London Tech Week opinion 1: Incorporating diversity in your company

As I was on another assignment most of this week I didn’t manage to cover London Tech Week as much as I would have liked. I did manage to interview Russ Shaw, of Tech London Advocates before the show, which you can read here.

However various people have kindly offered to provide their opinions of this year’s London Tech week.

This one is from Zoe Cunningham, managing director, at software development company  Softwire, and focuses on diversity of tech professionals.

 See your employees as people for inclusivity and diversity to become second nature

By Zoe Cunningham

With only 14.6% senior UK tech leaders being female and 70.5% senior executive teams who do not come from a BAME background, the industry struggles with a diversity and inclusion issue.

This year [at London Tech Week], it has been encouraging to see more women on panels, more conversations taking place and an area solely built – the Inclusive Innovation Lounge – with the purpose of uniting organisations and companies in one place, to identify potential solutions.

Having worked in the tech space for almost 20 years, I can say that there has undoubtedly been a huge shift towards making the industry a place where women can thrive. We are yet to find a sustainable solution, but the changes and commitments businesses have made is a certainly a step in the right direction.

There are some great initiatives out there breaking down the barriers for young women entering the tech world: Code First Girls, Ada Lovelace College, Stemettes and GeekGirl Meetups among others. However, once young women enter the industry, we must make sure that it is geared towards them, and indeed all employees.

Making technology-related business a sector where not only women, but those with disabilities, from the LGBTQ community and different ethnic backgrounds, can prosper is something I hold very close to my heart.

Gender pay gap research and reporting is an example of something that has helped shed light on the situation, but the conversation cannot stop there. Pay is just one measure of inequality; equality and diversity must be a core component of every business, not just in tech, to ensure that real strides are made.

When hiring the brightest people, you want to get the most out of them and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential. Autonomy, remuneration, and opportunity to upskill, is critical to ensure that everyone continues to have access to the rapidly evolving industry.

I began working at Softwire in 2000 as a developer, as the company’s first female employee. I have seen the company grow from 9 to 150 employees, and I’m proud to say that workplace culture has been at the top of our agenda throughout our growth.

I have made an effort to gain experience in a wide variety of roles at Softwire, from recruitment, to sales, to business development. I believe the diverse experience I have wanted to gain, has reflected in ensuring we remain a forward-thinking businesses.

It all comes down to understanding the needs and desires of your employees. Providing them with a safe environment for them to grow into their roles and future in the business.

We have found at Softwire that with this attitude, diversity and inclusivity become second nature: from flexible working to training opportunities; to enabling career changes and exploring interests outside of work.

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