Laura Coppola

Doug Woodburn
clock • 5 min read
Laura Coppola

Laura Coppola

UK e-commerce business manager, HP Inc.

What's the most pressing issue preventing progress with diversity today that no one's talking about?

In one word, education. But it is a big word. It starts with ensuring that all children at a young age are encouraged to explore any area that interests them, regardless of any perceived gender roles or racial stereotypes. We then need to consider that formal academia may not suit that student, for many reasons, such as them being neuro-diverse or having poor access. This ultimately leads to revisiting hiring policies to look beyond traditional academic frameworks and instead considering the talent and attitudes of potential hires. There is a lot to do, and progress will only gain momentum when we start encouraging and influencing a diverse talent pool at a much younger age than interns or graduates.

What do you believe are the most effective policies and initiatives that companies can implement to promote diversity in their workforce?

HP actively promotes its ‘open-door' policy, which encourages employees to share any concern they may have without fear of retribution. This, alongside the work of Business Impact Networks (employee run groups that work with the management team), drives honest and open communication about difficult, awkward or upsetting topics. Diversity of thought invokes difference of opinions, and honest conversation is critical in opening ourselves up to these differences, building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

How much progress do you believe the industry has made in diversity since you started working in IT?

In the 10 years since I started working in IT, I've seen two main changes. The first is that there has been a shift away from leadership requiring a specific persona, opening up to a wider range of personalities and backgrounds. The second (but linked!), is that there is now an acceptance that who you are at work needs to be reflective and supportive of your personal life. 

What should senior management teams be doing more of to help create a more inclusive industry for everyone?

To make the IT industry more inclusive, we need senior management to think broadly about how individuals need to be supported and rewarded for their contributions. Honest and regular conversations with people from different communities about their needs and wants will offer new perspectives about how the industry and its teams could operate, that may not have been considered from inside the organisation.

How did you first get into the IT industry?

Like many people, I fell into it! I was actually looking to work within FMCG but applied to internships across multiple industries. After starting in IT, I realised you don't have to be ‘a techie' to understand it or to get excited about its products and services, and I was fascinated by the innovation and change the tech industry drives. 

What have been some of your experiences (both good and bad) with how the IT industry has historically approached diversity?

I have been fortunate to have worked for progressive companies in IT, so although have witnessed some interesting commentary in the early part of my career, actions have always felt well-intentioned and overall positive. The intersection of being young and female has had its moments (indeed, being called ‘young lady' in the workplace hasn't been a favourite), and there have been times where I have felt patronised or frustrated by a situation, but not being sure whether it was in defence of my age or my gender that warranted the discomfort. It is not enough for the industry to champion just diversity of ‘Box A' or ‘Box B', but instead to consider how individuals bridge multiple, and how this changes how the company must serve their needs as employees and customers.

Who have been your biggest role models in your professional life, and how have they helped you to succeed?

I have been incredibly lucky to have worked for (and with) many brilliant leaders in my career so far. Each demonstrating a different way of working and style of leadership to learn from. And, as I reflect back, I realise they have been across different ages, genders, sexualities, races and religions. Amid all of this real-life diversity, I have been taught by example that you don't have to ‘fit a box' to be a great leader or drive positive impact. Each have taught me something different, while embracing me and actively encouraging me. They all inspire me and are my ‘role models' in different ways.

  Do you believe Covid has hampered or helped gender diversity efforts in the IT industry?

Covid - or specifically the resulting ‘hybrid working' - has unlocked a huge opportunity for improved gender diversity within IT. It has obvious benefits in supporting different hours and routines, freeing up more women to go for leadership roles that perhaps previously felt unattainable.  However, for ‘hybrid' to be successful, managers must ensure that the workday is flexible, but not extended. This requires discipline from all of us, but management must especially be wary of the ‘creeping workday' putting pressure on women - who in many cases, and despite recent changes, still carry the burden of unpaid labour at home.  Our UK&I Women's Impact Network (WIN) started during Covid and has grown rapidly, as colleagues look for support in finding this balance within the hybrid day. Our different initiatives are driven from within the community, from a personal experience or challenge, with the hope to support everyone at HP (not only those who identify as women!) thrive.

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