Addressing the gender pay gap

With news of the UK’s gender pay gap hitting the headlines, companies across the country are looking closely at how they treat women in the workforce. HR practices are, or should be, coming under scrutiny so that the right changes can be made to ensure that women are treated and paid fairly.

The UK’s Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework within which businesses must work, but it does not and cannot cover the societal, cultural and psychological factors which influence how women are treated. Indeed, our understanding of these factors is still developing, and so the solutions we need to put in place are constantly evolving. For example, studies have shown that implicit bias training can backfire, making people believe that, because they’ve had training to reduce their unconscious biases, nothing they do going forward could be biased, which then leads to more biased behaviour.

Rather than prioritising an attempt to alter people’s subconscious attitudes, which at best is a long-term challenge, it is easier and more productive to begin by altering business processes and standards, to ‘bake in’ fairness and awareness. Changing behaviours in this way is also more long-lasting — staff come and go, and new staff need training, but good business processes persist regardless of staff turnover.

There are many places where an examination of business practices can yield results, but our recent work on our online jobs fair for women in STEM has revealed that there are a number of relatively simple ways to significantly improve recruitment, retention and promotion of women. From changing the language and imagery used in job ads and marketing, to enacting flexible and fractional working, to restructuring promotion pipelines, small changes add up to big effects.

If you would like help assessing your existing marketing materials and internal HR processes, then you can now engage Ada Lovelace Day founder, Suw Charman-Anderson to work remotely or in person. If you’d like to know more, just drop us a line.   

 

Ada Lovelace Day is 10!

Scheming!

Our first tweet!

It seems almost impossible to imagine, but this year will see the 10th Ada Lovelace Day, on Tuesday 9 October.

When I started ‘scheming’ in the autumn of 2008, I had no idea that Ada Lovelace Day would turn into something that would touch so many lives. What began as a day of blogging about women in technology has become a global phenomenon celebrating women in STEM, with independent events organised around the world. Since we started, there have been at least 453 independent events held in 157 different towns and cities, across 34 different countries, with at least one on every continent, including one event in Antarctica.

And these are just the events we know about – we frequently stumble on mentions of events that aren’t on our map!

All independent events since 2015

A truly global event

We’ve had events in cities from A Coruña to Zoetermeer, taking in Addis Ababa, Brasilia, Curitiba, Daejeon, Enugu, Florence, Granada, Halley Research Station, Ísafjörður, Johannesburg, Kathmandu, Ljubljana, Maharashtra, New York, Ockham, Pune, Quartu Sant’Elena, Recife, Sheboygan, Tunis, Ulster, Vilnius, Wellington, and York on the way. We only need someone in Xai-Xai, Xalapa, Xinghua or Xo’jayli to organise an event this year and we’ll have a full alphabet!

The enthusiasm with which people across so many countries have adopted Ada Lovelace Day, and the work that they have put in to organise their own events, shows just how widespread the desire is to support and inspire girls and women in STEM. Everyone who organises or attends an event is part of a global movement to champion girls and women in STEM and change the way we think about women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Because this year is our tenth anniversary, we want to encourage more people to organise their own events, so we’ve launched a new mailing list specifically for organisers so that we can keep you inspired and informed about what’s happening this year. Just sign up using the form below.

If you want a bit of inspiration or help, then take a look at our indie event organisers pack, which has advice, as well as blank flyers, posters and our Indie Event logo, all of which can be downloaded from Figshare. We are in the process of translating the pack into Spanish, and if you’d like to translate it into your native language, please email me!

If you work for a museum, school, university, student union, learned society, professional body, STEM company, library, aquarium, art gallery, local council, entertainment venue, community group, or if you just want to get involved, please sign up to our mailing list and get organise your own event.

Let’s make 2018 a bumper year for Ada Lovelace Day around the world!

ALD becomes Virgin Media Business Voom 2018 partner

Voom 2018 - Could it be you?Ada Lovelace Day are delighted to announce that our founder, Suw Charman-Anderson, will be one of the judges at the semi-final of the Virgin Media Business Voom Pitch 2018.

Voom Pitch 2018 is an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the UK and Ireland to pitch their business idea and win a share of £1 million in prizes.

There are two categories:

  • Spark & Startup is for small businesses (0-19 employees) who want to get out there in the public eye.
  • Scale & Grow is for larger businesses (20-250 employees) looking to scale up.

The competition isn’t just about winning a share of the prize pot. Entrants will also gain valuable publicity, as well as the tools to crowdfund their pitch. In 2016, competitors raised more than £720,000 to fund their businesses, which is an opportunity not to be missed!

Here at ALD, we know that women make fantastic entrepreneurs, but we also know how challenging it is for women to start their own businesses when only 9 percent of start-up funding in the UK goes to women-run businesses, and when men are 86 percent more likely to be funded by venture-capitalists and 56 percent more likely to successfully attract angel investors.

Women’s businesses often tap into markets and needs that men miss, especially retail and services, which means that male-dominated investors don’t always recognise the opportunity because they look so different to the typical high-growth, high-risk strategies that male-led start-ups often pursue.

Difficulties in raising capital persist, despite the fact that companies led by women produce a 35 percent higher return on investment and grow on average at a rate of 28 percent per year.

This is why ALD has become a Voom 2018 Partner. We believe that Voom 2018 is an amazing opportunity for women to get their businesses in front of a large and important audience and to win significant funding and support.

Entering is simple: You just need to produce a pitch video and upload it to the Voom 2018 site before 8 May, then encourage your community to vote on it, from 4 Apr until 15 May. At the semi-final on 21 May, 80 entrants will go before a panel of judges, including ALD’s founder, Suw Charman-Anderson, and six businesses will be chosen to go through to the final two days later on 23 May.

Virgin Media Business have all the advice you need to get you started, and you can follow all the news on Twitter using the #VOOM hashtag or by following @vmbusiness. On Facebook, follow the Voom 2018 page.

So get cracking! You have nothing to lose, and so much to win!

Should you be worried about ‘cultural fit’?

When you hear of companies ‘interviewing for cultural fit’, that often means that recruiters are looking for someone with a specific set of attitudes, assumptions and biases that they think will fit neatly into the existing cultural framework of the company. This can be problematic because it can damage efforts to increase diversity, resulting in a workforce that may look diverse but is actually made up of people who all think the same way. Says the Harvard Business Review:

“We might be creating a situation in which companies will be very diverse in appearance, but intrinsically homogenous. They will be hiring the same profile of people even though they might have very different backgrounds. Thus the company will appear diverse — but we know that appearances can be deceiving.”

That doesn’t mean that culture isn’t important, but from the candidate’s point of view, not the employer. The important cultural question is, does this company’s culture fit with my personal values?

If, as a woman in STEM, you rate a company’s ethics and culture highly, you are not alone. The Futuretrack study by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit found that “socially useful work” ranked higher than “competitive salary” in qualities graduates were looking for in jobs. And women were more likely than men to say that “the opportunity to perform socially useful work or work for an ethical organisation” was important.

Interviews are a two-way street

Interviews are always a two-way street: You are evaluating your future employer just as much as they are evaluating you.

“I’d recommend thinking about the characteristics of a business culture where you’d be happy and successful,” suggests Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly. “What type of place gets the best out of you and why. Then think about what you can bring to that sort of business, how you’d be able contribute and how you’d shape it. Demonstrate what you can bring and add, rather than how you ‘fit’.”

As you’re searching for jobs to apply for, take a look at the company’s background try to find out what kind of culture they have.

“Do a little research before the interview to find out what to expect from the company’s workplace culture, and check that your values are aligned,” says Inga Rudzitis, Operations Manager from Float. “I’d always encourage people to be open and honest in an interview, so it’s not really different for questions about cultural fit. If the company’s values fit with your own then you can just answer from the heart, which always come across better than an overly rehearsed answer that could be completely fabricated. I know that can be really difficult advice to hear when you’re job-hunting as it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to “get it right”, but the thing about culture is that there isn’t a right and a wrong type. Some people just prefer different types of working culture, so questions about culture aren’t about determining your skill or your value.”

Faye Whitlock, head of talent at GoCardless, an online payments provider, suggests that candidates “can often get a great insight into a company’s culture through its website, LinkedIn and other social media channels.”

Ask about culture in your interview

If it’s not clear what kind of culture a company has, or if you’re not sure about whether you’d like to work there, don’t be afraid to bring it up in the interview.

“You can always ask your interviewer or recruiter for guidance on these too if it isn’t apparent,” says Whitlock. “We like to be asked why we enjoy working at GoCardless, or what are opportunities there are for career progression. A good question is “What’s a typical day in the life like…” We try to have people with different departments, tenure and seniority [in an interview], so people can ask about different cultural aspects of the company.”

Rudzitis explains, “We try to be quite upfront about what our culture is like so that applicants have a good idea of what to expect. For example, in our job ads for engineering roles we bring attention to the fact that our engineering team works closely with our marketing team because in lots of companies these departments are really separated from each other, in terms of physical distance as well communications, decision-making, and working practices. We also like to show interviewees our office and introduce them to a few members of the team, so we don’t get a huge number of questions about our culture as applicants can see what it’s like for themselves.

“When we last hired for a part-time role we got quite a few questions about that: how many others worked part-time and how that would impact the way they worked with others. We’ve also been asked before why we like working at Float and what would be challenging in a particular role. It’s great to hear questions like this because it also tells us something about what the applicant is looking for in work culture, and we can improve our future job adverts to make sure we’re really getting across why we think Float is a great place to work.”

Culture is important, but as a metric for you as a potential employee to decide whether you will be happy working for a particular company.

 

Xero logoThe Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

How to identify and develop essential soft skills

Soft skills are in great demand but short supply, according to many employers. But what are they? Soft skills are often described as being personality-based behaviours, such as working well in a team, taking direction, managing your time, and communicating clearly. Hard skills are related to your specific area of expertise, so being able to develop software is a hard skill, but collaborating with your colleagues is a soft skill.

“At Fluidly we believe that engineering is a team sport so ‘soft’ skills are very important to us and we assess for them for every role,” says Fluidly founder, Caroline Plumb. “In particular, curiosity, communication, and empathy for people and customers are key skills we look for. We believe this makes the team stronger, product development faster (& more enjoyable) and customer experience far better. Technically brilliant candidates who don’t have these skills aren’t a fit for us – they might be talented individuals but we are looking for the people who make the team perform.”

Excellent soft skills are essential for small teams, as Inga Rudzitis, Operations Manager at Float points out: “We’re a fairly small team and we really pride ourselves on being one team. We don’t like to silo ourselves, so we work cross-departmentally all the time. This means soft skills like communication and teamwork are key for us. We’re also really interested in people’s potential, not only their past experience. Soft skills are typically the most transferable, so they’re a really meaningful part of understanding somebody’s potential.”

And as Faye Whitlock, head of talent at GoCardless, an online payments provider, points out, soft skills are important even in technical assessments. “Candidates are informed that we’re not looking simply at their coding skills and problem solving,” she  says, “but collaboration and communication [as well]”.

Soft skills to develop

Our societal perceptions of soft skills do come with a gender bias that we, as individuals, need to be aware of. Women are often assumed to be good at communication and men are assumed to be good leaders, but that doesn’t mean that women can’t improve their communications skills, or that they can’t be good leaders. Of all the soft skills that women should focus on developing, Rudzitis believes that assertiveness should be at the top of the list.

“It’s a word that can get a bad rap because people confuse it with aggression, but that’s a real misrepresentation. It’s also not a personality type, it really is a skill that you can practise. When I chose to focus on improving my assertiveness it made a huge difference to my working life and it ultimately led me to joining the world of tech startups and working at Float.  

“At its heart, assertiveness is all about being open and honest. It’s bound up with a host of other great soft skills such as active listening, communication, delegation, and receiving feedback well. It’s about learning to understand and value your own needs and opinions, expressing those appropriately, as well as being empathetic towards other people’s. Being more assertive can dramatically improve your management skills, relationships with other people, and your own happiness in your role.”

Women need to learn not to undersell themselves, Whitlock says. “Don’t be afraid of applying for jobs that feel like they may be out of your comfort zone. We think that a candidate’s attitude, motivation and aptitude for the role are more important than just a checklist of experience that they’ve done it all before.”

What are your strongest soft skills?

Of course, it’s easy to see soft skills in others, but slightly harder to know how good your own soft skills are. Plumb suggests that, if you want to understand your own soft skills repertoire, ask others for to tell you what they think your strengths and weaknesses are.

“Good people to seek input from are peers, reports, a line manager, a senior leader and someone outside the reporting line but who is also a stakeholder,” perhaps in a different team, says Plumb. “It’s good to get a wide range of opinions from people who’ve seen [you] in different circumstances, from succeeding to being up against it and under pressure. Ask open questions and listen hard for the answers without being defensive.”

Whitlock agrees: “Ask for feedback, always! We’re big fans of proactively asking for feedback on a daily basis, be it in spontaneous casual conversation or by emailing people after a project or meeting to ask about what they should keep doing and what they can improve. To candidates, ask for more detailed feedback to the recruiter.”

Rudzitis also suggests self-reflection as “a really valuable and under-appreciated practice. Whenever I get frustrated about something going on (at work or at home), I try to think about why I got so annoyed, why I responded the way I did. What result did I want from that situation and how would I try responding differently if this happened again? More often than not, this usually flags something I realise I should probably work on for myself. It can be really empowering because you learn to focus on what you can change, rather than blaming external circumstances or things beyond your control.”

Practice, practice, practice

It’s also a good idea to develop your soft skills outside of a work context. “Communication skills could be improved through drama, a toastmaster course or even comedy classes,” says Plumb. “Leadership could be for a project rather than running a team, or organising a large group activity. Think about opportunities to develop, make a plan of what you’re going to try and then reflect on it afterwards. The best way is to keep trying and learning – it doesn’t have to be perfect, some of the best learnings can come from the worse outcomes.”

That kind of self-development takes “bravery and practice,” says Rudzitis. “The more you practise something, the better you get at it. Sometimes it’s hard to take those steps though, which is where the bravery comes in. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, skills like networking can be so daunting, but ultimately you’ll never get better if you don’t take the plunge and give it a go. And then another go, and another!”

Rudzitis recommends that, in an interview, you use “the STAR method, describing the Situation, Task, Action taken, and Result” to illustrate your soft skills. “How did you identify the problem and analyse the situation that led you there? How did you communicate and work with others to solve the problem? Sometimes it can also be helpful to explain why you opted against an alternative course of action, as this can show a different side to your decision-making skills and an awareness that there are other ways of working.”

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to those in business that you think are particularly strong in a skill you want to develop and ask for their support and advice,” Whitlock advises. “You’ll be surprised by how much of a compliment this it to them and that they’ll usually be more than happy to help.”

Soft skills are very important to employers across the board, so when you’re writing your CV and preparing for an interview, spend some time reviewing your own soft skills and think about how you can most effectively communicate them. Demonstrating strong soft skills will help you gain the attention of recruiters and land that job!

 

Xero logoThe Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.