Blog

Tech Talent Charter's 'Inclusion in Tech' Festival

5 March 2021

Last year, as part of becoming more open and transparent – and ahead of publishing the Supercool Manifesto On Inclusivity – we signed-up to the Tech Talent Charter.

The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a non-profit organisation, leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector in a practical, measurable way.

Last week I attended their recent 3-day Inclusion In Tech Festival – an online event, bringing together people from different types and sizes of company. All of which do 'tech' in some form, and want to be part of making the sector more inclusive. As one of only two sectors which have continued to grow during the pandemic (the other being healthcare), now's a great opportunity to take action to diversify the tech workforce.

Tech needs more people? Let's show people that tech's for them!

Here's a tidied write-up of my notes, including some interesting facts and handy tips:

Gender diversity in tech

Advertising ‘flexibility’ as a key part of job ads/descriptions helps to attract more women.

Remember that flexibility can mean several things:

  • where you work
  • how many hours you work
  • when you work

A little nugget for anyone unconvinced about the importance of diversity – co-founder of the TTC, Sinead Bunting, shared research findings that more diverse organisations, particularly those with women in leadership roles, are more profitable.

Some interesting tips shared by the #DoingItAnyway panel, about how to engage with women, and inspire them to join your organisation:

  • Find people directly by joining online groups and forums – go where they are
  • Consider running outreach events or workshops alongside – or instead of – the (sometimes intimidating) formal interview process
  • Be clear that a career in 'tech' isn't just about coding – explain other people's job roles
  • Link-up with coding bootcamps or other short courses that've been designed specifically for women

Ethnic diversity in tech

Data suggests that tech is one of the more diverse sectors in terms of ethnicity. However, people of Asian ethnicity make up 7% of the tech workforce (2% of the working population), which disguises under-representation of Black people in tech. Another example of why lumping people from all ethnic minorities together – e.g. BAME – is not good practice.

Sandra Kerr of Business In The Community suggested using census categories for monitoring ethnicity. It may not be perfect, but at least it will help to better benchmark, and give a more accurate picture of any (lack of) progress.

Ashleigh Ainslie of Color In Tech talked about how everything comes from leadership. Diversity and inclusion must be embedded in company culture – from recruitment to ways of working. Yes, look after your Black employees, but don't only focus internally; be vocal about it too, so you can help bring in more people.

Consultant and coach Yinka Ewuola suggested first working out your purpose; why are you trying to diversify your workforce? You're asking people to trust you with their careers, so be honest. And be ready to say the wrong thing. The only thing that really matters is measurable change, rather than empty words or gestures.

You're asking people to trust you with their careers, so be honest. And be ready to say the wrong thing.

Yinka Ewuola

Social mobility in tech

Being neither a visible nor especially easy to define characteristic, makes social mobility harder to measure than some other characteristics.

Bridge Group research found that it's not who you know but what you know that helps people to get into tech. The more you understand the sector – how it works, what skills are important, and what roles there are – the more you're able to thrive.

Of those surveyed for this research, 87% held a degree, and 34% had studied outside the UK at secondary school level. Discussing the findings, Dr Marianne Blattés talked about companies hiring 'international employees' of Asian heritage tending to assume they're working towards improved ethnic and socio-economic diversity. In fact, people from an Asian background are not only over-represented in tech, those in the sector tend to come from mid-to-high level income families, and be highly educated.

In this session, Gemma Willman of NatWest Group mentioned how more and more, people are looking for purpose in their work (alongside fair pay). There's that 'company culture' thing again – openness, honesty and just talking about things is so important.

Telling people's stories was mentioned a lot during this session. The more people know about how others got into tech, the more realistic it can become for them too. It's prompted me to think about how we could shed more light on 'tech' roles and role models – including those outside of coding 🤔

It's not who you know but what you know that helps people to get into tech. The more you understand the sector – how it works, what skills are important, and what roles there are – the more you're able to thrive.

Education / Qualifications

Welcoming alternative routes into tech – other than having a degree – helps to diversify the workforce.

There was a lot of talk about coding bootcamps, which are proving increasingly popular. (We had a lot of applicants for a tech role who'd been through a bootcamp). They vary a lot but bootcamps are essentially short courses covering the basics, and giving people a good grounding in (usually) coding.

Not only are bootcamps quicker – and considerably cheaper – than doing a degree, the thinking is that bootcampers will have very up-to-date skills in comparison. Tech changes so quickly – as Clare Streets pointed out during the #DoingItAnyway panel, " … when you finish your degree, some of the syllabus will already be out of date."

Language

There was a fair bit of talk about the language we use to discuss this subject. This is something I find particularly interesting. And my ears pricked when several (white) panellists who work for multinational corporations used 'BAME' – it surprised me a bit, as this acronym's quickly fizzling-out in the arts sector.

But, to paraphrase the excellent Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon who was part of the Ethnicity in tech: having tough conversations panel – we all need to be prepared to use the wrong words, say the wrong thing, and realise that we don't understand the needs or experiences of others.

One of my obsessions at the moment is what we call this huge and varied subject. There are so many different terms and acronyms for what I ended-up calling 'inclusion' in our ManifestoEquality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI); Diversity & Inclusion (D&I); Equality and Inclusion (E&I); Equity and Belonging

I first heard the phrase 'Equity and Belonging' last year in an AMA talk about diversifying audiences, given by Mel Larsen. And since then I've heard it quite a bit; it seems to be becoming more and more widely used. I prefer it to EDI or D&I – which seem cold and dispassionate for a subject that's all about our very human-ness.

Equity (rather than equality) acknowledges that different people need different things. And belonging feels like a warmer, more emotive, human way of referencing 'inclusion'.

Company culture

According to the TTC's Diversity in Tech Report 2020, not-for-profits are better at generating diversity in tech roles – even when based on having the exact same skills, application requirements etc.

It was surmised that the attraction of these places is more about their culture; along with offering flexible working. It didn't occur to me at the time so I didn't ask, but I wonder – worry – whether lower salaries in not-for-profits may also be a factor?

The role of company culture chimes with something Ashleigh Ainslie of Color in Tech talked about – when looking to recruit a more ethnically diverse workforce, ask yourself how you’re branding the company for new talent.

When looking to recruit a more ethnically diverse workforce, ask yourself how you’re branding the company for new talent

Ashleigh Ainslie, Color in Tech

Now what?

Take action – and talk about it!

One of the recurring themes of the festival was the importance of action as well as conversation. Gori Yahaya of UpSkill Digital put it well, advising that once you're making change, make sure you share what you're doing, and communicate your progress.

The TTC has a toolkit of free resources designed to help organisations to improve inclusion. It features the Diversity in Tech Report 2020, tracking progress in sector diversity across the UK, and the Open Playbook – a collection of resources, covering everything from creating an inclusive culture to making the most of retraining programmes.

To help keep Supercool open and accountable, a recap of some practical actions we've taken so far:

  • Added pronouns to email footers, and our website
  • Published our internal Manifesto On Inclusivity
  • Changed our hiring process (blog post about this coming soon)
  • Changed some of the language we use
  • Attended and shared learnings from TTC's Inclusion In Tech Festival
  • Soph and I are actively and regularly suggesting ways we can be more inclusive

And I'm very excited to be joining the UK delegation at the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women later this month. I'm hoping to gain some more nuggets of wisdom about equity and belonging, from across the world.

👉 Don't miss out 👈

For more like this, as well as sector news, nifty tech innovations, and invitations to FREE events – join Supercool's mailing list

Related Posts