Tech Exeter

Diversity Workshop

On Saturday 13th April 2019, we got a diverse group of 10+ people together for a diversity & inclusion workshop facilitated by Sawsan Khuri, using some Design Thinking techniques to try to understand some of the root causes of diversity issues in Tech Exeter and other tech groups in the region and come up with new ways to address them. This document summarises some of the insights that came out of that session and thoughts on next steps.

Diversity Vs Inclusion

We began by asking each member of the workshop to give their own understanding of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’. The general conclusion was that ‘diversity’ felt to many people like a corporate buzzword that was perhaps more aligned with hitting hiring targets, and there was a general preference for the term ‘inclusion’, which felt more aligned with representation and making anyone feel welcome in our groups.

Next we had a discussion about the positives and negatives of current Tech & Digital Exeter activities.

The positives

This last point is interesting, because it contrasted with one of the most consistent negatives, which was a sense from new joiners that they didn’t have enough knowledge.

The negatives

Ideas

Having grouped the different positives and negatives, we then had a brainstorming session to think of different ideas to address the issues raised. These included some ‘quick wins’ that we’ve already been able to implement, along with longer term ideas about how we structure events and additional activities we could support. The full list of ideas is included at the end of this document, but here are some key ideas to highlight:

How can we be more welcoming for newcomers?

How can we increase networking and make social interaction easier?

How do we ensure we have talks for everyone?

How do we raise awareness and reach out to new people?

Next Steps

To follow on from our this idea generation session, we plan to select some of the strongest ideas and develop them. A key issue to overcome is the lack of capacity to take on new projects while we are entirely volunteer led. We plan to review our fundraising strategy with the aim of being able to have some funded staff to help move projects forward. For diversity initiatives, we hope to explore options for grant funding.

We have already been able to implement some of the ideas produced, including having a welcome person at Tech Exeter meetups, stacking chairs and encouraging pacman circles. Kris also paid close attention to representation in building this year’s Tech Exeter Conference website, making sure that the images and videos contain lots of female representation.

It is important to remember that equal representation is very difficult to achieve given the current disparity between men and women going into tech careers, but it is incredibly important in moving the dial for the next generation. A lot of studies have shown that role models and seeing ‘someone like me’ has a very direct impact on the likelihood of someone choosing a degree or taking up a career in a particular area. We will need to work extra hard to ensure we are representative. This was proven with the Tech Exeter Conference, where we had to specifically target potential female speakers from across the country to improve the gender balance.

All the Ideas

Different talk topics:

Different talk formats

Different session formats / events

Workshops / teaching events

More diverse speakers

Advertising

Labelling

Timing

Venue

Outreach

Tools

Use community

Planning

Arts

Humanities

Business

Education/youth