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Diversity in Real Terms – What Does it Actually Mean and How Should We Tackle It?

One of our latest projects at Digital Union has been our new Diversity Charter, created in partnership with member, Oculus HR. The purpose of the #NEquality campaign is to encourage our members to actively make an open statement of their commitment to developing and implementing best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion.

diversity charter digital union

The word ‘diversity’ has been used a lot recently in the tech and digital scene, particularly in regard to women in tech and also encouraging young people to explore their options in these sectors. There is a lot of debate on what ‘diversity’ does and doesn’t mean, and so businesses don’t have a clear understanding of what a diverse workforce looks like. According to our #NEquality Diversity Charter, diversity means:

“Inclusivity of people regardless of age, gender, race, religion, socio-economic background, physical appearance, disability, and sexual orientation.”

In terms of employers, it also constitutes:

Recruiting based on talent and merit and offering training and development opportunities to all employees.

Diversity, however, does not mean hiring a candidate simply to tick a box, over talent, personality, and drive. This is a common pitfall that many tech giants, including Google, have come across in the past when trying to create a diverse workforce. Not only is this detrimental to the company and other employees, but also to the candidate who most likely won’t remain in the role long, and the endless cycle continues.

I read a very interesting article on Medium, written by a woman who used to manage cross-functional engineering projects at Google, as the only woman on her own team. This snippet of the article sums up my thoughts entirely:

In the copious hiring I did at Google, 97% of the people I hired were men. It’s not like I wasn’t trying to hire women. But I was working with a candidate pool composed of 90% men. There was no way I was going to come out of that with a larger percentage of women hires than I did.

Before I started working for Digital Union as a Digital Marketing Lead 3 weeks ago, I had dropped out of university after 2 months and worked in a social media training agency for 6 months, before being made redundant and launching a social media marketing company at 19 years old, which I ran for a year and a half. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunities I did, as the business world was something I fell into by circumstance, not because I was encouraged at school. It was, in fact, the last thing I thought I would end up doing.

During my time running a business, I was asked to speak on panels about female entrepreneurship, mentor young people on career choices, and speak to young girls about getting into the tech and digital industries. On a Tech For Life mentoring programme, I met 14/15 year old girls who wanted to become chemical engineers, run a successful business, or join the army. It was initiatives such as the panel discussions and the mentoring that enabled them to enter the talent pool in the first place.

That brings me to the big question: How should we be tackling diversity?

Diversity doesn’t start in the hiring process. It starts at school, where we can show young people what opportunities are really available outside of the traditional pathways we are so often taught to follow based on our gender or background. Initiatives such as panel discussions, apprenticeship schemes and mentoring programmes have proven successful in raising the awareness of the issue and promoting equal opportunities and I would encourage all Digital Union members to commit some time to speaking to the next generation in whichever form you can to ensure that they understand that the pathway into this industry is open to all.

Tech For Life has just launched their 50:50 programme, which encourages a 50:50 approach to creating gender balance for the digital economy by encouraging diversity of thinking and positive action. Tech For Life support organisations to cultivate an inclusive culture that values and benefits both men and women, future generations, and the workplace as a whole.

As employers, it’s time to step up to the mark and make your statement of your commitment to implementing best practice in equality, inclusivity and diversity, in every form that it takes. So why not start by signing up to our Diversity Charter and joining the #NEquality campaign on social media to start spreading the word?

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