Hiring managers should make sure they are seeing and interviewing more diverse candidates for tech roles, according to Michael Keegan, chairman and head of product business for Fujitsu in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India (EMEAI).
He pointed out that more diversity could be spread throughout the interview process if hiring managers were to ditch old human resources (HR) and management structures.
“If I had one key request for those who find themselves in a position of hiring somebody, it would be to ask themselves where the diversity is on their shortlist,” he said.
The number of women in the UK tech sector has been quoted as being around 14%, but industry body TechUK hopes to raise that figure to 30% by 2020.
As of November 2016, Fujitsu’s tech teams consisted of about 25% women, but Keegan said firms should be aiming for a 50/50 split.
To introduce more women into the tech industry, he said organisations needed to tackle the “mind of the hiring manager”.
Due to unconscious bias, people often hire others who look and think like them, which, in the tech industry, is predominantly male.
“Organisations have a natural habit of wanting to recreate themselves, and if you don’t intervene to deal with unconscious bias, the organisation will just naturally do this,” said Keegan. “In the case of tech, you end up with a bunch of men.”
To help women progress in male-dominated roles and organisations, Keegan said the men in a firm need to support the women, but getting the men on side is not always easy.
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Keegan said current models for hiring should be replaced, and men who are supportive of diversity should act as representatives for a new way of working.
“It’s an issue of consciousness and being modern in your approach,” he said. “The old-fashioned male-dominated way of doing business that the IT sector has unhealthily exhibited in the past is not what HR departments and business leaders should replicate when they are recruiting.”
Powerful role models and support
A lack of role models is often cited as the reason many girls choose not to pursue tech careers, and women have claimed they looked for roles elsewhere because they could not see a path of progression for them in the technology industry or in their current firms.
Fujitsu has tried to make board-level, C-suite and technical roles more accessible to women, and some of its top roles are held by women, such as its chief executive of UK and Ireland, Lucy Dimes, and vice-president head of industries for EMEAI, Regina Moran.
“The best way of demonstrating our commitment is to actually do it,” said Keegan. “Our most powerful role models in our UK business are women, and we’re very proud of that fact.”
Diversity has been proven to contribute to good business outcomes, and Keegan said businesses with increased diversity were more successful, produced better profits, made better decisions and were more connected with both their workforce and their customers.
He added that more men should be supporting women and other minority groups to progress in organisations and tech roles, and labelled those who cannot see the benefits of diversity “stupid”.
“It’s good to get men talking about this subject,” said Keegan. “I don’t think they talk about it as much as they should, and they’re not as conscious about it as they need to be.”
He said organisations also needed to work harder to attract and retain women: “You need to present yourself as a company that deals with the big life issue that women have of starting a family.
“As the world of work changes, we need to be more flexible in terms of home working, and not having to spend your life commuting for one and a half hours to some bricks and mortar just so someone can see you.”
A tale of skills and Brexit
But the UK is not only suffering from a shortage of women staying in technology roles. There is also a lack of skilled technology workers in general.
One of the main concerns of the technology industry in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) is the potential decrease in the number of skilled IT workers available in the UK.
Keegan said one of the most important points the UK needs to negotiate during its departure from the EU is the free movement of skilled workers to ensure the UK has access to tech experts and graduates outside of its own pool.
“When the UK leaves the EU, it will be important to have a smart visa regime in place which allows a UK national with technology skills to be deployed to help, for example, a German customer or vice versa,” he said.
But the UK also needs to invest more in tech training to feed its own pipeline, and Keegan was “optimistic” that the UK government would negotiate sensible rules for movement of talent.
Alongside free movement of skilled individuals, Keegan called for “data passporting” – the ability to hold data about consumers in external datacentres – and appropriate rules surrounding movement of goods between countries.
“What we know about data is that it moves around an awful lot, and it doesn’t respect national boundaries,” said Keegan.
“It’s going to be very important that there’s a sensible agreement of the UK border to allow goods and services into the country in a fast timeline,” he said. “We just need to ensure the choice of the IT industry is heard, and that these points are dealt with during the negotiation.”