Little things in diversity

Picture thanks to

The lack of diversity is still a big issue in the tech industry. I was reminded how much of an issue it is at Noord Group’s recent IT and Digital Leaders Dialogue in Manchester. Women must have made up less than two per cent of the delegates. They were so sparse it stood out like a sore thumb.  The place was filled with grey haired and no-haired men. Looking back the the ethnicity mix was not great either.

As for Noord, the conference organisers, their gender balance was much better which just made the position in our industry look worse. There are no excuses. We need to do better, but what and how?

My role that day was to take part in a fireside chat about addressing the IT skills gap and promoting cultural change. Mark, the moderator of the conversation saved us from the dreaded ‘manel’ by inviting Emma, one of his colleagues to join us.

She made us laugh by saying that there is nothing sadder than a dance at a data centre conference. The image of room full of dad dancers made us all shudder. Yet she had a valid point. Why would any women want to come along to such an event? Why would women want to join an industry where they are subtly but clearly not made welcome.

Later, one of the questions to the group was how you balance the need for experience and the shortage of skills. Many adverts ask for five years experience. I was reminded how men are much more inclined to exaggerate their abilities while women are the other way round. Emma did confirm this and so I think I was on safe ground.

A man is much more likely to apply for a job which requires lengthy experience even if he didn’t have it while a women is less likely to. The act of advertising in this way was much more likely to attract male candidates than female.

These two points have made me realise that it is probably the little things that we need to correct if we are to promote greater diversity in tech. We need to create environments and adverts that are attractive to all comers.

Above all though, we need to take dancing lessons.

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