Ten things that can truly drive D&I in your tech teams

Diversity is key to innovation and sustainability in tech, but the industry still has a lot of work to do to begin to truly reflect the society it serves. In a recent everywoman fireside chat, FIS senior leaders Firdaus Bathena, Veronica Malia and Laura Cowie discussed ten things they’ve learned throughout their careers that can truly help drive diversity and inclusion in tech—and why they are so powerful in moving the dial…

Set up specialist mentoring opportunities…

Veronica: In a previous role, I implemented a technology mentorship programme that was very successful. The company had mentorship programmes, but they were not necessarily in the technology space, and through this kind of mentoring and knowledge sharing, we were able to attract more women into tech roles of all kinds and open opportunities. Many of the women we brought in were internal resources who made lateral moves just to get into the technology space and learn more about it – from there, it was a matter of upskilling. So, if you take the time to set up a programme, have the support from your leadership team to take it to the next level and get the training in place, it can go a long way.

Start the technology career conversation early….

Firdaus: One of the things incumbent upon all technology leaders is to ‘shift left’; we need to get out into schools and colleges where a lot of the people we expect to enter the field in the future are making important decisions that will have long-term ramifications. There’s a lot of change happening quickly, and we can’t afford not to have diversity in our workforce, but if we don’t engage with and motivate people early enough in the cycle, then by the time they get to college then we’re going to have missed a lot of them. The conversation is also about what we do with our outreach and how we get out into the communities we live, work, and play in to try and make a difference through early engagement.

Show women how inspiring a technology career can be…

Laura: Our societies often seem to steer women away from technology jobs or just don’t funnel them that way. So, for me, one of the key things that can drive change is showing them how technology can be cool and interesting from an early point. To this point, FIS just hosted an excellent STEAM event, adding in the arts to show how they relate to the creativity that is applied in software development, as well as the abstract thinking needed in many tech careers.

Shift the mindset around ‘being ready’….

Firdaus: When I talk to my daughter about what she wants to do, she’s very stressed about feeling she needs to know exactly what she’s going to be doing in her career and to educate herself for that. We need to work on that mindset because five years into your work life, you’re not even going to be thinking about what degree you got and from what college. We also need to be allies in saying there should be nothing holding you back from being able to apply for things that you might feel you’re not quite ready for. I believe there should be an exciting and terrifying part to each new role you take, and only then do you know you’re really pushing yourself because otherwise, life would be kind of boring.

Advocate meaningfully for women’s progression…

Laura: Women use software daily, so it doesn’t make sense that men are the only ones building the vast majority of it and helping to evolve the industry. If you are in a leadership position in tech, make sure you are giving women jobs that are important and that have real responsibility, and if you have women on your team who are delivering and have a track record, then expand their responsibilities. Growth doesn’t always necessarily mean they’re applying for a new job; some of this can happen organically along with natural career progression.

Encourage more ‘manbassadors’…

Laura: We need male allies to increase diversity in the workplace and what some of my girlfriends and I affectionately call – ‘manbassadors’. Firdaus is a good example of this—the first time I met him, he was talking about what a strong woman his wife was, and a man that surrounds himself with strong women and isn’t intimidated by them is probably going to be a better ‘manbassador’ than someone paying lip service. It’s really important; we can’t do it alone. We need those people who will lock arms with us and say, ‘This is important because women are strong, talented, intelligent and here to make a difference’.

Go out to find the talent if it’s not coming to you…

Firdaus: Around diversity and hiring, I often hear excuses like, ‘Oh, we didn’t get enough resumes’ or ‘we didn’t find enough people’. If that’s the case, you’re just not looking hard enough or in the right places, and you are definitely not making the effort that is needed. We need to find those women who are not advocating for themselves, and we also need to keep going out into the communities working with women at a younger age to make sure that the numbers are there that the technology industry needs to be sustainable.

Actively advocate for different skill sets…

Veronica: There are so many different skill sets required to make a technology organisation run, and we will be going out specifically within FIS to do employee focus groups, looking at how we build up diversity within our technology organisation, not just around gender but overall. There are so many ways you can be involved in technology; you don’t need to be a tech person. Maybe you’re really good in finance, have great business skills that we can tap into, or perhaps you’re a solid programme manager, and we need you to deliver all our initiatives. We will be finding people who may be strong performers but might not be advocating for themselves or who perhaps aren’t sure this is a career path they can have —and pulling them up with us.

Make returners feel safe and supported…

Laura: Through the years, I’ve spoken to women moving into childbearing years, and there is somewhat of a drop-off around that time because many feel like they’ll be set back in their careers when parenthood happens. That’s another place in which we have to advocate. If a woman was a deliverer before they had a child, then that doesn’t change who they are, even though they may now have other logistics to deal with. Making sure we don’t lose them on that middle rung of the ladder is crucial to getting more women into senior leadership in tech, and to do that, we need to make sure that we’re creating a supportive and safe workspace where they can find balance through any given life period.  

Double down on role models…

Firdaus: Nothing helps motivate young people like role models, and at FIS, we have a woman CEO and customers that are some of the largest financial institutions in the world, some of which are also led by women CEOs. That is an inspiration and a resource we should double down on. Role models can also show that you don’t have to be a programmer to be successful in tech. Our CEO is not someone who has written code in her life, but she’s a leader that we all trust and believe in. We’re all ‘in tech’ and part of a company that is delivering value using technology – and we all have a role to play.

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