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Businesses Can Help Diversify Tech by Building Communities in the North

by Joshua Philpott, 08 January 2020

While Yorkshire and the Humber has previously lagged behind when it comes to gender diversity, including in the technology sector, this is changing. We believe that 101 Ways and northern businesses should work together to help push this forward by creating and supporting communities.

Gender diversity in the tech industry is not a new thing, but it is one that has taken hold over the last decade or so, as efforts are made to increase the number of women entering and remaining in IT.

In early 2019, 21 female leaders – including the founders of software company Panintelligence and Data Shed – were championed for flying the flag for northern-based tech companies and showcasing the difference each of them is making to the wider tech community in the region.

As we take our first steps into 2020, northern women are on the front line helping change the face of digital and tech. However, carving out space for themselves and driving innovation should not be left solely in their hands. With some creative, financial and strategic planning, businesses in the region, including us, can help support and drive this transformation by investing in internal and external communities and female-led initiatives.

Deloitte’s 2018 Power Up: UK Wide Growth Report found that Yorkshire and the Humber’s economy is in a key transition period, moving away from traditional heavy industries into more diversified business sectors, including technology and digital. The report also identified that infrastructure, skills, collaboration and enterprise were key to unlocking future growth. 

With employment at a record high and supported by the Northern Powerhouse project, established and developing technology companies in the area have a chance to lead the charge when it comes to propagating a northern tech market that has gender diversity at its core. 

Cities like Sheffield and Leeds are directing attention away from the London tech hub, commanding better investment. York is also well-placed to offer unique opportunities and attract and nurture female talent. By providing school and university talks and work placements for those considering a career in STEM plus mentoring initiatives for those who have already entered the northern tech industry, this is a perfect time to ensure that women not only survive but thrive within IT.  

Collaboration breeds innovation and crucially, support and empowerment – something that has arguably been lacking for women within the tech industry for a long time. While businesses are waking up to the way in which organisational culture can be changed to increase diversity and inclusivity, communities offer a lifeline to those who want to connect with like-minded people and have a safe space to use their voice, as well as a place for those that wish to share their experiences to help bolster others. 

New data collected in a recent Harvard Business School study noted that 78 percent of the attendees at women’s conferences felt “more optimistic about the future,” while 71 percent “felt more connected to others.” This feeling of connection, researcher Shawn Achor says, brings results. Optimism also leads to success. 

The PwC Women in Work Index 2019 stated that significant economic benefits can be reaped in the long-term from increasing the female employment rate, it pays for organisations to invest in the short-term. Without question, communities should form part of that investment; bringing people together can have a snowball effect and increases organisations’ productivity. 

Business is not just about business. With technology, I truly believe it’s an opportunity to change the world we live in for the better. This can only be done when there isn’t a deficit in talent and proper representation. With communities like Leeds Ladies Lean In Circle and our forthcoming northern branch of 101 Ways’ Women’s Tech Focus (WTF), the foundations are currently being built, but we need to do more. 

The signs are pointing forward, the future is on our doorstep and in this vein, Yorkshire and the Humber seems a great place to start paving the way for the northern tech industry to become truly diverse. Join us in making sure it happens.

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We’ve opened offices across Manchester and Leeds and are looking to help build the community there and connect with organisations based in the north. If you want to have a chat about how we might be able to help you and your business, or any of our forthcoming events, get in touch with our Client Partner, Joshua Philpott.

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