Designing our Diversity Unconference to be inclusive

March 17, 2017 by No Comments | Category Digital Public Services, Digital Scotland

This is a blog post by Jono Ellis, Performance Manager in the Digital Directorate.

Our ethos

Without getting into a debate about what’s a meeting, a workshop, a conference or an unconference, we are holding our event because we feel that diversity within the digital sector in Scotland isn’t where it could be. So next week we’re getting representatives from across the public, private and third sectors in Scotland into one venue to discuss what it takes to improve diversity in the digital sector. We chose an unconference as we don’t want to dictate discussions on the day – we want things to be open for our attendees to direct conversation onto the topics they feel matter.

Rules on the day

All opinions matter. We want to make a safe space where everyone can feel comfortable to speak. We are adopting the conference code of conduct – all of our attendees have the right to attend without fear of harassment of any kind. We want our attendees to be respectful of people’s opinions and differences both in-person on the day, and online.

We’ve been speaking to attendees about accessibility and inclusion issues to ensure people feel as included as they can, and we’ve had conversations with colleagues further afield to discuss how we can make this event and future events as inclusive to people in remote locations as they can be. There will also be a quiet space for attendees on the day.

We have more technological solutions at our fingertips than ever before, we just need to work out which ones to use to make things as inclusive as possible without spoiling the safe conversation space for in-person attendees. We’re aiming to livestream our opening and closing speeches using Periscope – tune in at 10am and 11.40am via on March 22nd.

Crowdsourcing a speech

Our ethos of inclusion and listening to people’s ideas opened us up to be creative – the keynote speech will come from Sarah Davidson but the contents will, in part, come from responses gathered from attendees. We asked everyone who’s coming along to share what they think of diversity in their organisation, why diversity matters to them, and what changes they think would make a real impact on creating a future digital workforce that represents the Scottish population. Responses to these questions will be the starting point for Sarah, sparking ideas and giving additional insight into the topics that will be close to attendee’s hearts.

Diversity data

We’re proud to say that on the day of our unconference the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate will reveal our diversity data. Openness and transparency are pillars of the Scottish Government and we’re glad to be able to share this data for the first time. As a digital team we try to make data-based decisions and are working on projects where we continually make improvements. Our team’s culture and diversity are no different – if we know where we stand at the moment, it’s easier to see where we’d like to get to.

The elephant in the room

As a white, middle-class, middle-aged male, I am acutely aware of my privilege. Diversity in the digital sector (or government, or anywhere) will only happen if people like me pay attention and listen. Often that will mean stepping aside to allow others to have their opportunity. Sometimes it will mean telling colleagues that I’m not the right person to go somewhere to represent the team. Sometimes it will mean missing out on something. We desperately need to remedy the ‘boys club’ nature of tech. I thankfully work in a team that appreciates all of the different qualities that a diverse workforce brings, but I want our whole sector to grow as it tackles the issues that affect diversity.

Ignoring disabilities leads to digital services which are impossible for some to use. A homogeneous digital sector will fail to build services/apps which consider the cultural differences which are important to other communities. Even assumptions about what the name fields should be in form design can go badly wrong if the team lacks diversity – British women commonly change their name if they married but many apps/services don’t consider how a user would do this.Trolling disproportionately affects female users and security features to help combat trolling are often talked about [by men] as not being urgent or important.

Diversity isn’t only about gender balance, but as there are only 18% female professionals in the Scottish digital sector we have a long way to go on this issue. The tech sector is filled with smart people doing awesome things – we need to use some of those smarts to make the sector more diverse. In short, I want a digital sector/civil service/Scotland which will I’ll be proud to tell my daughter about… and events like this are steps along the way.

See you on Wednesday! You can follow the event using the hashtag: #scotdigidiversity

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