Issue #06: Diversity & Inclusion

Sheree Atcheson On Diversity And Inclusion

An exclusive interview with Sheree Atcheson, an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion leader. She spends her time helping organisations create inclusive environments which embrace people of all walks of life. She currently works at Deloitte UK as the Tech Respect & Inclusion Manager, at Women Who Code as a Board-Appointed Global Ambassador, and as a Contributor at Forbes.

What are the most pressing problems regarding Diversity & Inclusion in the tech industry right now?

We are not having teams which represent the societies we live in. Technology is innovative, fluid and creative, and to fully meet the needs of all, we must have teams which replicate the society which are using them. Our organisations should spend the time understanding what our people need and how we can provide that to them, allowing them to grow and flourish in their work and levels.

You have been very active in the promotion of D&I; based in your experience, what are the most successful concrete actions undertaken to solve the problem? (By yourself or by others)

Relatable role models – role models are crucial. It is a big ask to ask someone under-represented and/or marginalised to also have the emotional energy to push through and be the first. When we see people similar to us succeeding, it is empowering and clearly shows it is possible to succeed.

Sponsorship – sponsorship is incredibly powerful in the advancement of underrepresented people. Sponsoring someone means advocating for their career, providing constructive feedback to aid growth and lending visibility to their work. By doing this, allies are helping actively make a difference in someone’s career.

Engagement of allies – we must have the help of the majority in making the industry better for the minority. Diversity in technology is good for all and through allies realising their power in shaping a positive impact, we can create actionable changes to aid more inclusive environments.

Could the effectiveness of those measures be improved, or do we need a “paradigm shift” to tackle the problem?

Both. Yes, we can measure the number of visible leaders or increase on retention of underrepresented groups however, this will not shift overnight – this is going to take ongoing work to continue to change the ratios in relation to all aspects of diversity. Organisations embracing diversity and fostering environments of inclusion are having healthier bottom lines because they are listening to more inputs and voices, reducing risk in solutions and creating the solutions for the many.

Have you seen an improvement in the situation in the past few years, or has the situation simply changed without signs of improvements?

Yes, we can see differences because people are having these kinds of conversations and organisations are aware that changes need to be made. The more awareness we have, the better – however, we need actions post-listening.

Regarding those improvements, what are the “metrics” (if there are any) that can be used to gauge them?

The percentage of underrepresented people in industry, especially in leadership positions. Whilst we need representation at all levels, including junior roles, we need to ensure we are providing environments where underrepresented people can flourish and become leaders. Also, to spend the time in understanding your attraction, retention and exit data – to form strategies around that, instead of a blanket approach.

Cover photo by Sheree Atcheson.

Adrian Kosmaczewski

Adrian Kosmaczewski is a software consultant and evangelist. He is a published writer, trainer and speaker. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Liverpool.