*work in progress*
When talking about the lack of women in digital technology, the focus tends to be on engaging the interest of girls and supporting women to become qualified in relevant areas. Without change within the industry itself, however, the women who pursue digital technology qualifications will still not remain in or be attracted to the sector.
The ‘leaky pipeline’ is definitely a thing so we must think about ways in which we can create a more inclusive and attractive work culture where women aspire to stay. Business-wise it make sense to retain valuable, experienced staff rather than having to train new staff.
Do we know what older women in the workplace want? do we ever ask them?
When we take an intersectional approach to recognising that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. We have to pay attention to how long people have been working and where they are in their careers.
We are a big recruiter, with a high turnover and a lot of innovation, so we need to attract and retain talent. We advertise placements and returnerships via Equate Scotland. We also need to explore how age and length of time in the organisation influence staff engagement.
RETAINING WOMEN IN WORK
In ISG we monitor the age profile of our staff, and because of course, we want to retain in our organisation, or in the sector as many women as we can, we invest in training and development including, personal development for women. We have a number of visible examples of Positive Action Measures which include:
- Personal development programmes
We have coaching programmes and mentoring for women- we take part in the Aurora and Connections programmes and we run specific ‘Renew You’ and ‘Speak up‘ personal development programmes for women. The participants on these courses seem to find them valuable and so it seems like a good investment, but I don’t have any actual data for evaluating impact.
We have run sessions specifically about the impact that feminist mangers ( with Prof Fiona MacKay) can make and about how promotions and annual reviews work. We have data on who gets sent on leadership programmes.
- Raising awareness and widening discussions
We organise events and discussion on topics which raise awareness of gender issues in the workplace such as gendered communications, inclusive language, shared parental leave and menopause. Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender, health and age and it is an important issue for managers and service teams. For many women it is experienced as a double or triple whammy, coming as it does just at the time when your children are teenagers, your parents are elderly and you have just made it back from a career break. We are figuring out how to promote a menopause -friendly workplace.
One of the first steps is to make sure everyone has access to fans to cool down. The aim is to normalise and destigmatise the use of fans- but it has to be said this is not such a great challenge as we work in one of the hottest buildings in Edinburgh!
The next step will be to gather some actual data about how many work days are lost because menopause symptoms go unreported and to think of ways to bring that number down.
- High profile events which make women visible
We do a lot of work to celebrate and support high profile ‘women in tech’ and ‘women in STEM’ activities. We organise events for Ada Lovelace Day, International Women’s Day and we name our training rooms and systems after inspirational women. The numbers of women who attend these events are growing, the Wikipedia activities particularly are getting pretty impressive .
We need to do more in really under-represented areas though, to think about how to involve more women in AV, VR, IoT and GIS.
- Universal design in technology
There are moments in the workplace when you may suspect it has not been designed with you in mind. As a technology provider we can promote universal solutions ( such as how to wear a radio microphone pack with a dress) and disaggregate our data by gender and age where ever we can.
- Recognise and rectify historical wrongs
Those of us who have been around for a while have heard the stories of historical wrongs. We can do things now to help our institutions to address some of that history , such as the degrees finally given to the Edinburgh Seven.
- Professional and skills development
I have anecdotal information that middle-aged women are the group least likely to attend ( or be chosen for) new skills training in tech. We are very aware that we have a large group of women who have already chosen to work in information services, who could develop skills more specifically in data science, so we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year.
The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 130 learners on course. It wasn’t targetted exclusively at women, but we managed to attract 65 % women to participate. We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area. Since our staff live and work in Edinburgh and the region, I think this can be seen as part of the investment we are making in retraining and upskilling in data skills for the city. We have evaluated the programme and gathered feedback, so we will be able to report on the ISG KPIs.
- Flexible working
We have pretty good flexible working arrangements and policies in ISG. It is not clear though whether they are consistently applied.
- Developing male allies
We know that male allies are a big part of the success of any equality and diversity initiative. At ISG we have a Fathers Network which provides a space to discuss the experiences of the fathers in our teams who juggle work and family responsibilities. We are also working with CIPD to develop a new personal development course for men. This will focus on emotional intelligence at work and the challenges faced by men in managing workplace expectations in relation to their roles. It is important to acknowledge some important intersections, and where men can see that they also face intersections of identity which may influence the experience of other men, then that can carry over to understanding what that may be for women.
What else should we be doing?