Diversity of thought in technology

13 May 2019 | 4 min read

If you work in the technology industry, diversity and inclusion is an age-old subject. Take a look around your development teams and you will likely see a common profile; Computer science or maths graduates, gamers and more often than not men. In 2017 the Computerworld annual survey (Annual Gender Survey, 2017, Computerworld) identified there are only 16% of women within the IT industry and there’s little evidence to show much of a shift from that position.

Having worked in HR in Tech for a number of years, I have attended many networking events or conferences that talk about how we can increase the diversity of thought in technology. Yet we continue to see a stubborn persistence in that ratio.

Change is still needed.

Whilst many companies are taking up the mantel to support young girls in getting into STEM subjects at sixth form and degree level, this investment takes some time to make an impact into our teams.

Diversity and inclusion is about more than equality—it affects the bottom line. McKinsey research  (Delivery through Diversity, 2018, McKinsey) from 2017 identifies a clear correlation between profitability, diversity and inclusion. Where organisations invest in gender and ethnic diversity they tend to perform 21% and 33% better financially than less diverse organisations.

Customer and Team Demands are Going Up

With customers expectation changing daily, in terms of the type of product quality and value, tech teams are under increasing pressure to be innovative, predictive and commercial. The pace of change demands that tech teams keep in touch with a dynamic market and deliver to its needs in a timely fashion.

We have also moved past the era where coding is a lone ranger role. With paired programming, scrum teams, stakeholder manager, etc. our software engineers need to have just as many soft skills as they do technical.

So what does the software engineer of the 21st century look like? How do you create new developers with the widest breadth of experiences, capabilities and investment in emotional intelligence?

Myth Busting

You can only be a software engineer if you’ve been a coder since birth! If you spent your evenings after school building your own computer or trying to hack into your school’s grading system, you’re ready to programme code. You can’t just get into coding, it’s a lifestyle not a job!

Some of these are true (if extreme) – we all know coders who have lived these examples. But great coders emerge in all manner of places and careers. Think about the transferable skills that other people can bring into software development:

  • A young ethnic minority who loved studying the detail of art, transferred this passion to the delivery of the perfect line of code
  • A lady who had worked in pensions, trained to be risk averse, proved to be a highly effective software tester always making sure the tests were built first
  • A young man who has spent the start of his career as a teacher retrained to support and coach as a Software Engineering Manager

People from different careers bring in a whole new dynamic into our teams thinking, they bring a different lens and as we have seen, include a higher population of women. It enables us to think differently about how we code and how we continue to develop our product for our customers.

Diversity and Inclusion = Change and Innovation

LexisNexis have been partnering with the Makers who have introduced an Apprenticeship program for individuals who want to get into Software Engineering after either a previous career or not studying a STEM subject.

Not only are the apprentices bringing with them their software engineering training from the Makers but these individuals have got a different mindset. It takes guts to completely change career and try something different. You need a ‘constantly learning’ mindset and a thick skin as you go back to being the junior member of the team. With this comes individuals who genuinely want to make a valuable contribution to the team with what they have learnt and become the best software engineer they can.

It does take work from both sides

Obviously just like with any new talent, supporting apprenticeships takes work and commitment from the leadership team. There needs to be an understanding that these individuals, whilst they may be new to coding, bring with them a different skill set that can be used from day one.

But if you want to bring in diversity of thought into your team, why not consider bringing someone on board who has chosen to love coding later in their career? It might be the best talent decision you make all year

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