Throughout my time attending the Global Women in Tech Festival in December 2020, there was predominantly an overarching theme at the conference - diversity in tech and the lack of female role models in the industry.
Having worked in the technology space for almost 2 years, I’ve definitely become more aware that companies invest and put so much emphasis on diversity. However, it was clear to me after the conference that I never really understood why, or what the importance behind it was. My key takeaway from this event is that diversity in technology matters more now than ever before.
One of the major issues surrounding diversity in the tech space has to do with those in positions of power. A huge part of the conference emphasised the lack of female role models, leaders and influencers within the industry. It wasn’t until I really reflected on this that I realised that the issue lies with the stories and narratives we tell around the tech industry. When we consider all of the tech heroes we aspire to, the innovators, and the geniuses who make up the face of the tech giants, I struggle to think of many females who are in the spotlight.
Diving deeper into this, if all our industry heroes and inspirations look a particular way, and the stories that we tell undermine the contributions of minority groups, then women in particular will remain an exception to the norm in tech rather than integral to its growth and history. Some of the most important innovations and contributions to the tech world that we use today were built by people whose names we don’t know. This is a false narrative that highlights the accomplishments of some, while ignoring the successes of others. Although this may occur in other industries, it can be seen more evidently in the tech industry.
A lack of representation as a whole moves beyond the internal struggle of underrepresented individuals within the tech industry; it moves towards shaping different investments and technology projects. If a culture of underrepresentation continues, it will lead to programmes and effort becoming even more underfunded.
What was most inspiring for me attending the conference was being able to hear other perspectives and life experiences of people from different backgrounds, with different struggles. It enabled me to appreciate the importance of having diversity within tech.
At the conference, I learnt that diversity isn’t just about gender, age and ethnicity, but it's also about perspective and ways of thinking. In having people with different backgrounds and information processing styles in the workplace, leaders can get the most out of teams with varying skills and experiences, and the ideas generated will be more diverse and creative.
Essentially, it’s key to play on every technologist's strengths to provide innovation in the team. Innovation and diversity enable ideas to flourish.
From the conference, I learnt that it’s vital that leaders create relationships with the team to foster psychological safety and to ensure that team members can voice their different views. We need to listen to the wider range of human experience, as diversity is what fosters innovation and opens us up to new problems and ideas. More importantly, in an increasingly digital world, tech must be designed by diverse teams, otherwise it won’t work. Back in 2011, the first voice recognition programs didn’t recognise female voices or many accents because they were built and tested by men and native English speakers.
At Simply Business Tech, diversity and inclusion has been a long-standing conversation, with many different voices and perspectives. We know as a team that diversity and inclusion matter - it’s one of our top priorities. After attending the conference, it’s helped me to understand that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, companies and societies flourish when they are safe for all identities to be their authentic selves.
Since joining Simply Business, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with some fantastic non-profit organisations that are focused on increasing diversity within the tech industry, such as Rails Girls, Codebar, Intertech and Diversity in London. It’s been a privilege to support these organisations, who work tirelessly to enable minority group members to learn in a safe and collaborative environment and expand their career opportunities. When organising events for Simply Business Tech, we’ve teamed up with these brilliant organisations to run free regular workshops and one-off events, and try to create opportunities for underrepresented people by making technology and coding more accessible for them.
Find out about upcoming Simply Business events on our SB Tech website.
Throughout my short time at Simply Business, it’s become clear that cognitively diverse perspectives in the team can support problem solving and out-of-the-box thinking when challenges arise. Diversity and inclusion encourages individuals to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives on situations. An example that may resonate with many women in tech is being the only female in the team. In that instance, the woman might not feel comfortable enough to share her ideas and remain silent due to a sense of being outnumbered by her colleagues.
It’s therefore vital that leaders look to create better outcomes for those who are the minority in the industry. Now more than ever, there needs to be equality and opportunity for everyone in tech.
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