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Gender diversity: Color powder on hands during Holi Festiv
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Achieving gender diversity in the workplace isn’t just a numbers game

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With the deadline for 2022 Gender Pay Gap Reporting having closed earlier this month, the issue of gender equity is fresh in many HR folk's minds. But when it comes to balancing, sustaining and retaining women in tech roles, it is more than just a numbers game. We need to create the right culture and environment at work too.

25th Apr 2022
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Numerous research studies have shown that gender balance in the workplace has many benefits, both for people and the businesses they work for: improved employee loyalty, a more balanced environment, and increased creativity and productivity are often cited as examples. 

But how do we encourage and achieve gender balance, and more importantly how do we sustain and retain it? Reports from organisations like the CIPD debate the impact of applying ‘quotas’, so we can easily see it isn’t simply a numbers game. All the signs are showing that it’s a cultural one. 

Addressing workplace culture helps us understand and work on the issues around gender balance, or rather on correcting the imbalance. Essentially, combining cultural values to form the kind of workplaces both women and men want to work in is the recommended approach. A strong and positive company culture needs to incorporate strong commitment to wellbeing, diversity and inclusion – but with positive role-modelling also playing a significant part in women’s career choices.  

Female applicants need to be able to place themselves inside the business, and see other women flourishing at the company

Seeing is doing

Like many businesses in the tech sector, the number of female applicants for tech jobs is lower to almost none the higher up the organisation you get, although this is dependent on the type of role. Data from PwC highlights this point with only 5% of leadership positions in tech held by women. 

It is important that if we want more women to join the workforce in tech roles, and create more of a gender balance in this sector, female applicants need to be able to place themselves inside the business, and see other women flourishing at the company in the type of roles and at the kind of levels they are seeking for themselves.

Having several women in senior management roles at Nominet is a tangible demonstration to others who are interested in a tech career that there is opportunity here for them. Seeing is doing, and this is particularly key in an industry as widely perceived to be ‘male dominated’ as tech..

Broadening our searches in terms of who we think will fit the roles can also encourage women and be a step forward. Within our own organisation, we have worked on this by amending how we draw up the specifications we use in job ads, for example by changing the listing of ‘must have’ accomplishments to a summary of skills.

This is a small edit, but we know from research that female candidates with the same skills as male counterparts are often less likely to count themselves as ‘qualified’ to do a role unless they can tick every requirement ‘box’. Opening up job applications to those who may have a range of experiences, and not using a tick box as a tool, can attract valuable talent that may initially have been put off applying. 

Offering flexibility may also be the difference between attracting or repelling women from a tech role. According to Carers UK, of 6.5 million carers in the UK 58% are women and 42% are men, so flexible hours are clearly going to be an important consideration when taking on a new job. The CIPD recommends, for example, that wherever possible companies advertise jobs using the tagline ‘Happy to talk flexible working’.

Post-pandemic, hybrid working is here to stay which means that in their search for new roles people will more likely be drawn to situations that promote this healthy work-life balance. Women and men within our organisation enjoy flexible working and are trusted with the autonomy to deliver their roles in a way that suits them – whether that’s returning to work after a break or managing existing commitments. 

We must all try to build a culture that’s adaptive to life’s peaks and troughs, whilst still ensuring that work and the needs of the business can be centred around that. 

How do you build a positive work-life balance?

Ultimately, what any positive culture is trying to do is to unlock the best in people and bring out their true potential at work. We believe in women and men being able to follow their own initiatives when it comes to looking after themselves, and we are continually working on designing resources that support wellbeing in mind and body, finance and health, personal development and opportunities to engage in fun ways with co-workers. Even so, there is an even more holistic approach we can, and do, take. 

Practical ways of achieving this can be aligning the business to specific pledges or goals. We've signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, to show our commitment to greater diversity in the UK tech workforce. Our promise here is to ensure we create a working environment that supports personal development, and battles stereotypes and old-fashioned ways of thinking. 

Offering training for managers to guard against unconscious bias is one approach. Our HR team also tracks the pay review process and rewards across the company to ensure that everyone performing at similar levels is treated fairly, whatever their gender.

We can also talk about our values in relation to integrity and boldness – we have introduced Big Chats Little Chats with Laughology, which offers peer-to-peer engagement using humour and laughter, creating safe and inclusive environments for great discussions and conversations, focusing on developing a growth mindset and building resilience in our teams. 

People need places where they feel equally welcomed, rewarded and cared for

What needs to take place next?

Increasing the number of women in the workplace is a step that all businesses can take, and one that we’re firmly committed to. The current talent shortage means employers need to reach out to a wider audience, and, as covered here, consider changing their practices to attract more diverse groups and inspire the next generation. 

The foundation of it all is in supporting more girls and women before their work life even begins, or at a moment in life when talented individuals seek a career change but are unsure of how to make it happen. This starts with parents, carers and teachers encouraging more girls and young women to engage more boldly with STEM subjects, and to show that careers in tech are not just possible but fulfilling. This is an important message to women for whom tech has long been a male dominated sector. 

But even once women are on the tech career ladder, gender balance is never a number’s game. Ultimately if we want to improve the balance, sustain and retain it, we must acknowledge that we need to create the right culture and environment at work. People need places where they feel equally welcomed, rewarded and cared for – here they can feel confident that they will be able to juggle their home and work priorities, and where they can bring their true selves to work.

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