflated by the presence of international executives, who are more likely to be children of non-privileged socioprofessional categories than their French counterparts.

Unfortunately, for other markers of diversity, the regulatory and cultural environment in France makes it difficult to gather data on any aspect of diversity beyond gender and age, according to a study by McKinsey.

A beacon of hope

In a bid to level the playing field in the tech sector in France, a number of initiatives and schemes have been launched by the French government, non-profit firms and industry bodies.

More than 70 startups have signed a Parity Pact as part of Mission French Tech, committing to reach a minimum threshold of 40% of women on the company’s board by 2028, and to train 100% of managers on diversity issues. The same Mission also aims to support students, refugees, and beneficiaries of social minima through the French Tech Tremplin programme.

New generation venture capital funders like SISTAFUND are emerging, backing female founders and gender-balanced teams. Meanwhile, the French Government has made moves to support diversity in tech through the ‘French Tech Diversity’ program in 2018 that provides a grant worth €45,000 to 35 selected startups, as well as offering the support of a business incubator.

France’s International Strategy on Gender Equality aims to foster a stronger institutional culture of gender equality within the ministry and its agencies, bolster political support for gender issues, and better finance and increase the visibility of equality actions.

To increase diversity in the workplace, businesses should consider tackling deep-seated behaviors, assumptions, and unconscious bias. This can be achieved through strategies such as diversity training, using diverse job boards, and anonymising job applications.

How DevOps can drive diversity

When used effectively, DevOps can be a powerful tool to foster inclusion and diversity. The close collaboration and communication brought about by DevOps helps support the creation of diverse groups from different areas of the business.

At its core, DevOps is about people, collaboration, and breaking down silos. It can unite teams of different functions within an organisation, thereby organically promoting a culture of diversity.

DevOps also values transparency and open communication, which are essential ingredients for fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. In DevOps cultures, sharing knowledge and feedback is encouraged, which could enable all voices to be heard.

Given that DevOps involves continuous iteration and feedback, organisations can apply the same principles to enhance their efforts by continuously reviewing diversity goals.

In companies that still have some way to go when it comes to diversity, DevOps can be a powerful illustration of the benefits that inclusion and diversity can bring to the wider business. Using best practices learned from DevOps, teams throughout the organisation can improve not only how they collaborate and communicate, but also set out to build teams that are more representative and effective.

However, using DevOps as a tool for fostering diversity and inclusion requires commitment and intentional efforts. DevOps leaders must advocate for diversity, ensure their teams are trained in unconscious bias, and facilitate an environment where everyone feels safe to share their ideas and perspectives. They should also ensure recruitment and promotional processes are fair and that diverse candidates are considered.

While DevOps alone cannot solve the diversity and inclusion problem, its principles of collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement can be powerful tools in driving forward diversity and inclusion efforts.

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