When Mitzi Lagerweij and I visited the Women of Silicon Roundabout conference back in 2018, we were at the very start of our journey to establish a new Gender Diversity strategy within TAB and were looking for inspiration and positive stories. Though we met and heard from some amazing women, we struggled to find what we were looking for, and came away with a heavy feeling of the enormity of the challenge ahead within our industry. It was then that we vowed to be up on stage the following year, sharing a story of success and how we made this happen.
And last week at Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019, this is what we did. We shared our story about how in the space of just one year, we were able to improve the percentage of women in our business from 24% to 31%, and place the topic of gender diversity front and centre within the business.
The State of Play
We know it’s tough in Tech right now. According to Technationation.io only 17% of the UK Tech workforce are women, and women own just 5% of tech start-up businesses. Girls and young women have few female or non binary role models to look up to in our industry, and with just 7% of the girls choosing computer science at A-Level, the balance looks unlikely to shift any time soon without some real focus and a concerted effort to attract a more gender diverse audience into technology roles.
An Agile Approach to Diversity
So, in an environment of such fast growth how do you prioritise a diversity strategy when the available resources do not work in your favour? At TAB, we tackled this in the way that we tackle most things; through an agile, iterative approach.
We kicked off the strategy and set the direction of travel by talking to our team at TAB. Through a series of interviews, conversations and an anonymous survey we were able to build a view of how people felt about gender diversity within our organisation. Based on the perspectives we heard, we mapped out the typical TABber journey and key paint points hindering a more diverse TAB.
At this early point in the journey, we also established our Diversity vision. Our vision was designed to be all-encompassing and address diversity as a whole, not just gender diversity.
"That every person at every level at TAB feels heard and empowered to Shape TAB today and tomorrow"
Beneath our vision we established our long term goals which were focused on key points in the lifecycle of a TABber, Hiring, Engagement and Development:
1. DEVELOPMENT / BUILD A DIVERSE LEADERSHIP TEAM
2. HIRING / ESTABLISH A BALANCED WORKFORCE
3. ENGAGEMENT / CREATE A NETWORK FOR EVERYONE
Some successes we saw included running our job adverts through a tool called Texio to identify bias and encourage a more diverse set of candidate responses, ensuring we had a 50/50 ratio on all speaking panels, and more female presence throughout the candidate interview process.
We also established a women’s network called Women on the Rise; a space for women in the company to meet, share stories, hear inspirational speakers, and discuss career progression. And, once a quarter we all gathered for a women’s breakfast - an opportunity for us to spend some social time together and build those all important relationships that encourage a happy and prospering work environment.
Along the journey, we added a third person to our team. Shaima Eaton joined our taskforce and brought with her a hugely valuable third perspective and HR experience, which helped accelerate our strategy. This is just the start of the journey, and although the diversity strategy is now very much a key focus for our People team, we intend to keep driving this strategy forward.
Our 5 Key Takeaways to establish your own diversity strategy
1. Build a team of champions
Success relies on strength in numbers, it’s so important to find those people at all levels who are supportive of what you’re trying to achieve, and will be allies in the process and enablers to success.
2. Small teams, move fast
A small nimble team has more chance of moving at pace and establishing success than a large committee with conflicting views. We found 3 to be the perfect number.
3. Seek external advice
We were extremely lucky to have support from a number of different people from outside our organisation, allowing us to sense check our approach with people who were not so deeply connected. We also found that bringing in external speakers with comparative experience lent real credibility to what we were trying to achieve.
4. Not everyone feels the same way and that's ok
We were lucky at TAB that the general feeling was really very supportive, and we worked hard to establish common goals that people could relate to. Not everyone is going to feel the same level of passion towards the topic as you do though, and that’s ok, don’t let that affect you.
5. Start small and iterate, it's never going to be perfect
Change doesn’t happen overnight, by adopting an agile approach you acknowledge it may not be a perfect solution but you are going to learn a lot and keep moving forward. Establishing small experiments and setting manageable goals means you won’t be overwhelmed by the task at hand and can progress quickly.