Building a tech industry where everyone is welcome
Mon 26 Feb 2018 | Emily Hall-Strutt
Emily Hall-Strutt, Head of Engagement, Digital & Technology, speaks to The Stack on her work at the Ministry of Justice to promote inclusion
All organisations should be striving to have talent in their teams that’s at least as diverse as their customer base or service users.
In our case, as part of the Ministry of Justice, our users are the UK public so we are striving to be representative of UK demographics. We still have a way to go in some areas, particularly increasing representation of women across the team and people of ethnic minorities among our senior leaders.
Our team motto in Digital & Technology is ‘everyone is welcome’ – we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and happy working in our team. We want people to look around the office and see other people who look like them, have similar interests or lifestyles or backgrounds to them.
But we also want people to look around and see people who don’t look like them, who have different interests, lifestyles or backgrounds. That way we will all feel welcome and included, and have an opportunity to learn from each other and grow as individuals and as a team.
I became Diversity & Inclusion champion around 18 months ago. Since then we’ve successfully increased representation of women across the Digital and Technology team from 25% to 32%.
Our senior leadership team has risen from 25% women to 40%, and our BAME representation has increased from 8% to 19% across the team (the UK is 13%).
Only 12% of computer science graduates in the UK are women, compared to around 40% of coding bootcamp students
Bearing in mind our team is around 1,000 people, we’re very pleased with that! However, our senior leadership team is entirely white so we have a way to go before we’re truly representative in that area.
Tackling tech’s glass ceiling
People in positions of power need to nurture and develop diverse talent, giving them the opportunities and encouragement to progress their careers.
Open and fair recruitment is also key – professional and personal networks are death to diversity as they are usually homogeneous, so the same kind of people keep getting the jobs and the promotions.
This means we also need clear recruitment guidelines, blind CV sifts, and diverse interview panels to minimise biases (unconscious or otherwise).
Tech companies and organisations need to be open to a variety of routes into the industry, not just relevant degrees – only 12% of computer science graduates in the UK are women, compared to around 40% of coding bootcamp students. Also, a lot of senior roles require more transferable skills so a technical background might not be necessary to do a good job.
A realistic approach
Pessimism can lead to demotivation, while optimism can lead to complacency. Things are not how they should be and we need to keep working hard to make things better, indefinitely.
We need to invest more in training programmes like apprenticeships, graduate schemes and entry level junior roles with on-the-job learning. We also need to address the drop-off in interest in STEM subjects at schools, particularly among girls who make up only 8% of IT A-Level students. That’s a huge pool of talent the tech industry is missing out on by not engaging them early enough.
There are so many opportunities to improve things, we just need to keep working hard to make sure everyone is welcome.