Without women in tech, we’ll never get the best decisions, says Lawrence Jones
“It all begins with education and convincing girls that this is a viable career.” These are the words of Neelie Kroes (below), Vice President of the European Commission, spoken as she attended Campus Party Europe, an annual week-long technology festival, dubbed “the biggest electronic entertainment event in the world”, In September.
Her words, following on from some comments about European cloud strategy, really resonated with me as this is something that I have thought for a few years now.
Diversity in the workplace
I founded UKFast with my wife Gail who is the commercial director and an integral part of the company. I have never made any major business decisions without her and I never will because it’s the balance of perspectives and temperaments between us that helps us make the wisest choices.
The technology industry is a traditionally male-dominated one and it has been missing out on this kind of balance and the benefits that come with having a mixture of viewpoints and experiences. Diversity in the workplace is essential if you want to generate great ideas and drive innovation.
I am totally on board with what Neelie said at Campus Party Europe. At the end of last year, Experian found that although the number of female directors has risen over the last five years, there was little change in the types of industry women dominated; primary education and hairdressing were still two of those industries.
We need to nip this issue in the bud when our children are at school by breaking the connotations suggesting technology is a boy’s thing. That’s rubbish. Gail and I have three young girls and we want them to see strong female role models in technology, sport and science. Schools need to become proactive about getting both girls and boys interested in subjects like science and technology.
Let’s change our ways
Further down the line, it’s the responsibility of the industry as a whole to change its ways. The idea of having an old boys’ club at the helm of each and every technology company is a depressing one. Stick a load of men in a room to come up with ideas and you’re really not going to get the best outcome. Women in our workplace are essential. They are often great communicators and life would be very dull without the dynamic that mixing men and women together brings. At UKFast, we’re trying our best to improve the positions of women in technology.
It all comes down to seeking feedback from your employees and finding out what they want in the workplace. I want everyone at UKFast to feel that the space they work in motivates them and makes them feel comfortable. One of the big things we want to develop at our new HQ in Manchester is an on-site crèche. We’re also installing an on-site gym. We want everyone – both men and women – to be able to get that work-life balance and be able to have a career, keep fit, and enjoy family life.
I especially don’t want my female colleagues feeling like they have to make compromises here. And I think that’s how it should be.
There’s no excuse for not investing in and developing female talent in technology.
Lawrence Jones is CEO of Internet hosting company UKFast. His wife Gail is commercial director.
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