10 tips to help build diverse teams – If we’re all the same how can we think differently!

Written by Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO of The Dots 

There is now endless research showing that diversity is good for business, good for innovation and good for creativity. A Harvard Business School study found that teams with colleagues from different backgrounds and experiences come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems. Another study by the London Business School found that more gender-balanced teams better promote an environment where innovation can flourish. And the list goes on! In the end, if we’re all the same, how can we think differently?

In an environment where competition for talent is fierce, diversity can also be a secret weapon for building and retaining world-class teams. For example, research by Creative Equals found that teams that are diverse are 45% happier and 48% more likely to stay at a company.

Diversity is not just about gender. It’s about building teams that reflect society as a whole incorporating different ethnicities, cultures, neurodiversity (dyslexia, ADHD, autism etc.), sexuality, disability, socioeconomic backgrounds and more. Why? Because we all have biases – it’s human nature.

Here are a couple of examples of when unconscious bias gets us into trouble;

  • When seat belts were first invented by a primarily male team, they only tested these belts on male crash test dummies. The result, while women are less likely to be in accidents, they were 47% more likely to die from these accidents.
  • Take the act of searching websites as another example. On average, men prefer to search a site using free text search, whilst women are more likely to prefer some form of signposting (like a drop-down search menu). The challenge comes when a tech product is built by a primarily male team, they unconsciously build products for themselves, not for everyone.

Building teams that are reflective of society as a whole will also become increasingly important as we enter an age of automation – if the people teaching the machines to think are homogeneous, we’re going to start amplifying bias at mass scale.

For me, LinkedIn always felt like it encouraged homogeneity, but being a dyslexic sole female tech founder, I never felt I fit the mould. What I’ve come to realise is it’s our differences that make us brilliant. So, in 2014 sunk everything I earned into starting The Dots from my houseboat Horace.

Fast forward four years and The Dots has grown into a viable LinkedIn competitor with over 10,000 brands now using us to hire full-time and freelance talent. At the heart of what we do is helping businesses build diverse teams. Our amazing community is currently 68% female, 31% BAME, 16% LGBT+ and we also do a lot of work to support disabled, neurodiverse, socioeconomic movements and disadvantaged talent. We also adjusted our algorithm so a more diverse selection of talent appears at the top of searches.

Over the years I’ve collaborated with hundreds of incredible diversity organisations who play a critical role in training, mentoring and remove the barriers faced by diverse talent. Here are some top tips I’ve learnt along the way.


Ten tips to help you implement diversity in your own teams

  1. Start from the top

Incorporate diversity into the company’s DNA. The most forward thinking businesses I know have second interview diversity quotas. Sourcing a big enough funnel of talent might take a little longer upfront, but it pays off massively in the long run.

  1. Lead by example

You get the best out of people if they can bring their whole selves to work. For example, my email signature reads ‘delightfully dyslexic, excuse typos!’. My dyslexia comes with some challenges (like I’m terrible at spelling), but it’s also my superpower in that dyslexics have high levels of perseverance, intuition, creativity and empathy, meaning we thrive as leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs. The more leaders are open about their specific superpowers/challenges like neurodiversities, the more mid-levels and juniors coming through can also feel empowered.

  1. Think carefully about job descriptions

You might be putting off a whole raft of people that might otherwise apply for your position simply by using the wrong language or overloading the job description with too many required skills and experience. For example, men and women do not perceive job descriptions the same way – on average a man will be more likely to apply for any job they’re interested in, while women tend to apply if they feel they have all the qualifications needed. I recommend stripping out everything that isn’t essential, as many things can be taught in-house. This will result in a more diverse selection of applicants.

  1. Hire for value fit not culture fit

So often I hear people saying ‘we’ve got to hire for culture fit’. I become worried about that, as hiring for culture fit tends to mean hiring someone you think you’ll get on with – someone you would potentially go to the pub with. This attitude tends to lead to very non-diverse teams because you’re hiring people like you and if we’re all the same how can we think differently? What’s more important is hiring talented people who share your company’s values.

  1. Remove bias from your recruitment process

Interviewing by committee (c.3 people) is a great way for removing bias from the interview process. Blind recruitment is also great, and is a practice that has become increasingly common amongst recruiters in recent years. At its core, blind recruitment is a way to remove personally identifiable data such as name, photo, gender and age from incoming CVs. This results in companies considering applications solely based on talent and skill, thereby removing immediate bias at the first stage of the hiring process. This has lead us to develop a bias-free browsing mode when companies search The Dots to hire talent.

  1. Pay your interns

Paying interns anything less than national living wage will bias junior hires, as those whose parents cannot afford to support them while they’re interning won’t apply.

  1. Train from grass roots

At The Dots a while back, I found I was struggling to find female developers to hire, so I instead hired female junior mathematicians –who were incredible in their own right – and placed them underneath senior engineers who mentored and trained them up. This way they learned organically and the seniors loved training them as much as they loved being trained.

  1. Have a diversity advocate

Within a company, placing someone who stands as the ‘diversity advocate’ can be beneficial. This way for example, anyone who is LGBT+ but has not yet come out to the office, or anyone who is neurodiverse, or anyone who simply doesn’t want to speak out, can go to the advocate who will inform the office for them.

  1. Focus on team happiness

There is no point onboarding diverse talent into your business if you haven’t built an environment where they can flourish. Tokenism doesn’t work. Having just one diverse person on the teamcan actually lead to a negative effect of making individuals less able to express their identity in the workplace. Most businesses find this out too late, when talent chruns. A trick I’ve found to working out if you’ve built an inclusive working environment is to focus on teams happiness. I monitor this each quarter via an anonymous survey to my team asking how happy they are working at The Dots (1-10), what they love about working at The Dots, how I can improve the office to make them happier, how can I improve the product to make them happier and what would they do if they were CEO. The survey is a bit like an exit interview, in the end, if someone is struggling in silence because they find, for example, their open plan office distracting because their autism, they’re not going to be happy or productive.

  1. Use The Dots bias free browsing mode

This is a completely shameless plug, but if you want to hire incredible diverse talent then you should start using The Dots bias free browsing mode that remove personal data such as name, photo, educational and other information that could bias their hiring decisions, meaning candidates are considered solely based on talent – yay!

What to Expect from The Women in STEM Conference 2019

On May 22nd we see the return of the Women in STEM Conference in Central London at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel. With even more speakers and delegates than last year.

New Bespoke Breakout Streams

For the first time, this year, the conference will be hosting dedicated breakout streams for the ‘Education Sector’ and for ‘Employers’. The afternoon sessions will provide delegates with the opportunity to gain specific insights into key issues and topics for women in STEM in each sector. Speakers will be presenting case studies of best practice demonstrating successful examples of promoting the progression of girls and women in STEM and how delegates could use these examples to implement similar strategies in their own organisations.

21 Speakers!

This year we will be hosting 21 speakers, all leading experts from the STEM sector. Keynote Speakers from STEM Learning, WISE, WES and The Royal Society will be sharing the latest policy updates. Case studies, workshops and panel discussions will provide examples of best practice, covering key topics such as: enhancing diversity, supporting pipeline progression and ensuring the improved uptake of girls and women entering STEM education and careers.

Focusing on Solutions not Problems

The aim of the conference this year is to focus on the positive change that is happening for Women in STEM and how it is coming about, rather than dwelling on the problems. In order to tackle key issues facing women in STEM, ideas and solutions need to be shared. The conference will offer the opportunity to network and share ideas with others in the sector, to ensure the long-term participation, recruitment and advancement of Women in STEM.

Join the Discussion Now!

If you don’t follow us already check out our Twitter page @WomenInSTEM19 where we share and discuss key topics on women in STEM. We use this platform not only on the day of the Conference but all year round to keep you up to date on the latest news, policy and ideas in the Women in STEM sector. For this year’s conference we have a dedicated hashtag: #WomenInSTEM19

Digital Resources

Enjoy watching and listening to speakers on the day without worrying about taking notes! All the resources on the day will be available on our digital resource bank, allowing you to download and access all the Conference presentations and resources throughout the day.

What Next?

If you are already signed up, you will receive specific joining information 2 weeks before the Conference. We can’t wait to welcome you from 8.45 at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on 22nd May

If you’re not booked on yet and are looking to register, final places can be secured via our registration page here: https://stemwomenconference.co.uk/booking-info/

Getting More Women into Tech Could Improve Women’s Representation Across STEM

It is ironic that tech, which has the biggest skills shortages, is the bit of STEM where the gender gap is widening. WISE analysis of trends over the past 5 years show that whilst numbers of women choosing to study computing and to work in technology occupations are going up – the number of men choosing tech is rising much more rapidly, meaning the sector is more male-dominated than ever. This is true from the classroom to the boardroom. And yet technology is transforming every sector of the economy, which means organisations in every sector require people with technology skills. The diversity of WISE corporate membership reflects this trend – coming from retail, property, financial services, transport, media and the military as well as more traditional construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors.

If we made a more joined-up, concerted effort to get more women into technology, the benefit would be felt across all sectors, because all sectors need more people with tech skills and there are not nearly enough with the right skills and experience to meet demand. With women making up only 17% of the UK’s tech workforce (compared to 34% in India), there is a clear opportunity here.

WISE members embrace a three-pronged approach to improve the participation of women in technical roles:

  1. Make the subject relevant to girls by connecting them to young women just like them who are doing something they love using technology
  2. Offer training to women who didn’t choose technology subjects at school or college but would like the opportunity for a career change
  3. Re-think recruitment to attract more applicants from women

And of course we mustn’t forget culture – there is little point attracting more women into your organisation if you can’t guarantee they will be treated with respect and given the same career opportunities as their male colleagues. We collated Ten Steps, based on the experiences of our corporate members, as an integrated solution to improve the retention and progression of women in a STEM environment.

There are plenty of examples of practical initiatives organisations have put in place which have dramatically increased the representation of women in technology. They see the benefits not just in terms of accessing a bigger talent pool but in terms of motivation, engagement and innovation across the business – all of which thrive in a diverse, inclusive environment. And of course those with more women in technology roles are likely to have a smaller gender pay gap.

To hear from WISE and many more speakers including The Royal Society and The Women’s Engineering Society join us at this years Women In STEM Conference 


#WomenLikeMe – Dr Kirsty Clode, Chair, Women into Manufacturing and Engineering

I didn’t follow a traditional career path for a girl. I loved science and maths at school and had a brilliant and inspirational chemistry teacher called Mr Pinches. After school I thought a career in the chemical industry would be exciting so completed a BSc and PhD in Chemistry. This got me into BP, the Oil and Gas major, where I worked for 27 years until 2016. I worked in areas ranging from research and technology to plant operations, safety and assurance and thoroughly enjoyed working with many fabulous people around the world. I lived and worked in both South Korea and the US (twice) and travelled to amazing places like Azerbaijan, Australia and Canada. I didn’t realise it until quite late in my career but I was really breaking some boundaries.

One of the things I’m passionate about is diversity …………. not just ethnicity or gender but the diversity of thinking. From my experience as a leader in this industry, diverse teams produce better results and are more successful over time. My current passion is encouraging more girls and women to test the same boundaries I did and consider a career in this exciting industry. The data I’ve seen shows that girls are just as good as boys at STEM subjects at school but the majority of them don’t continue to study them above GCSE. This means that they are missing out on many amazing career paths and companies are missing out on this great pool of talent.

I’m not alone in wanting more women to be part of our workforce. Women into Manufacturing and Engineering (WiME) is a business led collaborative programme in the Humber, supported by Green Port Hull in partnership with Job Centre Plus. We set it up in 2016 when 3 companies in Hull highlighted difficulty in attracting female talent to their organisations. I chair the WiME programme which is full of amazing ladies. We work with over 20 Humber businesses in the Manufacturing and Engineering sectors, our local schools and colleges plus the National Careers Week team.

I recognised early on that ‘it’s hard to be what you cannot see’.  We therefore run events to raise the profile of the many inspiring women who work in these industries such as Kelly and Lewanda above. I have benefited in my career from having great people around me and some fantastic mentors.  I hope that by providing girls and ladies with access to role models like Kelly and Lewanda we can show them that they can do it too.

The WiME Partners passionately believe that girls and women should know about the fabulous opportunities open to them in manufacturing and engineering so we go to great efforts to showcase the incredible careers they can offer and the variety of routes you can take to them, including apprenticeships.  The results have been hugely positive and I’m confident that as more girls and women meet women like themselves already working in these industries the number of females in our workforce will continue to grow.

Join us at the Women in STEM Conference 2019 to hear from more case studies!