Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate its 2023 theme of ‘DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality. I thought it would be good to discuss our experience of gender diversity at BH Consulting. The interesting thing about it is that it was never a thing we ‘designed’. We always simply recruited the best person for the job.

Both Brian as CEO and I as COO always aimed to recruit people who would fit in the team, work well with each other, and do the job effectively. And we always picked the best person for the role. Gender was never a recruitment criterion. (Don’t get me started on quotas, as I hate them, but I recognise their importance in certain sectors nonetheless.)

As of today, in March 2023, our team looks like this:

  • We have 23 permanent employees in the organisation (13 are women, 10 are men)
  • We have additional associate employees x 5, and all are male
  • While the CEO and CFO (pt) are male, the COO is female
  • In the management team, there are two female team leaders and three male team leaders
  • The data protection team is 80% female (this is higher than the industry standard)
  • The cybersecurity team is 20% female (this is in line with the industry standard).
  • 9 of the 10 men are parents. 7 of the 13 women are parents.
  • Two men work part-time. Two women work part-time.

We accept that we would like more females in our cybersecurity consulting department, but there have always been significantly fewer female applicants in these roles than males. This is a bigger issue than our internal recruiting policies, and one we tried to contribute to rectifying in establishing the BH Academy.

Encouraging women into cybersecurity

Through the Academy, we would sponsor an exceptional student from the Technical University cybersecurity courses, and always tried to encourage women to apply for positions in the BH Academy. Our last recruit to this scheme, in fact, was Anne Marie O’Donnell, and she is now a fantastic cybersecurity consultant. We will continue to encourage female applicants into this programme.

We believe that having an executive management team with fair gender representation has undoubtedly helped to ensure the balanced recruitment of both male and females, as diversity starts at the top and trickles down. As COO, I have always been very strong on implementing corporate policies that encourage women to join our organisation such as remote working (anywhere), flexible hours, parental leave, carers leave, working from home allowances, work-life balance initiatives, mental health red flag schemes, etc.

However, what I find interesting is the subject of implicit bias. The fact is, I implemented many of these policies over the years to encourage more women into the BH Consulting workforce. What I found was that men were – and are – equally interested in work-life balance and flexible work arrangements.

My bias stems from my own experience of the working world almost fifteen years ago, working full-time as a single parent, with a young family, and little flexibility in the workplace. I had to drive two young kids to the creche and then mount a motorbike to get to work for 9am. Most of the time, I was late because of traffic and kids issues. The stress was terrible.

To me, the most attractive workplace for a woman who has a young family or is a carer is, therefore, ‘flexible work’. But I completely missed that it would be the same for men also.

From female-friendly to family-friendly work practices

So, the policies I built over the years in BH Consulting – which were intended to be female-friendly – were in fact simply family-friendly. So while my bias paid off – because everyone in the organisation benefitted – the bias still existed. And it made me pause to think: what other biases do I have? What other biases do we all have? (GULP!)

My point is, before we start talking about gender diversity in the workforce, let’s talk about gender diversity at executive levels first. If we can get that balance right from the get-go, the diversity will trickle automatically. Then, let’s look at implicit biases in the executive team and try to determine what those might be.

And finally, today we would like to honour and thank these amazing women who work in BH Consulting for their hard work, their incredible achievements and their contribution to the overall BH team:

Susan Daly @ Financial and HR Lead

Bozena Jaslan – Operations Supervisor

Tracy Elliott – Head of Data Protection

Anne Marie Moore – Principal Data Protection Consultant

Cliona Perrick – Junior Data Protection Consultant

Hamila Hassanzadeh – Data Protection Consultant

Alexis Robinson – Cybersecurity Consultant

Anne-Marie O’Donnell – Cybersecurity Consultant

Amy Biddulph – Sales Account Manager

Veronica Meehan – Senior Marketing Lead

About the Author: Valerie Lyons

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