Sheila Flavell is the chief operating officer and an executive board director of FDM Group, with over 26 years of experience in the global tech sector. Sheila is passionate about enhancing diversity in the workplace and creating exciting careers for the next generation of digital talent, and she spearheads FDM’s Global Women in Tech campaign, as well as FDM’s Getting Back to Business programme, aimed at providing opportunities for returners to work. Sheila sits on the main Board of techUK and the Women in Tech Council, and she is frequently called to advise Government committees on various issues, especially around the digital skills gap.
“…All in all, taking the decision to report early was one of the easiest decisions I made in 2017. Once we had the data, we wanted to report it and find out where we were in comparison to others. We welcomed it as a positive experience…”
Technology is the future
When I started out IT wasn’t a thing that was on my horizon so I started my career in the police force and then spent several years working for an airline. When I returned to the UK and started looking for a new role, I realised that technology was (and still is) the future. I am passionate about technology and people and this is what drives me. At FDM I am able to bring these two elements together.
I lead the delivery of FDM’s expansion, which involves a lot of travel. I also champion a career in tech for all. I directly oversee our global marketing and operations teams based in Europe, North America and APAC [Asia Pacific].
Igniting my passion for diversity
My early career experience exposed me to a lot of discrimination; it was the biggest challenge I faced in both the police force and in my role in the Middle East. In both cases, I realised that men simply didn’t recognise or believe in women’s abilities.
I learned a lot from these experiences and made my mind up that discrimination didn’t have to be the norm or the future for women in work.
This ignited my passion not only for diversity but also the desire to encourage more women into this great profession and so I established FDM’s global Women in Tech campaign and more recently FDM’s Getting Back to Business Programme, aimed at providing opportunities for returners to work.
Importance of blazing a trail in gender pay gap reporting
We decided to be an early adopter of the Government’s gender pay gap reporting because we feel the initiative is an important first step towards creating greater gender equality and we want to encourage other organisations to take the step too.
In developing a culture that supports diversity, social mobility and inclusion, we have learned that if you measure and monitor, you can take proactive steps to understand where the issues lie and devise strategies to develop a culture that supports and improves gender parity.
Talking about these issues, being transparent, measuring, monitoring and learning from each other is vital if we are going to close the gender pay gap. All in all, taking the decision to report early was one of the easiest decisions I made in 2017. Once we had the data, we wanted to report it and find out where we were in comparison to others. We welcomed it as a positive experience which has given us the opportunity to further demonstrate our commitment to our company values, including promoting diversity and inclusion and our commitment to transparency.
We reported a mean gap of 6% and a median gap of 0% against a national median gap of 18.4%. According to Mercer analysis of the gender pay gap in the UK high-technology sector, men in high-tech companies earn 25% more than women.
Importance of building a compelling narrative around the figures
Developing a narrative is important in helping to explain your figures in the context either of your organisation or the sector in which you’re working.
We followed the advice given by the Government Equalities Office and ACAS, and created a narrative that included the required written statement, an infographic, plus a PDF report and testimonies. We felt this was important and gave us an opportunity to showcase our work and commitment to diversity, inclusion and reducing our gender pay gap. As a team, the narrative has also been used as part of our campaigns and awareness raising.
Advice to others who have yet to report
We’ve been working towards a diverse employee base for the last twenty-six years and were confident that our figures would reflect the efforts we’ve invested and the values we hold. However, this won’t be everyone’s experience.
We all need to recognise that everyone is at a different stage on this journey, it’s a work in progress, however, the sooner we start addressing this, the sooner we will achieve a solution. If we get this right, it has the potential to encourage more women into sectors where there is a dearth, such as finance and IT.
So our advice, based on our own experience, is if you measure and monitor then you can make a difference, understanding where your starting point is, really does help you get to where you want to be much quicker. Once you know where you stand you can start to understand what actions you can take to improve, if you need to. Take the plunge and report, then you can start to take further action.
We can’t rest on our laurels…
While we’ve established a culture that supports diversity and created a successful modern business, we can’t rest on our laurels, we will continue to strive for greater parity and help promote and support diversity and inclusion wherever we can.
So, for example, we will examine and challenge our practices to ensure they remain current, whether that’s implementing best practice for recruitment and retention to enable the best possible diversity or introducing new career programmes, such as our Getting Back to Business Programme to support returners to work following a career break.