My Diversity is Not Your Flag To Fly

"It has been a growing trend since 2000 - whatever - but in my opinion, the buzzword “diversity” should be put to rest in its grave and left alone." Davina Pancholi-Ifould, founder at rightgig, attended our Women of Silicon Roundabout event last year and gave...
My Diversity is Not Your Flag To Fly
"I am a woman in a male dominated industry. I am a person of colour. I am a 1st generation immigrant. I am gay."

Many potential employers have rubbed their hands in glee at the boxes I tick and as much as these characteristics are the very fabric of my being, they are not my skills.

They do not qualify or unqualify me for particular roles or particular companies.

Now I can see how this seems like I am not a champion of diversity.

Far from it. I have been part of the many women in tech networking platforms, actively involved in fact. Within previous companies I have stood up and despite my own discomfort, have declared my diversity boxes so that others feel they can too.

"By the way, hiring a female developer just because you need to make up the numbers is not the way to increase your productivity and to delight your customers."

Hiring a female developer is vital so that you can reflect your customer base, ensure you have all user points of view and because she is a damn good coder. I’m not the only one saying it.

Kirti Sharma, Sage’s Director of Bots and AI, spoke about critical product issues due to a lack of female developers:

“…early voice recognition software didn't always recognise female voices, because none of the developers had been female and no-one thought to test out the technology on women…”

Face palm anyone?

But I feel we are all focusing too much on colour, sexual orientation, gender (to label or not to label) and are at risk of forgetting the other side of what makes up a diverse workforce. Skills.

It is vital to find time in amongst our already over packed lives to develop current skills and add new ones to your toolbox.

The really interesting thing is that even though everyone knows this is a good idea, training and development is the thing that companies see as costly in both time and money and is normally the first budget to be deemed non-essential.

I have a friend who works in the NHS as a GP and last week over a (very large) glass of wine she told me (again) how they were short on staff and didn't have the right support skills to help with the growing numbers of patients.

For example, a pharmacist to do medicine reviews or a prescribing nurse for minor illness. Then in the very next breath she mentioned the monthly Protected Learning slot they have assigned by the CCG to support ongoing learning was cancelled. No reason given.

"To then read about doctors and nurses who are overworked and under trained beingblamed for medical negligence. It makes me wonder if the value of skills and development is being recognised."

I am under no illusion that this is isolated or specific to the NHS. I am no stranger to having a budget pulled from under me when trying to roll out a new piece of software across the country!

From a self-development perspective, I have also been in companies with the grand promise of development and training when being offered a role. Only for budgets to be cut or reassigned. This left me feeling cheated and distant from the organisation when something I deem to be essential to my ability to do the best work I can, had been taken from me.

"It wasn't in my contract."

It’s kind of just one of those things they say to you are interview: "... there is lots of internal training and opportunities for growth..."

I call bullshit.

I believe we need to get back to remembering hiring is about people not paper. It is believed that the first “resume” was produced and used by Leonardo Da Vinci over 500 years ago.

I can’t believe we still use this ancient document to hire for jobs that didn’t even exist then.

The reason I took the leap into entrepreneurship and started rightgig™ was due to these two reasons:

  1. I am a person who has skills. My 'diversity' gives me a unique point of view on those skills, but I do not want you to hire me solely based on who I am married to. Our drive at rightgig™ is to ensure skills not job titles are the priority. Oh, and by the way, no one will know your name or gender until they need to. Bye bye unconscious bias.
  2. I didn't always know who needed my skills and what I could do with them. We have spent decades hiring based on the box labelled job title. And more so now, than ever with such variety on job titles for the same roles, do we even know what they mean anymore?

By making it easy to find where your skills best fit or what skills you need to hire, companies can go from good to great. Ensuring retain talent, driving productivity, affecting the skills gap and changing the world are a normal part of your day to day.

"Ultimately there is absolutely a need to focus on a diverse workforce but remember just using the word or creating a club full of ‘diverse’ individuals is not the end of it – don’t forget my skills."

 biography my diversityDavina Pancholi-Ifould – Founder at rightgig™ (www.rightgig.co.uk)

rightgig™ is an app to improve the speed and quality of the hiring and recruiting process for both candidates and companies. The rightgig™ marketplace enables businesses to hire freelancers and contractors in professional services such as HR, Finance, Project Management and Sales faster by matching skills and culture.

Tags: