Asking the important questions.
Breaking into the tech industry is hard. Becoming a force of leadership in digital is harder. Trying to do all of this whilst facing the barriers that come with occupying a minority demographic group? Nigh on impossible.
Diversity and Inclusion has rightly been the hot topic in every industry across the globe since the summer of 2020. But there’s a stark difference between inclusion being a buzzword that occupies your job descriptions or a D&I link on your website, versus a company that lives inclusivity and allows this to shape how it operates.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to largely work for companies who fall into the latter bucket. This is through no random luck though. As a woman of colour, I learnt quickly at school and University that, until the world changes quite drastically, we need to be the ones to dig deep and ask the right questions, to ensure we’re going to operate in an environment where there’s no reason we can’t thrive. But how is this possible to do when you’re interviewing for new positions? Even a three stage interview normally gives a candidate less than 30 mins to ask a hiring manager their pressing questions. 30 minutes… not a lot of time to truly understand if a company cares about such a hugely important topic.
So, how can you get the most out of such a limited time slot during your interview? I’ve pulled together five key topics to ensure you are always asking the right questions when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion.
Question: What is your company’s overall approach to Diversity and Inclusion?
If a hiring manager can’t reel off an answer to this off the bat, it’s likely it’s not being spoken about much, if at all, internally. Any company focussed on Inclusivity will know their approach and initiatives and be excited to share them.
Your leadership team
Question: What percentage of your leadership team identify as [x]?
When the answer is a simple ‘none, but we’d like this to change’, I’m inclined to run out the door. A more considered and genuinely caring answer would be something like: ‘none currently, but we’re working with [x] organisation to understand how we can do better’ or ‘we’ve got a three year plan in place to promote diversity in our leadership’. Be bold and ask for more information on these plans. (Even better is a company that actually has a diverse leadership team, but baby steps…)
Supporting the community
Question: What are you doing to encourage more diverse talent pools in the tech industry?
It’s well known now that different demographics are shoe-horned into certain industries right down to school age. There’s a massive grassroots problem that we all need to do better to address in our industry. I’ve found throughout my career that those companies who are trying to instigate change are actively involved in their local communities. Do they offer some of their services in tech to local schools or community centres, to help showcase different career paths to diverse groups of children? Try to gauge their view on the wider industry problem.
Inclusivity every day
Question: What day to day initiatives are in place to ensure diverse colleagues feel supported and heard?
Flexible working, step-free access, support for carers, reverse mentoring… the possibilities of how a company can be including and listening to all staff are genuinely endless. This shouldn’t be a hard one to answer!
The significance of 2020
Question: What was your company doing to promote Diversity & Inclusion pre-2020, and how has this changed since?
It’s a big question, I know, and it may feel uncomfortable to ask. The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 represented an enormous shift across the globe and I truly don’t think it’s too much to ask of a company to articulate how this has impacted their workforce and operations. The tech industry has never been perfect, and is still far from. But every company should have made changes and be continuing to learn and evolve every year. If you get a hint in response to this question that nothing significant has happened in almost two years, I wouldn’t expect anything to change in the future.
Whilst tackling these questions head on during interviews might seem daunting, I firmly believe that it’s the only way to receive a true picture of the company’s stance on Diversity and Inclusion and will save you a lot of heartache along the way. No good interviewer will be feeding back that you cared too much about inclusivity, or are too passionate about feeling heard. In an industry that has failed to support and include diverse groups of talent over the years, it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves and each other in our careers.
If you would like to know how Impression would answer these questions, we have included a top-level overview below. We think that it’s incredibly important to be transparent and believe that by learning from, and sharing with our community, we will continue to grow, to be more and be better.
What is your company’s overall approach to Diversity and Inclusion?
We’re focused on fairness and we always have been; this is fundamentally shining through all of our policies and processes. We’re totally committed to embracing diversity and promoting equality, both internally and through the services we provide. All our policies are written with inclusivity at the heart of them, even filtering down to complete transparency of our pay scales. That being said, we know we operate in an industry that still has a lot of work to do – and we’re part of that. We are committed to learning and developing continually in this area.
What percentage of your Management Team identify as women?
19% of our Management Team identify as female. We know this is low, and we want to ensure that everyone has an equal and fair opportunity to progress at Impression. We have a very transparent progression framework, along with transparent salary banding to help us to be a fair and representative leadership team. When we hire in new talent, all of our job advertisements are screened through a Diversity and Inclusion platform, ensuring we’re not using any language that appeals specifically to certain demographics.
What are you doing to encourage more diverse talent pools in the tech industry?
We partner with multiple universities to teach a wide range of students, of all educational disciplines, about what we do – we’ve met many of our current staff through these programmes! We’ve conducted insights days for local girls schools and provided CV feedback and mock interviews to young people in Nottingham. We’ve also funded several female members of staff to attend Women in Tech programmes, as well as sponsoring some of their events. There’s heaps more that we’ve been doing over the past couple of years: check out this blog post to find out more!
We’re beginning to support local charities in Nottingham and the Borough area of London to expose young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who historically do not go on to work in the tech industry, to digital marketing. Finally, we’re in the process of producing a mass piece of external research into our industry to help ourselves and our peers understand what we’re doing wrong, and how we can make positive changes for the future.
What day to day initiatives are in place to ensure diverse colleagues feel supported and heard?
In short, lots… and the list is growing. We have a flexible working policy, step-free access to our offices, lockable meeting rooms with blinds (for activity such as praying or breast-pumping), sit-stand desks and plenty of different spaces to work. We support people with different religious backgrounds by offering bank holiday swaps for religious days. We offer paid ‘life leave’ days, for when life happens! Most importantly, we listen to feedback – many of these initiatives have come directly as a result of staff requests and we’re always looking to accommodate changes to help promote inclusivity.
This year, we’ve got a full Diversity & Inclusion training programme that we’re rolling out to our staff, as well as celebrations planned for a multitude of events, such as International Women’s Day, Pride and Black History Month.
What was your company doing to promote Diversity & Inclusion pre-2020, and how has this changed since?
Pre-2020, we operated in a way that we believed was inclusive and always strived to do the right thing. That being said, we were very aware that our company management team was predominantly made up of white cis-gendered males. In 2020, we commissioned an external Diversity & Inclusion audit of our business. Since getting our recommendations, we’ve made loads of changes and are continuing to do so. We’ve altered our approach to hiring to be more inclusive, offered unconscious bias training to our colleagues and brought in a Head of People, to help spearhead our Diversity & Inclusion efforts. We’ve recently updated our company benefits to be more inclusive for parents and carers and are now Flexa certified, ensuring we can support those with lifestyles that require a little more flexibility. We’ve got big things planned for 2022 too, so watch this space.