Let us do the nudging for you!

I was talking to one of our clients recently when the Head of D&I said, “The trouble is, some of our executive leaders don’t really see a problem with diversity.  They think that we have a great, inclusive culture and that the lack of diversity is a result of us working in a white, male-dominated sector.  How do we make them feel the need to be more inclusive?”


Does that sound familiar?  It might do, as it isn’t an isolated occurrence.  In my experience, many of the existing leaders – particularly in sectors that are dominated by white men, such as finance, construction and tech – still grapple with the idea that the lack of diversity in their work circles isn’t due to a lack of talented people from different backgrounds and of different identities.  In most cases, the lack of diversity is pure and simple a consequence of incomplete inclusion.  Sure, most companies are inclusive – to those who look like them and behave like them.  But even in cases where inclusion and engagement scores are high, like 80% or even 90%, we’re still talking about 10 to 20 percent of the work force that are not engaged or included.  Isn’t that too high a cost?


So how do we make these leaders feel the need for diversity action?

I suggested to my client the use of Inclusion Nudges.

Inclusion Nudges is a concept developed by two senior  D&I experts Tinna Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski in 2013. Based on the nudge theory by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Inclusion Nudges are designed to motivate and encourage people to behave in a more inclusive manner without thinking about it.

Inclusion Nudges are necessary because our behaviour is driven primarily by our subconscious mind – our ‘fast brain’.  The part of our brain that reacts quickly based on emotion and learned signals.  It is the part of the brain that helped us survive for thousands of years – and hence, our ‘primitive brain’.  It is an incredibly efficient system that works beautifully to help us cope with the everyday.  That said, this ancient coping mechanism is also riddled with biases – more than 200 of them, and that’s before we add any personal ones that we developed based on our own experiences, preferences and upbringing.

Our thinking brain – the Neocortex (or the ‘slow brain’) doesn’t even realise it when we act in a biased manner.  In fact, most of our behaviour choices and judgments don’t even register there.

So even those of us who have the very best intentions not to be biased and to be more inclusive find it difficult to behave this way, given that most of our behaviour is driven by our subconscious mind.

No wonder, then, that most of us – including many who are senior leaders – don’t recognise the fact that their organisation’s lack of diversity is most likely a consequence of behaviours, and not due to any perceived reason.

This is why Inclusion Nudges are so helpful.

So back to my client… I suggested that they try following action from the book on Inclusion Nudges:  collect quotes from discussions, exit interviews and any other occasions that bring to life people’s experiences at the company – situations when people felt excluded.  Statements such as

When my colleagues go out for a pint after work, I can’t join them because I have to pick up my son.  I feel I’m missing out on bonding opportunities, being left behind.


When I try to make my point at a meeting, I’m frequently interrupted. This makes me feel insignificant.


 Once a colleague said to me “You’re Asian and you don’t like spicy foods?” I felt bad for not living up to his stereotype.

The quotes can be presented as part of a meeting on D&I or – for greater impact – taped to the walls of a meeting room (when we’re back meeting each other in actual rooms), set out on paper speech bubbles.  Before the meeting starts, the leaders can be invited to walk around and read the quotes, so they can start to feel how some people in the organisation feel.  This is a great way to start the conversation about the need for positive action.

Inclusion Nudges offer great techniques to help develop an inclusive workplace.  If you’re interested to learn more, do get the book (warning, it’s quite thick!).  Or you can reach out to us if you’d like to find out how to use them to address your specific challenge or how to incorporate them into your already-ongoing D&I programme.

Digital: We have a problem!

Diversity in the digital sector – in the UK and elsewhere – is appallingly poor.  Going by data compiled by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, nearly 89% of those working in the digital sector are white. Only 16% of UK’s IT professionals are female and only 8.5% of senior leaders in the sector are of BAME background.  When it comes to disability, only 9% of tech specialists in the UK have a disability.  This is a serious problem considering that the sector spans such a vast array of products and services – all of which are designed and developed by only a tiny cross-section of our natural diversity.

In 2017 the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) was founded to address this lack of Diversity and has been supported by the UK Digital Strategy ever since.  Its aim is to bring already existing solutions to the sector by facilitating collaboration, sharing expertise and insights and collating and sharing benchmarking data.  Signing the pledge is a commitment to plan to improve diversity and inclusion at work, to collaborate and share experiences and to submit a diversity questionnaire each year.  Any organisation that works with technology – not just tech companies – can become a signatory.   Voice At The Table joined TTC last year and are proud to contribute to this sector with our knowledge and expertise.

What else can be done to address diversity in the sector?

Our digital and tech clients have asked us to help them to become more inclusive.  After all, an inclusive workplace is the foundation for nurturing broader diversity of thought.

We have responded by sharing our set of 8 Inclusive Behaviours.

In one instance, we helped a telecoms business by designing and developing an e-learning tool for their onboarding process.  In this digital solution, all new joiners are introduced to the ‘rules of engagement’ in an inclusive work environment.  The modules explain what it means to be inclusive and why it matters, how these behaviours manifest themselves in the workplace and how to improve our own inclusive behaviours.

In other instances, we have created Inclusive Behaviours Frameworks for organisations, designed to expand an organisation’s values and behaviours and to be used as a tool to develop stronger inclusion – behaviour by behaviour – within the organisation.

This phased approach to inclusion makes it easier to embrace the challenges that exist in the sector and leads to a more natural evolution of Diversity in the sector.  Layered with several other Diversity initiatives – such as gender-neutral job descriptions, naming but one example – companies become better equipped in attracting greater diversity to the sector as well as retaining it.

What gets measured gets done?

One unremitting challenge we see is gathering the requisite data on diversity in order to be able to better understand existing obstacles to D&I.  Last month, the Big Fish Academy – our D&I training arm – hosted an ‘expert interview’ on this topic with a D&I lead from the BBC alongside one of their Deputy Directors from the Design and Engineering unit – part of the BBC’s tech department.  It wasn’t perhaps surprising to hear that the BBC is very good at gathering all the requisite data – but not only that.  What has made the biggest difference to its diversity efforts is what they do with the data. Sharing the collected information openly and explaining what is intended to be done with it is as important as actually doing something with it.  This kind of open acknowledgement encourages a higher rate of disclosure – a sign of inclusion – and allows organisations to pinpoint initiatives to address the specific challenges they are experiencing.

Data is something that tech-savvy organisations do well, and if they turn their natural strengths to the challenges around Diversity and Inclusion, I believe that they can achieve greater success than they have shown to-date.

Many of you undoubtedly believe that your organisations already collect a lot of data, but as we heard in another Roundtable I facilitated just last week for the Legal sector, there’s data and then there’s data.  It’s not enough to collect ‘milestone’ data.  We need to trace the data through the employee life cycle – from recruitment to retirement/exit.  We need to understand the experience of each employee and how that differs for different groups or characteristics.  The more granular the information we collect, the more precise the picture we obtain.  This kind of information can unearth ingrained biases in our processes that can be addressed quickly and systematically.

So yes, our digital sector has a diversity problem – but it also has the solutions.  Now we just need to get better at putting the two together and we will be on our way to a better future for all of us.

Active Voice: Women at the Forefront of the Digital Revolution

We are a society driven by digital technology. It has generated enormous wealth and tapped into the talents of some of the most creative minds on the planet. The Digital Leaders 100 (DL100) list recognises some of this talent and celebrates the teams and individuals who are working hard behind the scenes to secure the UK’s Digital Transformation. They are all inspirational and to salute their achievements and motivate the next generation of digital entrepreneurs, we’re featuring a handful of female digital “role models” and nominees from the DL100 list 2020.

  1. Lucy Watts MBE is a leader in digital spaces for people with disabilities and life-shortening illnesses. She runs various digital networks and support groups, digital activism/advocacy, virtual peer mentoring, various websites, writes a popular blog and recently started a YouTube vlog.
  2. Deborah O’Neill is UK Head of Digital and a partner at Oliver Wyman, where she leads complex digital transformations at the world’s largest companies. She helps her clients build out their engineering and delivery capability, making them self-sufficient and able to make changes more rapidly.
  3. Mansata Kurang is a mathematician and creative technologist and the founder of VR Revival, an award winning immersive virtual reality application for dementia patients. She is passionate about using creative technologies to make a positive difference in the world and help society’s most vulnerable individuals.
  4. Sirinda Bhandal is the founder of Simply Connect, a Tech4good company that brings communities together. She is passionate about promoting the use of digital technology to transform services and to help people live happier, healthier lives. She is also a dedicated champion for the voluntary and charity sector and their role to build stronger, connected communities.
  5. Amy Icke is Online Learning and Innovation Manager at The Girls' Day School Trust (GDST). In this role, she supports teachers and pupils across the GDST in the effective use of digital learning platform. She is an advocate for women in STEM and tech innovation.
  6. Heather Picov is CEO of Apps for Good, a leading education technology charity that is growing a generation of digital social leaders. Launched in 2010, it provides free technology courses and workshops for schools and has impacted 200,000+ students in 1500+ schools globally and seen thousands of problem-solving tech prototypes created by young people.

Wanted: More Women Digital Role Models to Bridge the Gender Gap

By Melissa Jackson

“If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have bought shares in Zoom,” is a phrase I’ve heard tripping off the tongue of a swathe of people admonishing themselves over a lack of foresight that digital video conferencing platforms were going to boom over lockdown. Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom, has made over $12 billion since March. The digital/technical world is an oyster that’s mushrooming and seemingly unstoppable, but is it attracting women entrepreneurs?

No product is made today, no person moves today, nothing is collected, analysed or communicated without some “digital technology” being an integral part of it. In fact, digital technology is evolving so fast that by the time I’ve written this, I’m convinced that at least a dozen future digital millionaires will have secured funding from venture capitalists to invest in their must-have new product. But how many of these will be women, I find myself considering?

It’s a fact that women make up a small percentage of leadership positions in major companies, and an even smaller amount are executives in the technology/digital sector – just 5%, according to research carried out by PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers).

They interviewed 2,000 A-level and university students and found that females aren’t considering technology careers as they aren’t given enough information on what working in the sector involves and also because no-one is putting it forward as an option to them.

A lack of female role models is also reinforcing the perception that a technology career isn’t for them. Only 22% of students in the survey could name a famous female working in technology. Whereas two-thirds could name a famous man working in technology. Only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males.

The number of women entering the digital sector, as compared with other UK industries, is falling. Just one quarter of the UK digital workforce was female - according to the most recent government statistics (2015) -  a drop from 33% in 2002.

To address this decline, we cannot underestimate the importance of organisations like WISE – the campaign for “gender balance in science, technology and engineering from the classroom to the boardroom”.

“The more girls that see successful women in STEM in front of them the more they are predisposed to think that they can do STEM subjects too. They need positive role models but they need them on a regular basis, Not just occasionally,” according to Professor Anne Adams, Open University Institute of Educational Technology.

For this reason, WISE has launched an Ambassador programme to establish a network of inspirational, influential and diverse women working in STEM, to act as role models and to work together to promote gender balance at the highest levels within the UK.

Baroness Joanna Shields has gone further, saying, “It is the responsibility of women across the globe that have achieved success in the digital and IT sector to give something back. Together we can capture the imagination of young women and give them the confidence to believe they can create the great tech innovations that will define our future.”

Never more do we need to inspire girls (and boys) to choose STEM careers if we are to plug the cavernous UK digital skills gap.

When I look at this year’s Digital Leaders 100 individual nominations – those identified as demonstrating a pioneering and sustainable approach to digital transformation in the UK – I am excited by the number of women in the ranks… seven of the 10 finalists are women.

Last year’s individual winner, was not only a woman, but one of BAME background - Seyi Akiwowo, Executive Director and Founder of Glitch, a campaigning and training organisation that aims to end online abuse. The young leader winner was also female - Andrea Rodrigues - a student who is developing a Character Generator App to help artists hone their skills. Enthusiastic about inspiring others to start their own digital journey, Andrea also teaches coding to primary school children.

The Digital Leaders 100 goal is to create role models, who reflect diverse and modern leadership and the markets that they serve. The winner is announced on Thursday (15th October). Whoever it is, I hope they will motivate and beckon more women to grab the lucrative career opportunities of the constantly evolving digital world.

Further reading:

Digital Leaders 100: https://digileaders100.com/

WISE: https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/

Women in Tech Festival Global: https://www.womenintechfestivalglobal.com/2020/en/page/home

We are Tech Women: https://wearetechwomen.com/

I Traded a Holiday to Italy for an Enlightening “Career Move”

By Ayla Tarasofsky

We are proud to introduce our youngest ever columnist for Voice At The Table. Ayla Tarasofsky is definitely a name to watch. She is a formidable and ambitious teenager who is grabbing the digital bull by the horns for a cause that is already changing the world and making education more accessible for all young people. This is Ayla’s personal experience of embracing the digital market.

My name is Ayla, I am 15 years old and I work at Hope3g.com, a start-up educational tech company, as the Youth Director of HR.  It sounds crazy to say, because a few months ago I didn’t even know what HR stood for let alone how to manage my own department. My friend brought me into the office one day to say “Hi” to everybody, but by the end of that day I had already filmed my introduction for the website and cancelled my trip to Italy because I realised how this was really going to change my life and the world of education.

A big fear of mine is getting in front of a camera and speaking, but after many takes and very sweaty palms, I have grown more confident than I had ever expected.  Public speaking is only one of the many things I have learnt since starting as a Director.  Within my first month, I reviewed hundreds of CVs to find potential candidates to interview to join the company.  I also helped make sure that the selection process was inclusive to all races, regions and genders.  Equal Rights is something I really believe in and I wanted to make sure we were as diverse as possible.   Hope3g.com has given me a glimpse into the future and how mine might turn out in the tech world. I have realised the importance of organisation, confidence and independence, which has not only helped me at work, but at school and my day-to-day life.

We all know that digital technology is extremely important, playing a massive role in our lives today.  This is why we want to use technology to bring quality education to more children all over the world, especially areas that can’t afford a good one.  You’d think someone would have already come up with this, but who better to create an app for kids than kids themselves? Technology is our present and future and we believe that the educational system has not caught up with how kids learn best.   We want to use tech to help kids learn in a way that they will really enjoy and really benefit from - meaning not just in a classroom.  Well that is what we are trying to do, awesome right?

My life has changed so much from this experience in the best way possible but hopefully it will change many other children’s lives too, whether it is from working at the start-up business or through the effect Hope3g.com will have on them.

To find out more about Hope3g.com please follow the links: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/53985966


It’s time to confess.

It’s National Inclusion Week so I ask myself, am I really inclusive?

To me, being inclusive means first and foremost to welcome and to value that which is different; to appreciate those who look or sound different as enrichment; to know that a new or different person or experience does not pose a threat to my value system.

So am I inclusive?

It’s hard to be inclusive.  Our natural instincts tell us to stick to what we know.  We love our repeat patterns, our experienced learnings, the familiar.  Our primitive brain (the emotional one) steers us towards the familiar and guards us against the unfamiliar.  It constantly alerts us “Watch out!  They look suspicious! We don’t know their type! They are not like us and therefore unpredictable!” It’s hard for our thinking brain (the neocortex) to override our fearing, second-guessing, reluctant brain.  And most of that prodding happens subconsciously – how are we meant to confront that?

For me, inclusion is not about ignoring the impulsive, instantaneous brain – that’s simply impossible to achieve.  It’s about understanding that we are being guided by the under-informed, hasty part of our brain and knowing how to question its urging.

This, I know we I can do.

In an effort to make it a little easier for myself and for others to be more inclusive, I have broken down inclusion to 8 inclusive behaviours.  Most of these 8 behaviours are self-explanatory and when you see them you’ll say That makes sense. The challenge is to improve in each of these behaviours, to fine-tune its application and to keep doing that for the rest of our lives.

Let me give you a flavour of what I mean by looking at Empathy and Listening – 2 of the 8 inclusive behaviours.

  1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, so to speak, to try to understand what they might be experiencing.  What does it feel like to be asked Where are you from? each time you meet a new person just because you look different from most of those around you?  What is it like to constantly hide the fact that your husband or wife is of the same sex as you?  What is it like to be watched by the security guard every time you enter a store because you’re black?

To understand that, we need to develop our empathy ‘muscle’.  We start by second-guessing our natural reactions.  For instance, when you pass someone you’ve met a couple of times in a social setting and they completely ignore you, our immediate thought is they don’t remember you.  But if you give it some thought, you might reach a different conclusion. It could be that they can’t see well without their glasses, or that they’re deep in thought about something and simply didn’t register you.  Imagine yourself in that situation, have you ever been ‘accused’ of not seeing someone who was almost literally in front of you?  What are you like sometimes when you’re walking along?  Do you notice everything and everyone?  If not, why not?  Purposely putting yourself in their shoes makes it easier to see more reasons for their behaviour and easier to understand them. It’s a practiced ritual that, when done in simple everyday encounters eventually extends to situations which are more difficult to understand, like ‘white privilege’.

  1. Listening

Listening in this context means more than just hearing.  Listening is about giving someone the opportunity to present their perspective and acknowledging that perspective as someone else’s rightful view.  In this day and age, we are so ingrained in our opinions about everything.  Instead of listening, we tend to want to persuade and, if that fails, we go on the attack.  Social media is full of voices that attempt to drown out other voices.

To listen in order to be more inclusive means acknowledging the fact that another’s viewpoint might have merit, and acknowledging it to them, even if we disagree.  “I hear what you’re saying and I can see where you’re coming from…” even if it might then be qualified with a “but”.  Practising this with our friends, family members and colleagues who are like us will make it easier to do with people who are unlike us.

The world has moved on.  Like it or not, we can’t stand still.  We need to break down our old patterns of interaction, be it at home or at work.  Becoming more inclusive is about practising to do so with intent in any situation.  We need to train our brains to be more discerning and not just follow ingrained patterns.  We need to bring some of the unconscious thought processes into the conscious so that we can unravel them and reform new, more complex patterns of behaviours and attitudes.

This, to me, is what being inclusive is all about.  With this in mind, I can breathe a sigh of relief and declare that I am more inclusive now than I was even a year ago.

Can you do the same?

To find out more about our 8 Inclusive Behaviours, contact Rina.

I draw the line. Will you?

Yesterday, my tennis coach shared with me that she has no ‘me time’ left for herself because she finds it difficult to say ‘no’ to coaching clients.  She loves coaching but finds it has taken over her life, leaving little time for anything else.  The typical work-life balance dilemma.

Wherever we look, there are also stories of how our working from home culture is seeping into our lives and we find ourselves working extended hours, muddling work and life without clear demarcation.

So how do we stop the creep?  How do we draw a line between work and life when a lot of our work is our life?

Having worked for myself for many years now, it was always important to me to ensure I do not suffer from burn-out; I wanted to ensure that I don’t resent the work I love because it has taken over my entire life.  So I have learned to come to my own defence and allow myself the time I need for family, household and myself.  Let me share with you 3 things I do in case they might inspire similar action.

  1. Set a starting and finishing time for your day. My day starts early – 5am.  That suits me well as I have become a morning person.  I do a lot of my thinking in the early part of the day, then take a break to wake the kids and get them ready for school.  I then go back to my desk and work until about 5pm, at which point I switch off my computer, leave my home office and close the door.  If I’m honest, I do glance at my emails throughout the evening, but only to prioritise which emails need to be addressed first thing the next day or very occasionally, that very evening.  That doesn’t stop me from making plans for the evening and fulfilling them.
  2. Be honest in your OOO. Inspired by an automatic reply I once received from a client, I decided to be more open and honest about why I’m away from my desk in my ‘Out-of-Office’ replies. You see them a lot these days. “Hello.  I’m currently spending time with the family and will respond to you tomorrow.” Or “Thanks for reaching out.  I’m taking leave to re-plenish my energy supply and will come back refreshed and ready to go on…” or, a more corporate one “Thanks for your email.  I’m away for a few days and won’t be checking my emails.  For any urgent queries, please contact… I’ll come back to you with my reply on…”


People like that kind of honestly and respect the fact that you’ve taken time for yourself.  Also, by sharing what you’re taking the time for, you’re also starting to manage expectations.  Even in corporate settings.  When I was young, I thought clients didn’t want me to do anything other than be there for them.  Now I understand that tends to be the exception.  So I encourage you to be honest in your OOO and allow yourself the freedom not to work when you’re ‘off work’.


  1. Diarising non-work activities. Avoiding time conflicts makes it necessary for me to diarise everything that’s going on in my life – from work appointments (colour-coded in purple) to my workouts and personal meetings (colour-coded in red) to anything I need to share in the family diary (colour-coded yellow).    This helps me see where my free time is and ensure that I don’t book work-related items over personal meetings.  I treat these equally as important and endeavour to book work calls and commitments around them.  Not only does this make scheduling easier, it also helps me draw those boundaries more clearly in my head.  I’m not inflexible and do move things around, but only if absolutely necessary!

Setting boundaries for yourself is important for so many reasons.  If you’re struggling with time, do allow yourself to shift the balance and create space for yourself.  After all, people depend on you, and you ought to honour that by looking after yourself.

Our TABLE Has Five Legs

We’re living in exceptional times. Our world was already changing at a pace that was difficult to maintain, but since the onset of Covid19, traditional thinking and working has been uprooted and deposited as a new challenge. But this also presents us with an opportunity: an opportunity to test our resolve, our systems and processes. It is also a chance to discard convention that is inconsistent with the future direction of society’s travel and calibrate organisational culture with purpose.

Our new destination is to make companies more agile, reactive to societal changes, with a beacon of leadership that proposes a more inclusive future for all stakeholders.

I’m talking about evolving our organisations into TABLE organisations, reshaping relationships with customers, staff and other stakeholders.

A TABLE is one that exhibits the following characteristics: T – THINKING with reflection A – ACTING with purpose B – BEHAVING inclusively L – LOOKING diverse E – EXPRESSING EMOTION

T=Thinking With Reflection

A TABLE organisation is one that allows time for thinking and reflection. It has a culture that welcomes a coaching-style approach to leadership and encourages everyone involved to take individual responsibility for their actions. At the same time, it is led with the benefit of experience and reflection, as well as an appetite for thinking and learning. The Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, has given us an excellent opportunity to pause, reflect and institute impactful changes that address the persisting challenges around racism.

A=Acting with Purpose

In the words of Simon Sinek, a TABLE organisation starts with “why”. The “why” is the purpose.

A purpose that is specific to the particular organisation can act as a litmus test for all organisational activity, constantly asking the question: is this consistent with our purpose or are we straying away from it?

During lockdown, the overriding purpose of most companies has been to ensure both staff and customers are coping well, are connected to each other and are safe. With such a narrow focus and purpose, many leaders were surprised at how quickly they could set up channels of communication, how much empathy colleagues and bosses displayed, how dedicated and motivated everyone was and, in the end, how well everyone coped.

An organisation that unites behind a clear and stated purpose is better equipped to motivate and pull in the same direction. And that became crystal clear during the lockdown.

B=Behaving Inclusively

Most of us think of ourselves as being inclusive. And for the most part we are, so long as it doesn’t require much effort.  We encourage and support, we extend rules and policies and we welcome a few token individuals that make our circle more diverse.

But rarely are these efforts enough.

When I talk about “behaving inclusively”, I mean going the extra mile to understand what we don’t know or see and then another mile to develop new habits that allow us to better understand and cater to people from vastly different backgrounds.

L= Looking Diverse

Diversity is the reward for inclusion. An inclusive culture is able to attract, retain and promote a diverse population.

Diversity increases the level of creativity and innovation, begets new ideas and offers previously unnoticed experiences and opinions. It is the gateway to a more complete set of data.

The more diverse and inclusive an organisation, the more information it has to utilise for the fulfilment of its purpose. Lack of diversity at the top therefore, limits what we can achieve.

E= Expressing Emotion

An organisation that is in touch with its feelings, that is unafraid of expressing decisions and motivations in terms of emotions will be better equipped to attract the talent of tomorrow. Emotional and psychological safety is a large part of today’s and tomorrow’s well-oiled, well-functioning organisation. Creating and demonstrating safe space conversations that allow colleagues to express how they feel are valuable tools for leaders who want to attract bright talent. An organisation that speaks from the heart and the mind will be better equipped to deliver on its purpose for more of its stakeholders.

Does your organisation have 5 legs?

To find out which of the 5 legs of your TABLE organisation are more stable and which require more support, get in touch with me.