Inclusion, tech and the pandemic – Bev White
As a woman in the technology sector, White says she has faced “headwind” in her career, giving the example of one of her first board meetings as the only female in the room where she was asked to make the tea.
Despite the technology sector’s continued effort to increase the amount of women in the industry, White points out the number of women in IT roles is still “stubbornly low”, particularly in senior management roles.
When it comes to the IT sector as a whole, diversity split in the industry for some groups “more broadly reflects the population”, says White, but when it comes to management roles those filling them are overwhelmingly white and male.
The pandemic has changed the way we work, and may also make technology roles more accessible to underrepresented groups and women as conversations which were previously taking place in predominantly male spaces can now be had anytime, anywhere via technology, says White.
Claiming the pandemic has “successfully changed the nature of work”, White cites Harvey Nash research which found tech leaders believe workers will continue to work remotely for three or more days a week, compared to one day a week before the pandemic.
The Covid-19 outbreak forcing everyone to work from home has also now made it “easier to juggle responsibilities”, giving people more of an opportunity for work-life balance, according to White.
She says this has led to a “cultural shift” towards more honesty amongst colleagues about wellbeing and better attitudes towards good mental health, which many organisations are also now taking more seriously.
While work-life balance and productivity have been a pandemic win, Harvey Nash research found mental health and staff engagement have been the cost, with different people having different attitudes to interacting digitally – which in some cases has led to isolation and a lack of connection, and it is also “too easy to work outside of office hours”.
White says we’re “only just beginning to find our way with this new world” and there are kinks to work out, such as how hybrid meetings can still be made inclusive.
But there is still hope if things are implemented correctly, says White, and the new way of work “could be a game changer” with flexible working “surely [being] a gift”.
The need for diverse tech workers with diverse skillsets is at an “all time high”, says White, who claims companies need to think about the way they recruit people in a new remote world – it could be an opportunity to expand horizons.
She says: “There is no magic way of doing this.”
Today’s world is different to pre-covid and, “it will never return to the way it was before” says White.
But, ending on a positive note, she summarises: “The tech sector really does have the potential to be highly inclusive.”