The recent celebration of International Girls in ICT Day was well-timed with a new report which found that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy.
At present, women make up less than one fifth of the IT workforce across the UK, which the report primarily attributed to low female participation in IT education.
Encouraging more women to study IT and STEM-based subjects and then pursue professional roles in these fields is important. In order for organisations to be competitive in a globalised world, they must foster an inclusive working environment in order to have a healthy mix of male and female employees to provide different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation and a better service for customers generally.
Diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation: different voices lead to new ideas, the creation of new services and provide valuable insight into customers.
For a company to work in a cohesive manner (and, indeed, for an industry to be efficient), it is essential to have a body of personnel capable of understanding many different roles and technologies, and communicating their importance to those who may be unfamiliar with them.
That requires the traditional iterative and story-telling skills of the humanities specialist but it also requires a solid understanding of how complex technologies function to drive the modern business.
Understanding the different mind sets of your workforce is essential for fostering the talents of its representatives and ensuring productivity. Company leaders need to manage transformation by building an organisational structure and value proposition which supports and encourages diversity.
This starts by creating leadership values and an anti-discrimination vision, and ensuring the company communicates clearly the policies and procedures that are required to encourage the required behaviour, as well as providing diversity training so all employees understand the importance and benefits of having a diverse workforce.
Flexible working arrangements are also very important to encourage those whose domestic needs determine the hours or locations in which they work; these can include part time work, flexible start and end times, shared roles, working from home or remotely some or all of the time.
It is vital for businesses to broaden the pool of talent from which they can recruit, while also helping to build an employment brand that is seen as fully inclusive.
Therefore companies need to have plans and programmes in place to recruit, develop, and retain a diverse workforce, building recruitment channels which reach diverse groups of candidates such as ex-services personnel, older candidates, women, and prospective employees from countries.
Often this is in the form of specialist groups, who many also act as ambassadors outside the business.
With a diverse workforce, businesses must embrace better ways to organise teams, cultivate innovation, allocate resources, and reinvent knowledge processes. We work with our clients to enable them to run better, and run differently; much of this is focussed on how they integrate new technologies and ways of working to drive efficiencies and innovate.
Achieving this through technology can be very attractive to current and prospective employees. For example, as younger generations move into the work environment, they expect the same technology they have been using at home and during their studies.
This means businesses have to consider full integration of social networks to improve collaboration, as well as mobility, analytics and cloud computing technology to allow for remote working. Putting this “SMAC” (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technology into practice is where the challenge lies.
Business heads need to decide which combination of solutions and tools will work best for their organisation and, once agreed, how they will integrate the new tools within the workforce.
All this has to come from the top, however. For diversity and inclusion to have real meaning, there needs to be accountability, and the buck should stop with the CEO and the board.
At Cognizant, we have created a diverse workforce through our global operating model, strong anti-discrimination programmes, global graduate hiring programs, flexible working and our targeting of key groups of experienced employees such as ex-service personnel.
These activities, combined with the technology we provide employees, have enabled our global workforce to operate successfully.
Hopefully, International Girls in ICT Day can inspire all of us to actively pursue initiatives within our own organisations that foster a diverse workforce and, as a result, realise the economic benefits that are sure to be derived from an inclusive working environment.
Sourced from Fiona Woods, head of human resources, Europe, Cognizant