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Tech City: Business leaders calling for more diversity in workplace

PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 June 2015

Nikki Watkins and Sarah Luxford

Nikki Watkins and Sarah Luxford

Archant

Bosses are calling for more diversity in the workplace in light of new figures showing one in four companies employ no women at senior management board level.

The survey by Tech London Advocates survey was released at its Women in Tech working group meeting at the House of Lords.

Hosted by Baroness Lane Fox on the evening of the first day of London Technology Week, the private event for Advocates members examined the creative potential of diverse workforces in the industry.

Baroness Lane Fox said: “There is a greater proportion of women in the House of Lords than British tech companies. We must accept the scale of this problem and work together to put women at the heart of the technology sector. Mobilising a currently unused resource will have huge benefits for the digital industry, the economy and UK PLC.”

Sarah Luxford, director at executive search firm Nexec Leaders and Women in Tech working group co-lead, said diversity was not a “project” and that tech leaders must change their attitudes and beliefs to ensure diversity in the workplace.

She said: “The Women in Tech group started about 20 months ago. Knowing that 50 per cent of the population is women, we wanted to speak to firms all over Europe, and San Francisco as we thought they would be progressive in managing their workforce. But what we heard really shocked us.

“Organisations have yet to become aware of diversity and there is little exploration in recruiting high diversity teams. The organisations that kickstarted efforts aroung diversity have become complacent.”

Nikki Watkins, chief evolution officer at Tyche and Women in Tech working group co-lead, added: “In my experience, 2015 is already proving to be a year in which gender intelligence is getting higher up the strategic agenda than ever before.

“Companies are doing more than paying lip service, they are recognising that they may be sabotaging their future success if they don’t do something different. Sarah and I are excited to be leading the Women in Tech initiative for Tech London Advocates to start the ripple from London across the UK.”

She said many tech businesses were started by “college boys” and due to people’s natural inclination to hire people that reflect them, that is what they have hired around them.

As well as working from a grassroots level, encouraging girls to learn Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects through to university level, Women in Tech is working with businesses to change their mindsets about diversity.

Nikki said: “We have to tackle this in three stages: firstly, awareness – asking companies are they aware of their own statistics, hiring preference and unconscious bias. Secondly, adoption of new practices and thirdly, advocacy. We found lots of CEOs who are aware but don’t know how to advocate for women, and many times we get women who don’t advocate for other women as they are afraid to be labelled.”

Sarah added Women in Tech is now working on a charter with guidelines on diversity for chief executives to adhere to and hopes to launch it at a follow-up event later in the year.

She said: “At least when we get 50 per cent of women in senior management, that is when something is really going to change. If I am still on a panel talking about women in tech in five years, nobody has done their jobs. This is not a women’s issue, but a business issue and a human issue.”

To get involved with Women in Tech, visit techlondonadvocates.org.uk.

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