Creating equal opportunities

April 24, 2020

FEATURED IN HOTSPOT

The need for highly-skilled workers to sustain innovation flow as cutting-edge digital advancements make an ever-increasing impact on society has never been more important. Equally significant, however, is ensuring these individuals are drawn from society’s widest spectrum. Steven Hugill looks at organisations’ commitment to diversity and inclusivity, and finds out what it means for their performance

Across the North East’s ever-growing digital and technology sector, organisations have introduced – and continue to implement – innovative programmes to ensure team members have opportunities to flourish, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, age or disability.

Nowhere is this philosophy more highlighted than at Accenture, which runs an Advanced Technology Centre on Newcastle’s Cobalt Business Park.

The company picked up the diversity and inclusion award at Dynamo’s 2019 Dynamites event, and Jo McGovern, inclusion and diversity lead for the firm’s city base, says its heterogeneous workforce provides numerous advantages. “Inclusion and diversity are fundamental to our culture,” says Jo.

“We empower our people to bring their authentic selves every day, and we benefit from the strength that this diversity of thought, experience and background brings.”

Jo describes how Accenture has introduced several initiatives, which include the Allies Programme that encourages staff to promote an inclusive and accepting culture.

She also reveals the company has a 27,000-strong disability champions network, 5000-plus trained mental health allies and nearly 120,000 LGBT allies globally.

“We’ve set bold goals to achieve a genderbalanced workforce by 2025,” continues Jo, “and I’m hugely proud that our Equality Allies Network was established here in Newcastle by analyst Abi Ridley.

“With more than 200 people in Newcastle already signed up, it ignites us to work together to create a powerful workforce.

“It is growing rapidly, with a UK roll-out planned and a global launch coming later this year.”

Another organisation ensuring its talent pool is drawn from a wide societal spectrum is Newburnbased NHS Business Services Authority, whose operations include the management of the healthcare provider’s pension scheme in England.

“We are a diverse organisation, and our definition of inclusion is way beyond your normal definition of equality or diversity,” says Rachel Brown, diversity and inclusion manager.

“We look at inclusion from all angles.

“We have a diversity and inclusion network and have representation at every department right across the country, which feeds into our overall wellbeing and inclusion committee.

“We harness talent and do a lot of work with the LGBT+ community – we are in Stonewall’s top 100 employers list – because we want people to be their authentic selves.”

Rachel says it also runs a number of pathways to help people who may have learning difficulties, suffer from conditions, autism, or need mental health support.

Additionally, she reveals NHSBSA is helping former Armed Forces personnel start new careers and operating a youth pathway alongside Newcastle’s Global Bridge to skills-match students with businesses.

Another area where the organisation’s strong inclusivity ethos shines through is around its Deaf colleagues, with Rachel highlighting the example of digital worker Matt Lannigan.

“I worked with the team to put in place a host of support measures, from educating them on Deaf awareness to creating a bespoke signing course with the local college,” she says.

“Matt also supports the team’s learning by teaching them signs, and it is these kinds of things that show how you can harness a disability and enable a person to do something fulfilling.”

Sally Blake, founder of Women Making Games in the North East (WOMGNE), is another working hard to increase diversity and inclusion. The organisation is committed to helping people right across society, and is holding the door open for increased female influence in the gaming sector.

“We do a lot with gender, but we collaborate with other organisations too, such as LITNE and People of Colour in Play, to further highlight diversity and inclusion,” says Sally.

“Part of our aim is to reach out to other organisations and see how we can help each other.

“WOMGNE is growing all the time, but there is still a lot more we want and need to do, such as delivering more support for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” continues Sally, who is a senior producer at Gateshead-based immersive media company Hammerhead VR.

“That is really important to me – a lot of the games, consoles and technology can be expensive and one of the principles we have is that our events are free or carry a low cost, which means we are much more inclusive.”

For more information on the organisations featured, visit www.accenture.com, www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk and www.womenmakinggames.com

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