EPISODE 3: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Frances D'Silva (Part 2)
PART 2: This week we explore Frances’s valuable advice for women trying to get into technology and ideas on how as a collective, we can appeal and attract more women in tech. While also remembering that gender diversity is just one angle; age, ethnicity and cultural diversity are also important to consider.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you back Frances, we look forward to diving deeper into diversity & inclusion with you. How does the current gender balance look within your team and company?
“Thanks Ellie. It’s been a tough week for me, personally. However, I have had some positive and encouraging messages based on Part 1 of our Q&A.
My team at Nets comprises 18 men and 3 women, of which 1 man and 2 women are employed by Nets while the rest are from our sourcing partners. So my answer will be in two parts; one for Nets as an employer and the other for Nets as a business operator. Across Nets, the gender balance is relatively good. Within my division — Nets Technology — the current ratio is 28 : 72. This ratio could be a lot better particularly for leadership and architecture roles where the ratio is relatively lower. Nets Technology has an ambition to improve the gender balance and like many other enterprises, we struggle to balance the challenges of a dynamic and competitive market and scarcity in technology skills (regardless of gender).
I would like to draw attention to a related challenge that I have increasingly become aware of over the last 18–24 months. There is gender imbalance in teams due to the use of sourcing partners. I have worked with some really smart women from our sourcing partners. The challenge is that it is not as easy for young women to move abroad on an assignment. Let me take India as an example, I grew up in Mumbai. I have team members — men and women — that have left their young children back home in the care of their spouse or family, to work on projects with us. They travel home once a year sometimes even less than that. As a parent of small children born in Norway, I shudder to think of having to make such a choice. Add to that the complexity of care for ageing parents or support to family members where elderly care or healthcare coverage is not part of the social contract. My reflection is this: If Europe intends using such sourcing models for competitive advantage in a global context, then this is a problem worth addressing.”
Thank you for sharing. Are there any initiatives in the business that help promote and nurture women in the workplace?
“Nets Norway is a sponsor for ODA. This is a network that started in Norway as a movement for promoting the role of Women in Technology. Nets Denmark, has arranged an event together with our women Data Scientists to promote the idea of Women in Technology targeting young women at university.”
Do you personally notice a lack of women in technology?
“Earlier in my career, I worked in teams that were often male dominated. About 15 years ago, there was a positive change with many women joining the tech workforce, at least in the field of Business Intelligence & Analytics in Norway. However, while numbers may be up, it seems to me that representation has reduced, and it is possible that the growth trend seems to be slowing down or even regressing now.
Discussing this topic with my family, I realise that youngsters today have many different options to choose from. Besides, the nature of technology and how it is used is changing as most professions need technology in one form or the other. In addition, from my own experience, I see that the extensive use of sourcing in bigger companies causes a shift in the workforce. Women are often the ones that move from Technology to business development.
So collectively, what more can we do to appeal/attract more women in tech?
“As women, we need to get better at talking about and sharing what we do and what inspires us. We need to show the different aspects and range of what technology can offer. We probably need to highlight the nature of technology as “organised knowledge” so that women see their knowledge as technology. Personally, I believe this approach will enrich technology for all and trigger creative solutions for society as a whole. This interview is my attempt at doing just that. We need to make ourselves more available to young girls who may be considering a career in tech or are curious to know about tech.
At Nets, I have helped arrange a summer coding camp for the children of Nets employees. I can only hope that maybe one young girl saw the possibilities in Tech after that experience.
We all need to do small things and make it known to others so that they may be inspired to do more and different things. This summer, my team will be mentoring a young woman student who will be working at Nets. She will work with data visualisations together with my team. I’m sure we will all be the better for the experience.“
It’s so important that we can work as a collective on this. I like that you have arranged summer coding camps for children. At DigiTech we are proud to have recently completed a partnership with Code Clubs which supports young children throughout Europe to learn to code, so this is a topic close to our hearts.
What would be your advice to women trying to get into technology?
“I would say stop being “flink pike” ‘(“the good girl”) This, of course, applies to women whether they are in tech or not. Speaking from experience, one can get emotional about decisions that are perceived as unfair or wrong. Showing your emotions is often looked upon as being unprofessional. I would argue that choosing not to voice one’s opinion for fear of losing control is worse; everyone loses from the episode as it may have been an important point that did not get voiced.”
When it comes to Tech and the digital era we are in, my advice is to look closely at data. I believe that data is the key to driving business and my role in Nets leads me to claim that data and metadata is the lifeblood of both enterprises and society. My advice to women, especially those that do not have a tech education is to build domain knowledge within their company. Get involved in tech projects, whether it is explaining the meaning of the data, teaching the use of data, managing data quality, governing master data, building reports, dashboards or visualisations. Build and grow your skills in the technology that is related to the project you are working with.
Use online training and attend meetups or webcasts to meet new people in the field and expand your horizon. And last, but not least of all, dare to take a chance; you will learn anyway.”
Thank you again for sharing some extremely valuable advice. Can you share any organisations/communities you are aware of promoting Women in Tech?
“In Oslo, we have multiple groups for promoting Women in Tech, Women in Data Science and Tech for girls. I have attended a few of these meetings (most recent being a virtual Women in Data Science Conference on 13th April). I have chosen to influence the forums where I participate — like in the Special Interest Group (SIG) at the Norwegian Computer Society and at work.
At the SIG for BI & Analytics at the Norwegian Computer Society we have taken an explicit position to ensure that we have a gender balance in the core committee. This also applies to speakers at our events. It is important for all conferences and seminars to strive to maintain a gender balance when it comes to speakers and presenters. We believe this diversity will propagate to the workplace and other professional arenas.
Finally, I would like to say that gender diversity is one dimension; age, educational background, ethnicity and cultural diversity are also important to consider. I believe that promoting a broader sense of the need for cognitive diversity in the groups one works with or closely interacts with, is crucial. When one is surrounded by people that are similar to you, it seems safe but that can easily become an echo chamber that stifles creativity”
This concludes, Episode 3 of our Diversity & Inclusion: Q&A, a huge thank you to Frances for sharing such powerful advice and insights.
Next month, our mission continues — We will create inspirational content, through sharing career journeys, challenges had & lessons learnt. ✨
Who’s story would you like to hear from next? What questions do you have for women in the technology industry? If you would like to get involved in this initiative, we would love to hear from you! Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI - Nordics