Investing in diversity through maintaining visible and evolving policies will help employers win the global battle for talent says Andrea Palmer, Chair of BCSWomen.

We are living in a rapidly evolving digital and technological world so encouraging diversity in the workplace leads to fresh ideas and perceptions. Having diversity in the workplace, harnessing the differences and empowering people to work together allows a company to adapt to our ever-changing world. Embracing difference also allows businesses to discover new markets, understand people and enhance customer experiences.

Failure to embrace diversity and inclusion could result in:

  • Missed opportunities
  • Potential failure
  • Disruption to your marketplace

Whilst diversity recognises differences between employees, inclusion embrace these differences acknowledging that they can benefit the business.

Respecting diversity in IT

More importantly there is a social and moral argument that every individual should have the opportunity to be the best they can be and treated with respect.

It is essential that today’s businesses are inclusive. A healthy variety of people from different backgrounds and culture creates the diversity of thought that successful organisations need.

The global economy is becoming more interconnected, resulting in people from different backgrounds and cultures coming together in the workplace. Therefore, creating a workplace that reflects our society will present new opportunities and challenges. This leads naturally to an improved company culture that fosters adaptability, acceptance and trust.

Psychological safety helps build trust and enables people to appreciate other people’s opinions and beliefs. It encourages a feeling that it is safe to take speak up about your ideas, questions, concerns and mistakes without the risk of humiliation or punishment. This in turn leads to high performing teams and lower attrition rates as employees have a greater sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Developing a culture of acceptance empowers each individual to bring their whole selves to work. That people can work and flourish without any fear that their opinion will be dismissed allows each of them to confidently share their ideas with their team. Diverse workplaces help establish a positive atmosphere which does not tolerate biases, discourages discrimination, and ensures everyone’s voice is heard. This creates an environment that fosters respect for others, regardless of differences.

Diversity is the key to success, so companies need to offer a work environment that employees want to be part of. The current talent pool is changing. The baby boomer generation is starting to retire.

It is important to recognise millennials and Generation Z want to work for companies that have a defined and operative diversity and inclusion policy in place. Ensuring your equitable practices are current, visible and flexible will have a positive impact on everything from recruitment to engagement to productivity. To attract and retain diverse employees long-term, companies need to foster a true sense of belonging and focus on improving their employee experience.

Organisations now fish from global talent pools not local ones. They are enabled by technology, hence the diversity available is broader and the need to manage, including cross culturally, is important. Organisations who do not embrace this talent advantage will be left behind the ones who do.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic the number of women in tech had remained consistently around the 17% for the last 10 years in the UK. This is likely to have reduced further as research shows that more women have been made redundant and others have left due to the additional responsibilities of juggling work, caring and home schooling.

BCSWomen’s view

As the Chair of BCSWomen I believe it is important to support those women in tech and encourage other women to consider working in tech. Working in tech is exciting and challenging, with a variety of roles requiring different skillsets and perspectives.

Research shows that tech careers (STEM actually) have an uplift in salary of 20% minimum over other jobs so in a lifetime that is a huge difference and will serve to help close the gender pay gap.

Giving girls a vision of what tech roles are about is important as there are the prevailing stereotypes that the jobs are geeky, unsexy and for boys. We know that is not true and, increasingly, more jobs will be technology jobs across all functions.

We can no longer plan our careers against jobs that will exist in the future - many of the jobs required in five years do not exist yet, so building tech capabilities and the ability to bring in other dimensions of experience will be important to be part of the tech talent pool for the future (McKinsey - Future of Jobs). 

Our strategy is to attract, retain and empower women in tech by supporting their careers, sharing expertise, improving education and influencing practices. Through mentoring and acting as role models we hope to inspire women and enable women to progress their careers, accelerate gender equality and enhance business outcomes and make IT good for society.

The new book, 'Women in Tech, A practical guide to increasing gender diversity and inclusion', highlights the challenges women and girls face trying to follow a career in tech.

Listening to a spectrum of ideas and opinions that are different from our own provides us an opportunity to learn and possibly find a new perspective that is better.

Together our differences make us stronger.