How to create an inclusive tech workplace for women

James Milligan, Global Head of Technology Solutions

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #EmbraceEquity. This is an issue that affects all walks of life, not just the world of work, and Wednesday 8 March gives us an opportunity to shine a light on the challenges we face in reaching equity.

I’m proud to say that Hays is making great strides in this area with regards to gender. At present, 42% of our leadership team are women, and we’re on track to increase that to 50% or more by 2030.

Within our global leadership team in Technology Solutions, three of my six colleagues are female. I sat down with Jane Bamford (EMEA), Sarah Köhl (DACH) and Christine Su (Asia) to discuss how organisations can #EmbraceEquity and the role leadership has to play in supporting women in tech.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?

For Jane, #EmbraceEquity means broadening our typical definition of diversity too: “It’s about being inclusive in general, not just toward people but different views and ways of thinking too. Equity is keeping an open mind, especially when it comes to the people you bring into an organisation”. For Christine, meanwhile, embracing equity in the workplace means equal development opportunities, everybody being able to access the same resources, and ensuring parity in salary and benefits.

These are sentiments that Sarah echoes: “I think equity means equal opportunities for everybody, without any kind of discrimination. In my new position, I want to embrace equity by engaging with men and women in a well-balanced mix, to get various inputs, perceptions and ideas.

What is Hays doing to support women in the workplace?

Let’s look at Hays. Christine is new to our organisation, and I’m interested to hear what her honest first impressions are. She gives an example of an initiative in Hays Asia called The Living Room, which is open to our female colleagues: “We can share our troubles and difficulties, and can ask for suggestions. It’s a place where all the women are equally involved, and everybody is very nice! Our HR department take the suggestions we put forward into consideration, such as sanitary pads in the restroom, which we can now find there.”

Jane became our Head of Technology Solutions for EMEA in 2021, prior to which she worked for our organisation across Europe for almost 23 years. “We’ve got better on this over the last few years. There’s greater understanding when someone comes back from maternity leave, for example, of what to expect and how to manage that transition back into the workplace. We’ve got some very good training and Learning & Development programs, both for men and women, to help them support women in general and, as Christine says, there are groups where we can get together and support one another. There are lots of really good initiatives going on, definitely.”

Sarah highlights the benefits of being able to fit work around family life: “We can choose whether we would like to work in the office or at home. We also have very flexible working hours, as it’s good to start earlier in the morning and to have a longer break together with the kids for lunch time. To ensure that we move towards gender equity, it is very important that all these offers are not just used by the women, but also the men. Let the men stay at home when kids are ill, for example.”

What can leaders do to support women in tech?

One of the missions for International Women’s Day relates to women in tech – namely, ‘to elevate and advance gender parity in technology and celebrate the women forging innovation’. As our panel discussed in a 2022 live event we produced with Silicon Republic, progress is being made here, but there’s still a long way to go.

My colleagues have stressed the importance of equal opportunities for women in tech, something we promote at Teen-Turn, where I sit on the board of directors. However, we know that offering this isn’t enough – we need to encourage and inspire, too. Leadership plays in a big part in this, explains Jane - what would her advice be to her counterparts?

“It’s all about leading by the right example and showcasing women. Encourage male counterparts to bring women into the conversations and think about inclusivity. When you’re in a board meeting and you’ve got a woman – or a man – who isn’t saying anything, you encourage them to speak up. For example, if you’re at home having dinner and your child isn’t saying anything, you’d ask about their day, wouldn’t you? It’s exactly the same principle. It’s about naturalising the whole thing.”

Christine believes greater understanding of female colleagues’ situations and needs is important. “Leaders should understand what females experience in their family life and at the office, and what they need to deal with. Spend more time with the female consultants, understand their concerns and issues, and think about what kind of training they can offer to our junior staff. Make these opportunities open to male consultants, too, but it’s women who are less inclined to work in tech roles, and so are often more concerned when they join a tech firm.”

Sarah says: “I completely agree with Jane and Christine. One thing that Jane mentioned earlier is that you have to ask for various perceptions and ideas. You really must ask everybody.

“As a female leader, it's very important that you do not question yourself too much. Go your own way. We know more women in teach means more profit and more innovation. I'm 45 years old now, and my advice to women, and anybody, is that it's never too late to start career in tech.”


James Milligan
Global Head of Technology Solutions

James Milligan is the Global Head of Technology Solutions at Hays, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays' technology businesses globally.