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Tasneem Aliewi: How can you contribute to Diversity & Gender Equality?

16 Sep 15 - 12:00AM Max Anderson  | Max Anderson blog

Unless you’ve been stranded on an Island in the middle of nowhere, you would have heard the words Diversity & Gender Equality within the workplace whether through social media, your employer or even Emma Watson! Over the last couple of years there has been some serious discussion within government, and the private sector on how to best implement strategies and policies in order to tackle this contentious issue.

Diversity within the work place is definitely an issue that faces our society at the moment, and gender equality has been at the forefront. However if I was to consider which two industries suffer the most from gender inequality and especially in the mid-to-exec management level, it would clearly be Technology and Banking. So if you’re a recruiter that specialises in placing technologists within banking, how would tackle this problem when you know the talent pool of women is very small? 

I was asked a very important question by a client this morning, and it got me thinking. Although he agreed that all the initiatives the government, the banks, and the search firms have implemented around gender equality is progress, he questioned why he still wasn’t getting an equitable amount of women applicants through!

Yes, a lot has been achieved so far in discussing gender equality publically, and creating successful networks for women. The vast majority of banks now have strategies and policies in place to create an environment that will not only draw talented women to them, but will also help retain and support them through return to work schemes after maternity leave, or through coaching and mentoring. However, when speaking to my client this morning, it was apparent that when the bank opens a requirement within their Technology department to external suppliers, the number of candidates that come through the door who are women is very low, especially when looking at VP Level and above. So what can we do to solve this?

Throughout my experience of recruiting technologists into the banking and finance sector, I have learnt a few things that I thought would be worth sharing with anyone that is struggling to get the top talent regardless of gender.

1. Understand your issues:

It was evident from the diversity round table events that I’ve previously held for my clients, that there is no single way to achieve a diverse workforce. Every business is different, so yes, look at what your competition is doing but do not copy them, what worked for them may not necessarily work for you.

Look at the core issues that are affecting your business, why does it suffer from gender inequality, and what are the causes? Only then, can you start implementing the solutions. Some businesses have quotas and some don’t, in some banks there is a cultural issue, and others struggle to retain their employees because of poor return to work schemes after maternity leave, or a poor management style. Discover the root of the problem then implement a solution that’s tailored around it and your business!

2. Understand your candidates:

Men and women are equal, and gender clearly does not determine the level of intelligence or engagement. However, when research was carried out by Oxford University around perceived gender differences, it was found that women tend to under-sell themselves and are sometimes reluctant to apply for certain positions if they don’t have all the requirements listed. Whereas men, tend to put themselves forward even if they don’t have all the skills required for the position.

Of course this does not apply to all women, however from speaking to candidates on a daily basis I have found that there is significant truth to this piece of research. This is why it’s important to really understand your candidates whether you’re a recruiter, or a hiring manager. If you don’t question their skill set further and encourage them to sell themselves, you may be missing out on talented candidates that would be invaluable to your business, or the business you’re recruiting for.

3. Be flexible:

Unfortunately myths such as you can’t have a family and work in a highly pressurised environment like a bank, or technology is a geeky environment and coding is best left to males, have landed us in a bit of a predicament. The number of women graduates who studied Computer Science in the last 10 years is seriously under representative, resulting in the number of women who’ve  gone on to have a career in technology within financial services being even more disproportionate.

So when a hiring manager is looking for a VP level Java developer who must have all the technical skills, and financial products knowledge, regardless of their desire for gender diversity on the team, you can understand why they would only receive few female candidate’s CVs if at all!

That’s when the recruiter, HR, and the hiring manager need to have a relationship built on trust in order to work together, to get more female candidates to interview stage. The best method is often to be flexible on either the technical or financial knowledge requirements, and focus more on the candidate’s attitude and ability to learn rather than their previous experience.

There are many women technologists out there who are very talented but have not had the opportunity to work in financial services. However, chances are if they’re smart enough to cut clean code, they’re smart enough to learn financial products. Dismissing them would mean that you’re missing out on some serious talent, without any sense of entitlement that may currently exist amongst male technologists.

4. Remote working:
Ironically, technology itself should help us now more than ever in achieving a gender balanced workforce.  With the ability to sign on and work from home there is no reason why you can’t offer employees flexible working hours, or the opportunity to work from home.

Managers shouldn’t be alarmed or discouraged when candidates, men or women enquire about the ability to work remotely from time to time, as often it does not mean that they are not motivated or less driven, but in fact they need to do the school run on that day. 

5. More men need to get involved:

Gender equality is not an issue that only effects women, and it is not a gimmick to try and promote a good reputation through ethical marketing. With a more balanced and diverse workplace employers can concentrate on hiring and retaining only the best talent, which would lead to a more productive and profitable business. Let’s be practical about this, women make up around 50% of the employable population, why would you want to limit your options?

If you would like to discuss this further, or if you have anything to add around this topic whether you’re HR, an RPO, a Diversity & Inclusion champion, a hiring manager, or a candidate, please get in touch and I would be more than happy to hear your thoughts. Email me on

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