International Women’s Day: How BigChange works to #BreakTheBias
8th March 2022 - This International Women’s Day, Jo Godsmark, Chief Operating Officer at BigChange, shares her experience on the theme of Breaking the Bias and reflects on BigChange’s own progress in this area
Being ‘Big on Inclusion’ is a core value for BigChange, and it has been since day one. As a community, we’ve always aimed to operate with respect and treat all groups with kindness and understanding. This was important to me when I decided to join BigChange, and I am now privileged to be working on embedding this value in all that we do.
When I started my career as a trainee engineer at Ford Motor Company in the 1980’s, I met bias in my first month, with an engineer telling me that I was ‘stealing a man’s job’ and ‘would only go and have babies’. However elsewhere at Ford, and throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to work with many inspiring, intelligent, and patient managers and colleagues who have never suggested that my gender was a reason not to succeed.
Eighteen months ago, I hosted a webinar with some inspiring women leading businesses using BigChange. Our discussion showed the power technology has to provide more flexible and attractive working conditions for many women, but also the struggle that many of our customers are facing with attracting women into field service roles.
The benefits of diversity and inclusion are becoming more widely known. Numerous studies associate diversity with improved business outcomes, and there is also the big advantage in that simply being a more open and inclusive workplace means we can access a much broader talent pool – something that is vital in today’s competitive marketplace. We are taking steps to understand how we perform on a wide range of diversity measures.
Women make up around 30% of BigChange’s workforce, which is better than the 19% reported by TechNation across the UK tech sector; however we recognise that relatively few of these are in our Technology team or in our Sales team. There are two women out of eight in our senior leadership team, and we have some fantastic female directors across the business, but we need to go further.
BigChange is formalising its inclusivity policies across all areas of the business to ensure that diverse groups are not inadvertently excluded, whether in hiring, advancement opportunities, or in the day-to-day workplace.
Hiring and pre-hire
Change must start as early as possible to improve female representation in the tech sector, and that means engaging with schools. I have previously spoken at schools on engineering as a career, and we want to use this approach to show young women that tech is for them and offers abundant opportunities by giving them a chance to interact with our female tech professionals and leaders.
We are starting to offer early-career apprenticeships and intern roles to get a diverse range of young people on the ladder. We are working hard to ensure these opportunities are seen by the most varied group of people possible.
When it comes to the application process, BigChange has put in measures to help level the playing field:
- We anonymise all incoming applications and have enrolled all hiring managers in training, covering areas like unconscious bias. Understanding and mitigating humans’ mental shortcuts are vital for driving greater inclusivity
- We only include the essential requirements on job adverts to encourage as many applications as possible
- We ensure representation on interview panels, where interviewers grade independently then discuss and interrogate each other’s perspectives to arrive at the most equitable decisions
The wider workplace
Our commitment to inclusion doesn’t stop once you’re in the door. BigChange recently rolled out an enhanced maternity and paternity benefits package that applies to all employees from day one.
Furthermore, we’ve sought to reduce working hours to 37 ½ per week so that our people get more flexibility in their work-life balance and introduced BigFlexi whereby teams can support each other to achieve their flexible working goals. We take care not to focus BigFlexi on either women or parents, as we believe that only when this type of benefit is used universally, will we truly drive inclusivity.
We use our BigVoice employee group as a sounding board, and this month we are kicking off discussion groups on inclusion across the business. We know this is a long journey but, hey, BigChange is what we do!
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