International Women’s Day has always been important to me, and while we should all continually strive for and celebrate gender diversity, this year's IWD has offered an opportunity for me to pause, reflect and celebrate the significant impact women are having on the PebblePad culture and our success. In this post I want to share insight from our journey and celebrate my amazing co-workers, all in the hope that our experiences may help others on their journeys to achieving a gender diverse workforce.
It starts with culture
I have been fortunate enough to be part of the growth of PebblePad over the past 16 years, from a fledgeling start-up to a multinational business. I am proud of so many things we have achieved together, but, for me, our company culture and the gender diversity of our workforce is one of our stand out achievements. I truly believe these two factors together have been the foundation of our success and supported our expansion. Our culture is one of respect, inclusivity, togetherness, mutual support and gratitude. This ethos permeates through all of our interactions, both with each other and with our partners. It is a culture that has enabled us to attract and retain highly talented IT professionals, many of whom are women, and it has brought us a wealth of different perspectives and life experiences.
The national picture of women in IT
According to WISE 1, the percentage of women in ICT professional occupations in the UK has remained relatively static during the past ten years (the figure was 15.7% in 2009 and rising slightly to 16.4% in 2019). During the same period, the number of women fulfilling management roles in science, engineering and technology increased by a similar percentage (13% in 2009 to 14% in 2019). These figures are a stark reminder of the gender imbalance in STEM, and shows that there is still much work to be done to remove the barriers which prevent women from undertaking careers in IT.
But if I look beyond the data and reflect on the issue personally, it is the opportunities that have passed so many women by that I find frustrating. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a fantastic career in Ed Tech. Helping my female peers carve out fulfilling career opportunities in the technology sector has undoubtedly been one of the most rewarding elements of my journey so far. Why? Because these opportunities have not only made a meaningful impact on the lives and careers of the women who work for PebblePad, but also enriched our company culture. And this underlines the importance of IWD’s #choosetochallenge theme for this year. By choosing to challenge, we are saying that we are not accepting of the way things are - and that we want to move towards a more inclusive future - a future that will undoubtedly benefit women and the companies they work for.
How PebblePad compares
Currently, 25% of our software development team are women, and women represent 35% of our company as a whole. However, it is in the leadership positions where we see the most significant difference when comparing the PebblePad culture to the national average. Indeed, four of our seven directors are women (57%), and when looking at all leadership positions across the business, 50% are held by women - 36% higher than the national average. Since our female leaders are not in the minority, it removes the risk of opinions being consciously or unconsciously stereotyped. Instead, views are normalised throughout the leadership team, which results in collaboration, empathy and the creation and reinforcing of phycological safety across the business.
Tips for achieving gender diversity
We have fiercely protected our culture and gender diversity as our company has expanded to make sure the values we held as a start-up (when we could all sit around the same table for lunch) are still the same now (when we all struggle to fit in the same photo). Here are our top learns - I hope you find them helpful.
Live and breathe your culture
While we know that every member of Team PebblePad is a custodian of our culture, we also know that our culture is influenced hugely by leadership behaviour. If you are a senior leader, live and breathe the culture you want to create through your language, attitudes and behaviours. When the whole leadership team embodies a positive culture, it will naturally cascade throughout a business.
Support women in senior roles
Is it worth reviewing your recruitment process to ensure it is gender-neutral? Are you using gender-neutral language in job descriptions? Do you have a standard scorecard for assessing candidates? Is there a balance of men and women on the interview panel? Of course, you always want to hire the best person for the job, but make sure you are widening the talent pool as far as possible.
Provide flexible working
Consider measuring the performance of your people by their contribution, not by the time they spend in the office. A flexible approach to working will enable people to balance increasingly busy lives in a sustainable way that increases their happiness and productivity.
Why you should #choosetochallenge
If you are in a leadership position, it is worth remembering that a more gender diverse workforce can improve your recruitment opportunities and lower your attrition rates, since different perspectives will inevitably bring greater insight and higher levels of morale. If you feel you are being adversely affected by gender bias #choosetochallenge is an empowering movement to encourage the calling out of the stereotypes and discrimination when you see it. IWD has created a set of SelfieCards so that people can express their commitment and reinforce women’s equality https://www.internationalwomensday.com/SelfieCards
Time to celebrate
I would like to wrap up this post by celebrating all of my wonderful colleagues at PebblePad. Every day I am grateful to be surrounded by empowering, inspirational people who know that success lies in caring for, helping and supporting each other #oneteam. I am also appreciative of the opportunity to guide those just starting on their career journeys as we prepare them to be our leaders of the future. One of our latest and youngest coders, Christa, is already making a big impact in all sorts of ways. You can read more about Christa through her brilliant LinkedIn posts here https://www.linkedin.com/in/christa-bridges
1. WISE Report 2019 - https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/statistics/2019-workforce-statistics-one-million-women-in-stem-in-the-uk/