“We want to create a culture where diversity, equity and inclusion is in the bones of the team’s structure”
Many women are getting left behind in technology across the industry – so how can organisations prioritise recruiting and retaining female talent? Several members of Barclays’ Corporate Data Services team in India share how their Diversity and Inclusion forum is working to boost gender diversity and is helping its members to feel “empowered and supported”.
In technology teams, diversity is crucial to success – helping to de-bias existing technologies and ensure that new tools are more inclusive for colleagues and customers.
Despite this, there is still a remarkable gender gap across the industry. According to research published in January 2023, women make up around 26% of the tech workforce, and only 26.5% of executive, senior-level and management positions in S&P 500 companies were held by women, 2021 data found.
Nitin Jain is Director of Corporate Data Services (CDS) in Barclays India – a strategic part of Corporate Banking Technology that is responsible for providing curated data services. Conscious of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to business, alongside the disheartening data around gender representation in technology, he says that the team were determined to find new ways to boost gender diversity within their department.
“We wanted to create a safe and welcoming environment to attract, nurture and retain a diversified talent pool. After all, Barclays’ customer base is very diverse. If the people who are working on our products and services don’t reflect that, we won’t do justice to what the bank offers.”
The result was the formation of the CDS Diversity and Inclusion forum in 2021 – a structured platform that runs 14 initiatives and programmes offering online and in-person opportunities for current and new female colleagues to accelerate their technology careers. While the forum started out with just four colleagues, it now has over 30 members. It is open to all colleagues within the CDS team – and both male and female colleagues lead its programmes. These range from ‘spotlight’ sessions that allow junior colleagues to give presentations and get feedback from senior female leaders, to the ‘CDS Speaks’ portal where colleagues can raise queries and initiate discussions.
“What’s special about these initiatives is that not only are women encouraged to be part of them – but many of them are driven by women,” explains Gunit Kaur, Solution Architect. “By running these programmes, colleagues are also gaining the confidence to lead other things, elsewhere in their careers. It offers them the platform to build something, from the beginning to the end.”
“We don’t want to just retain talent – but attract it”
One of these initiatives is a shadowing programme, where participating colleagues are assigned a mentor who works in the field they would like to move into. The scheme helps tech talent to gain insight into the day-to-day realities of their mentors’ roles and supports them to make decisions about the direction of their career.
This scheme was shaped by Tanvi Pednekar, a Technical Project Manager. “Women can sometimes find it more challenging to engage in discussions around career progression,” she says. “I’m happy to say that I was the first beneficiary of the shadowing programme. I had the opportunity to expand my network and gain practical insights into the responsibilities of a different role. This experience played a pivotal part in my transition from a Developer to a Project Manager.”
The programme has a strong focus on building confidence and networking skills, adds Namrata Kulkarni, Assistant Vice President, Testing Lead. “It helps support their career growth in tech, in a way that’s actually in line with their personal goals, and it connects them with other female colleagues.”
Allyship is essential in the way the forum operates. Over the course of six months, the CDS team appeared at roadshows and talked at senior leadership forums to bolster engagement from senior male colleagues at the bank, explains Jain. Dhivya Rajasekhar, Technical Lead, adds: “Around 100 leaders in technology across Barclays pledged to contribute to the cause,” she says. “Some colleagues offered mentoring to female colleagues; others committed to participating in more DEI initiatives.”
The forum is not only dedicated to developing and retaining its current workforce – but also reaching and recruiting new colleagues. “We don’t want to just retain talent – but attract it,” says Jain.
Part of this effort was a two-month graduate programme, designed to boost gender diversity at junior levels. “We want to provide graduates with a world-class environment as they take their first steps into the corporate world,” says Arun Gupta, Data Service Manager, who led the project this year. “We offer various technical and functional sessions to help them start their roles, as well as talking about leadership and the culture at the bank.”
Through the forum, the team have conducted a series of recruitment drives that target female talent, and increased the number of women that sit on interview panels. They have also run training around unconscious bias for people leaders and hiring managers. “It’s crucial that they understand the benefits of hiring a diverse team,” Jain adds.
"It’s not just women that benefit – but the whole tech community”
The results speak for themselves, with exit surveys for the forum’s different initiatives averaging a satisfaction rate of more than 90%. And, on a more personal level, the forum’s impact has been felt across the CDS team. “I’ve seen the change even just in meetings,” says Shivani Kalia, Engineering Lead. “When I was younger, I used to be the only woman in a meeting. Now there are so many more – and they’re speaking up and adding their distinct perspectives. It’s a force of nature, and it’s not just women that benefit – but the whole tech community.”
“Back in 2021, there were no female Vice Presidents in my team,” Jain adds. “After nine months we had five. It’s through senior management leading by example that we can continue this trend, to impact the other grades we have here.”
The forum’s dedication was recognised by the bank earlier this year when it won a Citizenship & Diversity Award in the ‘Celebrating Diversity Excellence (team)’ category – an achievement that the team are incredibly proud of. “I was on cloud nine – the team worked so hard,” Jain says. “There's a lot of motivation and encouragement that has come from this.”
Going forward, the plan is to expand the forum’s offerings across the bank, explains Aditi Verma, Lead Business Analyst. “Our vision is to reach out to senior leaders across corporate groups so we can collaborate to take our initiatives and run them globally,” she says.
At the same time, the team want to branch out and partner with the bank’s Employee Resource Groups to address DEI areas beyond gender – including the multicultural and LGBT+ pillars. “We want to create a culture where DEI is in the bones of the team’s structure,” Kaur says. Jain agrees: “To be the best organisation, you need to identify new opportunities. We don’t want to stop. We want to do more – and be the best team we can be.”
In the meantime, the team are enjoying a chance to think about how far they have come. “I feel privileged to be a part of a bank where women are empowered and supported, and where they’re providing more opportunities for women in tech roles,” says Verma. “There’s no looking back for us now.”