These are the companies fighting to make technology more inclusive, here’s how…
Inclusion is crucial in tech. The more diverse the people behind the tech, the better they can understand their users – from every race, gender and background. But women account for just 16.8% of workers in the UK’s tech sector and only 15% come from BAME backgrounds. That’s why these Leeds companies are fighting to make the tech industry more diverse.
In 2020, Sky pledged £30 million to support anti-racism, by improving black and minority ethnic representation at all levels within Sky, helping communities impacted by racism and using Sky’s platform to highlight racial injustice. “If we’re going to design, build and operate products that work for and delight our customers, we need people who reflect our customer base helping to engineer them,” Renee Hunt, Director of Sky Group Digital Platforms, told us.
For the past few years, Sky has focussed on championing and supporting women in technology. Their free Get into Tech programme gives women with little or no technical experience the chance to learn the foundations of coding in a 15-week training course. Similarly, their Women in Technology Scholarship offers funding to accelerate technology business ideas. But it’s not just about gender – Sky is passionate about diversity in all its forms. In fact, in 2020, they were recognised as a Top 100 Employer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by Stonewall.
BT recently announced their Ethnicity Rapid Action Plan, the first of many fast-track diversity plans. The project is designed to start action within the company. It will do this by creating a new fast-stream for people from ethnic minority backgrounds and educating employees. “There are many benefits to ensuring that we foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity,” Liz Needleman, Group Regional Director of BT Group’s North of England division, told us. “As a diverse business, we ensure that we understand our customers better.”
Another way BT is championing diversity is through its TechWomen programme. It enables women at the company to achieve their potential by removing barriers, increasing collaboration and building courage and capability. Over the past five years, the company has given over 2,200 women the tools they need to take their careers to the next level.
Dentsu Aegis Network
“Every single business, whatever its industry, is only strengthened by embracing different experiences and fresh perspectives within its workforce,” Ian Williams, Client Director at iProspect, the digital performance agency of Dentsu Aegis Network, told us. “This has been proven time and time again.” Dentsu Aegis Network run an ongoing research project called The Digital Society Index which consistently measures how successfully the UK, and a host of other nations, are migrating to digital technologies. Through this research, they identify the need to diversify the talent pipeline in the UK – and they’re playing an active role.
Dentsu Aegis Network work with local schools to get more people into tech. Their digital skills programme, The Code, is designed to engage people in sections of society usually forgotten by traditional recruitment channels – and they’ve reached 12,000 students across the UK since its launch. They also have a network called &Proud, which is employee owned and designed to champion LGBT+ inclusion across all areas of the business.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) runs Digital Voices, a six-month programme for women in tech. It’s an opportunity for women to learn digital and engagement skills by showcasing the work they do at DWP. In 2019, DWP signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, a visible pledge to better reflect the diversity of the population in the tech workforce. As a result, they’ve made their recruitment processes more inclusive, created supportive employment policies and made their employment data more transparent.
DWP has a LGBT+ support network called DWPride, which ran a virtual online celebration of Pride events in June 2020. “Being inclusive is a really big part of any network, so it is encouraging to have so many online events taking place,” Oliver Walsh, who is part of the DWP’s Digital Engagement team and DWPride, explained. While celebrating Pride Month, the network also committed to being actively anti-racist, and to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protestors.
Leeds Building Society
Leeds Building Society is committed to increasing the representation of women in the company, particularly in its tech roles, because the majority of them are held by men. Their aim is to create an inspirational environment for women coming in at more junior levels and to ensure that women make up a third of its board members and senior management team by the end of 2021.
The company’s human resources team has recently reviewed its job descriptions to make sure they use gender neutral language. They’ve also overhauled their jobs website to make it appeal to people from a range of backgrounds, so they can attract more diverse applicants. Leeds Building Society only works with third parties who’ve signed a code of conduct for gender diversity and best practice. On top of this, all employees are given Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training. As a result, they won two awards from the National Centre for Diversity in 2019.Cover image credit: Dave Lindsay