Inclusion in tech – changing the conversation from equality to balance

by Mel Sinclair and Lydia Kennedy

The recent TechUK & Women in Defence event 'Women In Defence Technology' provided our very own Lydia & Mel with a day of inspiration and much more to think about than women or defence!

The talent shortage in the technology industry is what we should be concerned about more than previous conceptions of gender equality; here at Deep3® we are continually exploring new ways to focus on supporting inclusion across both our internal and external practices. This should include all people, different for any number of reasons. This is our key takeaway from an inspirational event, hosted by Women in Defence and Tech UK on 12/02/2019. Our most critical point here is that while the event was intended to be supportive to women in a mostly male dominated digital age, these things don't only apply to women. Angela Owens (PA Consulting & founder of Women in Defence) made the point ‘that we need a different cake made to a new recipe’ focused on inclusion and gender balance rather than equality.

The confidence to take risks

Confidence was a hot topic of the day, with speakers and delegates discussing the need for everyone to be confident in their own abilities and ideas. Elaine Whyte (PWC), in particular spoke about the importance of the value of education in building confidence. In her view it is this learning that will enable us to ask ourselves the key question: "What are the small steps I can take today that will get me to my vision?"

Inspiring confidence in women was also on the agenda from Nicola Greenham, from the Joint Cyber Unit. After being brave in her own early career choices, she expressed the need for us all to have the confidence to take opportunities even if it comes with a risk and not to procrastinate. Advice that we could all use I expect more often than we would probably care to admit!

Echoing the need for having the confidence to take risks, Ms Whyte expanded on this giving the view that risks are essential for growth. So conversely, we need to overcome our fear of ‘failing’ or our perception of what failure looks like in order to grow in confidence. Her closing remarks were to encourage those in the room to seize any opportunity to seek inspiration.

Why are these mantra type phrases so powerful though? They are not necessarily new but hearing them in the context of the stories of these women, who are succeeding in their chosen careers while also championing inclusivity, can’t help but inspire us to follow suit and find a way to help make a change in our own environments.

Making change happen

What is a role model? Listening to the challenge that we all hold our individual role models to a standard that is too high made us really think about our expectations. In fact, Elaine Whyte’s advice was to seek out multiple role models taking bits of advice and inspiration from each. Our takeaway on this is that it will mean we hold our role models (and ourselves) to more realistic standards, as well as gain the diversity of thought by talking with more than one other person at a time in this context.

In our quest for role models though I think we should also consider Brigadier Sara Sharkey's comments that leadership should be visible. Kat Stubbings (UKCloud) also echoed this by being clear that leaders should show forward thinking and encourage everyone around them to be always moving. Her clear takeaway comment that "standing still is moving backwards" caused a silence before she went on to confirm that inclusion is the only thing that will help the diversity challenges we face in the tech industry – regardless of gender balance. Anna Carron also echoed this when she used the Scrum idiom of Servant Leaders – "There go the people, I follow them for I am their leader".

What’s next?

Attending these types of events often leaves us with more questions than answers, this one was no different. However, the questions it has raised are those that should have real positive impact and drive changes.

Brigadier Sharkey provided an equation for the "so what’s next?" conundrum that we would no doubt be faced with in discussing how it should be. The equation for gender balance is… Why + How = New Normal. Our challenge as a modern workplace is to create a new normal for balance, inclusivity and equality for everyone, not just for women. Until then, networking events and learning events will continue to be the ‘How’ that works to solve the ‘Why’ in this equation. We should embrace and support them as well as each other. One of the speakers had a quote for us to take away that seems a good place to close this summary.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 6 rules of success:

  1. Trust yourself
  2. Break some rules
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail
  4. Ignore the naysayers
  5. Work like hell
  6. Give something back

Something to think about.

One of Lydia’s final musings was that the potential to change something, make a difference and enable everyone to see the benefit of inclusion may be one of the most exciting challenges in industry today.

Mel’s final thought for the day was simply that three sandwiches, when faced with a finite buffet and an unknown number of partakers, seemed to be the unspoken optimum with the option to go up for seconds if required.

Seriously though, the event wasn’t about helping women, supporting women, equal pay etc, it was about how we can all help and support each other in the workplace to be the best that we can be. That includes allowing everyone to voice an opinion, allowing everyone the right to spend time with family without derision, allowing everyone the opportunities to grow and giving everyone the chance to find their niche.

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