On Tuesday 7th October, Arrows Group hosted a Future Female Leaders conference to positively challenge gender diversity in the technology industry, with the aim to discuss how we can attract and develop female talent. Guest speakers and panellists included Helen Pitcher (Chairman, Advanced Boardroom Excellence), Claire Darley (Head of Multi-Channel Transformation at Telefonica UK & Chair of the Women’s Network at Telefonica UK), Yelena Parker (Head of Customer Success and Operations for Teamseer at Access Group), and James Parsons (CEO and Co-founder of Arrows Group).

Mike Jones, Director at Arrows Group and Chair of the panel commented, “This event was a fantastic forum for our clients to hear how we can start to alter behaviours to make room for budding female talent. As a global workforce provider within the technology sector, we are very aware of the industry’s need to make a cultural shift to encourage a more diverse workforce, particularly in terms of gender.”

With only 13% of Computer Science/IT students in Higher Education in the UK being girls, and gender imbalance in the technology industry being an issue to all 15 EU nations, gender diversity is a global issue in the technology industry and perceptions need to be challenged as early as at school level.At the event, Claire Darley spoke about the need for successful organisations to start thinking differently about their employer brand, commenting “If you want to be relevant, you have to be like your customers, so you have to be diverse […] Networks attract people who are like them”. Ultimately, self-fulfilling recruitment behaviours fail to drive cultural change, so businesses need to take a new approach to attract new talent to the sector.

Gender diversity is an issue at board level across many industries, not just technology companies. After the Davies report was released in 2011, FTSE 100 companies without women on their board were named and shamed and challenged to fix the gender diversity issue. This triggered progress in increasing the ratio of women at board level from 12.5% in 2011 to 20.7% in 2014. Despite this shift, Helen Pitcher argued that filling quotas isn’t enough alone, and without behavioural change to alter the executive pipeline, diverse boards aren’t necessarily more effective. Helen commented, “If you are used to managing a very homogeneous board, then it is suddenly much more complex managing that difference in diversity and bringing in that kind of input, and that takes a very skilled Chairman”.

Other topics discussed at the event included the problems created by positive discrimination, the importance of role models and mentorship in nurturing talent, and a need for organisations to create flexibility in the way they measure performance.

If you missed the event, look out for our post-event wrap up in the coming days and keep up to date with future events by following the #FFL LinkedIn group.