To support our Women in Tech focus, we have launched a programme of thought-provoking and motivational events, including a Women in Tech panel. We brought together inspiring leaders from our global business to share their career tips on how to be the best we can be. Our panellists discussed the importance of gender equity, the best way for women to navigate the world of technology, and how to thrive in an inclusive environment.
In this article, we collect some of the key findings and responses by our panellists:
- Aleksandra Sretenova Mateva – Head of Project Delivery Management and Analysis
- Helena Nimmo – Chief Information Officer
- Leah Gallaway – SVP Global Operations for our Catalyst group
- Raluca Macovei – Group Head of Development
- Rohit Bhoothalingam – General Counsel
- Ruby Romero – Head of Testing
- Yelena Goltsman – Delivery Partner for Payments solutions
- Gen Ashley – external guest and founder of TECHK(NOW) DAY, a conference based on women in technology
Why is gender equity important to you?
Leah: I think that the best outcomes that I have seen personally and professionally always come from a very diverse group of people. That spans gender, race, or any other types of different perspectives.
Ruby: I feel that gender equity is important because we are all the same. We should not be chosen because of our gender. We should have the same opportunities because we can face any challenge in our careers, no matter what that would be.
Rohit: I’m a husband and a father of two girls. I hope that my daughters won’t experience the same challenges in their careers as other women have. Their own hard work and ambition should be the key to their success. Many studies show that diverse businesses are sustainable businesses. On every level, cognitive diversity brings a challenge to business decisions and makes them stronger and more creative, resilient, innovative, and responsive.
Aleksandra: I see diversity and inclusion as the main ingredients for creating an environment where creativity will burst.
What can we do to drive gender equity in the ways we collaborate?
Aleksandra: I see two pillars. The first one is looking at the patterns of communication. We need to open up boards for discussion, so that all the voices will be heard. We should encourage this kind of discussion by asking who is different, who has something to share. Reflection is the second one. We need to reflect in order to “keep our mirrors clean” in terms of looking at ourselves as individuals and as a group to see if we have biases or patterns in our behaviours and be brave enough to tackle and change them.
What did you discover about yourself on your journey and how are you making a difference?
Helena: I am lucky enough to be passionate about technology. This is the framework that I have held onto every time there has been a more challenging situation. Whenever you have doubts, or when you’re challenged, it gives you the resilience and the ability to move forward. Your passion helps you to move forward.
How do diversity and gender equity lead to rich outcomes?
Leah: When I completed a Master’s in the Netherlands, during thesis writing one of our advisors recommended that we gather a panel of our peers to review and collaborate during major milestones of the writing process. It ultimately produced some of the most challenging conversations. I spent a lot of time considering my own previously held notions of how the world worked. In the end, the product was far superior to anything I could have done alone or with people who felt and thought the same way that I did.
What do you think is the role of leaders in achieving gender balance in the workplace?
Rohit: It’s not about men alone or women alone; it’s about meeting this challenge together. The role of leaders is important, critical even. The first area in which they can achieve gender equity is engagement. Evidence shows that when leaders deliberately and intentionally engaged in gender inclusion programmes, over 90% of organisations saw progress. By being engaged, leaders can become more aware of their responsibilities of helping to grow and foster an inclusive culture where women have equal opportunities.
Another area is empowerment. Leaders can act on issues, whether they are gender-based or any other form of discrimination where they see unfairness. Calling out bias and using inclusive behaviours and language is an important way in which they can demonstrate fairness. In Endava, we want everyone to have the opportunity to be the best that they can be because it is our core purpose and leaders play a huge part in this.
How has diversity played a part in your life?
Ruby: For me, it matters who you are as a person. It’s important to be in a position because you deserve it. And being adaptable is key for this. It means that you are working without boundaries, being open to finding diverse and unexpected solutions. We have to adapt to every situation we face.
How do we help people who want to understand and support the building of gender equity and want to make a difference?
Yelena: Everyone can be an activist in their own position. You can look at your life, your surroundings, your family, your job, and make the right decision every time. Sometimes you might not know what the right decision is, but if you have a question, you can ask someone to guide you and help you. The most important thing for people who don’t know where to start is to ask themselves “How do I find out more?” Open yourself up, be adaptable! Do not assume to know. People will tell you when they need help.
What do we need to know about AI and how AI is impacting gender equity?
Raluca: I have a background in Software Engineering and Development, and lately I’ve been digging into AI. For any tool we create, the first phase somewhat emphasises what we already have in our society: the biases. With AI, the risk is even higher, as we might reinforce, automate, and hardwire the prejudices that we are already experiencing with in the world. Algorithms are based on data that has prejudices built-in. For example, there have been attempts at building hiring systems with prejudices like man – doctor or engineer; woman – nurse or HR.
We need to make sure that we don’t reinforce this when we create AI. In Endava, we are using AI in two ways. The first is that we build AI solutions, and, in this process, we make sure that we create data sets that are being checked for these prejudices and that the humans programming them don’t transfer their unconscious biases to the solution. The second is that, when we are using AI with the big cloud providers, we make sure that their teams have well-balanced AI ethics as well.
What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years for women in tech?
Gen: It depends on what we do now. We need concrete actions, and companies specifically need to make sure to implement programmes to get more women in technology and also women in leadership because it’s important to have role models for young women.
Helena: We clearly have a global shortage of technologists. This is going to be a driver, as more women will go into the technology stream. We’ve been focusing a lot on STEM being the avenue into technology. Women also work with artificial intelligence and machine learning, like Raluca does. Languages are also really important and a fantastic avenue when you are moving into the next wave of technologies, such as AI and ML. I think we don’t quite fully understand the power of the diversity of roles we have in technology. The technology arena is a lot wider than we think, and once we start looking at it like that, the numbers of women in technology will increase.
Leah: To get closer to what we all want in terms of gender equity, the key step is that everybody needs to force the conversation a little bit and remove some of the discomforts around discussing their view in terms of the change that they want to see in the future.
What is the most critical challenge that we need to meet today in order to face this future effectively?
Rohit: When it comes to gender equity, the key to progress is to support the careers of women from entry level through to the senior level and to strive to remove the numerous obstacles and challenges they face throughout their career journey. We need to address those challenges in a tailored, responsive manner. We would like to see more women in leadership and governance roles across Endava. With this in mind, we will be running a number of targeted initiatives to support women’s development and career paths over the coming months, and I am looking forward to sharing more about these with you.
Yelena: The start for us having a big change in ten years is with the very young. We need to encourage them to unleash their potential. We shouldn’t encourage the younger generations to choose their careers paths based on gender. We should all start with an equal footing. A lot of biases are not intentional. That’s why diversity helps you understand that learning has to happen.
Raluca: Education continues in the workplace, and it’s something that we can do today. I want to tell young girls that they will have a seat at the table, no matter what the parity is today.
Gen: Everyone can get into technology if they have the passion and interest for it. We all have our own biases, and we should educate ourselves. It starts with us and the companies we work with. We have to start being comfortable with being uncomfortable. For example, sometimes it’s difficult even to change the language. We always say “guys” instead of using a more inclusive language. It’s like a muscle that you can exercise – just start with something.
Going back to your journey as women working in tech, what advice would you give to your younger selves?
Yelena: If there is one thing that I would like to do more, it is to listen to my gut and believe in myself more.
Leah: I’d remind myself to be authentically who I am, and that this authentic self has every right to be exactly in the place it is in any given moment.
Ruby: For every decision, just breathe, be patient, listen to your heart, and remember to treat others the way that you want to be treated.
Raluca: Follow your passion!
The best outcomes come from diversity: don’t be afraid to go reach out to your peers and bring the change in the conversation. You can make a difference. Be aware of those biases and mental models that we have, look for patterns in your own communication, and be open for discussion. Take time to reflect, to be brave, to call out and challenge the things you’ve seen that aren’t quite right. Make the decision that feels right to you in order to be inclusive and ask questions to get different points of view. As leaders, be engaged, empower others to imply fairness, to call out bias, and to celebrate different perspectives.