Widening the discussion about tech careers

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed post, Clare Young, head of delivery at dxw digital discusses how tech careers are portrayed and what the industry needs to do to attract more women into tech. 

Organisations continue to wrestle with the challenge of how to attract more women into technical and engineering roles. One of the reasons having a diverse team matters to us – and by that I mean diversity in its widest sense, in terms of a mix of voices and backgrounds – is that it provides richer thinking and enables us to gain a better understanding of user needs. Put simply, diverse teams are better. The users of the products and services we design, build and operate are diverse, so we can better meet and exceed their expectations with a diverse team.

At dxw we’ve made progress in increasing the number of women in our organisation, as well as increasing diversity on other characteristics as well, but it’s something we continue to focus on across everything from our recruitment process to our working environment.

As I looked at our statistics, I realised that women are well represented across all our disciplines – the majority of our user research team, one-third of our operations engineers, more than a third of our designers and developers, three of our five delivery leads, one of our two product managers and half of our business operations team are female. And our marketing team are all female – although we have had a male intern and are aware of the need to improve diversity here too. It highlights the range of roles and skills that make up a tech team in order to deliver the end result.

This is where the media discussion about diversity often loses its way. Too often it is framed in terms of coding, with initiatives such as Code First: Girls and Women Who Code. However, whilst these initiatives are important and worthwhile they focus only on seeking to increase the number of women developers, and the discussion needs to be much wider. First, the multidisciplinary team needed to deliver a tech project is made up of a wide variety of roles and skills, and women are contributing in every single one, from development to delivery to the functions that support a business such as commercial and finance. We need to highlight and celebrate role models in all of these areas.

Second, we need to highlight the results of technology projects as well as the skills needed to deliver them to attract a diverse talent pool. One of the things that makes a career in tech so attractive is the end result. In my sector – building digital services for the public sector, from central and local government to the NHS and housing associations – it’s delivering projects that benefit everyone through improving the public services that we all use. It’s something we’re passionate about at dxw, and it comes up time and again in our recruitment interviews – people want to see that their work has a positive impact on the public and has a tangible output in the modern world. So we should be talking much more about the outcomes that we in tech deliver, and getting across that sense of excitement and satisfaction we all feel when we deliver something that makes life better for our clients and their users.

Doing this means getting out there and demonstrating to other woman what we’re doing and why tech is a good place to work. As an organisation we’ve participated in events such as Women of Silicon Roundabout and Women in Digital Government, we run discussion panels for Ada Lovelace Day, and many of our team, both male and female, participate widely in other industry events to encourage women into tech roles. I describe it as ‘talk, share, show’.

Diversity really matters, and we should all be working to increase it. That means discussing the full range of skills that we need, and the end results that we deliver, so that we attract the widest possible pool of talent.

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