Juliet Lacey, Recruitment Consultant at Vivid Technology, is a huge advocate of bringing more diversity into the tech industry. We spoke to Juliet about diversity within tech, and she shed light on these critical topics;
- The talent shortage,
- How companies are striving for an equal workforce, even though there isn’t a diverse pool of talent that’s big enough
- We need to accept that unconscious bias exists and learn to recognise it.
When speaking to my clients, the conversation isn’t ‘we need to hire women’; it’s we need to hire the right professionals, but we want to hire them from diverse backgroundsJuliet Lacey
Why don’t you believe companies have equal workforces when it comes to diversity?
The talent shortage isn’t new, but it is very apparent globally. This creates a competitive market where companies are trying to recruit and retain a diverse workforce – companies are realising, especially the clients I’ve been working with, that a diverse workforce is key to driving a company’s success.
Minority groups and gender are important factors when it comes to the talent shortage – having strong, capable women of all races in crucial decision-making roles helps to give organisations a different perspective. For example, audiences’ buying habits can be significantly different based on their gender or race – having a diverse team means you have more varied and conflicting opinions, ultimately leading to better decisions.
Why do you think companies don’t have equal workforces when it comes to diversity?
When speaking to my clients, the conversation isn’t ‘we need to hire women’; it’s we need to hire the right professionals, but we want to hire them from diverse backgrounds.
It’s great that companies are trying to have equal workforces, but if we look at the data;
- The percentage of women graduating in STEM is 24%
- The percentage of black graduates in science in 2001 – 2016 was 9%
- In engineering, it declined from 5% to 4%
- In 2018 black students earned 7% of STEM degrees
We can’t expect to have diverse workforces when the data proves that we don’t have an equal amount of diverse people in these technical roles. Although you can become qualified outside of University or as an adult, the numbers are still hugely different.
The problem starts from a young age when children are at school. Suppose we want companies to have a diverse workforce. In that case, we need to start educating young children on their career opportunities and eliminate any stereotypes associated with those careers.
How do we encourage more children to consider a career in tech?
We need to talk about it and share experiences – role models are important when boys and girls are growing up and considering their careers.
When choosing subjects in school and college, it’s easy not to break away from the stereotypes and select subjects that fit these stereotypes rather than the most enjoyable subjects. But, this is precisely where role models can step in and encourage, for example, women to choose the male-dominated IT or Technology subjects.
How do companies become more equal employers?
There are a lot of processes companies can put in place:
We need to be considering interview processes and unconscious bias training. Ensuring that a diverse group of individuals are evaluating these processes is critical. Imagine how powerful they would be if diversity were at the heart of the processes.
- Make sure they have the same expectations for all employees
- Asking people what challenges they find in the workplace and helping to understand and more critically resolve them
- Implement flexibility for all employees but especially parents (male or female)
- Making sure women have the same career path after maternity
- Eliminate any salary gaps between men and women and talk about this openly
- Make equal representation something that defines the company and emphasises its importance to its success.
It is easy for companies to copy what everyone else is doing when it comes to diversity, but nobody is 100% sure how to fix it, and that’s okay. What we need to be doing is listening to employees and putting in place processes people want.
What about encouraging more diversity in leadership roles?
I think this is very simple and is about everybody having support. There are many ways employers and team leaders can be supportive, for example, encouraging employees to attend networking opportunities like the ‘Black British Professionals in Science’ or ‘Women in STEM’. These are great opportunities to bounce ideas off one another, share personal experiences with individuals who may have experienced something similar, and learn from one another. Companies can encourage this by creating their internal networks, partnering with external networking groups, or giving the flexibility for their employees to attend the meetings during working hours.
Becoming a leader is also about wanting to work somewhere that you are proud to be a part of. If somebody isn’t being treated equally in the workplace, it’s unlikely they will be motivated to take a leadership role. They will leave before this opportunity arises.
There is much talk about gender bias. What are your thoughts on this?
People are naturally biased, and we instinctively (and unconsciously) put people into categories, with many leaders not realising they are hiring and promoting people who fit the stereotype of their own experience or background.
I don’t think we should be training people not to be biased. This is nearly impossible. Instead, we need to accept that unconscious bias exists and that we all have pre-conceptions about people we can’t always control. Once we get that, we need to learn to recognise when we are doing this and start questioning our beliefs and decisions to make sure we are making the right decision.
You can contact Juliet at email@example.com or +44 207 084 6700.