IT Brief UK - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
Story image
IWD 2024: Fostering an unconditionally inclusive culture globally
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

Around this time last year, as I was preparing for a panel discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, I came across many articles and reports talking about how an inclusive culture is pivotal to a company’s success. There were two data points that stood out to me. The first one was an Accenture report stating that 50% of young women leave the tech industry by the time they reach 35 as they found their workplace to be inhospitable or that it lacked female role models. The second one was an older Deloitte study that found when employees “think their organisation is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included”, innovation revenue increases by 83%.

The technology industry specifically carries significant responsibility when it comes to driving inclusion. Given their reach and level impact, global technology organisations are key drivers for global change. As they recognise unconditional inclusion as a fundamental value, celebrating and advocating for a world where every woman, regardless of background, is embraced and empowered, they not only accelerate inclusion in the industry, but society altogether, shaping a brighter and more equitable future for everyone.

One thing I learned over recent years, working for different large tech companies, is that fostering an unconditionally inclusive culture in a company with tens of thousands of employees spread across a multitude of countries is not an easy feat. It needs inspirational leadership, advocates, allies within and outside the organisation and a continuous educational effort, to create a workplace where team members feel respected, have a sense of belonging, and are valued for bringing differing perspectives, ideas, and experiences to fuel innovation and drive transformational change throughout the organisation.

Inspire understanding and inclusion

Especially for global companies “unconditional inclusion” needs to be more than words – it is a core responsibility. With a female workforce of inherently diverse backgrounds, these organisations need to provide a platform and safe spaces that allow team members to highlight the intersectional and multi-faceted lived experiences of women. This feeling of safety and belonging can only be achieved if we ensure that objectives and beliefs are explored without judgement. 

Last week I had the pleasure to sit down with some of my HPE colleagues who, like me, are part of the HPE Global Women’s Network to discover the qualities in women that inspire them the most. The replies I received were as varied as the people who shared them. 

It made me proud to hear our graduates emphasize how great it is for them to engage with so many inspiring female leaders, which has boosted the self-confidence of our talented young women early in their career. Others pointed out the motivation and courage of many of the female team members. Be it the motivation to beat the odds and overcome gender inequality, or the courage to stand up for others and themselves and speak up in a room. 

Amplify women’s voices 

In my over 30 years working in the tech industry, I experienced first-hand how the cultural environment of a company, the values lived by its leaders, can make – or break – female talent. And these conversations, again and again, show me how far we have got as a community, but also that we still have quite a lot of work to do. 

This experience, but also seeing how it inspires the next generation of female talent, is what drives my unwavering passion for advocating for women and making things better for those that come after me. And it’s a reminder that, while International Women's Day is a great occasion to take a moment and celebrate the achievements of the women in your organisation, this isn't just about one day. To achieve unconditional inclusivity, organisations and their leaders need to drive year-round advocacy, remove the barriers that hold women back, create opportunities, and ensure fair payment, all while encouraging and supporting them. And, most importantly, each and every one of us needs to listen, so we can learn from each other and check our own biases.

This way we create a workplace where everyone feels respected, valued, and impactful. At the same time, it increases awareness to the challenges women around the world have overcome, the challenges the community still faces today. By amplifying women’s voices in the organisation’s decision-making process, advocating for equity and equality, we can accelerate the development and progression of diverse team members that will drive innovation.