The UK president of a worldwide tech giant says it’s time to reset the gender balance across the IT sector.
Tara McGeehan took over the role at CGI last year after more than 25 years with the company and has been a vociferous advocate for diversity in the workplace.
She has implemented strategies such as ‘bring your daughter to work’ day as she aims to help more women begin tech careers.
CGI is an IT solutions company headquartered in Canada with over 77,000 employees worldwide. Beginning her career as one of only two women studying for an engineering degree at Nottingham University, she went on to work as an analyst at the Post Office before joining the National Grid.
That company became Logica which was then acquired by CGI. McGeehan went on to hold a vice president role at the company, overseeing the UK energy sector, for 18 years before she was made president.
“I’ve never personally experienced any disadvantage for being female in the tech sector, but I do feel quite strongly that it’s an intellectual industry and therefore there’s no reason why it’s not 50-50,” she told BusinessCloud.
“There’s as many clever women as there are clever men; it’s an industry based on using your mind so it never made any sense to me why women weren’t in it other than we turn them off too early on in their career at school or university.
“My drive for equality is two-fold: one, because it makes obvious sense, and two, because we’ve got an awful lot of vacancies in CGI and if we only fish in the pond where there’s a few blokes on a degree course, we’re not going to fill them.
“It’s the perfect time to try and reset gender balance: whilst you’re growing you can put a bit of concentration and effort into bringing in more diversity as part of the growth strategy, whereas if you plateau, they have less opportunity to influence their make-up.”
At the beginning of the year, McGeehan had around 1,000 vacancies to fill at CGI and wanted to fill them as diversely as possible whilst recruiting the best people.
She decided to implement ‘blind CVs’ which meant removing names from the applications and only judging them by their talent.
This then led to ‘unconscious bias training’, which gives insight to CGI staff on how to address their biases against certain types of people and how to not let that affect their decision-making.
“Working in a balanced team is always better, you get a better rapport, you get better perspectives, you get a better balance in terms of ethnicity, gender, social economic background, and balance across the board; you always get better results,” explained McGeehan.
“I push bringing your whole self to work in CGI and making people want to come to work and talk about themselves, because you get happier people and better projects.”
She wants to end the stigma that IT is something that ‘geeky guys do in their bedrooms’, and that it is open to women equally to create a lifelong career.
The company operates a ‘bring your daughter to work day’ and apprenticeships to encourage anyone to choose technology as a career choice.
“Apprentices don’t just have to be kids, they could be people having a career change and we’re actively promoting women who maybe had families and want to return to work, that’s a good cohort for us to go after because we can bring them in and train them up.”
The company currently has 265 offices globally with 20 based in the UK.