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The Tech Talent Charter has officially launched as part of London Technology Week to tackle a lack of diversity in the technology sector.
The charter will act as a collective of companies aiming to establish common guidelines around diverse tech hiring, and issue a “stamp of approval” for firms involved.
Sinead Bunting, European director of consumer marketing at Monster, has overseen the charter’s implementation, and said that collaboration between companies could solve the issue of lack of diversity in the technology sector faster.
“There are so many organisations doing fantastic things in driving diversity, but we believe by working together we can really turn the dial,” she said.
Bunting said the charter will give “the help and the toolkit” to increase diversity in the sector, helping to address such statistics as only one in 10 girls take A-Level computer science, and the 54% drop-out rate among women who go into the sector.
Speakers at the Tech Talent Charter’s launch posed the business cases for an increase in diversity in tech. Bunting began by highlighting that diverse firms are generally more commercially successful because they have diversity of thought.
“It’s not just about doing the right thing,” she said.
The UK currently has a digital and technology skills gap, with businesses finding it difficult to find candidates with the skills they need to fill roles – something that an increase in diverse hiring could help to tackle quicker.
Bunting said: “How can you ignore half the population when you have such a need for tech talent? You can’t.”
Amali de Alwis, CEO at Code First: Girls, explained the commitments expected of members of the charter and how this will begin to shift the diversity agenda for the technology industry.
The commitments include a Rooney Rule, a take on the US National Football League policy, which will require companies to interview at least one minority candidate for a role where available.
The charter will also suggest an accreditation scheme so potential candidates can see what more inclusive employers are doing to increase diversity, and talent pipeline initiatives to encourage people into technology careers at all stages.
To ensure those who sign up to the charter begin initiating change, de Alwis explained it is important for a business to elect a representative who will be responsible for charter commitments and take accountability and ownership for charter-related projects.
“We strongly believe that there is a need for anyone who joins us to commit to something,” de Alwis explained.
“Change isn’t easy. We can actually learn from each other about what has worked well and what hasn’t worked so well. You need a champion in your business in order to drive through change.”
Benchmarks for progress and the chance to develop and implement future protocols were also some of the benefits of being involved in the charter.
“I’m here because I’m sick of talking about diversity,” de Alwis said.
“I keep talking about diversity even though I’m tired of doing so because it’s important. We wanted to do something about it.”
Solutions to the potential problems in recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce include:
- Ensure more inclusive language in job descriptions – don’t put candidates off applying.
- Provide unconscious bias training for employees so they can recognise and tackle biases they may not know they have.
- Ensure the internal culture of the organisation is inclusive and not too “blokey”, so people who have joined are happy where they are – make it a great place to work.
- Ensure there are role models at all stages of the business – people want to see other people like them in different career stages so they feel it is a goal they can reach.
David Henderson CTO of Global Radio, said he had introduced some of these processes to his own tech team to better reflect the broad range of people they were providing services for.
Admitting his team had a “bloke culture”, which was not reflective of Global Radio’s audience, he had implemented a transformation programme, altering job specs, encouraging headhunters to suggest female talent, and leveraging the London tech scene to make people more aware of what opportunities exist.
Now with a more inclusive and diverse culture, backed up by flexible working, Henderson is focused on advertising Global tech roles earlier to help recruit younger people.
He said: “We have a lot of students who claimed they would never work in tech, but are now working in technology because the boundaries of tech have changed.”
This attitude is especially common among girls, who think science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects are too hard for them to consider a career in.
Badge of honour
“For me as a developer I feel the Tech Talent Charter sets a new bar,” she said. “I hope to see companies taking up the charter as a sign to me that it’s a place that I’m welcome and I’d like to work.”