Natalie Lovett, Client Services Lead at Infinity Works, and advocate for Women in Tech
Driving positive action to impact tangible change
Let’s say it how it is. Women are drastically underrepresented in our industry – but there is hope. Thanks to forward thinking businesses, changes are afoot for women in tech and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity this presents.
According to Accenture research, the proportion of women working in tech is now smaller than it was in 1984, and currently 50% of women in tech roles leave them by the age of 35. The same research showed that we could see almost three million young women working in tech by 2030 if organisations commit to creating more inclusive cultures. The need for change is clear, but we believe the tide is turning.
I’m lucky. I work in an organisation that is passionate about making this change and supporting Diversity and Inclusion. Infinity Works understands the value that diversity brings to a workplace. For us, ensuring women feel a sense of belonging, and can see how their careers will be supported and developed is fundamental.
This is exactly why we’ve delivered a whole array of events since International Women’s Day this year, designed to shine a spotlight on women and the key issues they experience. Infinity Works has acted as a flagbearer for women in tech across the whole of the UK, running female focussed events across Manchester, London, Scotland and Leeds. We’ve engaged in difficult conversations and sought to create change that will have a lasting impact.
But that’s nothing new for us. Our people have always been leaders in transformation. After all, that’s what we do. We believe in challenge-led culture, and we’re using this to push the envelope when it comes to women in tech.
Looking Back to Look Forward. What have we learnt?
Gender bias needs more air time
Unconscious bias is everywhere. As a tech consultancy, we operate in an industry that remains male dominated, and unfortunately this can actively discourage women from tech careers, and make some people question the role of women in tech.
Our industry is not the only one to feel the effects of this, but that doesn’t make it any better. Barry Moses, Managing Consultant at Infinity Works, had a career in nursing before he joined the technology industry. Working in the maternity and neonatal wards, Barry experienced many instances of bias, with many questioning his career choices or confusing him as someone with a different profession.
The sooner we all accept the realities of gender bias, the faster we will be able to make change. That’s why we all commit to unconscious bias training here at Infinity Works and we will always showcase the amazing opportunities that our workplace has to offer for everyone.
We all need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable
For teams to have meaningful conversations about equality, diversity and inclusion, you need to have difficult discussions. Avoiding these subjects does more harm than good, creating confusion and causing divides amongst the team. “In order for us to create change, we need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” said Isha Edwards-Joshi, Consultant at Infinity Works, at one of our International Women’s Day panel events.
Thankfully for us, being open and challenging others is part of our culture. We know we’re not perfect, but we have worked hard to create an environment in which everyone feels safe to share their thoughts and ideas. By continuing to challenge one another and ourselves, we will push the boundaries, ask the awkward questions and challenge our own thinking.
If parents can’t thrive, we won’t thrive
Working parents have to belong. For many companies this is about offering flexibility in working patterns, but for us this is just the baseline.
We must create environments where working parents can thrive, not just survive. They must have the same opportunity to develop their skills, and ultimately to progress. Too often working parents are stigmatised, with others assuming that having children means they are no longer prioritising their careers. Are my priorities after having children different? Absolutely. Does that mean I care less about my career? Absolutely not.
We encourage all our colleagues to have active conversations with their managers, advocates and people leads so that we can continue to help our people achieve their goals. However, we each have a part to play by ensuring that we don’t place our bias onto others and that we understand that each person is different.
Many parents share stories of feeling a reduced sense of belonging in their workplaces because they no longer enjoy activities in the same way as their colleagues or cannot flex their schedule to suit the status quo. Only running company socials or meetings at a certain time of day, having social events focused on drinking alcohol, or making internal conversations about one topic can lead to people feeling excluded, which is the last thing we want. It’s important that companies have activities and environments which suit different people and allow for diversity of thought to thrive. Aligned to this ethos, our Leeds summer celebration will be a family inclusive event with music, face painting, mini golf and soft play.
And what are we actually doing about it?
1. Supercharging our Women in Tech Network
Last year, we launched our own Women in Tech network. The internal network champions women in tech and works to improve their wellbeing, as well as the amount of mentoring and support available. The network was set up to ensure that women at Infinity Works feel truly valued, but ultimately we want it to increase the number of females in senior roles here, whilst encouraging more women into the tech industry.
The network is growing from strength-to-strength. We host monthly meetings designed to open up the conversation on how we can all do more to encourage women into our fantastic industry and IW more specifically. As part of this, we critically assess how we advertise roles, our flexible working arrangements and interview processes, amongst many other things.
Thanks to initiatives like our Women in Tech network, we’ve seen the number of women working at IW increase. We know the model works, and we know that women here experience a greater sense of belonging due to the sessions that we run. Over the next 12 months we intend to supercharge the network to show that more women like me can have incredibly successful careers at companies like IW and Accenture.
2. Actively recruiting more women
As part of Accenture, we sit proudly being recognised as one of the best places for women to work in the UK. But we won’t rest on our laurels. The challenge of recruiting more women into tech roles is not a new one, and while the industry has moved forward, stereotypes, stigma and bias still exist. We’re actively challenging this by committing to hiring more females and more female leaders, using our platforms to showcase the amazing role that women play in tech.
Key to this is getting more women to interview stage, and our team has been working hard to do this. Our goal is a 50/50 male/female split, and thanks to their efforts we are making progress towards this goal.
We have also seen similar success within our Academy. In our January/February IW Academy cohort this year, we had more women than ever before – 56%. In the same cohort in 2021, this figure was 45%. We will always expect fluctuations in these numbers, but for us these statistics represent incredible progress and show us that we’re on the right path to developing a culture in which women feel just as welcome as men.
Roles that we have created within the business are also vital in our quest to recruit more women. We’ve created maternity and menopause advocate positions to offer advice and care before, during and after maternity and menopause. The number of advocates we have is constantly increasing as our female team grows, and we’re always on the hunt for more to take up these positions. Making sure those interviewing and starting with us are aware that these positions exist, helps convey the welcoming culture that we want all our teams to feel.
3. Impactful partnerships
We recognise that we can achieve even more by collaborating with other organisations that share our vision.
Working alongside Digital Her – which is actively helping to end inequality in the technology and digital sector – we’ve provided work experience for female high school students to build their coding skills on Raspberry Pis. We’ve also joined forces with Tech Returners to offer opportunities for skilled tech professional to get back into the industry.
We’ve seen first hand the value that these partnerships bring to fast-tracking our drive towards an environment in which everyone feels welcome, and throughout 2022 we have much more to come.
Watch this space! Change is coming for women in tech, and at IW, we will always stay at the forefront of the movement.