I feel honoured to have been invited to deliver a keynote speech at the second DWP Women in Digital event on Wednesday 20 June.
For me, diversity, inclusivity and equality are not only important in the workplace, they’re important in the world. I believe that no matter who you are and no matter what your background, you should have equal opportunity to be able to progress in life, enjoy life and create something for the people you love.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where this isn’t always the case, and what’s happening in the workplace can reflect that. So, the workplace is a great place to start to affect the changes we need to see everywhere.
Diversity in business
There’s been a lot of discussion about how diversity is good for business, but I think that just goes without saying. Yes, I believe diversity is good for business, but more fundamentally, I believe it’s the right way to work.
With diversity of ideas, especially if they’re shared and bounced around in an inclusive environment where people feel like they can speak their mind and have a voice, it’s much more likely that the group as a whole will come up with genuinely innovative, interesting ideas.
Women in digital
One of the biggest challenges facing women in digital is that business leaders of the world have allowed us to get from a point in the 1980s where, within tech, gender parity was pretty much equal, to a point now where only 20% of the workforce in tech are women.
That’s not happened overnight. It has been an incremental change where, year on year, anybody who cared about it would have started to notice the trend and anybody who really cared about it would have started the discussions that we seem to be having now, in order to reverse that trend. Except it has been allowed to happen over the years, and because of that the underlying beliefs that caused it to happen have embedded themselves more and more.
And so, for many women - regardless of what we try to do as an industry to say ‘this industry is open to you, it is inclusive’ - there is still the fundamental belief that we don’t truly believe it’s important that we have that level of equality. And that is a worry for me; not just for me running a business, but a worry about the world we are creating both for ourselves and future generations.
A turning point
The industry is now going through a phase where we are creating Artificial Intelligence that is going to be making decisions, not just for us, but for people across the world at scale. And if that technology is only created by white men, then what is certainly going to happen is that the technology is going to, in some way, implicitly be biased towards that group of people.
We have reached a turning point where we need to not just talk about it, but as leaders who are able to affect the change, actually deal with this head-on and do the things that we need to do to affect positive change.
I’m looking forward to working with like-minded people at this week’s Women in Digital event to help ensure that diversity, inclusivity and equality are given the credence necessary to reverse the trend.
More about James and Northcoders
James Brooke is a Co-Founder of Northcoders, a Manchester-based Coding Bootcamp. Following a highly successful career in Software Development, James set out in his ambition to solve the Northern digital skills gap with his partner, Chris Hill.
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