Think about diversity

Carron Shankland says we can all make it easier for people to be #outinSTEM and we can start by simply looking up from our screens and talking to each other.

Despite inclusivity and diversity being far from new ideas, lots of people still don't feel they can come out at work. This can result in people who are very unhappy and, from a business perspective, teams that aren't working at their optimum. Carron Shankland tells her story, explains the value of good teams and why we should all talk more.

Tell us who you are and about your experience

I live in Glasgow with my partner Pat. We've been together for 13 years, and got a civil partnership in 2006. I'm a professor of computing science at the University of Stirling.

My colleagues are wonderful, friendly, supportive people. I've never had a problem being open about being gay (once I figured out that was who I was). I can talk freely about my life and my relationship.

In 2016 I was one of the inaugural computing science recipients of a Suffrage Science award which celebrates women for the achievement in science and their ability to inspire others. It's made me realise how important it is to stand up and show who you are to the world.

Why is this important to you?

I know there are still lots of gay people who feel they can't be out at work, but would like to be. Research shows that diverse teams are smarter and more successful. Your colleagues should value your difference. The more of us who stand up and declare ourselves happily #outinstem the easier it will be for them to join us.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

BCSWomen produce an excellent scorecard highlighting women in IT. This shows that there are typically 15% women at university doing computing, and about 17% in IT-related jobs.

I had the sense of being an outsider among my peers. For me, it meant I worked even harder to prove myself. This has positive consequences (I am successful in my job) and negative consequences (I am struggling with stress, anxiety and depression, and still working through those things).

How does the profession need to progress / develop?

Every time you advertise a job, invite a speaker, organise an event, think about diversity. Could that job be done flexibly? Are you inviting yet another middle-aged white man? Does the environment of your event exclude anyone, or make it really hard for them to attend? Is your organisation suffering because lack of diversity means everyone thinks the same? Make a space to be creative and different. BCS can be really helpful in starting these conversations about what sort of people work in computing (hint: anyone can work in computing!)

What one piece of advice would you give to others?

We need to look up from our screens on occasion and talk to each other about what matters to us. Don't put it off. Do it today.