The great equality challenge
How can we make sure we build diverse and inclusive workplaces for everyone in society? Civica’s Andrea Rowe explores the issues and opportunities which face us all.
By the year 2025, it’s estimated that 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials, meaning this group will be in the majority of leadership roles in the next decade. They have a unique take on the issue of diversity – not viewing it simply as gender, race or demographics but more a melting pot of experiences, learning styles and varying perspectives.
Added to this, a recent Deloitte Millennial Survey showed that almost three quarters of these individuals, who have no doubt grown up in a more diverse world, believe their organisation is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. So for businesses such as Civica aiming to recruit and retain a strong, balanced and creative workforce, diversity and inclusion (D&I) are fundamental to the organisational culture.
Challenge the status quo
In a similar way to many companies operating in the technology sector, we already have a diverse organisation and have made lots of progress in recent years. But we recognise that there is still a way to go to help people feel they’re working in a truly inclusive organisation.
We need to look at the full employment cycle right from recruitment. We push to make sure adverts are placed where they’ll be seen by all, ensuring we have a mixed group of candidates for roles and actively challenging any lack of diversity we see. Details such as the wording in adverts are checked to make sure they don’t discriminate. For example, we avoid phrases such as, ‘Hit the ground running’ as it’s been shown women are deterred from applying for jobs if they feel they don’t immediately meet 100% of the job description.
Through our online induction process and welcome sessions, we set the scene for Civica as an international business and encourage a global mind set in all our employees. When it comes to our leadership training programmes, we have a full D&I element, including online modules on uncovering unconscious bias and understanding the challenges which some people may face. We also focus on what can leaders do to both support diversity and also challenge any inappropriate behaviour they may see – vital if we are to move forward in this area.
Talent for the future
One of the key things we’re passionate about is supporting young talent into the tech industry, such as running coding programmes in schools and partnering with organisations such as Young Enterprise and The Tech Talent Charter. We want to show young people that you don’t necessarily need a degree in maths or a Russel Group University degree to enjoy an amazing career in the tech sector.
Alongside this we must grow our own talent. There’s no doubt that the technology businesses which are showing the most momentum in increasing diversity, especially in senior positions, are doing so by nurturing their own skilled people and spotting leadership attributes early on. For example, we have some amazing women working in tech roles at Civica and we’re looking at how we can best support these people to take the next step in their career through mentoring and training.
Diversity of thought
There’s also a strong business case for diversity and inclusion: a recent survey found that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. We must represent both our own wider organisation and our customers through having diverse leadership and teams; ultimately leading to better decision making and resilience in the marketplace. It also cements our position as an Investors in People Gold business and employer of choice – with 67% of people on Glassdoor stating that a diverse workforce is vital when considering job offers.
There’s no arguing that technology can be a great enabler within a business, uniting people through collaborative online platforms and allowing flexible working practices. But we do need to consider how technology can be exclusive when looking at diversity issues. With news reports showing how facial recognition tools can fail to work in recognising people with darker skin tones for example, we must make sure we have diverse teams working on our own technology development and innovation programmes, to make sure they work for everyone in society.
It won’t stick without inclusion
To quote Vernā Myers, VP Inclusion at Netflix, “Diversity is being invited to the party: inclusion is being asked to dance.” While we have a wide range of projects in place, supported by our entire business, we must make sure we don’t alienate any people in our discussions and progress – everyone adds value and our policies must be accessible for all. For example, flexible working polices shouldn’t just be for working parents but available for everyone to use where appropriate.
Diversity, as the word suggests, comes in all guises. Aside from race, gender and sexuality, we’re also talking about issues such as neurodiversity – how to gain a better understanding of people with Asperger syndrome for example, making sure they feel included and can access company events and updates in their own way, whether it’s a one-to-one catch up outside of an event if this situation would suit them better.
Ultimately, we must continually reassess to make sure we’re remaining inclusive to everyone. As we push on further with our DI& training across Civica, plus launching D&I champions and better data reporting around diversity, we are already seeing the benefits of having diverse global teams across the business. After all, as we spend almost as much time in the workplace with colleagues as we do with our families, an inclusive workplace is crucial to both our organisational success and our personal happiness and ambitions.