Held every year on 21 May, the World Day for Cultural Diversity celebrates not only the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and sustainable development.
Cultural diversity: an asset
The UN describes cultural diversity as “a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.”
It goes on to say that cultural diversity is “an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development” and that “acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity … are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.”
TFN explores the topic and goes on to speak to some of the leading tech startups in the UK promoting cultural and gender diversity. Spun out of the University of Oxford Navenio has pioneered easy to deploy, accurate, scalable and robust indoor location-based solutions, underpinned by award-winning science. The company is also leading the way with an inclusive approach to hiring and developing its team.
Navenio is well represented by females on the management team, unusual for a deeptech organisation which, according to Tech Nation, is usually 19% female. It has a woman at the helm Connie Moser (CEO), is founded by a woman Niki Trigoni (CTO) and run by a woman Sharon Backer-Holst (Head of Operations).
Women represent 50% of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and a third of the company’s total 89 employees, a figure which has climbed by over 10% in the last twelve months.
HR is looked after by Rebecca Kyte, deputy HR manager, who has herself made great progress in the business, and is proud of the exemplary organisation when it comes to diversity. Kyte thinks there are key factors at play: “We are working towards a ‘blind’ recruitment process, with anonymised CVs to ensure a fair selection process based on skills, experience and potential. The team endeavours to balance interview panels with both male and female employees. We have standard questions which are asked of all candidates at the initial screening stage and we carry out training on interview techniques and periodic quality assurance. We make sure to mention that we can make provisions for any disabilities from the interview stage onwards and to let us know what they might be.”
The organisation also has a highly diverse workforce and is proud of its cultural inclusion. It has many different faiths and nationalities represented by the business. This is partly down to the ability to widen the net when recruiting, with a sponsorship licence which means the team can hire workers who require a visa. Founded by a Greek national, Navenio has a number of key contractors who are based in Europe and as far afield as South Africa and Hong Kong. And diversity is important when people are looking for jobs with 76% of people reporting a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating a company or job offer.
“The business recognises that talent does not just exist in one place and that having a diverse workforce allows for increased engagement, with employees bringing new perspectives and different ways of thinking to the team,” added Rebecca.
The other success factor is that the business ‘fast tracks’ its talented employees – Lindsay Henderson joined as Technical Sales Manager in 2016 and now heads up a team as Senior Customer Success Manager. Another example, Emma Eldret, Senior Product Manager, joined the business in 2021 and progressed rapidly to that position from Product Owner level. It is a true meritocracy.
Being spun out of Oxford University encourages innovation and talent at a truly global level, which is recognised worldwide. Oxford is respected as one of the true leaders in medical science and is repeatedly placed first in clinical, pre-clinical and health in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
With the founder Niki Trigoni having won CTO of the year at both the Women in Tech awards and the Women in IT awards over the past two years, Navenio is diverse and award-winning from the top. Moreover, the company has just expanded its presence in the US with the appointment of its CEO Connie Moser. With a solid people strategy which hires for potential over gender, background or title, 2022 holds an unstoppable future for the team and allows Navenio’s employees to bring their whole selves to work.
Push for change
At the same time, Maria Lema, Co-Founder at Weaver Labs adds, “Technation’s latest figures (that 19% of deeptech management teams are female) are shocking, yet unsurprising. The tech industry now needs to come together and push for change, to create more diverse teams – which we know are more productive and successful. I’m proud to be a female co-founder in the telecoms space and I’m also an ambassador for Wagora, which helps empower other women across the tech sector.”
Weaver Labs is a web3 startup driving growth through connectivity. Recently, it was selected as a winner of the UK Government Future Ran Competition (FRANC), launched by DCMS. The London-based tech firm is creating an open and shared marketplace of connectivity assets with a focus on security to accelerate innovation by enabling connectivity.
Their software layer called Cell-Stack is touted to aggregate and digitise all the necessary assets to build networks and access connectivity on-demand.
Lema adds, “During my career in tech I’ve met incredible Women who have been an inspiration for me, this has motivated me to continue despite all the barriers we experience. Of course, it’s intimidating at the beginning but I encourage fellow female leaders to push through and make themselves a seat at the table. Because we deserve it as much as others do.”
Female representation, a long way to go
Further, Vesela Nikolova, Centre Director of Amdaris Bulgaria says, “Even though there have been a lot of improvements in the tech industry when it comes to female representation, there is still a long way to go. Companies should proactively advocate for women in tech through mentorship programs. Technology such as Gapsquare, for example, is also very useful to ensure there is no gender pay gap. Amdaris is one of the most progressive software development companies giving a voice to women in tech, with three of our regional directors being women and 30% of our technology developers being female, much higher than the industry average. We also partner with Tech Women Moldova (TWM), a public association dedicated to attracting and supporting women in technology. We provided four mentors to TWM to assist with its pledge to become the biggest knowledge-sharing platform for women in technology.”
Founded by Vlad Nanu and Andy Rogers in 2009, Amdaris has come up with a unique philosophy to aid digital transformation for companies whilst focusing on investing in talent, and achieving its client’s vision through exceptional service. With a strong focus on culture and values, Amdaris transports its DNA from one country to the next. The company’s unique growth ethos nurtures and leverages some of the world’s best talent in their existing region. This involves investing in local education and skill development, as well as building technology centres of excellence, in regional communities across the continent and the globe.