TECHNOLOGICAL advances mean the world is changing so rapidly it’s a struggle to keep up.
One of the key issues is the ever-growing skills gap because, while it is commonly thought by the older generation that many young people all want to enter the technology sector, the reality is that not enough are studying STEM subjects to meet future needs.
For Dell Technologies the answer is a diverse and inclusive workforce that includes minority groups, females as well as men, and everyone from graduates to those re-entering the workforce at a later stage in life.
Diversity and inclusion is seen by Dell Technologies not just as a politically correct slogan but a business imperative - which is why the company has launched a range of programmes to attract and retain diverse talent.
Dell Technologies’ diversity and inclusion strategy is as important as its technology strategy because it is regarded as bringing business and social value to the company.
“We are in 180 countries and have 140,000 employees and what we want is to create a place where people can come to work and be themselves,” said Tricia Smyth, EMEA Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Dell Technologies.
“We want them to feel a sense of belonging so they do their best work rather than sit worrying about how they are perceived.
LEADING THE WAY: Tricia Smyth, EMEA Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Dell Technologies
That is a key part of our code of conduct. On the flip side we want customers to see we value these groups.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one area where homogeneity does not make good business sense.
“At the end of the day AI is programmed by a person and if you have a homogenous group programming it means there is just one dimension,” pointed out Smyth. “If we can apply diversity to that we are more likely to reflect what customers are looking for.
“As one of the largest technology companies in the world the onus is on us to use that position of privilege to make a difference.
“We are in a unique position to work on global challenges and we have built our agenda around sustainability, inclusion and transforming lives with technology.”
The seriousness of the skills gap can be seen in the fact that by 2024 in Europe and North America alone there are expected to be 600,000 unfilled computing jobs based on current graduation rates.
This is where programmes like STEMAspire comes in as it is aimed at encouraging females to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics and reverse the tendency for female students to drop out before they finish their studies.
This is Dell Technologies’ biggest programme in Scotland and has been so successful that the same model is being adopted by the company’s Pride employee resource group to encourage more of the LGBT community to enter the field. “We have just finished piloting this in Ireland and the feedback has been superb both from the mentors and mentees,” said Smyth.
“For mentors it is good to see they can cultivate talent and from the LGBT standpoint we are providing role models within Dell Technologies. Often LGBT students fail to make the transition from college or university into the industry as they are unsure of how they will be received.”
Dell Technologies also goes into secondary schools with its Digital Futures Programme to deliver pupils an idea of what it is really like to work in the sector and the range of jobs available.
“This is working well too,” said Smyth. “At the start of one of my recent sessions I asked for a show of hands of those considering a career in the technology industry. Three out of 165 pupils put their hands up but at the end of the hour every single hand went up. We show how technology affects everything we do so that they can see all the different aspects of being a computer programmer.”
Another Dell Technologies programme centres on those who have taken a few years out of the workplace and would like to go back to work but are in need of new skills as well as a confidence boost.
Flexible working is also seen as key to encouraging people with family responsibilities to work for Dell Technologies and by 2020 it is expected that nearly 50 per cent of the workforce will have flexible work arrangements.
“We want to attract talent and make sure we create an environment where people can be themselves,” said Smyth.
“Dell Technologies is committed to that and is regularly voted one of the most ethical and most admired companies.
She added: “The core to all of this is addressing issues of bias. We all have biases and these affect how we make decisions so we need to be aware of them.”
In order to help employees recognise their biases the company has launched its Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) programme.
“We are not trying to change people but we need to eliminate bias from how we hire and recruit to make sure we build a diverse workforce,” said Smyth. “People tend to hire someone they like or someone like them so it is building awareness that someone unlike you does not always mean worse - it just means different.”
For more information go to https://corporate.delltechnologies.com/en-us/social-impact/cultivating-inclusion.htm
Gender was on the agenda in Edinburgh
Dell Technologies are working collaboratively with Equate Scotland to help support and prepare the next generation of female STEM professionals entering today’s transforming work environment.
Scotland’s gender equality expert within STEM Equate Scotland, recently hosted their annual Student Network Conference and Awards Ceremony at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. Equate Scotland, established in 2006, is an organisation that actively promotes and encourages the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
CAPITAL VENTURE: The Student Network Conference and Awards Ceremony
The event brought together female students from colleges and universities across Scotland, celebrating their passion for their chosen field. Students connected with inspiring female professionals from companies such as Dell Technologies, Data Lab, Ernst Young and Balfour Beatty, to help build on their network and enhance their career development.
The conference came about as part of Equate Scotland’s strategy to make tangible and sustainable change in Scotland, enabling the development of women studying and working within STEM industries by supporting their recruitment, retention and career progression.
Scotland’s STEM employment sector struggles with skills shortages which many expect will be exacerbated by Britain’s exit from the European Union. Studies suggest there are too few students coming through, particularly females, which jeopardises Scotland’s chance to be at the forefront of innovation.
Only 25% of women have a profession within the STEM sector and 70% of university students studying STEM will not progress onto a role within the industry. Dell Technologies attended the event and hosted an interactive workshop for students and employers. The workshop focused on effective communication and social media, providing students with tips and guidance on how to enhance and maintain a professional social media presence across platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Sarah O’Donnell, Executive Communications at Dell Technologies says: “The event was very much a celebration of super inspiring young women, bringing them together to connect with peers and other female professionals to help enhance their career development.
“Dell Technologies were delighted to support the event and I was particularly privileged to impart some of my knowledge on social media and communication skills in a super interactive workshop.”
Equate Scotland initially connected with Dell Technologies in 2017, providing support in the launch of their STEMAspire mentoring programme. The programme came about as part of
Dell Technologies wider social impact strategy to drive growth and innovation through advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.