There’s plenty to celebrate about London’s tech sector but that’s no reason for it to rest on its laurels, especially where diversity is concerned. Earlier this week, Tech London Advocates (TLA) revealed in its report on gender diversity that 49.2% of tech professionals believe that the industry is actively biased against women. Looking to tackle the issue head-on, TLA’s working group WOMENINTECH has launched the AAA Award for Gender Diversity as part of its mission to boost equality and minimise bias.
This new standard for the industry was announced at last night’s Tomorrow’s Tech Success: Shattering uniformity & embracing change event by Nikki Watkins and Sarah Luxford, the co-founders of TLA’s WOMENINTECH working group. They explained that businesses can be recognised in three main areas: raising awareness of gender issues, adopting practices that boost gender equality and advocating for gender diversity.
As well as serving as a launchpad for the award, the event brought together the great and the good of London’s tech scene to discuss the value of having a diverse workforce. Matt Hancock, minister of state responsible for digital and culture policy, stopped by to emphasise the importance of diversity, calling on the industry to ensure both men and women are at the table when decisions are made. “You can’t get all the talent you need if you’re only fishing in half the pool,” he said. And while Hancock was optimistic about London’s tech future, he recognised that many businesses are in need of support, stating that the government “was in listening mode”.
Attendees also heard from Leigh Thomas, director of global accounts at Facebook, who admitted that Facebook struggles with diversity in the engineering part of its business and that it wasn’t comfortable with the fact that women make up just 27% of its leadership team. Thomas spoke of how the company looks to data-driven insights and makes deliberate attempts to weed out both conscious and unconscious bias in the recruitment process. Speaking about the role data plays in Facebook’s recruitment process, Thomas said that “code wins arguments, data wins arguments”.
Rounding up the event was TLA founder Russ Shaw, who rallied the industry to come together now more than ever: “Given the recent news from Silicon Valley about widespread sexual harassment, it has never been more important to speak with one voice as an industry to encourage action around diversity.”
So while there’s clearly a lot of work to be done to boost gender equality, it seems London’s tech sector is willing to roll up its sleeves and get stuck in.