We held our launch event at the Gherkin last year and while we were delighted to have reached 100 signatories, we knew it was only the beginning. At the event, we set ourselves some challenging but essential targets. The first was that we would aim to grow to 500 signatories by the end of 2018, but even more importantly, we wanted to break out of the “London bubble” and to focus on practical ways forward for our companies.
Roll forward to April and we found ourselves this time in Oxford at the SaÏd Business School. This event had a different focus–rather than just celebrate reaching 200 signatories, attendees rolled up their sleeves for a fast-moving working breakfast. Our first regional event aimed to achieve 3 things–to make new connections across our TTC members, to map what was really going on for companies in the Southeast in terms of diversity in tech, and to begin an “open-playbook” for SMEs and startups to help them recruit the best diverse tech talent for their companies. (You can get a flavour of the day in our video of the event. or have a look at the press coverage and photos here.)
This was a very new project for the TTC and we couldn’t have done it without our partners at Nominet, who both sponsored the event and provided endless support and energy in co-creating this event. Thanks to them, the event wasn’t just a success, we now have the resources and experience to extend this across the whole of the UK.
The event kicked off with TTC CEO Debbie Forster announcing that just in just five months had doubled in size and now included new members like tech industry leaders Microsoft, Salesforce and Vodafone. While celebrating this and agreeing that global tech employers are a key part of achieving equal representation and opportunity, Debbie was keen to point out that it’s not just tech companies that need tech talent.
Eleanor Bradley of Nominet summed it up: ‘There might be about six companies in the UK that don’t need tech and digital talent, but everyone else, increasingly, is going to need to – and we want to make sure everyone has access to the best pool of candidates, and that every candidate has access to the opportunities, challenges and careers they want. This is not just a problem for Government or big business; change involves us all pulling together to ensure everyone recognises the tech industry as a place they can belong.”
Attendees listened to a panel discussion between Eleanor Bradley, COO of Nominet; Dr Lucy Rogers, Engineer and ex- Robot Wars presenter; Jon Hull of Nationwide Building Society and Lexie Papaspyrou of Sparta Global. The discussion covered both the challenges that companies, and in particular, SMEs and startups faced in recruiting diverse talent, but also practical ideas and strategies could use to their advantage. You can read more about some of these discussions in this article by Computer Weekly.
After the panel, the real work began as attendees were supported by The Dot Project to work in groups and learn from their regional neighbours. Attendees mapped and shared, examples of good practice. Practical suggestions included ‘checking for unconscious bias’ and ‘considering gendered pronouns’ in job adverts.
This work feeds into two much wider projects that the TTC will be carrying out this year. The first is to map all the programmes, initiatives and organisations across the UK that companies can tap into to help them improve their diversity. For more on this mapping, see here. The second will be to create an “open playbook”, available to all, of all the strategies, programmes, tools, policy and practice that companies can utilise internally to really move diversity for their team.
It was a busy morning but attendees left with lists of contacts, ideas and contacts with new colleagues in this space. Then to ensure that everyone would follow this up with real action, the event ended with attendees taking to Twitter to make pledges to do one thing to drive diversity over the next month.
Oxford is just the first stop in the TTC regional event programme with dates being firmed up in Newcastle, Manchester and Bristol. Each event will be rooted in the local dynamic and will focus on a different part of the ‘broken, leaky pipeline’ of gender diversity in tech roles. As Debbie says, ‘the problem is too big for one company alone to fix it, the sector must work together to solve it collectively.”