Six ways to improve diversity in your tech workforce

Here's advice from six tech leaders about improving diversity in the tech workforce

In 2018, our sister publication, Information Age asked senior tech leaders about how to create a more diverse technology workforce. Their insightful comments are still relevant today and of use to other tech leaders wanting to make their organisation more diverse and inclusive but are unsure of where to start.

1. Look widely when building your team

Eoin O’Neill, CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug: “I think the key to this is always focusing on different perspectives that can be brought to a team. Sometimes the best analysts and developers also exhibit creativity but perhaps not purely academic experience. Often the world of digital and marketing has been focused on youth perhaps at the expense of experience, so I feel that in the hunt for perspectives that can enhance a technology team it’s important to look widely.”

2. Offer flexible working

Dave Lowe, SVP Technology at Lineten (this comment was taken from when he was Chief Information Officer at Croud): “Being flexible around working patterns is important. I have been a remote worker for most of my career. When I first started being home-based in the early 2000s, I had MSN Messenger, a modem and a PSTN connection, and that was it – checking code into SourceSafe over ASDL is a pain I’ll never forget! Thankfully it’s very different today, and the range of tools out there that aid collaboration mean that it’s much easier to provide the support that great engineers need without requiring them to be in the office. This, in turn, means that working with things like the school run or other personal commitments becomes much easier. At a higher level, I think there needs to be much more of a push in getting technology into schools so that kids can get into areas like coding early on.”

3. Build a culture of inclusivity

Johan den Haan, CTO of Mendix: “In my experience, if I look at my team, I have more than 20 nationalities working in different positions, which is great diversity from a cultural perspective. This really adds value to building software and being able to look at a problem from different angles. I think how to achieve these levels of diversity is a challenge. In my mind, you should be open to anyone based on their ambition and what they want to achieve – that’s important. Second, it’s also about having a culture that is based on openness and inclusivity – you need to have a certain mass of diverse people. It’s hard to hire people that are not in the non-diverse group of an organisation – whatever that might be – because people will evaluate the bias on what they already know. So, if they hire someone they compare the qualities with somebody in their team – it’s really hard to get rid of that bias because you always keep comparing to what you know and that’s something you need to be aware of when hiring people. Once you have this kind of momentum it becomes a lot easier, because you have people with lots of different backgrounds also doing the hiring. But, your culture should be open and respectful to everyone.”

4. Invest in the wider community

Mark Holt, Chief Product & Engineering Officer at 10x Banking (this comment was taken from when he was Chief Technology Officer at Trainline): “We have 48 nationalities at our offices in London, Paris and Edinburgh and view this as crucial in helping us create products that truly deliver for our incredibly diverse customer base. To encourage diversity in tech it’s important to invest in the wider community and future tech talent too. For example, we’ve partnered with social enterprise Code: First Girls to support its 2020 campaign goal to teach 20,000 women in the UK how to code, for free, by 2020. We also working with charity Future Frontiers and send our people into schools with Speakers for Schools to help school-age children learn more about all the amazing career opportunities in tech and encourage them to explore these further.”

5. Support STEM in schools

Carl Austin, CTO at BJSS: “Diversity is close to our hearts at BJSS. We work very closely and sponsor an organisation called Turinglab which provides a number of things, such as money for children from diverse areas and backgrounds to get involved in computing and programming from a young age. They have a huge push to get women into engineering, and we support them with sponsorships, we also go out and do some of the coaching sessions, and we also help build some of the software which helps them with their work. Schooling is not at the level where it needs to be, and it doesn’t reach everybody. It certainly doesn’t reach many of the people in minority groups. Diversity is important not only from a moral point of view: it matters from a practical one too. Look at machine learning and automation, for example, if you automate a decision it’s a yes or no decision, you, therefore, have the opportunity to exclude groups of people from things whether that’s getting a loan or setting somebody’s credit rating. If the people building these capabilities aren’t diverse sets of people, with different opinions, different backgrounds and beliefs and understandings, you will build bias into those things, so it’s super important.”

6. Don’t wait for the right people to come to you

Rufus Grig, Chief Technology Officer at Kerv (this comment was taken from when he was Chief Strategy OfficerChief Strategy Officer at Maintel): “I think some of the things that we’re starting to see, things like the gender pay stuff, are making all organisations sit up and pay attention to trying to work with diversity. We have an apprentice programme that actively looked to go out to colleges and to organisations, to go to where the students are, rather than waiting perhaps for the traditional people to have come to us and trying to create those opportunities, so trying to get, for example, girls, interested in stem subjects by working with those link colleges for the apprenticeships. So yes, there are a few things. I think technology has done well in some areas of diversity and particularly in gender balance it has lagged but we’re definitely starting to see a very positive change there.”

In this article, you learned that:

  • Looking for diversity of perspectives when building your team can aid productivity
  • Having people of different backgrounds doing the hiring can help reduce bias
  • If those building tech/products aren’t diverse sets of people, with different opinions, different backgrounds and beliefs and understandings, you will build bias into those things
Rate This: