In conversation with: Russ Shaw, everywoman male agent of change 2018

In 2018 Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Global Tech Advocates (GTA), won the Male Agent of Change Award at the 2018 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.

Everywoman introduced the Male Agent of Change award in 2017 to shine a light on some of the men who are trying to help to shift the dial in the sector.

While some wonder if there should be a place for men in an event dedicated to showcasing women in the technology industry, Shaw points out that having men present and participating in these situation acts to educate others about what they can do to help make a change.

“Men are part of the problem and therefore must be part of the solution. Getting more women into the tech sector and guaranteeing that we take on the structural barriers that have restricted opportunity requires engagement at all levels,” he says.

“Part of the problem is education, if we are not assessing and redefining today’s current practices then we cannot address the roots of the problem – men must play an active role here and promoting some of the male role models who are doing this well, I think is a good thing.”

It’s not revelation that in order to increase the amount of diversity in the technology industry those who are in decision making positions in firms have to be on board with the process, and a majority of these in the sector will be men.

As the founder of TLA and GTA Shaw himself has played a huge part in pushing for diversity in the space – TLA has created the Diversity in Tech: a manifesto for London which aims to act as a “call to action” for the public and private sectors to do more to tackle the lack of diversity in the tech industry, bringing together insight from experts on the topic of diversity and inclusion in tech.

Working groups such as TLA women in Tech, led by regular on Computer Weekly’s list of the most influential women in UK tech, Sarah Luxford, also play an active role in presenting solutions to tech’s diversity problems.

Shaw urges others in the industry to be “part of the collective efforts” that are in place to support and advance women in the industry, as well as to provide mentorship to women on an individual basis.

“There are great initiatives out there that invite men to take part and act as excellent resources for educating men on how we bring more women into the tech sector,” he explains.

“I think it’s also key to recognise the importance of helping women on an individual to individual basis – be there to listen, provide support, share perspective – these are all important things that men can do on both an individual and collective basis.”

Mentors and role models can play a key role in encouraging people to pursue particular careers or roles.

Many young women have also claimed they wish they had more encouragement from role models in the industry – a lack of visible and accessible role models means young women don’t consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) as if they don’t see anyone like them, they don’t think it’s something they can do.

The same may be said about men in the industry – if they don’t see other men doing their part to promote diversity they won’t see the need to do so.

The Women in IT label can sometimes put men off of attending events or getting involved with initiatives, but Shaw says education surrounding the issues the industry is facing can change this.

He says: “It is vital that these initiatives are targeted at men and that we make sure that the rallying messages are making their way into the areas most dominated by males. Again, this is about education and action.  We need to change attitudes but equally make sure that workplace practices are amended to create inclusive environments that allow women to prosper across the tech sector.”

Despite the effort that many are putting into trying to increase the amount of diversity in the technology industry, progress is slow.

Shaw says: “For too long the tech sector has suffered from an unacceptable lack of gender diversity – it isn’t good enough and now is the time for change.”

The 2019 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards will be announced at a special event in London on 6 March next year.

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