Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
31 Mar 2022
Organisations have overcome all manner of challenges over the last couple of years but why is gender equity proving so problematic? Theresa Palmer says it’s time to move from talk to action
I’m no mountaineer but I often think that the drive for diversity and inclusion has a touch of the Everest about it. And make no mistake about it, when we climb collectively we achieve more, quicker.
Every day, more and more, we acknowledge, accept and celebrate our differences. As a global community we bring so much to the table. That table may be one of us leaning forward for our first sprint stand up or another of us with our fists determinedly clenched, for a countless time, on top of the boardroom table. In those moments our contributions may be different but our cause is always the same.
In fact, as a global community the last two years have witnessed organisations overcome hurdles and obstacles they never saw coming, nor dreamed imaginable. Navigating the pandemic and post-pandemic world has not and will not come easy. Working practices continue to change, hybrid is taking root, but will there be a return to offices? Questions that have been answered will be asked and answered again.
Businesses have been challenged and most have responded to the impossible.
So why does making real progress on gender equity remain so challenging?
Wanted: Serious barrier busting
I’ve spent my entire career in the technology industry and last year I spoke about the issue starting back in schools where the curriculum is not fit for purpose. We need role models in schools dispelling myths about what it’s like to work in technology and the myriad of jobs available.
To create those role models, we not only need more women in the tech workforce, but we also need them in visible leadership positions where their presence paints a powerful image about diversity in action.
For me, this means no longer talking about gender equity and encouraging anything because it’s “the right thing to do”
You’re darn right it’s the right thing to do! So we as organisations need to get to work!
If we need open clear paths for women – what are we doing?
If we need to retain women – what are we doing?
If we need more women in senior roles – what are we doing?
At BAE Systems Digital Intelligence we do this by setting clear objectives and monitoring and reporting on gender across our organisation. We look for areas of weakness and work to address them with tangible actions and measurements.
A year ago I launched a strategic approach in what was our Applied Intelligence business sector that addressed the employee journey, much like we would do for our clients. It enabled our people approach to operate an employee experience approach. We want a holistic view of, and thus journey, for our employees. By creating the right experience, we drive the best metrics. We create that experience by developing and encouraging company-wide behaviours that again, drive those metrics. Otherwise our
metrics alone will drive the wrong behaviours. So while we use metrics as a driver they are not the only thing. Delivering value to our people, learned by listening to our people, leads the way.
What do I see as important and where do I think we are wearing blinders?
A lot of time has been spent on recruitment. This is fantastic and a lot of businesses are doing this well. Keep it up. But stop wasting your full focus here.
Learning and development are a concern. I see lots of businesses rolling out feel good awareness packages to their teams. Don’t get me wrong, these have a place. But these are not driving your change.
Businesses should be identifying where their weakness is and working two grade levels below it to close it. Act early, intervene with genuine, worthwhile development programmes.
Set targets for your businesses to drive diversity into your leadership development programmes.
Can you believe that some businesses are still rolling out senior leadership development programmes that have 99 per cent men in them?
If you don’t have women at a stage in your organisation to send to these programmes, there’s your issue right there. Go two steps back and start plugging it.
Ensure our leaders are held accountable in their objective and reviews for delivering cultural value to our businesses.
We all know the problem. To truly drive inclusion in organisations we need to move on from gender equity being the right thing to do and we need to find the right thing to do. And then we need to do it.
So challenge yourself to consider how you can use what you learn to make your businesses more inclusive. The more we are able to fully embrace gender equity and equity across all backgrounds, the more sustainable and successful we will all be.
This year’s WeAreTechWomen One Tech World Conference was an opportunity to spotlight the disruptions and innovations impacting the tech industry
Take a read of the perspectives from BAE Systems Digital Intelligence speakers at the event
Delivering diversity in tech. Theresa Palmer is on a mission to help more women into the tech industry. She explains what we need to do to create a gender balanced workforce
Uniting Greater Manchester around diversity. Victoria Knight of BAE Systems Digital Intelligence & Co Chair of the Greater Manchester Cyber Advisory Group explains why greater gender diversity must be an important part of Greater Manchester’s drive to become a world leading digital city-region
From Boot Camp to BAE Systems. Jen Openshaw is not your average software engineer. She tells Victoria Knight about switching careers, the benefits of a coding boot camp and leading the charge for more women in the tech sector