Tackling Diversity in IT: we're not all male, pale and techie


ANS culture, Women in Tech, Diversity

It’s no secret that there is a lot to be desired when it comes to diversity in the IT and Technology sectors, but we believe that without a greater balance, amazing talent, opportunities and innovative ideas could slip through our fingers.

That’s why at ANS, we are making 2019 the year of diversity. And we have already been preparing! Late last year a few of us from ANS attended a diversity in IT open discussion, run by Cisco, here in Manchester.

It was a really insightful session with some interesting points made, the 4 main areas surrounding the diversity in IT challenge we discussed were culture, recruitment, education and women in IT. Here are some of our top takeaways…

Culture and Diversity

The question we must ask is what is the meaning of diversity? More often than not, campaigns for diversity are marketing and PR gimmicks to increase an organisation’s profile. We are constantly learning how to define diversity and what it means to us, but often we become blinkered by the PR and marketing efforts. If we are truly going to support diversity in the workplace, we must be authentic and truly believe in the cause we are fighting for as well as doing what is good for the business.

None of this culture change is possible without being driven from the top-down. An organisation’s key stakeholders and decision makers must work together effectively to solve the diversity challenges we face today. Historically, companies would have little engagement with its employees, but now we are seeing a shift in culture as they build meaningful, lasting relationships to nurture the tech talent we have in this country.

Young people today who are looking to kickstart a career in technology are dynamic, driven and hungry for success. It’s important to speak to other young people in the field and find out what they really want. Whilst it’s true that older people in the sector have mounds of knowledge, skills and experience, the future belongs to younger generations and we have to ask them how they want it to look.

Recruitment

The challenges with attracting this desirable diverse talent is that most companies are not the big name, home-brands. We’re not Apple, we’re not Google and we are seeing the same people coming in for interviews time and time again. We must find a way to change people’s perception of the recruitment process and this should certainly be a top priority for the UK’s leading organisations.

In the past, it was not uncommon to enter your first job role or organisation and not move very far from that field or even company. That ‘job for life’ culture could soon become a thing of the past, thanks to technology. Today there are so many transferable skills we can take from role to role and we can add real value to specific areas when we realise what we are good at and how best to apply our skills.

There are so many amazing opportunities out there for young people, organisations just need to give them a chance. In an ideal world, candidates would be hired on their capabilities and potential, not just on their experience. Given the chance to prove themselves, young people with different perspectives can be invaluable to companies looking for a breath of fresh air!

Women in Tech

One consequence of a lack of diversity in IT is the unconscious bias that women feel about themselves. This is when people form biases about certain groups of people outside of their consciousness. According to a study, even as early as the age of 6, girls get it into their head that they are not capable of certain tasks and others can do them better. There are other touchpoints in a young girl’s childhood, at ages 9, 11 and 13 they become more and more aware of the way they and others perceive them.

And it doesn’t end there, according to a study, women are more likely to show signs of imposter syndrome (a belief that you're an inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence that indicates you're skilled and quite successful) than men. Due to gender stereotypes and discriminatory culture, women are not used to self-promotion which can hold them back in their career, but that’s a topic for another blog 😉.

Education

All these challenges we face in the technology sector boil down to education – or lack thereof. Recruitment is increasingly becoming a problem for some organisations because young people are simply not educated about the amazing options available to them in the technology sector.

One way we can tackle this is by bringing employers, passionate people with real-life working experience, into schools to teach young people that not everyone who works in the technology industry is pale, male and techie. There is a world of opportunities out there just waiting to be snapped up and if we can start young people on an early pathway to a successful career in tech, then we are onto a winner.

It has been said that the education system doesn’t equip young people with the personal and soft skills needed for employment. It’s not just about letting them know what’s out there but also giving them the skills they need to survive in the big wide world. Larger organisations have a responsibility to be more proactive in educating their employees of the future by hosting meetings and workshops for mentoring and learning that will in turn support young people on their journey to employment.

Even so, we are 10 years away from seeing the impact that we can ignite today. This is not an overnight job, it will take years of determination and positive energy from organisations across all sectors to be able to make the change we all want to see. Although one person doesn’t have the power to change the world, larger organisations have the influence and following to make an impact on our communities.

We’re not all male, pale and techie – there’s a world of opportunities out there for everyone, no matter who you are. As long as you have passion and the right attitude to succeed, you can do anything. There are so many diverse roles within the technology sector, you don’t have to be a super-techie to be able to work with technology. If it’s technology that excites you, then there will be a role for you. Work hard and you will get results – you don’t have to know it all.

If technology is something that excites you, you should take a look at our current opportunities here.

Posted by Kate Auchterlonie