Sales operations director, Westcoast
What's the most pressing issue preventing progress with diversity today that no one's talking about?
Today we are so terrified about messing up and saying the wrong things to friends, colleagues, employees, board members, clients or customers that we have been paralysed into inaction. People are so anxious about how to effectively engage in conversations about diversity, without offending someone, that they now need encouragement/permission/advice before they speak up or ask questions.
How much progress do you believe the industry has made in diversity since you started working in IT?
The business case for diversity is bigger than ever, and more companies than ever are talking about strategies for making progress on diversity and inclusion, but the progress itself has stalled.
What should senior management teams be doing more of to help create a more inclusive industry for everyone?
Hire based on talent and not on CV. Where possible we should refrain from using a list of desired credentials, qualifications and experience and instead have a pool of underlying qualities such as lateral thinking and creativity, which will help to uncover the exceptional and unorthodox candidates that truly possess the most potential. This creates a greater pool of talent to recruit from and will offer opportunities to candidates that our competitors may have overlooked.
How did you first get into the IT industry?
I worked in the leisure industry after graduating with a Sports Science degree at university, and after seven years of great success I realised I didn't have time to enjoy my own leisure time. I looked for entry-level roles outside of the leisure industry that would allow me to utilise my transferable skills and eventually Westcoast gave me an opportunity to prove myself. I have been working my way up the ladder ever since.
What have been some of your experiences (both good and bad) with how the IT industry has historically approached diversity?
I have had very little experience, to be honest. I was part of a group that was put together with the intention of increasing the number of women in our workplace but it felt more like a tick in the box exercise and we have seen no further action since that meeting more than 18 months ago. One of the proposed changes to the recruitment process was to ensure that a certain number of women were interviewed for our available roles but when discussing this proposal with colleagues we found this to be quite insulting and many expressed that they would hate to find out that they were only interviewed to hit a quota.
Who have been your biggest role models in your professional life, and how have they helped you to succeed?
I can't say I have one, which, in itself, is a very telling point. More needs to be done to highlight and celebrate great role models. There is space for more senior women in the industry and we should support each other in our success and development but, instead, it's a competitive world and too many women want to see their peers fail or want nothing more than to reign supreme.
Do you think companies should be compelled to publish ‘ethnicity pay gap' data?
Yes, and why stop at gender and ethnicity? Has it always been easy for you to be open about your identity in the workplace? As a gay female I really struggled to be open and honest about my sexuality and covered up my past relationships by renaming my now wife as "Ben" in my phone so nobody would know. I can recall a time where people within the business asked me what my sexual orientation was; people who I had never had a conversation with before. Since coming out as gay I haven't knowingly been on the receiving end of any negativity and have instead seen the positive impact it has had on other staff members/recruits who have been anxious about taking those first steps to be open.
What can employers do to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ staff?
Ensure that LGBTQ+ training is included in equality and diversity training as I feel this can often be overlooked. What do you believe are the most effective ways an employer can promote a multicultural and multifaith workplace? Help with continued education. I don't believe our education system provides nearly enough information and support to learn about different cultural traditions and approaches to work. They could also encourage sharing cultural celebrations in the workplace.