I’ve written for BCS both internally and externally a couple of times now about equality, diversity and inclusivity issues, and as most people will know I don’t work on this because it’s my job, because it isn’t really, I do it because it matters. However, thinking about it now, I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone on to explain exactly why it matters. Maybe I was falling into the old ‘well of course diversity is a good thing, we all know that’ trap? So it’s probably about time I said a bit about why I think it’s important. Although, that could take hours so I’ll restrict myself to just a few points here.
We’ve all heard that there’s a connection between the diversity of an organisation and its financial performance and those with lower ethnic and gender diversity correlate with lower financial performance so there’s clearly a driver for getting a diverse mix of people into your business. That’s a fundamental point that we all need to recognise and why wouldn’t you want to do what you can to improve the performance of your organisation? So take a look around you, what do you see? How is your mix? Does everyone look like you? Did everyone go to university? Is anyone openly ‘out’ in the office? I think you probably know what the answers to those questions should be, but if you have the wrong answers there’s always room for change.
So if you need more diversity, where are you going to get those people from? Well, you can go to your recruiters and tell them you want a diverse candidate pool, but if the hiring manager doesn’t understand unconscious bias and the importance of diversity in their team, the chances are that not much will change. So there’s an aspect we need to fix; awareness and understanding of recruiting managers and the requirement on agencies to provide a diverse mix of candidates. If we don’t make some changes here, we’ll simply be recreating and reinforcing existing problems.
Back to my ‘take a look around’ question, organisational culture is important. Why would someone want to work for your organisation? Are they going to feel that they can people openly be themselves? You may have the best perks in the business to offer, but it’s probably not going to attract or retain people if they have to hide who they really are or they feel like ’the odd one out’. So for large firms it’s great that there are employee networks and support groups, but that’s not really possible for smaller organisations is it? But there are solutions. There are lots of initiatives, networks and group that exist for exactly these reasons and anyone can get involved to seek support and share experience. So your SME doesn’t have to (and often can’t) provide that on its own, but you can steer people to the right place and help people get the support that they might be looking for; the need and value of these sorts of groups can’t be denied.
Now, what about the talent pool itself? Well we’ve got computing on the curriculum and digital apprenticeships launched, so the pipeline box is ticked and it’ll all sort itself out in a few years surely? Well, actually maybe not. Now that we’ve got those educational pathways in place we can’t sit back and put our feet up. The diverse team of the future is the diverse pipeline of today; we need to make sure that these routes to education and opportunities are offered and available to everyone, whether it be a GCSE, a degree or an apprenticeship. We need role models who inspire the confidence in our young people that they too can do this, whether they be male, female, LGBT, someone who dropped out of school - that’s not important. What matters is that all of those people bring a different perspective and different ideas to our business and our society and we, as the workforce of today, have a job to do in showing the workforce of tomorrow just how great these careers can be and what you can achieve, no matter who you are.
About the author
The BCS Policy team works to inform and drive the debate on public and private IT policy developments.