The Face of Diversity in UK IT
We went to an IT exhibition last week here in the north. We enjoyed the technical content, the talks and the spirit of the event as you can see.
One comment Ben made, made me stop and think though. He said; "You know, it’s very blokey! It’s all men here, and all the gifts they are giving away are aimed at blokes, like drones and beer mugs". That felt very familiar. For many of us, the annual business partner/vendor awayday at the rugby or the football didn’t feel very inclusive. I like a bit of Rugby (League) myself, but I know that women don’t all go mad for team sports. I am not saying that the women in the workforce want a sewing bee instead, or that we would prefer a makeup session. I do believe, however, that the IT industry needs to make efforts in to be inclusive if we are ever to access the skills we need. It is well known that diverse teams bring greater innovation drive greater productivity – so why wouldn’t we try to be more inclusive of all.
There are plenty of opportunities to run inclusive events. When pretty much every individual working a stand at an exhibition is male, then females feel excluded. We found some great examples where this wasn’t so.
Above are Tessian and Celerity – and well done to the both teams for fielding mixed teams of technical and salespeople. See also the only all-female stand - Cyber Maniacs.
We were shocked by the image here. We asked the women if we could take their photos, and also asked if they worked for the company in question. They did not, but they were ‘representing’ them on this occasion.
Happily, we found some sympathy for our horror and some support for our views on diversity and inclusion from the guys on the stand opposite here (Well done to the Sec-1 team who said they were really uncomfortable with the whole thing!)
Lots of the speakers were male too. Delighted to see some of the well-known women in Cyber and women in tech, but the percentages of women speakers were low. When most of the speakers at an event are white male, people of other genders or ethnicities might rightfully believe that they have a lesser value than the majority. Equally, exhibition gifts should be ‘asexual’. Everyone (this year) covets a slim and stylish power bank, great pens, useful notebooks – they make great exhibition freebies.
Not everyone wants to win tickets to a match, beer drinking, drones or socks (lots of these!), I know no women with feet between size 8.5 and 11 shoes (well I do – but she wouldn’t admit to it!) so these gifts are clearly not aimed at the women attendees. Not everyone feels part of the laddish culture and has to show how long they can hold a full beer mug at arm’s length!!
It is as much up to the exhibitors as the event planners to ensure that stalls are ‘manned’ with a diverse group of people, that give-aways and promotional items appeal to all, and that the example we set to our workforce is welcoming for everyone.
It’s time for the IT industry to buck its ideas up around inclusive behaviour.