London – 5th July 2018 – Tech Talent Charter signatories, including Cisco, Browne Jacobson and Manchester Digital met this week in Manchester to tackle the question – how do we get more women returning to work to retrain into tech?
What is The Tech Talent Charter?
The Tech Talent Charter is a passionate and ambitious organisation, with over 200 members including HSBC, RBS, Channel 4, Transport for London, UKFast and University of Durham, that moves away from simply talking about issues to implementing positive action to ensure women play a significant role in the growing UK tech industry. The Charter recently received the 2nd round of Government funding (totalling £170,000 funding to date) to support growth from 200 to 500 signatories by 2019.
Regional events bringing together local businesses
As part of this drive, the Tech Talent Charter is hosting a series of regional events aimed at businesses of all sizes across the UK. These events aim to bring local businesses together to learn, share best practice and solve problems, as well as map what is going on at a regional and local level ensuring that all voices are heard on the issue, not just London based large corporations.
Women returning to the workplace
The third of these events, sponsored by Cisco, DCMS and Browne Jacobson and supported by Manchester Digital, was held in Manchester in the Mi-Idea event space on July 3rd. Over 30 different SMEs, start-ups and large corporates including BBC, FDM Group, Open University, The Co-Op and TalkTalk attended and discussed practical solutions to raise the numbers of women returning to the workplace after taking a career break and how to encourage and support more women who wish to re-train and transition into a tech career.
Returners, frameworks and transitions
Speakers at the event included Jenny Scherler-Gormley Head of HR UK & Ireland for Cisco, Kerren Daly Partner for Browne Jacobson, Anna Holland-Smith Programme Manager for THG Institute of Technology and Katie Gallagher Managing Director at Manchester Digital. Discussions centred on what could be learned and replicated from Cisco’s returners programme, reassurances for companies regarding legal frameworks for maternity leave returners and the work already going on in the Manchester area. Anna Holland-Smith shared her story of transitioning from a career as a defence lawyer to a software engineer working with programmes like Code First: Girls and Makers.
What the speakers said
When creating an inclusive workplace, many employers are conscious of possible legal barriers, but there’s no need to be afraid of the law. Companies should be thinking of innovative ways to ensure diversity and inclusivity, but this shouldn’t be a big ask for those in the tech industry where innovation is at the heart. By creating an inclusive organisation, with effective policies in place to support those returning to work, diversity will soon follow.
When it comes to recruiting and retraining great female talent it’s important to bring together the collective ‘best practice’ knowledge of businesses. It is great that we are doing more to attract more girls to consider tech as a career, but this will take 5-10 years to impact the talent pipeline. We need female talent in tech now. Research tells us that 76% of professional women on career breaks want to return to work and 3 in 5 of those who return end up in lower skilled jobs. This is an incredible opportunity for tech. By working together to create and share ways of supporting these women, our signatories can make a real step forward in moving the dial on diversity in tech. It’s vital that we focus on female returners who are retraining to build up their tech qualifications, how to encourage them, aid retraining and then retain that talent. The feedback we received from local businesses today tells us that those who are retraining are invaluable assets to their businesses – developing a deep understanding of the technical side of the business while still bringing their broader businesses knowledge to roles.
Diversity and inclusion is a key challenge for our sector and Manchester Digital plays a key role in supporting employers to make positive change and progress to their businesses. As part of this work, we are delighted to welcome the Tech Talent Charter to the region and work alongside them to deliver this important event. The more we collaborate and broaden the discussion the bigger and better the impact will be.
Organisations today are made up of people who are all different in some way, each bring value yet have differing needs. Supporting the best people to do their best work, with the best opportunities is what we strive for – one size fits one rather than one size fits all! Benefits, policies and organisational culture have a big part to play, but it is the everyday events and impressions that can make or break the employee experience and it is this experience that will define whether an employee will stay, return from leave or retrain. We’re delighted to have been invited to share what we do at Cisco – the big and small – to help make everyone feel supported at work and learn from our colleagues.
As someone who transitioned from a legal career to one in technology, I truly believe that companies looking to bring more women into their businesses should support initiatives promoting women in technology. By getting more women into the industry, we can begin to fix the tech “pipeline problem”. However the lack of diversity, particularly in more senior roles, cannot be fixed if businesses are not retaining their existing female talent. Employers must work to create a culture and reinforce processes that will not disadvantage women or inhibit their career progression. Failure to address this will result in more women leaving the industry at twice the rate of their male colleagues. The tech industry needs to recognise that only a significant cultural shift will attract and retain the diverse workforce it so desperately needs.
About Tech Talent Charter
The Tech Talent Charter is a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater gender diversity in the UK tech workforce. Signatories of the charter make several pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. It was founded by a number of organisations across the recruitment, tech and social enterprise fields and was supported in the government’s policy paper on the UK Digital Strategy in March 2017. The Tech Talent Charter is run as an industry collective, recognising that only through working together can meaningful change happen.
List of signatories