GDS' Stephen Foreshew-Cain: ‘there is a gender-diversity problem in the digital industry’
Government Digital Service executive director Stephen Foreshew-Cain has committed the organisation to a more pro-active stance on promoting gender diversity in the IT sector.
In an announcement marking International Women’s Day, Foreshew-Cain said that many more men than women were employed in the digital industry, and the problem was exacerbated by a lack of women speakers at industry events.
He said that as part of a strategy to address the way the industry was portrayed, GDS staff would boycott panel discussions that did not have an acceptable male-female balance and would base decisions on whether to speak at events on the efforts organisers were making to address gender-diversity issues.
“There is a gender diversity problem in the digital industry,” he said. “I'm committing, in public, to the first of several actions that GDS is going to take to help improve gender diversity.
“In future, no-one from GDS will take part in a panel discussion of two or more people unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the chair.
“In future, no-one from GDS will speak at an event unless the event's organisers are clearly working hard to address gender diversity on stage. It's hard to put a number on this sort of thing, so we will make that decision based on what we see on each event's draft agenda.”
Foreshew-Cain, who is the Cabinet Office’s LGB&TI champion, said the GDS would hold itself to the same standards for events it organised.
“Ideally, when GDS is invited to supply a guest speaker for an event, we’d like to send women to speak just as often as we send men,” he said.
“That means that sometimes, some of our male staff - especially those on our management team - will be encouraged to step aside and suggest a female colleague to speak instead of them.
“There are plenty of women at GDS who are excellent speakers and experts in their field - but the opportunities to speak need to be present for them.”
Foreshew-Cain said that while GDS’ Sprint 16 event in February had some women as speakers and panel members on the main stage, as well as leaders of break-out sessions and discussions, there had not been enough.
“For our next big event - whether it's Sprint 17 or something else - we aim to have an even gender split, 50-50,” he said.
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