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Women and Girls

Why diversity is the solution you need to succeed


Tara McGeehan

President CGI in the UK

Making your company diverse isn’t just the right thing to do. To be effective, innovative and profitable, businesses need people with a broad range of perspectives and attitudes.

It’s a fairly obvious point to make, says Tara McGeehan, UK President of global IT and business services provider CGI, but if a company wants to recruit the best talent available, it has to make its selection from all sections of society. “Otherwise you’re tying one hand behind your back,” she says. “A person’s gender, colour, background, religion, etc, shouldn’t matter.

Companies want to hear as many different viewpoints as possible — or they won’t get the quality of solution they need to succeed.

It’s taken a long time for some organisations to understand this, says McGeehan. The good news is that things are changing. Partly that’s because, these days, most customers expect — and even demand — businesses to be more diverse. “If we don’t reflect our customers when we turn up to meetings to try and win work, then we’re at an immediate disadvantage,” she says.

“Young people enjoy working for a company that mirrors society. My own industry needs to tap into this, because we have to attract millennials who can take us on the journey to digital transformation.” The bottom line is that diversity is good for bottom lines.

Initiatives that drive diversity and ‘blind’ CVs

If that makes implementing a corporate diversity strategy sound easy, McGeehan stresses that it isn’t, necessarily. A mindset change has to be made from the top down and that can be a challenge. There are, however, various diversity drivers a company can employ at recruitment stage, and actively encouraging female employees to put themselves forward for promotion.

“Women can have a different career outlook to men,” says McGeehan. “They’ll find lots of reasons why they shouldn’t apply for a leadership position, even though on paper they have more experience than some of the male candidates. Knowing that, I’ll contact them and ask why they aren’t going for the job.” Unfortunately, it’s still necessary for McGeehan to put her “hand down to pull up the next woman” — which is why she also recognises women’s networks as an important platform for female peers to share their experiences and support each other.

Open up career options, bring your daughter to work

Other key diversity initiatives include maternity coaching, running skills workshops and introducing a ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work’ day, the effectiveness of which McGeehan has experienced at first hand. “In our industry, it makes technology accessible to girls,” she says. “Going to their parents’ place of work shows them that they could do something really exciting and significant in technology; some of our professionals help keep satellites in orbit, make sure doctors have faster access to patients’ notes or enable smart meters across Britain. It opens up their options.”

Running higher apprenticeship programmes and degree level apprenticeships means that young people who don’t want a traditional university experience, or who are worried about its inevitable debt, can still find a way to obtain a degree and further their career; although, particularly when it comes to the tech sector, young women need to get the message that those kind of apprenticeships are a viable alternative for them. “We need to level the playing field,” says McGeehan. “I don’t like the ‘this type of career isn’t for girls’ attitude. That’s just depressing. I don’t want to hear it — and I think society now expects something different.”

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