At Slush this year I had the pleasure to speak with the Priya Guha of RocketSpace shortly before she went up on stage with Tracey Chou at #Slush17.
Priya Guha was appointed last year as Ecosystem General Manager, for RocketSpace UK. She brings with her a huge wealth of expertise and was well versed in her field and an absolute pleasure to speak with. Hear from her now where she feels we need to still grow:
Where do we need to start to get over the diversity issues we currently have especially in Technological and Engineering sectors?
The first step is to change the practices in the hiring process, looking beyond their immediate network to source fitting candidates. Companies could consider blind hiring, ensuring that education and names are omitted from candidates’ CVs to remove unconscious bias. They should also look to work with organisations like ‘STEMettes’ and ‘Code First: Girls’ to find new sources of talent and recruitment practices that foster diversity. A crucial component is for founders and CEOs to lead by example and embrace diversity at the top level, in order to filter down and ultimately ensure the whole business is diverse.
Periscope with Priya Guha
Have you seen any improvement in fielding these issues from regulatory bodies?
Yes! We have certainly seen progress in terms of diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, particularly with recognition of how inadequate diversity metrics are, but we are nowhere near the finish line. There are masses of independent research out there [e.g. McKinsey] which categorically demonstrates that increasing diversity in the workplace benefits a company’s growth, both culturally and economically. We have made significant strides towards increased diversity with legislation such as pay gap reporting. While these developments are key, we cannot rest on our laurels because of them as we risk this important topic falling off the agenda. We must ensure that the conversation does not stop and further measures are taken to make equality and inclusivity a core component of every business.
Who do you have in the UK who oversees Diversity issues?
We don’t yet have a designated official body that regulates and oversees diversity and inclusion issues in the tech sector, however, earlier this year The Tech Talent Charter was officially launched to tackle the challenges in the technology sector. The charter acts as a collective of companies aiming to establish common guidelines around diverse tech hiring, ultimately looking to deliver greater gender diversity in the UK tech workforce. It’s led by the private sector but supported by government.
Can you tell us about your experience with diversity in your sector?
Throughout recent years, I have seen first hand how sexism remains prevalent in the technology industry. With all the exposes coming out of the Valley, this is a tough time for the industry but it also represents a turning point. With so much attention on the issues behind discrimination, we have the opportunity to force a change in the industry’s culture, which will allow the world’s most innovative companies to formulate working environments where sexist behaviour is unacceptable and diversity is prioritised.
The technology sector aims to shape the future of our society for the better. In order for us to achieve that, we need to do better in attracting people from all backgrounds and have zero tolerance to anything that sets that back. Tech companies are synonymous with innovation and disruption, so there is no absolutely no place for old-fashioned prejudice.
What changes would you like to see in the next 5 years?
While the focus is often on large companies and cultural changes in their systems, we must ensure that smaller businesses are part of the conversation as well and are not forgotten. Company culture can develop early on, and the sooner that diversity becomes a company value, the easier it is for a startup to benefit from this as it scales. Growing startups and scaleups are the corporations of tomorrow, and I would like to see as many emerging companies embracing the diversity agenda.
We also need to inspire more women to join the industry, and this work starts from the ground up. It is disappointing that research from Microsoft shows that girls in the UK become interested in STEM subjects just before the age of 11 but their interest then sharply drops, with only 20 per cent taking computer science at GCSE, and only 10 per cent for A-level. A lot of work can be done in shifting those statistics, with profiling role models as perhaps the most important element for young girls.