• Diversity matters, right?

Diversity matters, right?

By Emma Grant, Talent and Skills Manager at Manchester Digital
April 25th, 2018

Put simply, of course diversity matters. However, let’s be clear, having a diverse workforce doesn’t in and of itself guarantee inclusive culture.

Most importantly: it’s deeds, not words, that matter. Only if we can shift the conversation from “why” to “how” will we start to feel an impact and see a difference. Although we clearly still need to continue to have the “why” conversation with many organisations.

As the talent and skills manager at Manchester Digital, I’ve been talking to our members about this agenda for a long time. Members of our Employers' Forum, which meets three times a year to discuss the most pressing industry issues, have been sharing their challenges, best practice and granular-level benchmarking to inform decision making. Our annual Skills Audit also shows that while some progress is being made in terms of workforce diversity, it is not significant enough. Only 19% of technical roles are held by women, 19% of the workforce are from BAME backgrounds and just 5% of the workforce aged 50+.

Diversity statistics

It’s not enough that diversity and inclusion (D&I) has an intrinsic value; it is imperative that the business case is made - and heard. Business growth is down 6%, there is a 30% vacancy rate in terms of recruitment with a limited talent pool, 20% of businesses have to outsource work to the EU due to lack of talent, and nearly 30% of businesses have had to turn away work due to lack of talent: the need for change is clear. This is without even mentioning studies on the wider benefits of a diverse workforce such as productivity, innovation, and better products.

Having said this, the stark reality is that the diversity of both those currently in tech jobs or about to enter the market and the long-term talent pool will have an impact on making the tech sector more diverse, even for the ‘willing’.

The Inclusion Coalition

Most recently in the development of a diversity toolkit for our members, we’ve joined forces with Federation House and Oscar Technology to establish The Inclusion Coalition, a collaborative tech community movement.

We ran a series of action workshops exploring key interconnected themes in the context of D&I in tech for education, recruitment, retention.

Our aims were:

  • To harness the knowledge, expertise, frustrations, innovation and creativeness of those in the tech community and beyond to discuss and challenge how we progress the D&I conversation.
  • To establish a tangible output - identifying solutions for change
  • To pool our knowledge of resources and best practice in a central open-source place for those businesses who aren’t sure where to start or struggling with something in particular in their change journey.

In the spirit of inclusion, we’ll be taking a collective ownership approach to actions arising from this. We’ll look at ways Greater Manchester tech employers, recruiters, educators and leaders can work toward actioning diversity measures immediately and more long-term, which we’ll be presenting on 10th May at our Inclusion Coalition breakfast action meeting at Pioneer café in Federation House.

This week, I’m part of a small delegation meeting with the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to help inform and advise him on his plans to tackle gender diversity in tech as part of his GM Digital Strategy – which is recognised as an economic priority.

Reflecting on my involvement the emerging Inclusion Coalition, I’m proud to belong to a female-led team at Manchester Digital, with a 50:50 split between men and women on our board. We’ll continue to lead by example in all that we do to achieve our purpose to advance the Manchester Digital tech community.

We’ll continue to support, enable and encourage our members to actively be and do better in terms of D&I. Through our Digital Futures programme we support and encourage diversity and inclusion in our talent pipeline through connecting industry and education. In addition to providing vital universal school and college support, we enable access for schools in deprived areas and inspire girls across Greater Manchester. We do this through our growing army of female role models and specific sponsored work experience and industry placements with our membership for girls. Events such as Ada Lovelace: The New Generation that immerse girls in the possibilities of their potential and builds confidence to choose their own pathway, hopefully in digital.

So, diversity matters. Full stop. What’s clear is that diversity and inclusion rhetoric and action must be authentic, and that is different for all businesses. Harnessing true diversity and inclusion may just give you a competitive advantage. The question is, how long can businesses afford not to?