Inclusion and Diversity
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel discussion at the annual Women of Silicon Roundabout event, hosted this year at East London’s Tobacco Docks.
The event aims to bring together women working in technology to provide inspiration and ideas on how to advance their career, advance the career of others and improve diversity across the sector.
It’s no secret that the IT industry is particularly male dominated but as technology becomes an integral part to everyday life, we must ensure that women are empowered and prepared to thrive in the digital era.
The panel session I took part in discussed the art of mentoring, exploring the importance of role models, how companies can approach this and ultimately, how we can create the next generation of female leaders in technology. The other panelists were distinguished leaders from a variety of major companies, including: LinkedIn, Expedia and ASOS.
What I found most interesting was the varying opinions on what being a mentor is and what it means to individuals. One of the panelists described this as the ‘magic of mentorship’, a completely unique relationship in which the mentor and mentee learn from each other, whether it be a simple catch-up or a focused discussion on how to achieve a particular goal.
I know from personal experience the benefit of having a mentor, someone to guide you and prepare you for the next stage of your career, or life. That’s why I am a great advocate of TCS’ iConnect platform. This internal initiative provides each employee with a mentor and sends reminders to both the mentor and mentee to meet up and maintain regular contact. We have found that this more formal process of bringing together employees to learn from each other, has ultimately helped to make our overall network a stronger one.
TCS is actively addressing gender diversity across our employee network. More than a quarter of our UK workforce is female while it’s over a third globally. But, the change needs to be systemic and these numbers will only improve across the technology sector by educating young people and inspiring them to pursue a career in IT. Through our IT Futures programme, we’ve reached over 170,000 young people across the UK in less than 4 years. Through inspirational talks from female leaders and partnerships with organisations such as MyKindaFuture and the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), we’ve worked hard to engage the next generation of young women in technology and demonstrate what is possible.
The conference aimed to encourage and inspire those who want to get into technology, helping individuals and businesses alike to understand the role that talent acquisition, retention and development of females has to play.
There’s still a way to go but I look forward to being part of more events and initiatives such as this, and continuing to meet more and more women that are set to play a major role in this sector, and wider society.
Nupur Singh Mallick is Director of HR at Tata Consultancy Services UK & Ireland
I asked Mandisi about the local talent pool in South Africa and his view on the education system: “I feel that the quality of students matriculating now is actually falling below previous generations. We still have a way to go in terms of equipping people with the skills they need to join the workforce ready-to-go,” he said. I asked what Ricoh was doing to solve the skills gap for its new graduates, “We take great care in on-boarding our new hires and have put in place a highly effective one-year programme. The first three months of the scheme are focussed on ensuring our hires have the foundation skills and capabilities they will need in order to unleash their potential here at Ricoh. They spend the remaining nine months in Ricoh offices, getting to know the team, the culture and effective ways of working.” Mandisi was enthusiastic about the ability of companies operating in South Africa to take on and train up local talent to become future leaders with valuable insight and connections in the region.
Finally we spoke about the great diversity in South Africa and the opportunities this presented for collaboration, “There are 11 national languages in South Africa, of which I speak 7,” Mandisi told me, having just taken a phone call in Xhosa (the language recognised for its distinctive use of clicks). “This reflects the great cultural variety in the region, and is just one of the many beautiful aspects of South Africa.” I had to agree. During my two week trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town I experienced the true warmth of this growing economy. What struck me most about South Africa and the many people I met, was the capacity for transformation. This vibrant country has emerged from a very recent and troubled past with an unmistakable desire for progress and a remarkable ability to make change happen. For businesses operating in the region, this capacity is perhaps the most alluring factor. Indeed, in South Africa, anything is possible.
In the course of our research on Gen Z (those born since the early 2000s), what has struck me most of all is the fact that there’s very little deep analysis or observation available about this age group. Instead, newspapers and magazines abound with articles about how obsessed teenagers are with their phones and how technology is ruining their attention spans.
So, it was interesting to come across this article in the Economist which suggests that in fact, the habits of today’s young people have more in common with those of their great-grandparents than the popular stereotype. In fact, Gen Z seems to be rejecting rather a lot of common youth stereotypes: from alcohol and drug use to teen pregnancy, 20th century-style teen problems are on the decline.
So why is this? The Economist piece suggests that Gen Z has more to worry about when it comes to the future: the need to compete for academic success from an increasingly young age, concern about the scarcity of jobs, and a growing lack of privacy may all have contributed to making this generation more reticent about indulging in life’s excesses.
While many are happy to speculate about the motivations and preoccupations affecting Gen Z, I’m inclined to think we should ask them. At the Hot Spots Movement, we’re conducting an in-depth survey of 14-18 year-olds, their values and aspirations, to find out just what it is that makes them tick, how their priorities differ from those of their predecessors and how we can best prepare to share a workplace with them.
We’re still actively looking for young people to take our survey – if you have any young people, parents, educators or youth groups in your network, please feel free to share the link: http://genz.fowlab.com/
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Not a particularly catchy phrase is it? Yet, it was perhaps the loudest message to attendees of a recent conference on gender in the workplace.
The delegates, predominantly 20- and 30- somethings, were treated to a line up of some of the most incredible women in the fields of business, government, finance and media. Many of these inspirational leaders attributed their success to good networks, a strong sense of purpose and never shying away from risks and opportunities when they arose. Interestingly, however, many also emphasised the importance of “finding the right husband.” And in this case, the right husband was one who would be prepared to raise the kids, relocate for your career as quickly as he would for his own, and who would accept your long working hours, high stress levels and long periods of absence.
Now, few women, even us stereotypically independent Millennial types, would reject the benefits of having a supportive, caring and kind partner to turn to while we navigate our complex careers. What we might perhaps find less palatable is turning this “nice to have” into a “business critical”. (This sentiment was echoed by one attendee, who posed the question “What advice would you give to single mothers because I’d hate to add ‘find a husband’ to my to-do list?” That this question received a rapturous round of applause, spoke volumes.)
With 42% of marriages in the UK ending in divorce, finding the right husband is not a particularly resilient career plan, nor is it advice that anyone can really act on unless partner-finding takes on the same rigour as the average recruitment campaign (and while there are signals that this is the approach favoured by some, it is thankfully not yet accepted by many). Instead, perhaps we should be encouraging men and women to create sustainable and resilient networks of support including, but not limited to, a husband/wife should they desire one, find one, marry one and manage to avoid divorcing one. Likewise, the advice should perhaps be for a stronger call for real flexible working arrangements that cross something off the to-do list of single parents rather than adding to the workload.
The advice was of course well-intentioned and drawn from the particular experiences of some of the guest speakers in attendance. To request they recommend anything else would be insincere. Instead, we’ll do well to take the principle of the recommendation – building good support networks – and then tailor the rest to suit the lifestyle we ultimately half create and half have bestowed upon us by luck, circumstance and events beyond our control.
Perhaps the phrase should instead be “Behind every great leader is a support network, future-focused organization and an awareness that relationships can rarely be project managed.”
Still not very catchy though is it?
As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that has happened here at Hot Spots Movement, and I thought it seemed right to make my final blog post of the year a round-up of our highlights.
2013 was the year of the FoWlab Jam, with more and more companies realising the value of tapping into the wisdom of their crowd. We’re also increasingly seeing that it’s a very powerful change management tool. We’ve really enjoyed honing and perfecting our processes and platform, too, and taking the jam experience from strength to strength. Recently one user commented that it would be great to have ‘a permanent jam” and we say: “Bring it on!”
It’s been a great year for Lynda, too – her book The Shift experienced phenomenal success in Japan this year , which has been very exciting, and we were all very proud when she won HR Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement award in October. This year also saw Lynda ranked once again in the top 15 of the Thinkers 50.
2013 also saw The Future of Work Research Consortium enter its fifth year, focusing on the key themes of New Ways of Working, Engagement 2.0 and Resilience. As well as contributions from some of the most innovative companies we know – including Knack, ODesk, Holition and Tycoon Systems – we’re collaborating with Central St Martins on a multimedia project around the engagement theme. We were also really pleased to welcome a number of members from Japan and China, joining us for the first time. Our Inclusion and Diversity Research consortium went right to the heart of key issues such as the ‘root causes’ of I & D programmes not having delivered on their promises, and in true Hot Spots Movement style, it brought about some surprising insights.
Collaboration emerged as a major theme for us this year. We’ve come to realise that in today’s super-connected world, collaboration is part of the fabric of everything we do – and yet it’s harder than ever with issues such as diversity and virtualisation are making it increasingly challenging. It’s such an important topic for everyone we speak to that we’re keen to explore it further by making it the subject of a brand new consortium – contact me if you’d like to know more. With all this activity, it’s no surprise that we expanded our team in 2013, with Emma, Kyle and Sarah all joining Hot Spots since the start of the year, and adding their signature styles to our activities.
We’ll be taking a short break over the end of year holidays, but next year promises to be just as action-packed. We’re kicking the year off with the final Inclusion and Diversity masterclass, FoW will be taking a closer look at Engagement 2.0 and Resilience, and we’ll be calling participants together for a new Collaboration consortium. So, all that’s left to say is all the best for Happy New Year in 2014!
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Roger Trapp has just published a great article referencing our recent inclusion and Diversity and events on the Forbes blog. Entitled Four Ways Leaders Can Energize their Employees, it covers issues of life stage diversity and career customisation that are facing all workers and employers today. As Roger points out, although often clustered under the diversity category, these challenges are actually about collaboration: “Suddenly, fostering collaboration and engineering serendipity are the watchwords for organizations looking for a competitive edge over their rivals.” It’s true that most organisations now recognise that collaboration is key to their success – but they are coming to this knowledge at the same time that their workforce is starting to diversify in ways they simply never imagined. As a result, there are still a lot of questions around these issues waiting to be answered. Business leaders may be the ones urgently looking for solutions, but it’s up to all of us to ponder them and come up with answers.
A theme which many academics – including the Hot Spots Movement founder Professor Lynda Gratton – are thinking about the moment is that of generational diversity. In light of this, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the ideas and findings discussed at the mid-way workshop of our Inclusion & Diversity Research Consortium and what they mean for organisations.
According to Lynda’s research, diversity agendas are currently changing in two vital ways. Focus is shifting away from gender diversity towards generational and life stage diversity. Essentially, with many Baby Boomers planning to work beyond the age of 65 and Gen Z-ers fast approaching the age where they will start to enter the workplace, organisations are facing the issue of generational diversity for the first time. Beyond this, there is also the question of life stage diversity. As people’s life spans
lengthen, life stages become more a more important differentiating factor. In fact, life stage diversity is on the brink of becoming the most important workplace diversity issue – far more so than gender or generational diversity – and yet it is something that few organisations are currently prepared to deal with. Is this because addressing this appropriately would require a profound review of the career concept?
Age as a prism
These issues are informing the research paths of many leading academics. For Professor Jacquelyn B. James*, Director of Research, Sloan Centre on Aging and Work and Research Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, life stage diversity is of such importance that it will come to inform recruitment, engagement and retention processes.
According to Jacquelyn and her team, whereas in the past workers of a similar age were most likely to be at a similar life stage, today their circumstances could be very different. Their research focuses on how we think about demographics in a society where some 40 year-olds are embarking on parenthood while others are becoming grandparents. As a result, age is becoming a prism where how old or young you feel depends on your life stage and the point you have reached in your career rather than your chronological age.
It follows that in order to nurture and support talent at all life stages, business must ensure they factor life stage diversity into their processes. And to do this, they need to completely reassess the way they think about some familiar issues. Dr Hans-Joachim Wolfram*, Lecturer in Occupational Psychology and Research Methods at Kingston University is doing just this, and in the process is turning many of the diversity field’s most familiar hypotheses on their head. According to Hans-Joachim, when it comes to the work-family interplay, it is in fact job role importance rather than family life importance which increases the propensity to take up flexible working options, and it is those who place greater importance on their job role who experience greater positive spillover between their work and family life.
What these overlapping research streams demonstrate is that the field of diversity is becoming – somewhat ironically – ever more diverse. Organisations will face a steep learning curve as they come to terms with the vastly divergent needs of their employees. The ideas discussed in this post reveal is how much value academics have to offer in this field. One of the reasons we at the Hot Spots Movement are so passionate about running research consortiums is that they provide a vital opportunity for research academics and business practitioners to come together to find effective ways of tackling such issues.
- Diversity Has Its Challenges (business2community.com)