The Tech Sector Has a Diversity Problem. What now? - One woman's quest to bring new people and perspectives into the tech industry.

The Tech Sector Has a Diversity Problem. Now What? - One woman’s quest to bring new people and perspectives into the tech industry.


How is technology changing our lives and enabling us to create a better world? To find out more, we kicked off a series of blogs on the topic by speaking to June Angelides, founder of Mums in Tech, and one of a handful of black women in venture capital.


Mums who code

While on her second maternity leave, June Angelides decided that she wanted to learn to code. The problem? There were no courses geared towards mums. This wasn't not for lack of demand: According to 2019 research published by charity #techmums, about 40 percent of mothers think that better digital skills would make them more confident, and help them join the workforce again; at the same time, almost 20 percent of them singled out the lack of such skills as a major factor for their inability to go back to work after their maternity leave.

That’s why Angelides took the matter into her own hands—and that was how Mums in Tech, the UK’s first mum-friendly coding school, was born.

“I reached out to a lot of my clients and entrepreneurs [from tech-focused Silicon Valley Bank] and I convinced them to teach the courses. I wrote down the modules. They all said yes.” She also struck partnerships with toy companies and nanny services to provide childcare and ensure the course was accessible as possible.

To test the waters, she sent out a Tweet calling for mums who wanted to learn about coding to sign up for a MailChimp mailing list. “I honestly thought nobody would respond,” she says. “Yet in two weeks, 100 people had signed up.” The initiative would eventually attract over 250 students, and secure the backing of big-name sponsors such as Marks & Spencer, Microsoft, and Thoughtworks. “The programme changed quite a few lives,” Angelides recalls, with many alumnae going on to prestigious roles with some of the sponsoring companies and elsewhere in tech. “And the bond we created—all 250 women—is hard to describe.”


How to build a more diverse tech sector

Fast forward to today and, following three successful career pivots, Angelides is an accomplished entrepreneur, public speaker, and venture capitalist for Samos Investments, where she invests in high-growth European startups. Her unshakable conviction is that tech needs diversity, and that women should play a much bigger role in defining the future of technology. “We need more diversity of thought, and more products built for women by women,” she says. “The more women we have building these technologies, the better.”

“I remember when setting up Mums in Tech, how it was very critical to be able to leverage the other female founders for advice, and there weren’t many of them around,” Angelides recalls. “The young girls out there making decisions about what to study—when they don’t see that representation, they won’t be inclined to choose a career in tech. It’s important to shine a light on great women building great businesses.”

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Angelides quips.

Not only is better representation in professional settings the right thing to do—and crucial for driving equality in our society more widely—it also has positive implications for business growth. As McKinsey’s 2020 report “Why Diversity Matters” shows, businesses in the highest quartile for diversity in the C-suite were 15 percent more likely to boast above-average profits compared to the least diverse ones. In the technology industry, diversity is a barrier against groupthink—and it makes for better products, by bringing up and spotlighting problems that a homogeneous workforce will likely overlook, due in part to the blind spots intrinsic to their similar lived experiences. According to Angelides, asking for advice from people with different and diverse backgrounds is the very first step to making tech more diverse: “You don’t have to do it alone. Have humility and just go for it.“


A shift in mindset

Of course, technology alone will not solve all our problems. While technology has become an agent of change, the real disruption has to happen at a wider level. In other words, it takes a shift in mindset: We need community, collaborating on creating better, more useful products. We also need a system that, through investment, funding, and governmental and institutional support, makes it possible for better tech to happen. By establishing the right avenues, everyone can be involved in the creation process—including groups like women, mothers, and people of colour, who are traditionally excluded from this.

In a way, that’s what Angelides has been working on throughout her career, from Mums in Tech, to her work as a venture capitalist, and her stints as a mentor at the University of Oxford in VC circles. Importantly, she says, positive change is possible even in these turbulent times. “Some of the greatest businesses were created in a downturn. Go out, scoop up great talent, and build,” Angelides says.

Today’s business landscape makes the need for diversity more urgent than ever. Companies are facing a monumental talent gap: In the UK alone, talent vacancies in the tech sector in May 2022 were up 191 percent from 2020. This underscores the importance of investing in a more diverse talent pool. Only by training and recruiting people from different, underrepresented backgrounds can businesses address inequality, make better products, and tackle the skill gap crisis.


Bringing about change

One organisation actively working to train a more diverse tech workforce is ServiceNow, the leading provider of cloud-based digital workflow technology.

ServiceNow has been front and centre in addressing this worsening issue, using its unique position to bring about industry-wide change while empowering its customers to work better and more effectively. Its NextGen Programme, for instance, addresses the shortage of tech talent by giving historically marginalised communities—ranging from young mums to veterans and refugees—the opportunity to train and build new digital skills.

By training people from all walks of life, the NextGen Programme cultivates talent and provides businesses with people whose skills and life experience expand beyond that of the typical tech worker. ServiceNow is also one of the highest-profile proponents and providers of “low-code” solutions that allow the creation of digital apps with little to no coding skills. In this way budding developers can engage with the digital economy and create applications, even with limited or no coding skills—in so doing democratising the sector. Low-code solutions also help business users and citizen developers with no actual coding experience to co-create enterprise apps with more skilled developers.

A combination of ServiceNow’s initiatives with programmes such as those pioneered by Angelides holds the key to making tech more diverse, more effective—and making the world of work better for everyone.

SOURCE: - Interview with June Angelides (Founder of Mum's in Tech)