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Rethinking the workplace with female talent in mind

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

With top talent in short supply, getting more women into tech and it roles should be a no brainer for UK organisations in every industry sector.

Yet, despite women making up 49% of the overall UK workforce, just 19% of tech workers are female. Meanwhile, the needle has barely moved over the past 20 years when it comes to women holding down senior tech roles.

In recent years, UK organisations have doubled down on diversity efforts and taken steps to address the toxic workplace cultures that inhibited many women from fulfilling their full potential or made it preferential to take their talent elsewhere.

Diversifying the workforce, in tech especially, has been a topic of much needed discussion for a few years now, with organisations making concerted efforts to increase the gender balance through various schemes and outreaches. One programme that is becoming more popular is return to work. Already this year we have seen major brands, McLaren F1 and Entain, launch a joint ‘Returnship’ programme to specifically help reignite the careers of women returning to roles in STEM.

Given the skills gap that plagues the tech sector, women returners present organisations with an incredible talent pool opportunity. However, to achieve success in this area organisations need to change the way they approach candidates. They will need to think about practical ways to entice and support women who have taken a career break to raise families, along with middle-aged early retirees looking to re-enter work and achieve greater financial resilience.

Caroline Mantle, Strategic Alliances Manager at Six Degrees

In this piece, Caroline Mantle, Strategic Alliances Manager at Six Degrees, takes a look at some ways this could happen.

Caroline is Strategic Alliance Manager and a Women in Tech Leader at Six Degrees. With almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, Caroline has worked in sales and alliance management for the likes of Rackspace, Equinix and Colt prior to joining Six Degrees. A passionate advocate for diversity in the IT industry, Caroline seeks to promote and encourage equality to change the landscape of the workforce for the better. Outside of work, Caroline loves running, theatre, and her cat Jimmi.

OPENING MINDS – AND DOORS

Women will be concerned that their prior experience, expertise and qualifications will be no longer relevant or that their age will count against them. So firms will need to work hard to counter this mindset, with well thought out support and training programmes – together with mentorship – that will enable women to get up to speed fast and hit the ground running.

Here at Six Degrees, we’ve found working with SOCTIM has been invaluable for accessing programmes and resources designed to help drive greater diversity and support women into more senior roles. With a female CEO and a number of senior female directors, SOCTIM has proved a true trailblazer when it comes to changing the culture and working approaches of public sector organisations.

RETHINKING THE WORKPLACE WITH FLEXIBILITY AND SUPPORT IN MIND

Remote and hybrid working has changed the rules of the game when it comes to offering employees a higher degree of workplace flexibility. The realities are that mum returners and women aged 50+ are often the ‘first responders’ when it comes to caring for children or elderly relatives, and recruitment and workplace procedures will need to display sensitivity to these needs.

However, initiating a flexible workplace strategy will ultimately prove beneficial for workers of all genders that have caregiving duties. Which in turn opens the door to a more engaged, less stressed, more productive and happier workforce.

Ideally, HR teams should establish support groups for employees caring for children, elderly parents or dependents with additional needs, as well as signposting external counselling and information resources to support employees looking for specialist advice and guidance.

The ageing UK population means that the number of people with advanced care needs is growing. Which means employees of all working ages will increasingly need to juggle work and caregiving responsibilities. Firms that take the initiative, creating a more sustainable working landscape that ensures people don’t feel forced to leave the workplace, will be best positioned to accommodate and support the talent they need to retain.

GETTING BACK TO BASICS: KEY ACTIONS TO SUPPORT WOMEN WORKERS

Paying women an equitable salary with their male counterparts continues to be an issue that firms need to address right now. Because recruiting and retaining female talent depends upon it.

Similarly, providing women with soft skills training that enables them to be more assertive and ambitious should be a top priority. In my own personal experience, women continue to feel grateful to be at the table and often don’t challenge the inappropriate behaviours they may encounter when rising through the ranks. That includes making sure their voice is heard or their contribution is respected and acknowledged.

Finally, getting more capable women into senior roles is a must have. I have been lucky to encounter some strong female mentors, from whom I was able to learn from by example. But early in my career, the lack of women in technical roles meant that I segued into sales to make my mark. Reflecting back, I may have taken a different path if I’d had the right encouragement, role models and opportunities at the start of my career.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I believe that it’s time to change the rhetoric when it comes to how the industry helps support and retain women in tech. If all you see is barriers, then that’s all you’ll talk about.

While the workplace landscape is changing, we need to acknowledge that this will take time. So encouraging women to be more resilient and to counter the challenges they may well have to contend with is, in my opinion, no bad thing.

One thing is for sure, there are enough women working in tech today who can demonstrate that, with the right support, employer and mindset, it’s possible to carve out a future for yourself.

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