Be Completely You – Gender Diversity

Maxine Taylor
By , - Responsible Business

Profile photo of Val Risk, gender diversity chair at Fujitsu.We are half way through our Diversity and Inclusion week and today we hear from Val Risk, chair of our Gender Network.

What are the objectives of the Gender Network?

To help everyone within Fujitsu to value the power of difference and create an environment where women and men can be completely themselves.

We are driving more diverse recruitment, supporting flexible working, encouraging career progression in non-traditional areas, building a strong external reputation for Fujitsu and bringing people together through our activities.

What have you got out of being the chair of your network?

I became Chair of the Gender Network because I am passionate about transforming the performance of both our business and the women within it. Women in a team add a richness and perspective that drives value and if we are to grow we need to bring that to our customers and each other.

I have met some really inspiring people and been part of a movement in Fujitsu with the other networks where we have begun to change the face of Fujitsu. Making us a more attractive place to work and an IT partner customers want to work with.

One of our inspiring women at Fujitsu is our Executive Sponsor Helen Lamb:

‘There is clear evidence that having a diverse and inclusive workforce delivers strong business performance.  I feel privileged to be the executive sponsor of the gender diversity network because having an equal gender balance is clearly one of the key elements of a truly D&I workforce and sadly, the technology sector doesn’t seem to be attracting a large number of females within the UK.  This is a real shame.  From my experience it’s fast moving, provides varied career opportunities and you can influence and change how businesses and people lead their lives on a daily basis. 

One of my roles is to help females outside of the sector see this and view it as a great profession and career choice.  Equally, once women have chosen to join us, it’s really important to give them (and anyone else who is part of our business) the opportunity to be the best they can – to flourish and develop and feel enabled to really contribute to the business whilst also progressing their career. 

As someone who people have chosen to take a chance on which I am very grateful for, I feel it important to give others the same opportunities that I’ve had.

 Why is awareness of your group so important?

The Gender Network is about helping us all understand differing perspectives and how to help each other to maximise potential and performance. It is about challenging the traditional role models within IT and daring to be different. It is a network for men and women to come together and help each other.

What have been the main highlights for your network over the past year?

One of the main highlights has been watching the network grow, we only launched in June last year and we have gone from 0 to 320 members in six months. The number of female employees in our organisation has also increased; the proportion of women starting our graduate programme increased to 45% this year, and the proportion of female new starters increased as well from 21.7% – 28.1% since the launch of the gender network.

On a personal note I was delighted to be shortlisted as IT Woman of the Year at the Women in the City Awards. It’s been fantastic to see so many of our female leaders being recognised at industry level as role models.

Our CEO, Regina Moran was named Person of the Year at the Tech Excellence 2014 awards and was nominated for Information Age’s Woman of the Year 2015. And our Executive Sponsor Helen Lamb was named Business Leader of the Year at the Women in IT 2015 awards and Leader of the Year at the FDM everywoman Women in Technology Awards 2015. We were also delighted to be awarded Awesome Network status by Inclusive Networks.

As a technology company we have been supporting the work of STEM across schools reaching out to young women about tech. We have been running our own Hour of Code sessions for our employees to enable parents to see the value of learning about technology for both girls and boys. We have been creating a network of senior leaders who are supporting the Women in IT agenda.

Finally we are involved in a pilot with techUK and everywoman to help experienced women get back to work. The programme is aimed at women who may have taken a career break and want to get back into work in the technology industry. Over a two day course the women have access to personal development experts to help them develop skills to help them get ready for the workplace.

Over the past year, how much has your group grown?

We have grown from 0 to 320 members over our first year.

To continue the development and growth of our network throughout 2016, we have created 8 regional hubs. They act as local gender communities, bringing people together with a common interest to share experiences and provide support for each other. The hubs are spread geographically across the UK and Ireland to allow everyone to get involved regardless of location.

The hubs are helping to shape our thinking as a gender group and as a business.

What do you see as your main challenges?

We recognise that we still have a lot of work to do internally to create a truly balanced workforce and to make a positive change to the way we approach recruitment, development and retention.

Change takes time. We have to remain focussed and persistent for the long term.

Inclusion is key – we are all in this together and we must ensure that everyone in Fujitsu is part of the journey. We will not leave a man or woman behind! Sometimes people aren’t comfortable with the reality of where we are and we need to be brave and keep going.

How has being a member of everywoman helped to develop your network?

Everywoman have brought inspiration and ambition. Their experience of helping other organisations improve their performance and insight regarding gender issues has helped us create a strong plan for the network. Additionally their collateral, personal development tools and webinars create an opportunity for us all to enhance our skills and performance.

This year we are the proud sponsor of the everywoman International Leader of the Year award, which was awarded to Janhavi Rao, Head of Compliance Technology, Barclays in last night’s award ceremony. Congratulations Janhavi! Our own Michael Keegan was a keynote speaker at the prestigious event.

What are you looking forward to over the next 12 months?

We are looking forward to some great debate within the network. We are also excited to see some new roles models emerging through the creation of more Female Distinguished engineers. Technical capability is a key source of value that Fujitsu provides to our customers. The Distinguished Engineer Scheme facilitates knowledge sharing through a company-wide network of role model technologists who are encouraged to communicate with each other and share views on current best practice.

We are also looking to further grow our network in 2016 and encourage our colleagues, both female AND male, to join. To help us achieve this growth we have asked each of our members to encourage 3 other colleagues to join us at one of our hubs to learn more about being a network member.

Visit everywoman to learn more about gender diversity in the workplace.

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