A lot of speakers and panellists were quoting stats on where we are – not fabulous in terms of gender. The World Economic Forum had some scary ones – quoted by Julie Bishop at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce IWD breakfast amongst others: it’s going to take us 108 years to close the “global gender gap” (general gender parity) , and 202 years to get to gender economic parity (from December 2018 report). Australia’s not great in this either, ranking 35th in the gender gap index after Iceland (#1 of course!) and the Philippines (#10).
This despite the fact that a lot of pretty credible reports cite the economic value of increased diversity – Deloitte says that diverse teams are 20% more innovative and lead to a 30% reduction in risk. McKinsey claims that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Diversity without inclusion is not enough
And just as it’s critical to look beyond the gender gap, it’s also important to note that diversity in and of itself is not enough. Diversity means ensuring you have the right balance of people in the workplace ; inclusion means they feel welcomed and are respected equally when they get there. As Richard Miller, CTO at Prospa put it at the same event: “Diversity is being invited to the party – inclusion is being asked to dance. “ Aubrey Blanche – the Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Atlassian – took it a step further: “I don’t want to be included – I want to belong”.
And being inclusive drives diversity 🙂
One of the key ways to attract people from diverse backgrounds in the first place is by demonstrating that you support a diverse culture. Rules #9 and #10 of the 10 Golden Rules we have at Xinja talk to diversity and inclusion specifically and these are encouraging to prospective job applicants. Obviously, flexible working hours which we (and thankfully many companies) offer breaks down another barrier, but backing this up, supporting remote working is important. Meredith Scott from Ernst & Young speaking at the event “Step into Power” for Women Chiefs of Enterprise International said that certification speaks volumes, encouraging companies with >100 employees to apply to be recognised as meeting the Workplace Gender Equality Act (WGEA) standards – helping to set a company up for being an employer of choice in this regard.
The importance of leading from the top
Leadership was a recurrent theme across many of the events. Alfie Thomas aka #appyxinja – attended the event “A journey to balance for better” and came away saying that balance works 2 ways – for women AND men – and “The overriding responsibility is to lead by example, lead with generosity and compassion.” The panel at his event gave three examples of how a leader’s behaviour can impact on whether employees feel secure in flexible working:
If senior leaders stay working till 8pm every night, then teams will feel the need to do the same.
If senior leaders leave at 5pm, of course they may end up working later at home – that it’s their private choice, not everyone has to follow suit.
If leaders have kids, they shouldn’t hide it when they have terrible mornings and issues with childcare, don’t blame the trains, just tell it as it is, when it happens, and employees will feel they can too.
“Women don’t put themselves forward…It’s apparently not a good thing for women to wear their ambition on their sleeve.” Therefore there is a need to proactively bolster each other: as Georgie Gardner said at the IWD ‘The Remarkable Women’ event, “If we’re all in the arena together we’re supporting each other – we’re converting vulnerability into strength” and Annabel Crabbe at the same event: “Reinforce your visibility. You’re never on your own if someone else understands your perspective.” Mylan Vu from Hotwire is focused on giving free media training to female startup spokespeople: “We’re playing our part in enabling more businesses to give their female leaders a platform to become more renowned role models in their sector.”
So how to fill the female candidate pipeline?
Xinja is proud of its diversity thus far; we currently have at least 11 first generation Australians, from 6 different countries, including 5 different Asian countries – although none of them were hired from overseas. Given we are at the intersection of 2 industries (finance and technology) with poor statistics on gender diversity it’s good that 2 of the 6 Xinja board members (including the Chair) are women. 3 of the 7 Xinja Executive are women. And of the 39 full time employees, 21 are women. This is a great start and has happened simply by hiring the best person for the job. In the blog ‘Bias in AI’ we discussed the importance of fixing diversity in the tech pipeline at an early age, but what are we doing and what can we do to ensure we get enough female candidates?
Reducing unconscious bias
As per above, we can increase the diversity within teams by making it clear everyone will be welcome. We also help reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process using psychometric testing for everyone.
Retraining for tech roles
One thing for the future (for us and others like us) is retraining women in technical roles. Similar to ‘Tech Ready Women’, which our Xinja customer and UPaged founder, Zara Lord is part of, we heard from Emma Pudney from Rackspace on a cool initiative she’s working on;“I’m working on a program that sponsors non technical women into technical roles.”
Mind your language??
After our own #smileyxinja, Kat Chen, suggested in Xinja comments on International Women’s Day that it’s good to address masculine language in job descriptions, we put some of ours through 2 tools that purport to identify language that skew to one gender or the other and can put off candidates for that reason. Mmmmmm…..we tried both Textio and Be Applied.Jury is still out on these but we were disconcerted by getting quite different results – we put one JD through one and got a ‘very masculine’ rating – the same JD in the other came back as ‘feminine’ with a 98% inclusion score…….
That old chestnut……We are mindful of maintaining the balance as we hire but it does become harder when the number of female candidates for a role are much lower (or non existent!). As Inga Latham from SiteMinder said at the Hotwire event, “Targets create awareness. Real consequences make them real but this is a ‘stick’ approach…”.
So there’s no silver bullet…..We’re all ears and really interested inwhat you think. Have you any thoughts to share on your diversity journey #balanceforbetter? Join the conversation here.
Sarah May is Marketing and Community Lead at Xinja.