BCS Awards: The right balance

The GCS Women in IT Award recognises employers that encourage diversity at work


The GCS Women in IT Award recognises employers that encourage diversity at work

The winner of this year's GCS Women in IT Award is the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (pictured above). With women making up less than 20% of the IT workforce, the award acknowledges employers who recognise the importance of diversity in the workplace. It is also open to organisations able to demonstrate how they have enhanced career paths for women in IT.

The award is just one element of a campaign by the BCS, through the Women's Forum working group and BCSWomen's specialist group, to ensure that more women recognise IT as a career option.

Wendy Hall, chair of the judges and chair of the Women's Forum Strategic Panel, explains. "The medallists proved it is possible for the profession to address the gender imbalance that exists in the workplace. This is key not only for individual organisations, but also for the industry as a whole, which must overcome the lack of women in the profession and the skills that women bring to the workforce.

"It is an important step towards encouraging employers to address diversity within their IT departments and to ensure they offer career opportunities open to and supportive of both sexes.

"The quality of entrants this year was very high and selecting a winner from the four was difficult they are all winners in their own right for the fantastic work they have done in ensuring diversity within their workplaces.

"However, in selecting the London Borough [of Barking and Dagenham] as winner, we were impressed by its commitment to generating true opportunities for women to progress their careers through supportive training programmes, which cover the breadth of the IT department."

Barking and Dagenham struck a chord with the judges because of the success of its women's network and leadership initiative. This was set up to support women in IT but proved so successful it was adopted across the council, allowing women to network to meet their personal development needs.

In addition, the council's family-friendly policies such as opportunities to take secondments, work from home and make flexible working arrangements, encourage women to remain in the department and allow them to work around their family commitments and childcare.

Each of the medallists earned its position through a commitment to women in the IT workplace. ThoughtWorks adopts a positive attitude to recruiting women, including a policy to recruit a 50:50 balance when employing graduates as well as encouraging applicants returning from maternity or paternity leave to apply for positions within the organisation.

West Dunbartonshire Council clearly demonstrated its understanding of the issues faced by women in establishing a work/life balance. Fifty-six per cent of its IT department is made up of women, a figure that has been consistent since 2002. In addition, six of the nine senior posts are held by women.

The council offers job sharing and flexible working options, all of which have been well thought out, with a supportive working environment for staff including briefing sessions, open door policies, confidential support, counselling services, one-to-ones and training and development opportunities.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has adopted a policy to ensure an environment of diversity and innovation. The company impressed the judges with its flexible working arrangements, parental support, personal development and regular staff surveys.

Martin Smith, director of GCS, the IT recruitment specialist and sponsor judge of the Women in IT award, is very proud of GCS's own 50:50 ratio of men and women. He says, "Each of the four organisations undeniably demonstrated their focus and commitment to create genuinely diverse workforces and enable each employee to benefit from the opportunities presented to them in order to realise their own full potential.

"Consequently it was a very hard task to choose an outright winner. Our congratulations go to all of them, in particular the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham."

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