As the father of two daughters, and the executive sponsor for the gender strand of DWPs Diversity and Equality programme, I'm passionate about making a difference to diversity, and I'm a huge supporter of International Women’s Day.
At DWP, a women’s network led by colleagues from all parts of our business acts on our aspiration to see DWP as a leader in gender equality.
Why diversity is important
I know having a diverse workforce makes sense not just from a fairness and equality point of view, but from a business perspective too.
McKinsey has found that companies with more diverse corporate leadership teams tend to be more successful. They are more able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making. And all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.
Their report Diversity Matters (PDF–946KB) looked at metrics, such as financial results and the composition of top management and boards. It found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry norm.
For DWP diversity is important at all levels and diversity of thinking and working is welcomed.
Professionally, women only accounted for 17% of the UK’s IT workforce in 2014. Though this has improved over the last 10 years, women are still significantly under-represented in the industry, and particularly at the higher levels. Fewer than 1 in 10 IT directors is female. Along with colleagues in Tech Partnership, I am keen to change the gender profile of our profession as we grow digital technology skills in UK.
When you dig beneath the surface the problem appears to be more fundamental – in education women appear not to be opting for IT, maths or science qualifications.
Not just for boys
It’s one of the reasons that DWP launched their award winning campaign Not Just for Boys last year, designed to encourage women to take up careers that are traditionally male-dominated and ensure they don’t miss out on some of the UK’s biggest growth industries.
There are noticeable signs that things are changing. Take Dr. Claudia Natanson, our Chief Security Officer, for example. She found her way to a career by a slightly circuitous route. Always a scientist at heart, Claudia studied geology and nuclear chemistry, followed by an MSc in computer science and finally, a PhD in computers and education.
Having worked as a nuclear scientist at the United Nations’ Atomic Spectroscopic Laboratory it dawned on her that the world was going to be taken over by computers. She challenged herself to find out how to find out more about computers. It was that thirst for knowledge that guided her back to university , to do her Masters in Computer Science, and PhD in Computers and Education.
Technology offers so many opportunities
Dr. Natanson is just one of many women in DWP exploring the potential of digital technology, data and security. We run courses to help people gain more digital skills, and retrain for a new career. And we organise these courses round school holidays, so everyone, regardless of childcare responsibilities, can take advantage of them.
Our recruitment strategy is designed to ensure our workforce accurately reflects the diversity of the society we serve.
So join me in celebrating International Women’s Day, and add your voice to the #notjustforboys campaign.