Last week saw the official launch of WEDS (Women Empowering Diversity in Start-ups) – a UK network that has been founded by women that work in some of the UK’s most successful cybersecurity start-ups – Digital Shadows, Panaseer and Tessian.
The launch took place at Digital Shadows headquarters with 60+ representatives from VC’s, accelerators and start-ups. It was sponsored by Garrison. There were a series of talks and a panel discussion with inclusion and diversity pioneers, including:
Nicola Whiting, Chief Strategy Officer at Titania
Divinia Knowles, Start-up Advisor and ex COO/CFO at Pact and Mind Candy
Debs Durojaiye , Organiser of Afrotech Fest
Katerina Pascoulis, Founders and Coders alumni, and CEO and founder at Personably
Stephen Chapendama, Assistant Systems Consultant at the University of Hertfordshire & Technology Consultant at Foundervine
WEDS has been founded to help start-ups begin on the right foot with inclusion and diversity, at a time when they may be limited by team size, budget and resources. The ambition of the network is to provide a platform to help build inclusive, diverse environments where people can share insight on their learning’s and best practice.
Leila Powell, Senior Security Data Scientist, Panaseer (& WEDS co-founder): “It’s been a joy to be part of a founding team who passionately believe that inclusion and diversity of all kinds are essential to drive happiness and success in the workplace. We are so pleased by the positive reception that the group has received, and the insight that was shared from our speakers, who are all authentic inclusion and diversity champions.”
Nicola Whiting, Chief Strategy Officer at Titania: “For real change to happen, where the top of the company is representative of the bottom, two things need to happen. First of all, we need to tell the Board that the change will benefit them by ensuring we are talking in their terms – we must remind them again and again that companies in the bottom quartile both for gender, ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns. Secondly, we must stop talking in labels. The nature of inclusion and diversity is that we are all different; It’s not just about a specific characteristic like gender and it’s definitely not about “charity”, it’s about individuals being treated equally – talk to them as people and learn to listen to what they need to succeed.”
Becky Pinkard, VP Intelligence & IT, Digital Shadows (& WEDS co-founder): “For too long organisations have paid lip service to what inclusion and diversity actually means, without ever looking inward to how we can, as individuals, can counter issues like unconscious bias and being brave enough to stand up and be counted as an instrument of change. I am proud to be part of a movement that is committed to help companies think and act differently.”
The founding team of WEDS include:
Becky Pinkard, VP Intelligence & IT, Digital Shadows
Sophie Burke, Global HR Business Partner, Digital Shadows
Lucy Caiger, Delivery Lead, Panaseer
Leila Powell, Senior Security Data Scientist, Panaseer
Aisha Tummon, Business Development Manager, Tessian
Sabrina Castiglione, Chief Financial Officer, Tessian
James Chappell, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Digital Shadows (attendee): “The event had a lot of value, most importantly it gave me some practical things for companies like ours to work on. I’m taking three things away from this event that I’m planning to implement quickly 1) Put the welcome mat out through our policies and via a statement on the website, 2) adding an inclusion statement line to all our job descriptions, 3) be more overt about the diversity in the representation of our workforce in our communications materials.”
WEDS will be issuing a series of bitesize actionable tips on its LinkedIn page that start-ups can easily implement. The below details five practical tips that everyone can take to support inclusion and diversity:
Find time to recognise the diversity of the people you work with: To empower diversity we must recognise it. Find time to talk with diverse colleagues. If all your co-workers are alike, ask management why, how you can help fix this and seek diverse viewpoints in other forums. By listening to each other’s stories we build empathy and break down perceptions.
Giving feedback? Focus on actions over personalities: Assumptions about other people’s motivations and feelings are vulnerable to unconscious bias. Assess and give feedback in terms of actions, outcomes and behaviours, not adjectives or perceived traits. By reframing our thoughts and judgements we help everyone to be assessed fairly.
Speak up for colleagues in meetings: Is there someone that is often interrupted, or whose views are often left unheard? Speak up and be the one to say, ‘we haven’t heard Z’s view’ or ‘actually Z didn’t finish speaking.’ By listening to everyone, we benefit from diverse viewpoints.
Pause and reconsider offhand comments: Intentions are good but often actions have the bigger impact. Think twice about making that jokey comment; whether or not it’s meant, it can have the same negative impact. By being thoughtful and responsible we foster mutual respect.
Ask and support peoples aspirations: We can wrongly assume what people do and don’t want and we can hinder them through offering misaligned help. Ask people what their aspirations are and respect their ambitions. By sharing goals we can offer the right support and advocacy.