I'm Sue Griffin, chair of the Women in Technology group, here in DWP Digital. I’m celebrating International Women’s Day with colleagues in Blackpool.
This year’s national theme is ‘Be Bold For Change’, and in the Civil Service we’re celebrating how we are ‘Brilliantly Diverse’. We’ll be exploring: how diverse we actually are, challenging the statement ‘it’s a man’s’ world and discussing breaking down barriers.
Bold for Change
Being bold for change means so many things to me; I’m being bold for change by leading our enthusiastic community of women. Our group aims to attract more women into technology and digital roles, and champion opportunities for females in a male-dominated environment, particularly young females. We’re exploring the importance of diversity and encouraging women to build their capability.
Being bold for change means different things to different people. I’m amazed every day by the number of strong women we have in DWP Digital willing to put their heads above the parapet and share their personal stories to recognise and celebrate our diversity - we really are brilliantly diverse. For example, Shelley Hardman, champion of LGBT* issues and DWPride Yorkshire and Humberside regional rep wrote an inspiring blog – Pride in our work. Focusing on her own experience of how having the confidence to be you at work can make a massive difference to well-being and happiness, Shelley wanted to support people identifying with similar situations. Shelley said, “It’s so important to me (and for others) to be in a supportive and open-minded work environment with positive role models. If I can be a role model by helping people identify similarities with my experience and their own, and give them the courage to think about changing the way they are living their life, then it’s worthwhile”.
I agree with Shelley, part of being bold for change is about being the best role model we can be. I hope the women I work with are inspired by my positive outlook, and I’d like to think that I’m somebody that the next generation of women joining us can look up to. My 30 year career in DWP has spanned roles in operations, project delivery, commercials and technology. I’m currently Head of User Support Services leading a group of around 480 people. I’m accountable for providing first line support and resolution of IT issues for all DWP staff.
I’m passionate about delivering high quality services, but equally about helping people build their capability and their careers and increasing diversity in the technology profession.
As step-mum to my husband’s grown-up daughter, I know how important it is to nurture our young women and help them realise the potential and opportunities at their finger-tips. The role of women has changed massively this century: when labour exchanges first opened in 1910, men and women were strictly segregated and, until 1945, female civil servants were required, by law, to resign on marriage! A lot has changed during my 30 year career, in part thanks to the Sex Discrimination Act of 1986, which came into force the year before I started work, ending discrimination in training and removing restrictions to women's working hours and conditions. Now, in 2017, we’ve got young women training as software engineers – and thankfully that’s the norm. If you consider what has changed in this short space of time, then think about what changes we can help to bring about for our future generation.
I want our workforce to represent the wealth of diversity in the world we live in. Mayank Prakash, our Chief Digital and Information Officer and DWP Gender Diversity Champion, said, “Diversity is important, not just from a fairness and equality point of view, but from a business perspective too.” It’s a fact (The Open For Business report) that diversity encourages a varied and different perspective and can help to raise our profile as an employer of choice.
Working for Mayank is Gender Diversity lead, Ozma Iqbal. Ozma is passionate about embedding an inclusive culture in our business so all women feel empowered. As the oldest of five from a working-class Pakistani family, she is determined to leave the stereotypes behind, in her role Influencing women.
She’s backing people like Kirsty Tidmarsh, one of our young female software engineers, who is embracing the opportunities here at DWP. Currently, over 90% of software engineers are male – but we are changing that. Kirsty is another of our female colleagues raising her head above the parapet.She’s working in DWP’s software engineering community reviewing projects and providing help and advice. Kirsty is also keen on attending user-groups and events to discover new technologies, network and improve her knowledge. She said, “I think it’s really important to see the wider picture.” Kirsty’s sharing that knowledge with others in DWP Digital and with other young people, she helps at a children’s Code Club and she worked with school children in the summer to teach them Creative Coding in Tech Week.
I feel so proud to be part of an organisation that values diversity and embraces events like International Women’s Day. Together we can shape our future and help to give everyone an equal chance to reach their full potential.