Tackling low female representation in STEM parts of the business
Gender equality is a priority across BT, but our employee data shows female representation is particularly acute in our Technology business (TSO). Targeted recruitment programmes are in place to increase supply, but the marketplace for senior technical roles is male-dominated.
As a result, we are focusing on developing a stronger pipeline of female employees and improving retention of senior women by launching #womenintechnology, which is a female development and role modelling programme. Our long term aim is to make a positive impact on workforce composition. We are already seeing increased levels of engagement among female managers in TSO.
Issue to be resolved
Analysis of our diversity profile and succession plans shows that we don’t have sufficient women in senior positions in TSO and the pipeline of high potential women is not as robust as we need.
We ensured senior sponsorship and buy-in. The programme is sponsored by the TSO CEO; the leadership team are visibly engaged. A clear programme of communications was developed – underpinning BT’s commitment to being a meritocracy, but using data to illustrate more women needed to get to the starting line. The focus was on BT’s three core diversity benefits: Customer; Talent; Innovation.
We approached women in TSO flagged as high potential and asked them to apply to #womenintechnology. We positioned it as a development programme and emblematic of our commitment to driving wider culture change.
Quarterly events were set up with external speakers, on a range of subjects from gravitas in the workplace, to how to engage with colleagues in an all-male environment. The events ranged in size from 150 people to smaller, more specific events for 12 people. Each of these events was sponsored by a senior TSO leader. We also held Inclusive Leadership training session for top 80 managers in TSO to raise awareness of the biases that might hinder women’s progression, and give them the chance to pledge their support.
Demonstrating our commitment to this programme, the most recent external hire to our executive team has been a woman. We are reviewing our recruitment criteria to attract a more diverse range of female candidates. We are using the programme to drive a culture change; encouraging the women in Phase 1 of this programme to go out to graduate fairs and speak about their experiences, for example – and to share their experiences with women in other parts of BT. We are also extending the programme to colleagues in India.
The women who took part in the first phase of the programme are about to “graduate”. We are discussing how we continue to support them while reaching out to other women across the business. Questions we are asking are:
- What does this support look like?
- Should it simply be that Year 1 participants meet less often and we rely on them to keep in touch with each other?
- Or should we extend the programme year on year to more high potential candidates?
Our Women in Technology programme has had a significant impact: senior leaders regularly discuss the question about the number of women in senior roles at leadership team meetings and between senior leaders outside of these meetings.