Virtual Women in IT Summit 2020 – Day two recap

The second day of the Women in It Summit 2020 explores how the IT industry can build a new workplace culture.

Hosted by Sabinije von Gaffke, founder of Impactfulness Ventures, the second day of the Women in It Summit brought together speakers from a variety of expertise and experience to explore how diversity and inclusion in IT can progress during and after COVID-19.

The lack of diversity in tech goes beyond gender

The morning of day two was kicked off by Abi Mohammed, Cyber Programme Manager working at Tech Nation who presented on The lack of diversity goes beyond gender, a discussion on intersectionality in the IT and tech industry

Abi argued why diversity in tech must go beyond single characteristics such as gender: “If I’m a black woman, I have some disadvantages because I am a woman, and some disadvantages because I am black. But I also have specific disadvantages because I am a black woman, which neither a black man nor a white woman has to deal with.

“We need to consider more than gender diversity in tech; the numbers speak for themselves. Only 3% of black people are currently in the tech industry. The numbers are also low when you look at gender, as well as age, disability and class. So we’re not really solving diversity in tech.”

For diversity and inclusion to be successful in IT and tech, recruitment processes must become intersectional. To do that, Abi made some suggestions: “Firstly, we need to hire more diverse people in your companies, and I highly recommend you sourcing a diversity and inclusion consultant to come into your organisation to make the first step. Secondly, support organisations who are actively doing the work at the grassroots level. Lastly, we need to educate ourselves. We need to go away and read about this problem. Without real context and truth, we can’t make the first step.

“Most CEOs wants to create this elaborate plan. But there’s no big plan to solve this. The first thing you should do as a CEO is to sit with your staff and talk to them; have an open and transparent conversation.”

The two fireside chats of the morning; Punk, Geek or Superfreak and Creating a Test and Grow Culture explored creating work cultures that can support diversity and inclusion.

Held by Caroline Gorski, Group Director, R2 Data Labs and Manisha Mistry, Head of Digital Culture, R2 Data Labs, Punk, Geek or Superfreak explored creating an empowering environment at Rolls Royce for all different types of personalities to come together as a team.

This was a chance to be a fly on the wall and engage with two influential leaders in technology about their personal, no-holds barred, haphazard journey of redefining and implementing what the wonderful world of work can be for Rolls-Royce. A neurodivergent team is a stronger team, concluded the pair.

The last fireside chat of the morning, led by Derin Bamgbelu, Learning and Development Advisor, Group M and Sara Chandran, Founder and CEO, Fresh and Fearless discussed creating a supportive work culture that helps employees break free from imposter syndrome, something which women and BAME employees so often go through.

Redesigned workplaces

The first of the afternoon’s sessions, Pandoras box of opportunities, was presented by Mark Freed, CEO, E2W Ltd. who discussed how to create a supportive work environment in a post-COVID-19 world.

Mark said: “If you’re a leader, think about the bigger picture. Think about what kind of post-COVID-19 world you really want. Whether your organisation is going to be able to attract and develop talents going forward, and how you’re going to succeed on the spot.

“As an employee, if you’re asked what your vision of the future is, don’t just say, ‘yeah, I don’t mind working from home’, stand up and tell them. Tell them what you really want; what your fears and desires are. Embrace this opportunity. Let’s move forward together.”

The two fireside chats of the afternoon: Champions and allies and Pause, plot and pivot, echoed the sentiments of a post-COVID-19 workplace.

During Champions and allies, moderator Dr Dana Brown, Dean of Sprott School of Business Canada, was joined by Lucy Mullins, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, StepLadder UK; Mark Hill, Group CIO, Frank Recruitment Group, a Tenth Revolution Company and Fred Becker, COO, Aire, in discovering what allies can do to help diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

When asked, Mark Hill said: “Whoever you are, you make diversity matter within your own team and within your companies, go out and speak to your female IT staff members and your colleagues so they can express to you their anxieties and concerns.”

Fred continues: “The other thing that I’ve done personally on my team is with female members, is encourage them to seek mentors. I’ve introduced specifically both a male and female mentor outside of the organisation to give them an opportunity and see different perspectives from different genders to help them with their functional expertise, as well as some of the challenges they may have had.”

On theme with discussions held throughout the day, Lucy adds: “For those people who maybe are struggling, no matter what diverse background you’re from, I think coaching is a really powerful tool to help you fulfil your potential to overcome imposter syndrome; and talk about all of those things that maybe feel like barriers.”

Pause, plot and pivot was the final presentation of the day, given by the straight-talking Breda McCague, Transformation and Motivational Specialist, who focused on the opportunities that the pandemic provides to upskill, learn new things, unlock suppressed potential and adapt mindsets to look for and develop innovative ideas.

Breda’s key points from the presentation were to step outside the box, take new opportunities and most importantly, believe in yourself.  

The Women in IT Summit (a Bonhill Group event) was full of actions over 1,000 delegates could take away and look to tailor for their organisation’s needs.

The agenda and a full list of speakers can be found here
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